Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Fly Away (Firefly Lane #2) by Kristin Hannah

Fly Away (Firefly Lane #2)

16044981Once, a long time ago, I walked down a night-darkened road called Firefly Lane, all alone, on the worst night of my life, and I found a kindred spirit. That was our beginning. More than thirty years ago. TullyandKate. You and me against the world. Best friends forever. But stories end, don’t they? You lose the people you love and you have to find a way to go on. . . .

Tully Hart has always been larger than life, a woman fueled by big dreams and driven by memories of a painful past. She thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend, Kate Ryan, dies. Tully tries to fulfill her deathbed promise to Kate--to be there for Kate’s children--but Tully knows nothing about family or motherhood or taking care of people.

Sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan is devastated by her mother’s death. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable in her grief. Nothing and no one seems to matter to her . . . until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world.

Dorothy Hart--the woman who once called herself Cloud--is at the center of Tully’s tragic past. She repeatedly abandoned her daughter, Tully, as a child, but now she comes back, drawn to her daughter’s side at a time when Tully is most alone. At long last, Dorothy must face her darkest fear: Only by revealing the ugly secrets of her past can she hope to become the mother her daughter needs.

A single, tragic choice and a middle-of-the-night phone call will bring these women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way, and they will need one another--and maybe a miracle--to transform their lives.

An emotionally complex, heart-wrenching novel about love, motherhood, loss, and new beginnings, Fly Away reminds us that where there is life, there is hope, and where there is love, there is forgiveness.

I am such a fan of Kristin Hannah.  She writes stories that resonate for months after you close the book.  I fell in love with the book Firefly Lane and was so excited when I heard a sequel was being written.  There are so many times when you finish reading a book and you constantly wonder what happened to the characters...were they OK, were they coping, were they really trying to find a way in their new set of circumstances.  

"Grief is a sneaky thing, always coming and going like some guest you didn't invite and can't turn away.  She wants this grief, although she'd never admit it.  Lately, it's the only thing that feels real." (Fly Away, Prologue)  

Like I said, I was wondering about Tully, Marah, the twins and Johnny.  How was the lost of Kate affecting each and every one of them?  I was so glad to be back with them in Fly Away.  I was glad to be with them, even in their grief.  To see what happened to them... to see where their paths lead them.  It was frustrating, difficult to read and heartbreaking to see how the void of Kate broke each person in their own way.  But to be on the journey and to see where they finally ended up brought many tears, relief and closure! 

I recommend that you read Firefly Lane first as it will add so much depth to this lifelong story about friendship, family and the unconditional power of love over loss.  4 stars

When it was first published, you described Firefly Lane as the book that hit closest to home for you. What is it about the story of Kate and Tully that continues to be so meaningful to you?

Of all the books I’ve written, Firefly Lane has the most of me on every page. I grew up in the town where the novel is set; I lived in the house that was described. I was very much of that era. I went to the University of Washington, and got the same degree as Kate and Tully did. The world of Firefly Lane is very much my world. Also, I lost my own mom to breast cancer. That’s a very personal story that I wanted to tell. Writing Firefly Lane was my way of looking back on the loss of my mom and understand­ing it as a woman. Additionally, I wanted to give readers some information about what to look for with breast cancer that maybe they didn’t know. So the book has a really important and personal mes­sage for me, too.
You have a lot of fans, readers who feel they know the people who populate your novel. How do you create such memorable characters? Do you know them before you write about them? Do you hear their voices? Talk to us about your literary imagina­tion. How do you bring your characters and stories to life?

You really just set out, as a writer, to write the truest, most honest character that you can come up with. For me, that tends to begin with back story. I believe that we are the sum of our experiences in life; this tends to be true for fictional characters as well. It’s very important that I know about their childhood, the defining moments in their lives, their losses, what their hopes and dreams are—all of these are impor­tant details for creating an honest character.

As for their voices: Well, I don’t hear their voices. I think I’d need some kind of medication if that were the case! But I do begin, after a lot of research and a lot of writing, to discover them. It’s like an archaeolo­gist uncovering the spine of a dinosaur in the sand; slowly, bit by bit, the bigger truth is revealed. That’s how I discover characters, by writing about them. Before I begin, I create lots of biological information. But the magic really happens when I start writing the scenes from a character’s viewpoint. I am often surprised by the voices they give themselves, and the way their dialogue happens—how they speak and what they have to say. Also, I see who the charactersare by their sense of humor. When I find what a character thinks is funny is when I actually begin to know them.

Some voices come to me very naturally and some voices are very difficult. Kate, for example, is the char­acter most like me: She came to me very easily. Tully’s was the most difficult voice that I needed to get rightbecause she is the farthest from me—absolutely my opposite in almost every way. And teenagers are diffi­cult. I really wanted to get the nuances right—both in the teenage mindset and voice and dialogue. Marah had some moments when I really had to dig deep and find out who she was. Johnny, surprisingly, always came pretty easily for me—I’m not sure why!

Kate tells us, from beyond the world of the novel, that Johnny will fall in love someday. Tully, too. Readers are no doubt wondering: Can we expect a follow-up to Fly Away?

I hope not! (Laughs.) I really thought that writing a sequel would be easy. Knowing all my characters, I thought it would be straightforward and simple to do. It turned out to be one of the hardest undertakings I’ve ever done as a writer. So I think I’m going to stick with when a novel is done, it’s done from now on.

What do you hope readers will take away from this novel, or from any of your novels?

I guess I hope, first and foremost, that my books are the sort of books that once you start you can’t put down. I just love a book in which you’re dying to know what happens, and how the end comes about. So I hope that mine make them feel that way, and that they learn to care deeply about the characters. And I hope that my novels reaffirm the importance of family and motherhood and caring for each other. In the world right now, it’s so important that we put the positive emotions front and center. If there’s a lesson at the heart of Fly Away it is that you can’t run from your problems or your failures; and, sometimes, if you stand your ground and dare to forgive, life can turn on a dime. You can make a second chance for yourself and the people you love.

Is there anything you’ve always wished a reader would ask you? What is that question—and how would you answer it?

Yes! I wish one reader one day would ask me to please write more slowly. Because what I get constantly is:” “Can’t you write any faster?”

Highlight: The Colors of Blue by Lance McCulloch


The Colors of Blue

The Colors of Blue is an intelligent and compelling mainstream romance whose characters peel away complex layers of deceit, grief, loss and discovery during a riveting journey that at last binds hearts together and renews the promise of true love. 

From the novel’s first page, Sara Field emerges as a woman of unique gifts whose soul resonates to a kaleidoscope of colors—a sixth sense that infuses her world with an understanding beyond the apparent. Yet somehow the colors fade in the glare of urban life and heartbreaking betrayal, and her struggle to retrieve those vibrant hues borders on the unbearable. Can she ever regain the innocence and wonder of that magical young womanhood? Perhaps—when she finds the spectacular beauty of the San Juan Mountains and the Tres Piedras River. 

Half a country away, Rick Wheeler mourns the death of his extraordinary wife and feels himself crumbling under the burden of despair even as he builds a financial dynasty. Will nothing lift the gloom, relieve the cruel devastation of his loss and renew his heart? Ah, yes, there is one thing—fly-fishing on the Tres Piedras River. Time here is satisfying and soul-renewing. But he is still alone. 

The rest, woven into a tapestry of adventure, intrigue, revelation, and even serendipity, invites each reader to participate in a life-affirming search for the colors and connections of love and the depth of meaning they give to the human spirit. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Highlight: Talk of the Country (Tales from Jamaica, #3) by L.C. Andrews


Talk of the Country (Tales from Jamaica, #3)

Talk of the Country represents a turning point in the Tales from Jamaica series. Nearly every aspect of human emotion comes into play as author L.C. Andrews explores multiple themes and endearing story lines. Readers are sure to enjoy this smart, sexy, funny and sweet story. Completely unique and unlike any other book... Read along and see what everybody is talking about!

Children's Book and Resources Round-Up!!!!



Unplug & Play! 50 Games That Don't Need Charging

This is a gem of a book.  There is too much time spent with children's faces glued to the TV and to electronics and not enough face time between parents and children.  There are games galore packed in this book, hours of fun and millions of memory to be made.  This is one of the best guide books and resources to creating quality time with our children, using out brains while having fun (without electronics and devices).  
5 stars


Goodnight, Angels


Kurt, Gert, Jazmine, and Bagel

BRR! Ouch! Jazmine gasped as she faced life alone and without friends. Enjoy her adventures with Kurt, Gert, and Bagel as they discover friendships together.
A great book for children learning to read.  There are phonics in the books to help with reading.  This was helpful at times for my new reader.  This book is a great story about friendship and how important that you need others to help you along the way. 3.5 stars


The Treasure of Snake Island: A Captain No Beard Story Volume 5

After a fierce battle with a storm, the crew goes in search of treasure. Alexander, that is, Captain No Beard uses a map to locate it on the ominous sounding Snake Island. Bravely they dig until they find the best treasure ever!
An awesome adventure book that my kids and I have read over and over again!  Great story, amazing pictures and a great cast of characters!  This books was more than a was hours of fun.  After we read the book I created a treasure hunt for the kids, with a map and real treasure!  Such fun when a book becomes more than a book and becomes a bonding moment and an amazing memory!  5 stars


Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville

A charming tale of woodland creatures and the town's quirky news reporter who is determined to get the scoop on the newest resident in town, but always seems to be one step behind.


Thurston T. Turtle and the Legend of the Lemonade

In this follow-up to Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville, our endearing newcomer is settling in when he notices everyone's homemade butter cookies and lemonade taste the same. However, stories of the recipes' origins are quite different. While Mr. Turtle's second grade class uncovers other similarities, it is the discovery of old letters, help from the scattered Mr. Possum and a visit to an old family friend that converge to reveal the legend of the lemonade. And the butter cookies, too, of course!

In the third book of the Thurston T. Turtle series, Mr. Turtle finds himself being
followed. Mr. Frogson and Mr. Bunnyton tell him his mind is playing tricks on
him and he should get some rest. Mr. Possum is besieged by a naughty rascal
who scatters his trash. The elusive creature turns out to be a floppy-eared, bigfooted puppy who captures hearts and needs a home and a name. The naming
falls to Mr. Turtle’s students for that endearing project.

This series is great for young reader who are just starting to read chapter books.  There are a lot if interesting elements that you can discuss with your children... such as friendship, problem solving, kindness and what makes each of us special and important.  My boys loved listening to me read to them and my older son loved being able to read these books to me.  These are books that you can snuggle in and read together!  3.5 stars


SPIDERS: Fun Facts and Amazing Photos of Animals in Nature (Amazing Animal Kingdom Series)


Quick! What comes to mind when I say the word “spider”? Are you creeped out—or are you one of those spider-lovers? No matter how you may feel about these eight-legged arachnids, one thing is for certain—you are sure to learn a whole lot you didn’t know about them before! This special report for young kids is jam-packed with fun facts, humor, and conversational-toned writing that will appeal to children and open their eyes to the incredible world of spiders! 

How does a spider spin her web? Is spider silk used to make clothing? What is the one continent in the world where no spiders can be found? What do you call a baby spider? How many eggs can a spider lay at one time? What is special and unique about the diving bell spider? 

Get answers to all these questions and more within the fun-filled pages of this essay just for kids, which explores spider families, spider colonies, special spider skills, the various types of spiders, and so much more! Impress your family and friends with all that you’ve learned—and who knows? You just may decide you’d like to have a pet spider, after all!

I am such a fan of Emma Child's books.  They are filled with interesting facts and great pictures.  Spiders are creepy to me, but my boys and I loved learning more about these creepy, crawly creatures!  4 stars


Burkley and the Beasts: The Sea Serpent

 Burkley Brooks doesn't mind being a bit different. She named her pet boa constrictor Stella, even though it's a boy. She won't eat yellow food, but must have something red on her plate. And she's fine with her nickname - Quirky Burkley. However, none of it's as weird as the strange things she's been seeing lately...such as snake tongues stealing bananas and reaching at her from inside the kitchen sink! Thankfully, her Grandma Brooks is there to explain these visions. Burkley has been chosen as the next Brooks to inherit the beautiful Heartstone, the key to a mystical Portal. Through the Portal lies a mysterious place called Mermaid's Lagoon, where Burkley's Grandpa Brooks and Uncle Charlie disappeared years ago. The first step to finding and rescuing them is a battle with a huge, fierce Sea Serpent! With a magical trident in her hands and her best friends at her side, will Burkley save the day? 

My two young sons and I loved getting lost in the world of Burkley and her quirky ways!  There was adventure, interesting characters and mystical elements that my kids and I really enjoyed!  3.5 stars


Jeff Corwin’s Explorer Series

Waterford Press’ Jeff Corwin’s Explorer Series is a set of pocket guides designed to introduce novices to the planet’s most popular and visible species. Each reveals how the animals are built, how they behave, their worldwide distribution and why their survival is important to us as a species. Featuring Jeff Corwin’s inspirational and infectious enthusiasm for the natural world, these guides are both educational and engaging.

This collection is AWESOME! There are great pictures and facts that my kids and I really enjoyed learning about.  They are pockets guides so they are easy to travel with.  We keep them in the car and my boys enjoy looking them over and reading more facts each time.  These are so amazing because they also give tips on how to help keep the animals protected, what makes the animals special and about the animals behaviors and characteristics.  AMAZING!  5 stars!

BUY THE BOOKS: Head on over to AMAZON and pick up these great titles!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mandy's Romance Corner Reviews



Hearts of Eternity by N Jay

About the book:  When you are invited to dance with the muse of love, when you are driven to the edge by the pain of the past, when you hold the remedy for what ails you in your arms you will find yourself in the heart of eternity. 

Set in the Blue Mountain’s town of Blackheath in New South Wales, Australia, the novel Heart of Eternity introduces two very different characters, Jay and Naida, who encounter each other at a challenging time in each of their lives. Their individual expressions of the feelings they provoke in each other give rise to a turmoil that could ultimately claim their lives. When two people understand so deeply the pain each other has faced will it force them into the abyss of darkness or will their combined need for healing allow love to enter both their hearts?

Mandy's Review:  This is a story of the of two tortured souls. Its almost like a good soul  person and a bad soul person struggling to reach the light.  But in order to reach the light you have to rediscover who you really are.   It is a unique tale set in Australia and beautifully written.  This a short quick read that will intrigue the reader and keep them entertained.  I give it 3 stars.

Buy it:


Dancing on Rocks by Rose Senehi

About the book:  Simmering beneath the skin and hiding around every corner are a family’s painful memories of a child who disappeared in the middle of the night 30 years ago.

Following her mother’s motorcycle accident, Georgie Haydock returns to the mountain tourist town at the foot of Chimney Rock State Park. But the summer is full of turmoil. As Georgie tries to perform her nursing duties, her mother thrashes in her bed, insisting that the strange woman stalking her store downstairs is Georgie’s missing sister. Meanwhile, Georgie aches to reunite with her childhood sweetheart, but she’s too ashamed of the guilt that drove her away 15 years earlier. For his part, Ron Elliott, the state park’s naturalist, doesn’t care what Georgie did all those years back. She’s the one creature he’s always yearned to possess.
Dancing on Rocks weaves through the network of memories, secrets, and mutual dependencies holding together Chimney Rock, an isolated community of 112 people tucked into Hickory Nut Gorge. Thousands of visitors stream through the tourist destination every week. But in reality, the people in the town have only each other

Mandy's Review:  This is a story of Georgie Haydock who returns to Chimney Rock after being gone for 15 years.  The tale that is told brings forth memories of the past, guilt, hope and most of the chance of love again.  The author does a wonderful job of telling story with her wonderful artistic words.  I really enjoyed this book.  It was a great read that kept my interest.  Well done Rose Senehi.  I give it 4 stars.

Buy it: 

Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell

About the book:  On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls’ prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she’s secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism...until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital. 

Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, where she overcomes her traumatic memories and finds the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story—until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn daughter.

Mandy's Review:  Wow.  That's what I can say about this book, is WOW.  Talk about an emotional ringer.  This book takes a hard look at what 16 year old Lesley Holloway does to survive the abuse from her father.  Lesley runs away from home and has the courage to seek out the help she needs to become a better person.  The tale is heart wrenching, intense and makes you root for Lesley to have the strength to come out on top.  There are some heavy subjects in this book but the author is brilliant in writing this story.  Like I said this is an emotional ringer of book but it is worth the read.  I give 4 stars.

Buy it:  


Angels Cry by Tina Glasneck

About the book:  Cold-hearted detective Peter Lazarus loves to toe the line, and being an undercover cop, he enjoys his sanctioned criminalism. Going by the name of Shane Sterns, called in to gather evidence against a ruthless gang distributing and transporting black tar heroin up and down the East Coast, he's a man without anything to lose. 

Until he walks into a bar run by the gang and sees Charlie. 

Charlotte "Charlie" Palmer knows him from a different time and place. She can blow his cover with one look. While undercover, he married Charlie, and after getting too close, he abandoned her. There were reasons for it back then, but watching Charlie dance with dead eyes, he knows her downward spiral has been swift. Recognizing the bars on her gilded cage, he realizes he does have one big regret. 

Shane says he's there for something else--and Charlie's got her own reasons to hate him and her own secrets to hide. He doesn't know everything about her--not by a long shot. Not only has her best friend disappeared, but Charlie knows she's next in line to die if she makes one false move. Loving him or hating him, trusting Shane is the only way she's going to live another day . . . and finally find their son. 

Angels Cry is a dark, hard-edged suspense novella from the Spark Before Dying series.

Mandy's Review:  Tina Glasneck does a great job with this novella.  There were lots of twists and turns, and the plot was very interesting.  We have detective Peter Lazarus who loves being an undercover cop.  Then we have Charlotte Palmer who knows Peter from a different time.  Their worlds collide again and it’s a fight to the end to see who will survive.  There is a dark edge to this entire story, so be forewarned. This story was a short quick read but I enjoyed it very much.  I give it 3 stars.

Buy it:

Romance is My Day Job by Patience Bloom
About the book:  Who knows the ins and outs of romance better than a Harlequin editor? A surprising and exhilarating look into Patience Bloom’s unexpected real-life love story.

At some point, we’ve all wished romance could be more like fiction. Patience Bloom certainly did, many times over. As a teen she fell in love with Harlequin novels and imagined her life would turn out just like the heroines’ on the page: That shy guy she had a crush on wouldn’t just take her out—he’d sweep her off her feet with witty banter, quiet charm, and a secret life as a rock star. Not exactly her reality, but Bloom kept reading books that fed her reveries.

Years later she moved to New York and found her dream job, editing romances for Harlequin. Every day, her romantic fantasies came true—on paper. Bloom became an expert when it came to fictional love stories, editing amazing books and learning everything she could about the romance business. But her dating life remained uninspired. She nearly gave up on love.

Then one day a real-life chance at romance made her wonder if what she’d been writing and editing all those years might be true. A Facebook message from a high school friend, Sam, sparked a relationship with more promise than she’d had in years. But Sam lived thousands of miles away—they hadn’t seen each other in more than twenty years. Was it worth the risk?

Finally, Bloom learned: Love and romance can conquer all.
Mandy's Review:  From high school to middle age, Patience Bloom does an awesome job of recounting the history of her relationships throughout her lifetime.  These relationships encompass everything from the business side, her family and her romantic one too.  Patience is an Editor at Harlequin books; as a result she brings her knowledge from this into her witty stories and the ups and downs of her life.  Patience does not throw any punches – she is honest about her trials (painful experiences) in life even when they cause setbacks in her life.  Throughout this book there is humor, laugh out loud moments, sadness, and how her relationships influences her life and growth.  This is an awesome book to read.  Bravo Patience Bloom on a great book.  I give it 4 stars. 

Buy it: 

The End of the Line by Jim Powers
About the book:  Latesha Thomas is a beautiful, young African-American woman who lives with her handicapped father. She is in her final year of university and they are having a hard time making ends meet. She decides to start a matchmaking service to make a little extra money, though she has no experience and it turns out to be a disaster. She does, however, meet a client, a handsome white man named Peter Elsworth. The sparks fly immediately, but there’s a huge problem. Her father, and his mother, are vehemently opposed to an interracial relationship. This leads to tremendous conflict, but their love will not be denied. They grow closer, yet the closer they become, the more the tension rises. In time a secret connection between their two worlds become clear and this adds another dimension of conflict and complexity. But love is color blind and they are irresistibly drawn to one another.
Mandy's Review:  You would think during this day and age humanity as a whole would be open to interracial relationships and not have so many preconceived notions about life.  Unfortunately this is not always the case.  Jim Powers does a fantastic job of showing how true love can conquer all.  This story was realistically written and made you feel for the couple.  This is a romance between Latesha Thomas and Peter Elsworth.  A romance that blossoms into something wonderful and against all the unwritten rules of society.  This story will open you heart and minds to all the possibilities of true love.  I highly recommend this book.  It is a well written, heartfelt story that can inspire us all to be better.  I give 4 stars.   

Buy it:

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