#bookreview: #Dreamland by #NicholasSparks

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BOOK DESCRIPTION

Colby Mills once felt destined for a musical career, until tragedy grounded his aspirations. Now the head of a small family farm in North Carolina, he spontaneously takes a gig playing at a bar in St. Pete Beach, Florida, seeking a rare break from his duties at home.
 
But when he meets Morgan Lee, his world is turned upside-down, making him wonder if the responsibilities he has shouldered need to dictate his life forever. The daughter of affluent Chicago doctors, Morgan has graduated from a prestigious college music program with the ambition to move to Nashville and become a star. Romantically and musically, she and Colby complete each other in a way that neither has ever known.
 
While they are falling headlong in love, Beverly is on a heart-pounding journey of another kind. Fleeing an abusive husband with her six-year-old son, she is trying to piece together a life for them in a small town far off the beaten track. With money running out and danger seemingly around every corner, she makes a desperate decision that will rewrite everything she knows to be true.
 
In the course of a single unforgettable week, two young people will navigate the exhilarating heights and heartbreak of first love. Hundreds of miles away, Beverly will put her love for her young son to the test. And fate will draw all three people together in a web of life-altering connections . . . forcing each to wonder whether the dream of a better life can ever survive the weight of the past.

BOOK REVIEW

I’m really torn on this one. I enjoyed the love story, and I don’t always enjoy love stories. It was written really well, as all of Sparks’ books are. However, it employs a plot device that I absolutely hate and which I personally feel is a copout. Thus I cannot give it more than three stars.

I cannot go into the plot device too much without providing spoilers, but this particular device just ends up making me mad. This has great characters and a great story, but I ultimately felt cheated by that particular tactic. Others may not have a problem with it at all.

If you want to see more about my issue with this book, here is my Goodreads review. On Goodreads, spoilers can be hidden. So, if you wish to go to the review and unhide the spoilers, you will see what I’m talking about.

I received a copy of this book from Random House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Sparks is one of the world’s most beloved storytellers. All of his books have been New York Times bestsellers, with over 105 million copies sold worldwide, in more than 50 languages, including over 75 million copies in the United States alone.

BUY LINKS

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google | Kobo

Blog Tour and #bookreview #Ourstolenchild by #MelissaWiesner #invitro

I grip my husband’s hand tight. The doctor is frowning. “Mr and Mrs Marcello… I’m so sorry.” She tells us there’s been a terrible mistake. Our last embryo—our last chance—was accidentally given to someone else. The child we made four years ago calls another woman “Mommy.”

Quinn cries silent tears as she folds a tiny knitted cardigan, bought in a moment of hope, and packs it away. All she’s ever wanted is to be a mother. Although her husband James brings her comfort, the knowledge they have no embryos left, and that their child is out there being raised by another family, is tearing them both apart.

When the lawyers tell them there’s a chance to get custody, James is unsure. But Quinn knows she has to take it: if only to look her little girl in the eyes, just once. Meeting Emily and the woman who raised her, Quinn’s heart cracks wide open. Emily looks just like Quinn, right down to her curly hair. And when the little girl flings her arms around Quinn’s waist, she can’t shake the feeling this is where Emily is meant to be.

As the two families reckon with an unimaginable decision, a secret from James’ past surfaces… one that forces Quinn to question everything she thought she wanted. But how will they decide what’s right for the little girl they all love so dearly? And where does Emily truly belong?

BOOK REVIEW

Our Stolen Child grabs you right at the beginning and will not let you go. Quinn and her husband James are trying desperately to have a child, but their attempts at invitro fertilization have failed. Quinn is about to embark on their final chance with their one last embryo when she is given the worst possible news. The embryo was accidentally given to someone else and is now an almost four-year-old girl.

Quinn’s reaction and the devastation of both families will rip your heart out. The battles that evolve from this, both legal and emotional, kept me glued to the page. Then secrets emerge that take this book to another level as Quinn tries to decide what is best for Emily. The unimaginable situation, the ethical impact, and the murky secrets revolving around James make this a “must keep reading now” type of book. When I finally set this book down, I had finished it. Gripping, powerful, and compelling, Our Stolen Child will keep you mesmerized until the end.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Thank you to Bookouture for a chance to read this fine novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Wiesner is a night-owl who began writing novels about five years ago when her early-to-bed family retired for the evening. In 2019, she won the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® Award in the Mainstream Fiction Category for her first novel. Melissa holds two Master’s Degrees in Public Health and Community Agency Counseling. Her day job is in Social Work where she often encounters people knocked down by hard times but who pick themselves up and keep going, just like the characters of her novels. Melissa lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her charming husband and two adorable children.

MELISSA’S WEBSITE

INSTAGRAM | TWITTER

BUY LINKS

Amazon | Amazon UK

Self-published Saturday: My Alien Life #bookreview

Self-published Saturday is my effort to help self-published/indie authors with marketing. Self-published/indie authors have to do it all, from cover design to editing to spreading the word about their book. If I can help even a little with marketing, I’m happy to do it. Below is my review of My Alien Life, a wonderful novella about a 9-year-old girl taken in by her elderly aunt after her father’s death.

BOOK DESCRIPTION

“My mother was a no-nonsense woman. If it wasn’t in the Bible or on Jerry Springer, then it couldn’t happen. Of course, there’s a lot of freaky stuff in the Good Book, with ladders to heaven and angels with animal faces and such. And crazy, muckraking talk shows probably aren’t the best yardstick for anything short of how depraved humans can be. But the point is that when she was abducted by aliens and impregnated with me, she had some trouble processing. I’m pretty sure Jerry actually covered that one, but I guess she missed the show that day. TiVo hadn’t been invented yet, just in case you’re wondering. Trust me, if it had, she’d have been all over that.” — Lynette, age 9

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J. Martain is a coastal North Carolina native who spends most of her time questioning the way the universe and all the beings in it work. This often leads her down a deep research rabbit hole until she resurfaces with a new theory and a backstory to explain it. Her characters are sometimes human, sometimes not, but they prefer not to be judged on that criteria.

#BookReview

Abandoned by her mother, Lynette is raised and cared for by her devoted father, until the day he dies when she is 9.  Amongst a sea of uncaring relatives, her elderly Aunt Magnolia arrives and takes her home, with a deal that “Mags” will stay alive at least until Lynette is 16 and can raise herself.  This is a heart-touching novella that will induce smiles as well as tears. 

The writing of J. Martain absolutely captivated me throughout.  Every bit of dialogue and every descriptive word paints a vivid and imaginative picture that allows the reader to completely immerse themselves in Lynette’s world. Lynette’s strong, realistic, and precocious personality just jumps off the page. Mags’ no-nonsense manner does not hide her loving nature, and she begins showing Lynette how to care for herself at a very young age.  Together they are an unlikely pair—a woman in her 90s and a preteen, but they become a family.  This is a lifetime of a story in four chapters and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves stories with strong characters

I received a free copy of this book via BookSirens. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

BUY LINKS

AMAZON | AMAZON UK

BEFORE YOU GO

*If you buy the book, please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share this book with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published/indie authors go a long way!

Self-Published Saturday: Christmas in ’45 #christmasfiction #fathersanddaughters

Self-published Saturday is my effort to help self-published and indie authors with marketing. Self-published/indie authors have to do it all, from cover design to editing to spreading the word about their book. If I can help even a little with marketing, I’m happy to do it. Below is my review of a wonderful Christmas novella, Christmas in ’45, by Indie author Mark W. Sasse.

BOOK REVIEW

On Christmas Eve, 1944, Roberta and her mother are notified that her father has been killed in the war. The following year, Roberta struggles with loss, grief, anger, and moving on. As Christmas 1945 approaches, she’s decided not to celebrate it at all. But love, patience, and a wonderful gesture could change everything.

This is a beautiful Christmas novella about loss and starting over again. It’s also about fathers, daughters, and grief. It will break your heart as you watch a little girl try to heal from losing her Dad. If you enjoy heart-touching Christmas stories, you will appreciate this novel, which explores the love of a father and the different forms it can take.

I received a free copy of this book via BookSirens. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark W Sasse is a novelist and award-winning playwright and director. He vacillates on a daily basis between which genre of writing he enjoys the most. Luckily, he doesn’t have to choose! Sasse’s novels have been featured on curated sites such as Bookbub, Freebooksy, and EReaderNewsToday while his plays have been produced in New York, Penang, Columbus, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney, Australia, among other places.

MARK’S SOCIAL MEDIA: FACEBOOK | WEBSITE

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | AMAZON UK

BEFORE YOU GO

*If you buy the book(s), please leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as anywhere else you review books.  Some people feel very daunted by writing a review. Don’t worry. You do not have to write a masterpiece. Just a couple of lines about how the book made you feel will make the author’s day and help the book succeed. The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon will promote it.

*Please click on the “share” buttons below and share these books with your Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress followers. A little bit of help from all of us will help self-published/indie authors go a long way!

Blog Tour and #bookreview: Elodie’s Library of Second Chances #RachelsRandomResources

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Elodie’s Library of Second Chances

An uplifting story about fresh starts, new beginnings and the power of stories, from the bestselling author of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop!

When Elodie applies for the job of librarian in peaceful Willow Grove, she’s looking forward to a new start. As the daughter of a media empire, her every move has been watched for years, and she longs to work with the thing she loves most: books.

It’s a chance to make a real difference too, because she soon realises that there are other people in Willow Grove who might need a fresh start – like the homeless man everyone walks past without seeing, or the divorcée who can’t seem to escape her former husband’s misdeeds.

Together with local journalist Finn, Elodie decides these people have stories that need sharing. What if instead of borrowing books readers could ‘borrow’ a person, and hear the life stories of those they’ve overlooked?

But Elodie isn’t quite sharing her whole story either. As the story of the library’s new success grows, will her own secret be revealed?

BOOK REVIEW

I love books about libraries, but this is more than just a book about a library. This is a book about people, and getting the chance to tell your own story. The beginning of the book which describes Elodie’s experiences as the daughter of media moguls is not as interesting, but it takes on a completely different life when she arrives in Willow Grove and starts planning to save the library. I am not always a fan of the “poor little rich girl” theme, but this book won me over.

I especially loved the way Elodie was drawn to the town outcasts and wanted to know about their lives. The misunderstood, ostracized, bullied, and betrayed were given a voice. They became living books in the People’s Library, which I think is an extraordinary part of this novel. Elodie’s idea to have library patrons meet with a person at the library for 30 minutes and hear their story is completely inspired. I can think of so many people I would like to “check out” at the library in real life. There is a sweet romance, and somewhat of a villain in this novel, but overall this is not a complicated book. Elodie’s Library of Second Chances is a meaningful book that teaches us an important lesson–everyone has a story to tell, if we are willing to listen.

I received a free copy of this book from the pubishers via Rachel’s Random Resources. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Raisin writes heartwarming romances from her home in sunny Perth, Australia. Her heroines tend to be on the quirky side and her books are usually set in exotic locations so her readers can armchair travel any day of the week. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous heroes who have brains as well as brawn is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true, once-in-a-lifetime love. Her bestselling novel Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop has been optioned for film with MRC studios and Frolic Media.

REBECCA RAISIN’S SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

BUY LINKS

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon Australia

#Audiobook Review: Secrets of Magpie Cove #smalltownfiction

Lila has fled the city and is reinventing her life in Magpie Cove. She’s attending patisserie school and working in Serafina’s cafe. Serafina is a loving, outgoing, and kind woman who keeps the town going. When she passes, Lila is left with a lot of uncertainty, including whether or not she still has a job. When Lila’s son takes over the cafe, things get even worse. Will Lila have to leave Magpie Cove?

This is a sweet and fairly uncomplicated romance, but it really doesn’t need many complications. The descriptions of Lila’s small-town life, her supportive friends, and her constant tension with Nathan make for a great story. I loved the inclusion of Lila’s fight to help feed the elderly in her town and the descriptions of the food she was making in the cafe or patisserie school. The fact that so many people have food insecurities they might be keeping secret is a major theme in this book, to its credit. Lila’s struggles to deal with a past miscarriage are explored as well. The characters are interesting and endearing. Anyone who loves small-town romances should plan a visit to Magpie Cove.

I listened to the audiobook and Katie Villa does a great job with the narration.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from Saga Egmont Audio via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kennedy Kerr is a USA Today Bestselling fiction author. She adores beaches, lochs and stone circles, and loves writing about small communities, mysteries and family secrets. She has a very cuddly cat called Twinkle who spends her days sleeping: Kennedy aspires to having Twinkle’s nap schedule one day.

Kennedy’s Social Media: Facebook | Twitter

BUY LINKS

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Google | Kobo

Book Review: The Beach Trap by Ali Brady #family #rejection #reconciliation

Blake and Kat meet at camp as 12-year-olds and quickly bond, promising to be best friends forever. But then Kat’s dad arrives to pick her up and Blake quickly realizes that this is her Dad too, and she was part of her dad’s secret family up until her mother died. Finding out they were sisters does not make Kat happy. Instead, she becomes angry and never talks to Blake again–until their father dies 15 years later and leaves them both a beach house.

This is both a heartwarming and heartbreaking read, as Blake deals with decades of rejection and Kat confronts misplaced anger. Of the two romances, the one with Blake and Noah is more in-depth and interesting. The sisters are well portrayed, with social media influencer Kat a perfect contrast to her down-to-earth, dogsitting half-sister. Another theme is introduced, as Blake is wading into the uncertain and expensive waters of finding care for her grandfather, who is experiencing dementia. The beach setting is perfectly cozy, and home renovation is a popular topic that many readers will enjoy. Full of family, secrets, and the pain of rejection, this is a great summer read.

I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ali Brady is the pen name of writing BFFs Alison Hammer and Bradeigh Godfrey. THE BEACH TRAP is their first book together. Alison lives in Chicago where she works as a creative director for an advertising agency. She has published two solo books, YOU AND ME AND US and LITTLE PIECES OF ME. Bradeigh lives in Utah with her husband and four children. She works as a doctor, and her solo debut, IMPOSTER is forthcoming.

BUY LINKS

Amazon | Apple Books | Google | Kobo | Amazon UK

Memorial Day Tribute to a Hero #VietnamWar #MemorialDay #MemorialDayTribute

This is a tribute to my uncle, Wayne D. Jenkins, who died in Vietnam in 1968 just before he would have turned 21. I was only four years old when he passed, so I never got to know him. I will always wonder what his life would have been like and what additional family members we would have had if he was not taken so young. He is a hero to our family.

FIND A GRAVE MEMORIAL

From the Find-A-Grave website:

SP4 Wayne Daniel Jenkins, Vietnam Veteran, Native of Bryson City, NC.

Specialist Four Wayne Daniel Jenkins was a casualty of the Vietnam War. As a member of the Army Selective Service and a Draftee, SP4 Jenkins served our country until September 12th, 1968 in Bing Long, South Vietnam. He was 20 years old and was not married. It was reported that Wayne died from small-arms fire or grenade. His body was recovered. Wayne was born on September 16th, 1947 in Bryson City, North Carolina. SP4 Jenkins is on panel 44W, line 038 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. He served our country for one year.

Sp4 Jenkins, this is in remembrance of you and the members of your squad who were ambushed on September 12, 1968, while on reconnaissance 5 kilometers Northeast of Loc Ninh, Binh Long Province, Vietnam. That day was a long and sad day for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion 28th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. You will never be forgotten. Niner One.

He was the son of Mr. Ed C Jenkins, Bryson City, NC.

He served with Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, USARV.

He was awarded The Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB), Bronze Star Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart Medal for his combat-related wounds, the Vietnam Service Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal, The National Defense Service Medal, The Army Achievement Medal, and The Army Commendation Medal.

-I will never forget that day. We lost 11 men. Richard Smith, 11571 Hadar Drive, San Diego, CA.

-I served with Recon 1st/28th. I won’t forget you or that day. Love and Peace to your family. Recon was as close to family as you can get. Larry Schluter, Renton, Wa 98056

-Brother, I miss you. Thank you to all who survived and knew Wayne Jenkins. God Bless You! Ed Jenkins Jr., 333 Ed Jenkins Rd, Bryson City, NC (My Uncle Ed has since passed away)

VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL

#2022 Short Story Challenge: Ode to a Storytelling Mom

The 2022 Short Story Challenge started by A Virginia Writer’s Diary is all about folklore, and the original post can be found here. We are finally caught up, and here is our official post for May. For our May entry, we’re focusing on the mountain tradition of storytelling, as well as Mother’s Day, to bring you a story from my Mom, who passed away in 2020.

Dorothy Jenkins Zinser

ABOUT MY MOM

Dorothy Jenkins was born in 1931 in the mountains of Western NC. Her father, Ed Calloway Jenkins, was a farmer who took on other jobs to make ends meet, including working in a sawmill. Her mother, Edith, worked hard at home and raised 12 children. Dorothy, or Dot, only went to school until the eighth grade because she was needed at home to help take care of the family. However, she loved to read. She read a book a day when I was a kid. Growing up, her mother would read stories to my Mom and her siblings, often Grace Livingston Hill romances or Zane Grey westerns. And my Mom could tell a story. One of my favorites was the story about the jar of peanut butter. I’m calling it Death by Peanut Butter, and you will see the reason why when you read the last two lines. She wrote that story down, and I’m providing it below with some dialogue and context thrown in. I also added a bit of another story she used to tell us about The Swinging Bridge.

This is Appalachian folklore in its purest sense–Mountain parents and grandparents sharing stories of their lives with their children.

DEATH BY PEANUT BUTTER

One day my Momma asked me to go to the store and a get jar of peanut butter for school lunches. “Ok,” I said, “Can I take Ed and Bonnie?”  My brother Ed was eight years old and Bonnie was only six.   

“Yes, Dot,” she said, “But take care of them!”

I said okay and we went on our way.  It was four miles one way to the store, and we ran along, playing and being silly, until we made our way to town.

In the early to mid-1940s, in order to get to the store in our town, which was Bryson City, North Carolina, we had to cross the Tuckasegee River. That was the scariest part of the trip.  Our little town was split in the middle by that river.  In order to get across, we had to use the swinging bridge that had been put up by the Carolina Wood Turning company, a furniture company where our Daddy worked in the lumberyard.

The swinging bridge had always been a scary place for me.  The river could get very wild, and the bridge rocked back and forth on windy days, with only rope on the sides to hold onto.  I’ll never forget the day, a couple years before, when I brought my Daddy his lunch.  He had always crossed the bridge to meet me, because he knew how scared I was to cross it.  But that day he did not.  He sat down on the bank and called, “Dot, come over here!”

I was terrified, but I had to do as my Daddy said.  I slowly stepped onto the bridge, which creaked and swayed.  I stopped, shaking, afraid to go forward. He called out again, “Dot, don’t be afraid. Just look at me!” 

It was the most terrible trip, that first trip across the bridge.  But keeping my eyes on my Daddy and not on the water, I made it across.  Ever since then, I was able to help Momma more, such as running those errands to the store, because I could cross that bridge and go to town.

Even now, each crossing was a scary event for me.  I held tight to my sister Bonnie’s hand, but my brother Ed scampered across without a fear in the world. 

At the store, I bought the jar of peanut butter plus some other things my Momma needed.  The lady at the counter smiled at little Bonnie and said, “Would you like a peppermint stick, Sweetie?” 

Her big grin and quick nod resulted in all three of us receiving candy for the trip back.  What a treat!

Of course we had to head back to that swinging bridge in order to go home, so we walked across, sucking on our candy and enjoying the day.  I went even more slowly because I was carrying the bit of groceries.

At the end of the bridge, a strange man was standing, swaying back and forth, and he wouldn’t let us pass.  I asked him nicely to let us go past him, but he did not.  The bridge was narrow, and he was blocking the exit.  He kept swaying and talking unintelligibly, trying to keep us trapped on the bridge.  I don’t know why.  He was probably drunk. 

I said very loudly “Let us off this bridge!” but he did not.  I was getting worried now, so I told Ed, “When I say run, take Bonnie and run!”  Again I said very loudly, “Let us off this bridge!” When he didn’t move, I yelled “Run!” and Ed and Bonnie began to run.  I took that jar of peanut butter and threw it at this odd man, hitting him in the head.  And wouldn’t you know it, he fell over and then rolled down the hill! 

Ed and Bonnie were already running toward home, but I looked for the jar of peanut butter. It was sitting halfway down the hill and was not broken.  I ran and got it.  My Momma needed that peanut butter.  I took off for home, catching up with my brother and sister.  We never told our Momma or Daddy about this until we were grown.

My brother Ed, when telling this story, would always say I killed a man with a jar of peanut butter!  I don’t think so, but I sure didn’t go back to check!

Mom in her favorite place–the garden.

At this link is a picture of the lumberyard of the Carolina Wood Turning Company in 1942. If you enlarge the photo and look over the water, you will see a narrow swinging bridge. That’s the bridge from this story.

My mom lived on this land until she got married at the age of 17 and moved to Cincinnati with my Dad. In 1989, they retired and moved back to Bryson City, where they lived until 2009, when my Dad’s health problems caused them to return to Cincinnati. In 2009, My Mom sold her house and land to me and my husband. My Dad passed in 2019 at the age of 91. Mom passed suddenly at the age of 88 in 2020. In 2024, I will retire and we will spend the rest of our lives on this land.

Self-Published Spotlight: An Only Child No More #FoundFamily #Memoirs #Indiebooks

*Not a book review

Self-Published Spotlight is my effort to help highlight Self-Published books. It includes a description of the book and buy links, plus author information if it is provided. Self-Published Spotlights can go up any day, but I happened to get a request for this one right before Self-Published Saturday, so here it is! Below is my spotlight of the memoir of Martha Levallee, who writes about discovering a family she never knew she had. See the book description below:

BOOK DESCRIPTION

This poignant, uplifting memoir describes the emotional journey of a middle-aged woman who receives an unexpected email, and suddenly learns that her now-deceased parents had kept secret from her the fact that she has a half-brother.

Raised as an only child, the revelation occurs without any DNA testing of anyone in the family. This true story describes her coming to terms with this shocking information, as she remembers vague clues that had been presented to her during her youth. It also details her quest to meet her brother and his family, and to make this family her own, despite the logistical challenges of different languages and continents.

BUY LINKS

AMAZON|AMAZON UK|B&N