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Book Review Roundup

I’ve got a busy summer (like most folks) and I thought I’d highlight some reads I’ve enjoyed over the last few months in case our WU audience needs an escape from the chaos. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Don’t Let Go by our former blogmate Sharla Lovelace.Don't Let Go

Noah Ryan and Jules Doucette spent every moment together, first as best friends and later as young lovers. The two had planned a life together—until one unspeakable decision tore them apart for good. Twenty-six years later, Jules is still carefully living the life her mother planned out for her. She’s running her mother’s store, living in her mother’s house, following her mother’s rules, and keeping the secrets her mother made her bury. Then Noah comes home and any sense of an ordered life flies out the window. Noah’s return does more than just stir up old memories—it forces Jules to see her life in a whole new way and uncovers secrets even she didn’t know were buried. Secrets that could easily destroy her world once more.

I loved this book! I laughed, I cried, and I hated to see it end. Noah and Jules were such relatable characters, and I loved the relationship Jules had with her daughter and her ex. Well done, Sharla. Well done.

The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen:The Year We Fell Down

The sport she loves is out of reach. And the boy she loves has someone else. What now? She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead. Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league. Also, he’s taken. Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands. They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard. But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.

I loved the complexity of the characters in this book, but what drew me was the wheelchair character. After spending the last year writing about someone in a wheelchair, I wondered if the author could do the experience justice. In my very limited experience, she did, and I applaud her for tackling the subject. The Year We Fell Down is an engrossing read by an author I plan to read more from.

*Blurbs and Covers from authors’ websites.

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Duck Shenanigans, Snow, and Reading Material…

Apr15, 2014 snowWhile some—or many…or maybe all!!!—of you are experiencing the wonderful delights of spring, we’re getting snow again. It’s beautiful, of course. Big white fluffy flakes that I hope will not accumulate overnight. I’m ready to put on my shorts, not my snow boots and winter jacket and toque.

And even though it’s chilly out there, hovering around the freezing temps, in the last week, the geese have arrived. And this morning, our ducks are on the pond, swimming along the edges where the ice has melted, picking their way across the still frozen middle—or iceberg as I joyfully refer to one of the last remnants of our winter.

Our mother duck is far braver than daddy duck, and has ventured onto the thin layer of ice which was water yesterday, but overnight has developed a thin crust of ice. We watch her fall through the paper thin ice, then she sits there and stares at her husband as though she expects him to venture out and rescue her. He doesn’t. Apparently he has more common sense than his female counterpart.

Eventually she manages to crawl back onto the ice, breaks through again, then finally finds a spot that will hold her minuscule weight long enough for her to waddle over to the open water where she spends some time swimming with her mate. But soon they wander out of the water and disappear, searching, I imagine, for a safe spot to nest.

I want to tell them there are no safe spots, except for maybe in our shop. There’s predators all around…that nasty cat who caught our mother duck last year and nearly made a meal of her, foxes and coyotes and believe it or not, a cougar, too.

So while I watch our wildlife settle back onto the acreage, and wait for the warm temps to arrive, I’ve lined up some new releases for my reading material:

The Memory Child by Steena HolmesA Numbers Game by Tracy SolheimDon't Let Go by Sharla Lovelace

The Memory Child by Steena Holmes

A Numbers Game by Tracy Solheim

Don’t Let Go by Sharla Lovelace

How about you? Is your part of the world warm or cold? What book(s) are you reading right now? Have you entered the Authors In Bloom bloghop for a chance to win some great prizes (last day is April 16, 2014!)?

Happy Easter!

The Reason is You with new digs!

Yesterday was release day for THE REASON IS YOU.  Again.

Reason is You MM

It debuted last year in trade paperback, and this year it is back in mass market with a hot new cover and new price.  With a dog—because my editor decided that dogs are the new blue, and boots and bluebonnets because Texas is evidently the thing.  Now, I live in Texas and there are no bluebonnets around me, and I don’t own a pair of boots, but I’m game.

And I love that cover.  It’s so much fun, and I’m tickled to death that Bojangles the Rottweiler made the cover.

In addition to a new cover, I got creative with some swag that really reflects both my main character Dani and myself.  Because let’s face it, we all end up writing about some version of ourselves.

Do you like to eat?   Do you like to cook?  Do you like to bake?

I love food.  Like—way too much.  Like—I plan my day around what we’re going to eat that night.  Now, that being said, that does not mean I like to cook.

No.

Cooking, no.  Baking?  Yes.

I don’t do it as often as I’d like, which is probably a good thing, but I love the smell of things baking and bubbling and filling the house with yum.  I love that look my dog gets when it’s all just too much and she’s about to go postal on me from the sheer drool-worthy aromas.

So, when I was writing THE REASON IS YOU, and Dani and her daughter Riley go into this boardwalk restaurant, Ella’s, I had to go there.  And I had to go with dessert.  Here’s a little snippet…

Just inside heavy double-oak doors was a giant framed chalkboard that looked to weigh a thousand pounds and sported several specials in different colored chalk. The floor appeared to be the original planking, and stainless steel buckets lined the wall, filled with napkins and wrapped silverware. A waitress snagged a bucket and nodded for us to follow her.

“We’re just getting something to go,” I said, pointing at the menus under her arm. “Could we just—?”

The perky little blue-eyed blonde glared at me as she handed us the menus.

“Thanks.”

I opened one and we perused with our heads together. Bread pudding. Key lime pie—yum, but already had pie. Already had lots of things, but somehow still ended up with my nose in the dessert section. Giant brownie volcano. Sopapilla cheesecake.

“Oh, now that has possibilities.” I pointed at what was likely death by butter.

“I recommend the banana pudding.”

The voice came from behind and over my head, and I spun around to see Jason walk past us and up to the counter.

Riley’s eyebrows shot up. “Who’s that?”

“Satan.”

“He’s hot.”

“Like I said.”

In the last year, I cannot tell you how many book club events I attended that made both of these dishes!  It so inspired me, that I got recipe cards made up for the sopapilla cheesecake.   Are these cute or what?

SL_RECIPE_REASON_BK_1SM (2)

They are 3×5 and will fit beautifully in a recipe box.  And because I couldn’t stop there, I did one for my other book, BEFORE AND EVER SINCE, too.  Couldn’t help myself.

SL_RECIPE_BEFORE_BK_2_SM (2)

Have you ever had sopapilla cheesecake?  I make it for every holiday, every event I have to bring a dish to, and every event my husband has to bring a dish to.   Dani says it’s death by butter, and she’s right.  It’s not good for you.  But it’s reallllllllyyyyyy good.  And these crackers are so easy to do, it makes appetizers a breeze.

What are your go-to dishes?

Old Town Spring…

In light of recent events this week, I’m glad I already planned on posting a celebration of family time.  Or mother/daughter time at least.  I think we need to hug our loved ones extra tight this week.  And then once more for good measure.

This past weekend, my daughter and I embarked on a short girls trip.  We (we, meaning me, while she babbled constantly about her latest story idea…:) ) drove a little over two hours to Spring, TX, within which is a section called Old Town Spring.  We have just a little over a month till she graduates, and 82 days till she leaves for the Navy. Leaves Texas for Chicago and then San Diego, and then ports unknown.

Not wanting to give up my baby just yet, I wanted one more vacation. 🙂

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Old Town Spring is the original railroad town, with all the buildings and old houses renovated into restaurants and shops.  Many many many shops, so many it takes two days to hit them all.

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But we are Lovelace women.  Which means the root of our lives and our very existence is food.  Never enough food.

spring13 spring14 spring15

I don’t recall getting hungry…not even once.  We never had the opportunity to get hungry, because as soon as that rolling-hippopotamus feeling passed, we’d pass a stand of something or other…. and start all over again.

There were cool things, like standing in an old vault in an old bank that still had the bullet holes from when Bonnie and Clyde robbed it. 🙂

spring6

And the rumors of the ghosts that inhabit this town, especially this restaurant that was built in 1902 for the railroad workers.

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My daughter got her palm read and was told she’d live to probably 90, but had had 3 very close calls to death…which was a little unnerving.  Especially the way she drives.  Got to see a house that had been everything from a funeral home to a hippie commune, and has a secret room no one can find.   Read this…

spring7

spring9that would be the crazy girl…hiding behind the fence…

And at night, we’d do what we do.  Did the TV come on for us girls?  No.  Not once.  We read and we did this.  Because we’re word freaks.  Can’t imagine where she gets it.   o.O

spring1

Where I’m From…

This was an exercise from last year, done on my own blog and many others.  You may have seen it.  And while I’m not a huge proponent of recycling, this one has been on my mind again since Kim posted about her kids’ summer plans.  We all come from a story.

My parents old house across the street from me is for sale, and they’ve cut down the big swing tree in the backyard.  The one with the chains that grew into the tree.  It’s all in pieces at the street, and I’ve stared at them for the past two days.  The weeds are growing with little flowers everywhere and I keep thinking my mother would be so embarrassed to have her yard look so unkempt.

This is an amazing thing to do for yourself, and the template is at the bottom for you to give it a shot.  Here’s a little piece of me.

 

Where I’m From…

I am from Coca-Cola and orange soda straight from the bottle, and drinking from the garden hose on a hot day. I’m from leaving the house in the morning and staying gone till dusk, till Daddy’s voice called me home. From handlebar pumping, treehouses, double-daring, and carving my own rubberband gun from a stick. I’m from no cell phones, computers, VCR’s, or cable TV. From black rotary phones wired to the wall, Hee Haw and Disney on Sunday evenings, and three-cent green apple bubble gum.

I am from the only 2-story house on the block, that was really just a converted attic. I’m from duct work made from a Dentler’s Chip can and wires held together with duct tape. From the upstairs room with the shower that never was. From a carpenter’s house, where the smell of sawdust and grease will always make me close my eyes and see my father’s hands, and the sound of an arm saw makes me long for hot summers in a dusty garage.

I am from the magnolia and dogwood trees that flower the sky of Southeast Texas, and the pinks, purples and whites of azaleas. From deep green St Augustine grass and verbenia bushes with millions of red berries that will kill you if you eat them…or so we were told.

I am from homemade ice cream cranked in a bucket while someone sat on the lid, watermelon seed wars, camping on the Neches River bank in East Texas where the stars were many, waterskiing, and playing Chinese Checkers and Yahtzee in a homemade wooden and felt box made by my dad. I’m from Duchess, Prince, Duke, Honey, and Brandi, all beloved dogs buried in the backyard at a house I can only see from across the street now. I’m from unlocked doors and just walking in, and sitting on the front porch drinking coffee.

I’m from Lovelace eyebrows and Milburn smiles, Nanny’s drama and Maw Maw’s sweet silliness. From craziness everyone talks about, and skeletons no one talks about. From blue eyes and curly hair and two big brothers. From chain smokers and staying in a log cabin on vacation for me when Mom really wanted a hotel.

From y’all, fixin to, ice box, and because I said so. From pulling weeds at the roots and dusting every single nick-nack on weekends.

I am from Lutherans and Baptists, and sitting on the right side because no one had ever sat on the left.

I’m from Port Neches and Copperas Cove and Indian arrow heads on a hill. From lemon meringue pie and sand tarts at Christmas, homemade soup and shrimp gumbo, Steen’s Cane Syrup and Daddy’s special milk hash on toast to give Mom a break. I’m from ritz crackers with peanut butter, frozen bananas, and midnight snacks of sugar bread with hot milk.

I am from a homemade treasure trunk full of black and white pictures, a closet full of cards and letters and macaroni projects from children now grown, and the box of handmade Christmas ribbons used every year because giving them back was the rule. From overcoming economic hardship, union strikes, divorce, illness, and any adversity. I’m from June and Buddy, who I miss so much it aches.

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The original link is found here.

The WHERE I’M FROM Template

I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.

I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)

I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).

I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).

From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.

I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).

From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).

I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

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