Friday, February 28, 2014

My Amish Childhood: A True Story of Faith, Family, and the Simple Life by Jerry Eichler - REVIEW

Bestselling fiction author Jerry S. Eicher (nearly half a million books sold) turns his pen to a moving memoir of his life growing up Amish.
Jerry’s mother was nineteen years old and nine months married when he was born. She had received Grandfather Stoll’s permission for the wedding because she agreed to help out on the farm the following year. However, with Jerry on the way, those plans failed.
Jerry recounts his first two years of school in the Amish community of Aylmer, Ontario and his parents’ decision to move to Honduras. Life in that beautiful Central American country is seen through an Amish boy’s eyes—and then the dark days when the community failed and the family returned to America, much to young Jerry’s regret. Jerry also tells of his struggle as a stutterer and his eventual conversion to Christ and the reasons for his departure from the childhood faith he knew.

Here is a must-read for not just Jerry’s fiction fans, but also for readers curious about Amish life.
My Take:
3 Stars
This book is a Memoir of Jerry Eichler's boyhood growing up Amish, but not in the typical sense of the word. This description of this book is not the full story about Jerry Eichler's life of growing up Amish. It's 'growing up Amish' in Honduras from about the third grade until a little after he graduates, which for the Amish is in the eighth grade, about age 14. 
Some families in the Pennsylvanian Amish community in the early 1960's decided to move to Honduras to escape some of the stricter rules of the Amish community here, not to go on a mission trip to help the Hondurans. Don't get me wrong, they still did everything Amish, and also to the amazement of the people who lived in Honduras, too. It was still farming, living, dressing, going to church and everything else Amish, just in a different country. I do feel they did have much more freedom in Honduras, especially if you were a young boy. They had the freedom to roam through the foothills of the mountains and had a great time and saw some amazing scenery. They also had more freedom making income and using machinery to help them farm because of where they lived.
Honduras held many new learning experiences for the Amish, especially when it came to farming. They tried all kinds of new crops there. They had no horses there, and for good reason. The climate was not good for them, yet the Amish depended upon them. They airlifted some in, but they don't fare so well. The book is interesting in how they had to adapt to the Honduran land, such as learning why the locals built with adobe and the Amish built with wood, but a few years after building those wooden structures, the insects had flattened them. There is a lot to learn about their experience in Honduras if you are interested in it.
Jerry's family did make one trip back to the United States while they were living in Honduras, yet while he was here, he yearned to be back in Honduras. Life there was not so easy, though. There was a lot of stealing, people with guns, an unrest occurred, and many other things.
The book was interesting. It's not my favorite, but it's good especially if you want to learn more about the Amish living in Honduras. If you are looking for a book about a boy growing up Amish in the United States in the typical sense, then this is not the book for you. This book is more factual, a memoir about his boyhood while in Honduras. I didn't connect with him very well, but I'm a woman. You know that saying - 'boys will be boys'? Perhaps if I were a man I would have connected more? The book was interesting and factual, but didn't do a whole lot for me. 
I never knew ANY group of Amish went to Honduras, so that was something new I learned. There were a lot of things in the book I never knew about, as it pertained to Honduras.
They touched a little on Jerry's reasoning for turning to Christ after some preachers came to the area preaching about needing Christ in your life. He decides that he wants to follow Christ's ways and not the old testament ways.

If you love the Amish, give it a try if this sounds appealing!

I received this book from Harvest House Publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was paid NO monies for reviewing this book. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 which changes yearly, I'm told at: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

My Amish Childhood by Jerry S Eichler
ebook: $ 9.99
print:  $11.69

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J Henry - REVIEW


Troy Chance returns in another riveting novel from the author of the critically acclaimed Learning to Swim
Freelance writer Troy Chance is snapping photos of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival ice palace when the ice-cutting machine falls silent. Encased in the ice is the shadowy outline of a body--a man she knows. One of her roommates falls under suspicion, and the media descends. Troy's assigned to write an in-depth feature on the dead man, who, it turns out, was the privileged son of a wealthy Connecticut family who had been playing at a blue collar life in this Adirondack village. And the deeper Troy digs into his life and mysterious death, the murkier things become. After the victim's sister comes to town and a string of disturbing incidents unfold, it's clear someone doesn't want the investigation to continue. Troy doesn't know who to trust, and what she ultimately finds out threatens to shatter the serenity of these mountain towns. She must decide which family secrets should be exposed, what truths should remain hidden, and how far her own loyalty can reach.

A Cold and Lonely Place, the sequel to Learning to Swim, follows Troy on a powerful emotional journey as she discovers the damage left by long-hidden secrets, and catches a glimpse of what might have been.
My Take:
5 Stars!
I LOVED this book! I loved the main character, Troy. I really felt connected to her through the book. This was an excellent investigative murder mystery, yet learning more so about Tobin's life than anything. The description of this book states this is Book Two, a sequel to Learning to Swim, which I have not yet read. That did not seem to matter for myself. Although I wished I knew it at the time, as I would have read that book first, I was still able to pick this book up and start reading it as a stand alone all on it's own. I'm sure there are probably some things that would have helped had I read the first book, but I don't think I missed anything to, to important. From what I understand, this book will be part of a series of books which I look very much forward to reading and getting to know more about Troy.
While working on building an Ice Palace on Sarnac Lake in the Adirondack mountains for a festival they have each year, while digging and scraping with the machinery, up pops a dead body in the ice. Tobin, a local. Troy Chance, working for the local newspaper, and lives in Lake Placid, is an excellent photographer/investigative reporter for the local newspaper and friend to the victim, Tobin, as his girlfriend, Jessamyn, rooms in her home with her. Troy rents out rooms, usually to athletes who are training for the Olympics every year at Lake Placid, she took a chance renting out a room to Jessamyn, but it turned out okay. Troy knows the victim rather well because of this, or so she thinks, until she starts digging further into the investigation. I really liked Troy. Troy unfolds the story throughout the book. We always knew what she was thinking, doing, going to do, and eat! She loved to eat! LOL! She is very detail oriented, never missing a beat. Even with her investigating, still, I could NOT figure out who the killer was, but this book was not so much of a murder mystery than that of learning about Tobin's life. She even put her own life at risk while investigating this death, as well. Someone did not want anyone finding out they did it. This was a slower moving investigation than what I'm used to, maybe not slower, but again, very, very detailed. This still kept me glued to the pages flipping through them quickly. It was very difficult to put down. Once the victim's sister, Win, finds out it's her brother who is the one who was murdered and left stuck under the ice, she comes out to there to see if she can help find the killer of her brother, too. At this point, everyone is a suspect. I didn't even trust the victim's sister. She ended up spending a lot of time with Troy, almost every step of the way. The entire investigation took place during the heighth of Winter, in the cold, dark, snow, and iciness. This book is one of relationships, how they work together, the who, and togetherness or not. I highly suggest reading this book. 
The author is an extremely talented writer, and had me on the very first page! 

I received this book for FREE from the Publisher, Crown Publishing Group and NetGalley in exchange to read and write a review about it. It is NOT required for this review to be either positive or negative, but of my own honest opinion. "Free" means I was provided with ZERO MONIES to read this book nor to write this review, but to enjoy the pure pleasure of reading it. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

At first I could not find the author's website, and you'll see comments down below my great friend Elaine left a comment with Sara J Henry's website.
After that, the author, Sara J Henry came by and left a comment with her website! Same one that Elaine had for me! I am honored to have Sara J Henry come by! Her website is: just like her name! Don't forget her middle initial of J.
At her website you will find the latest on her books, signings, and more! Enjoy!
Thank you, Sara, for stopping by! As I said, it's an honor to have you here! Excellent book, by the way!

A Cold and Lonely Place: A Novel by Sara J Henry
ebook: $ 9.99
print:  $11.98

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Christmas Town by Elyse Douglas - REVIEW + EXCERPT!

The Christmas Town, by Elyse Douglas, is a new time travel, mystery, romance novel that was released on October 11, 2013.

Traveling home for Christmas, two young women in their 20s are forced to drive together during a snowstorm, and they get lost. They cross a covered bridge and, suddenly, they enter the past, finding themselves in a small picturesque Vermont town in 1943. They meet two handsome soldiers, who are about to be sent off to war, and they fall in love with them, while also struggling to find a way to return home to their own time. 

With the soldiers’ help, on Christmas Eve, the two women finally have one chance to return to their own time, but they are caught between their love for the soldiers, and their desire to return to the present. At the last moment, they must make the difficult decision and, because it is Christmas, a miracle happens.

My Take:
4 Stars
I LOVED this book! Don't wait until Christmas to read it! Enjoy it now or at anytime during the year, and I say this because I was surprised to find out this was an accidental time travel romance! Normally I don't review the Time Travel genre, but wow! I surely enjoyed this one! This now means I will be open to more in this genre, as long as it romance time travel!
It is the current day. Two women, complete strangers. Jackie and Megan, both in their mid to late twenties, not even sitting near each other on a plane headed to Portland, Maine. One has her tablet out, the other has her phone when the Captain announces they must land immediately at the current airport they are approaching because a snowstorm is occurring and there is not a way they can make it to Portland and land safely. He asks everyone to prepare for landing. They so safely.
Jackie and Megan meet each other at the car rental desk amongst a huge crowd where everyone from the plane is trying to get a rental car. Jackie is concocting a story that her mother needs medication she bought back in New York and needs to get it to her immediately. Megan hears Jackie's story, and what is going on and knows she can help her out, so she inches herself up there. In the meantime, a man is asking for his reserved car. He willingly offers it to the two girls, thinking they are together! Now they can share a car together. After these two strangers do a bit of quibbling with each other, off they go together in a red hybrid Fusion! Brilliant! Until . . . they miss the turnoff on the road. The snowstorm is so bad it's hard to see to drive. The GPS is not working correctly, and neither are their phones. Hmmm? Odd. They feel like they are driving forever when they see a snow covered sign saying Hollygrove, then a wooden covered bridge. Trepadacious about crossing it, quibbling again, they cross the bridge. Once on the other side, almost immediately the snowstorm is gone, the sky is clear and they can see stars. Hmmm? What is going on? Now they see a car approaching. The car stopped. The girls thought the car looked like it was out of the movie Bonnie and Clyde. The man inside the car looked like he had seen a ghost! He asked what kind of car they were driving, and when they told him, he couldn't get out of there fast enough! They drove into the town ahead and saw what looked like a town out of a movie during the early 1940's. Tired and hungry, they find a Boarding House. They stopped and got out of their car and approached the Boarding House where they had room for them overnight, and this is how they found out WWII is going on. What happened? This Aunt Betty who runs the place is talking about rationing stamps, rationing, how her daughter went to work as a welder? She went on further about having to get a map out to find the places on it as the radio talks about the war and the different places. These girls are stuck in 1943!
Later, both girls meet two soldiers with whom they fall in love with, but they still need to go home. They worry about changing history if they stay, so they must try to go home, but their scary car is missing. Thus starts the mystery of trying to find out what happened to their car, as that is the only way they can get home. Did someone steal it? Is it being hidden? Was it that first man who thought he saw a ghost in the girls?
I liked how the author used the sayings they used back in that era. Great use, spot-on! It helped the story feel real.
An interesting part in this story is when gossip is heard about a man who came there one time and he was from the future and he stayed! What is going on? There is a lot more to this story yet, but that gives you the gist of what this book is about.
The ending was what I thought it would be. I gave it a 4 star rating because of the ending, otherwise, I would have given this book 5 stars, however, there is a twist at the end. It was definitely different, but I think this part left myself and a lot of others who read this book confused. Maybe if the author done it a little more clear, although perhaps that IS what the author was after? I don't know. I think it did throw a lot of people off, and probably made it hard to understand what exactly happened.
The way this book was written, I felt like I was right there in this town with these two girls because I could relate to the era so well.
One thing I did not like was the cover of this book. I don't understand why the church is on the cover? I don't remember anything about a church in the book? Is this for Christmas sake? It was not until I posted the cover of the book on my blog that I finally saw the figures of a man in uniform hugging a woman. What about the other couple? I think the cover needs work.  
What this book did for me was to bring back memories of some products that were still around in the late 60's, 70' and early 80's, too! Also, a lot of wonderful memories from my Grandmothers and my Grandfathers and their stories about WWII. 
I thoroughly loved reading about the advertising signs this book talked about, the products the stores sold, references to products, the scenario, etc. because I know a LOT about the 1940's from them. 
One set of grandparents had a newly rushed marriage in 1942, not because of an 'oops' but because my Grandfather had enlisted in the Navy, and was going off work on one of the large ships out at sea. She lived back on the base but in a tiny trailer. When I say trailer, I mean a very tiny fifth wheel travel trailer. That was their home! She had stories for me, but mostly about love as she was a newlywed, and about living inside that small trailer. She called my Grandfather 'Dolly'. She had no children yet until 1947 when my father was born and they did live in there with my father when he was an infant and until my grandfather's service was over.
My other Grandmother had been married for several years already, had two children, and went to work for the war. Makes me picture the sign of the woman with her sleeve rolled up showing the muscle in her arm! My grandfather was drafted into the Navy during WWII in 1945 and I have the leftover ration books preserved in a scrapbook, along with copies of pay stubs, postcards sent home to her, and she even saved the envelopes with the post marks. She, herself, made a scrapbook while my Grandfather was serving. I am very lucky to have what she saved, and what I preserved.
I received this book for FREE from the author in exchange to read and write a review about it. It is NOT required for this review to be either positive or negative, but of my own honest opinion. "Free" means I was provided with ZERO MONIES to read this book nor to write this review, but to enjoy the pure pleasure of reading it. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

About the Author:

Elyse Douglas (the writing team!)

Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age, and graduated from Columbia University with a Master's Degree in English Literature. Douglas grew up in a family of musicians, astrologers and avid readers. Some of Elyse Douglas' novels include: "The Astrologer's Daughter," "Wanting Rita," "The Christmas Diary" and "The Christmas Town." They currently reside in New York City.

Excerpt From The Christmas Town
by Elyse Douglas
They crept along, eye-weary, back-weary and bone-weary.  They’d been driving for over an hour and they had not seen another car, road sign, house or town. 
“Okay, I’m freakin’ out,” Megan said.  “I mean, if we don’t see some sign of life in the next few minutes, I am going to freak out!”
“Let’s try to stay calm.”
“I wonder if this is instant karma,” Jackie said, her shoulders stooped, eyes darting about nervously.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, how we got this car.  I know you lied to that man back there. I know it. Your mother doesn’t need medication, and now we are being punished.”
“Don’t blame me,” Megan said.  “If it hadn’t been for me, we wouldn’t have gotten the car in the first place.”
“And I wouldn’t be out in the middle of freakin’ nowhere!”
“Look, don’t start something you can’t finish,” Megan said.
“I just can’t believe you lied to him.”
“Stop it!  Okay?  Maybe I feel bad about it.”
Jackie was sweating.  “I doubt it, and that was a nasty thing to do.  I mean that was just wrong.  He was so nice to you and you just lied to him.  And, it’s Christmas.”
“I said, stop it!” Megan said.
“I thought there was something funny about the way you acted when he shook your hand,” Jackie said.
“Jackie, that’s enough.  Just let it go!  While we’re arguing we could be passing a house or motel.  I don’t see anything but this blinding snow.”
The wind howled like a wild animal, and snow blew across the road, piling into drifts against the base of trees.
“How far have we gone so far?” Megan asked.
“I don’t know.  Maybe 40 or 50 miles.”
Megan blew out an audible sigh.  “I feel like I’m in a snow globe and some crazy kid just keeps shaking it.”
“Dramatic,” Jackie said.
“Scared,” Megan shot back.
Megan thought she saw a sign ahead, caked in snow and leaning precariously to the right, as if a burst of wind would blow it down.
“Jackie, stop!  Look.  I think there’s a sign over there.  See it?”
Jackie slowed, saw the sign and stopped. “God, I hope it tells us where we are.”
Megan struggled into her coat and gloves and pulled on her hat.  She shoved the door open, braced against the wind, and got out.  Snow lashed at her face and she turned away, protecting her face with her hand.  She trudged through nearly a foot of snow until she reached the sign, illuminated by the car beams.  With her right hand, she brushed snow from the sign, little by little, until she was able to read HOLLY and then GROVE 1 MILE.  A little black arrow pointed right.  Megan looked right, shading her eyes, and peered into the distance.  She saw something.  She saw the shadow of a covered bridge, looming out in the blur of snow.  That must be it.  The town was across the bridge.  Energized, she whirled, stomped back to the car and got in.
She was breathing rapidly.  “It’s wild out there,” she said, shivering.  “There’s a bridge just ahead.  Holly Grove is about a mile away.”
“Sounds quaint,” Jackie said.  “I hope they have a motel and an all-night restaurant.”
Jackie drove toward the bridge, the narrow road to the bridge looking dark and foreboding.
“Wait a minute, Jackie.”
Jackie paused before making the turn.  “What’s the matter?” she asked.
“I don’t know.  I just hate to leave the main road.”
“Megan, across that bridge is a town.  We have passed absolutely nothing on this ‘so-called’ main road.  Please, let’s just get across the bridge and spend the night in Holly Grove.”
Megan nodded, still reluctant.
Jackie made the turn.  But at the threshold of the bridge, Megan called out again.
Jackie hit the brakes again, irritated.  “Megan, what?”
Megan stared at the bridge.  It wasn’t a large bridge, probably no more than 90 feet across a rocky stream, but something gnawed away at her, some ineffable feeling of danger that she couldn’t put her finger on.
“Megan?” Jackie said, seeing a far-away look in Megan’s eyes.  “What are we waiting for?”
“Okay, okay...It’s just that...”
“Forget it.”
Jackie nudged the car forward and it rattled across the bridge.  The two girls held their breath in the cave-like interior, darkness swallowing them, the wind screaming through the cracks all around them. 
When they finally exited on the other side, they released trapped air from their lungs. 
“Wow, that gave me the creeps,” Megan said.
Jackie looked about uneasily.  “What a freaky night this is.”
They passed through a gray and white shroud of blowing snow.  Suddenly, as if a curtain were being drawn from both sides of a stage, a gust of wind passed over the car and blew the snow away. 
Jackie stopped the car.  The girls looked at each other, then blinked around in astonished wonder. 
“What happened?” Megan asked.
Jackie was speechless.
There was snow on the ground, but only two or three inches.  There was no sound of wind, no blowing snow, just a few gentle flurries.  The whispering sound of the windshield wipers was loud in the sudden silence and Jackie switched them off.  They sat there, staring.  Jackie rolled down the window and felt a cool, intoxicating breeze on her face.  She looked up into the sky and saw a few stars and a ghostly near-full moon swimming over the top of a distant shadowy mountain.
Megan opened the door and stepped out, without hat or gloves.  She turned in a circle, smelling fresh pine, hearing the splashing stream they’d just crossed.  It was quiet, a deep satisfying quiet that relaxed her.  She took an easy breath and smiled.
“Jackie... it’s beautiful,” she said, as she held out her hand to catch a few random snowflakes.
Jackie stepped out.  It was still cold, but not a punishing cold.  There was a softness in the air.  Megan looked at Jackie, her brows raised in query.  She shrugged.  Jackie shrugged.  It was as though they were suddenly watching the world at a slower movie projector speed.

Jackie saw a glow, just ahead, advancing toward them.  She pointed, excited. “Megan, look!  A light or something, up ahead.”
Megan turned.  “Yes!  What is it?”
Through the smoky cloud of fog, two glowing headlights slowly approached.
“It’s a car!  Megan, it’s a car.  Let’s wave it down.  Hurry!”
Framed in the headlights, the girls walked to the front of the car, and waved, using both arms.  The car began to slow to a stop. 
Megan gave Jackie the thumb’s up.  Jackie stayed back, but Megan moved toward the stopped car as the driver’s window rolled half way down.  Megan drew up along side and looked in to see an elderly man, with wary, watery eyes peering up at her.
White vapor puffed from her mouth as she spoke.  “Hi there.  Thank God you came by.  We’re lost and we haven’t seen anything or anybody for miles.”
The man didn’t blink.  He just stared.  He stared at Megan.  He stared at Jackie.  He stared at their car.
Megan noticed his car.  It was old—a very old black car—dusted with snow.  She noticed the running board and heavy fenders.  It looked like something out of the Bonnie and Clyde movie her father repeatedly watched. 
Megan was actually looking at a 1934 Ford Tudor Sedan, two-door body.
“Can you help us?” Megan asked.
“Well, what do you want me to do?” he barked.
“We were trying to get to Portland and we must have missed the turn-off somewhere back.”
“I’ll say you did.  You’re a good 30 miles away from it.  You’re going in the wrong direction.”
“We haven’t seen a motel or anything.  Is there somewhere we can spend the night?”
He kept looking at her strangely, then he stared at Jackie again, and then at their car.  “What is that?”
Megan followed his eyes. “What?  Our car?”
“Yeah.  What is that?”
“It’s our car.”
He shook his head.  “Dang, I ain’t never seen a car like that before.  What is it?”
“It’s a Ford.  A Ford Fusion Hybrid.”
“A what!?” he asked, pinching up his face and cupping his ear with his hand.  “What did you say it was?”
“It’s a Ford.  Can you please tell me where the nearest town or motel is?”
He couldn’t pull his eyes from the car.  “Ain’t never seen anything like that.”
“Sir, please!  We are very tired and very hungry.”
He looked at her again and jerked a thumb behind him.  “Holly Grove is about a mile up the road.”
He rolled up his window, threw the car in gear and plodded off.  Jackie waved.  As he passed the Ford Fusion, his eyes bulged wildly, face blank with shock.  He pressed down on the accelerator, hurrying off into the night.
Megan strolled back to Jackie.
“What did he say?” Jackie asked.
“Well, I guess he’s never seen a hybrid before.”
They got back into the car and continued on into the uncertain night, straining every muscle to see the town.   Moments later, they came to some railroad tracks, bumped across them and saw a white sign with black letters that read
“That’s what I call a small town,” Megan said. 
“What time is it?” Jackie asked.
Megan checked her phone.  It was still dead.  She looked at her watch.  “Nine forty.”
They crested a little hill and entered the quiet town along Main Street.  The first thing they saw was a billboard sign.  It loomed large over a low dark warehouse.  There was a large picture of a white pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum over a bright green mint leaf.  The advertisement read: SPEARMINT HAS GONE TO WAR.
Jackie said, “What’s that all about?”
They passed 19th century brick storefronts, a post office, a pawn shop and a barber shop, with a Christmas wreath hanging inside its window.  All the signs were turned off.  They saw Dandy’s Market and Dot’s Caf├ę.  Plastered on the red brick face of Dandy’s Market were soda signs: Coca-Cola, Orange Crush and Royal Crown Cola.  They also noticed a large poster with the photograph of a cute boy about 5 years old, with ruffled brown hair and a pleading, sorrowful expression.  He wore a white shirt, and had a little blue ribbon and medal around his neck.  He was holding a toy car.  Below the photo it read:
That struck the girls as odd, but their attention was drawn to the deserted streets.  The town must have shut down for the night, they thought.  What struck them as particularly strange were the cars parked at an angle by the curb.  They were all old, as old as the one that had stopped back up the road, and they looked bulky, blocky and heavy. 
“I’ve seen cars like this in those silent movies.  Those Charlie Chaplin movies,” Megan said.
“Those two pickup trucks are definitely vintage.  This town must be poor,” Jackie said.
Jackie and Megan were processing this as they drove by the town square, with its tall stately Christmas tree, elaborate manger scene, and old redbrick courthouse with a white-faced Roman numeral clock tower. 
At the Gulf gas station, Jackie slowed down as they took in the two obelisk-type antique looking pumps.  They saw a sign that said GAS 14 CENTS A GALLON.  Next to that was another sign written by hand.  NO GAS. 
The pump on the left had rolling type numbers, and the one on the right had a clock face, showing a dial-type gas meter. 
Megan read a stand-alone sign near the entrance.
Jackie’s face fell into perplexity. “What’s going on here?  A gallon of gas for 14 cents?”
“The whole town looks like some kind of old movie or something,” Megan said.  “And there’s nobody around.  This place is giving me the creeps.”
“We’ve got to find a place to stay,” Jackie said.  “I am absolutely exhausted.”
“I’m so hungry,” Megan said, hearing her stomach growl.  “I’d love a Katz’s Corned Beef sandwich.”
“Oh, God, they are so good, aren’t they?  How much are those now?”
“It’s worth it.”
They saw Green’s Drugstore and John’s General Store, with a 6-foot Christmas tree outside.  Just then, a young man about 15 or 16 stepped out of Green’s Drugstore, carrying several little brown bags.  When he saw them, he froze in utter shock, his eyes bulging, mouth open.  He actually did a double-take.
Jackie stopped, and Megan rolled down her window and waved at him.
“Hello there,” Megan said.
The boy was rigid.  Then he trembled.
“Is there a hotel or motel or Bed & Breakfast nearby?” Megan asked.
The boy swallowed, whipped his head about, as if calculating the best route for escape, and then bolted away right.  He found a narrow alley, skidded on his heels, and disappeared.
Megan turned in a slow confusion, facing Jackie.  Jackie lifted a puzzled eyebrow.  “What was that all about?”
Megan lowered the sun visor and examined herself in the little mirror. “I know I’m tired, but do I look that bad?”
Jackie massaged her temples. “This has been the strangest trip I have ever taken.  Let’s just try to find someplace to eat and sleep and forget this crazy little excursion ever happened.”
They drove on toward the outskirts of town, passing THE GROVE movie theatre.  The movie marquis displayed  GIRL CRAZY, starring  Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.
“I saw that on TCM a few months ago,” Megan said.
Jackie stared, darkly.  “There is something going on, Megan.  Something... weird.”
After the movie theatre, they spotted The Grove Hotel, but it was closed.  Fighting fatigue and despair, they turned off Main Street onto Maple Street, a quiet tree-lined street with neat framed houses, and the occasional vintage automobile parked in the driveway or along the deserted street.
“I just can’t get over all these old cars,” Megan said.  “They look like something out of those old gangster movies.”
“Will you stop it with the old cars, Megan?  Please?  Find us someplace to stay.  If our stupid phones worked, we could have found something by now.  What the hell is the matter with this place?  I am going to go out of my mind if we don’t find some place to stay, and soon.”
“Okay, okay, calm down.  Let’s stay positive,” Megan said.
“To hell with positive!” Jackie shouted.  “I need something to eat, and something to eat now!  I am going to lose it!”
“Do you want me to drive?”
“No!  I do not want you to drive.  I want you to find us a place to eat.”
Megan spotted something.  “Jackie!  Stop.  Look over there.”
Jackie slammed on the brakes and they rocked forward, Megan’s hands braced against the dashboard.
Jackie followed Megan’s pointing finger to a modest two-story house, with a white fence surrounding a little yard.  Above the porch, hanging by two thin chains, was a sign that said BOARDING HOUSE.  It was swinging easily in the modest breeze.
“The sign on the porch says boarding house,” Megan said, excited.
Jackie crouched and looked. “Are there any lights on?”
“I don’t care.  Let’s try it.”
Jackie parked at the curb, killed the engine, and the two girls snatched their coats and got out.  Jackie led the way, with energy and purpose.  She crossed the sidewalk, released the latch on the white gate and marched up the walkway, mounting the three concrete stairs to the door, where a Christmas wreath was hanging from inside.  Megan arrived, and both shaded their eyes, peering inside through the square glass that was covered by a white laced curtain.
“I see a light on in a back room,” Jackie said.
Megan noticed something hanging in the picture window.  She stepped over to examine it.  It was a blue star on a small red cloth banner.  She shrugged and joined Jackie.
Jackie gently pressed the doorbell.  They heard a soft DING DONG.  They waited, anxiously, taking in the silent neighborhood.  There were no lights on anywhere and it was very dark.
“No action in this town,” Megan said.  “It reminds me of a town in Indiana where I did summer stock a few years ago.  Two months there seemed like two years.”
The front room light flickered on, not the porch light.  The girls inhaled hopeful breaths.  They saw an elderly woman draw back the lace curtain and peek out.  The girls gave her their friendliest smiles.
A moment later, the door opened, but only a couple of inches. 
“Hello,” Jackie said, brightly.  “Can you help us?”
The door opened a little wider.  She was a small, thin woman and a bit stooped.  Her white hair was up in a bun and she wore a long gray nightgown.  Peering out from the granny spectacles on the end of her nose, she looked at them slowly and carefully.  “What do you want?”
“Please...”  Jackie said.  “We have been traveling for hours and hours and we are so tired and hungry.  Do you have room for us?”
The woman hesitated, then opened the door fully.  Her eyes widened as she studied them, up and down.  “It’s late.  Why are you out so late?”
“We got lost.  We were trying to get to Portland.”
“Portland?  That’s hours away.  You would have run out of gas.  There’s no gas anywhere.  Did you get it on the black market?  I don’t take people who cheat.  I’ve got a grandson fighting in Italy.”
Megan and Jackie exchanged mystified glances.  Both were thinking, “Is this woman nuts?”
Then Megan recalled how she’d lied about her mother and the medication so she could get the car.  She had cheated.  Megan gave Jackie a coy glance.
Jackie said, “No ma’am, we don’t cheat.  We just want a room.  Please.”
“I only have one, with one double bed.  The other two rooms are occupied with regulars.”
“That’s fine,” Jackie said.  “One room is fine.”
The woman was conflicted.  “This is very unusual.  I only take in people I know or who are referred to me.  How many nights are you wanting to stay?”
“Just tonight,” Megan said, twisting her cold hands.  “Please.  We are so tired.”
The woman stepped aside, let them in and then closed the door.
“My name is Aunt Betty.  May I know your names?”
“I’m Jackie Young and this is Megan...” Jackie looked at Megan, forgetting her last name.
“Jennings.  Megan Jennings.”
“Well, that’ll be a dollar each for the night and 35 cents each for breakfast.  If you want something to eat tonight that’ll cost you 50 cents.  I was going off to bed, but I’ll put something out for you.”
Megan stared into Jackie’s uncertain eyes. 
“You mean one single dollar each?” Jackie asked.
“That’s a fair price,” Aunt Betty said, a little defensively.
“Oh, yes, that’s very fair,” Megan said, quickly.  “That’s fine, Aunt Betty.  And we’d love something to eat.  We don’t want to put you out.  Anything that’s easy.”
“You get your things then and I’ll take out some cold chicken, apple pie and bread.  I hope that’ll do.”
The girls smiled, gratefully.  “That sounds wonderful,” Jackie said.
After Aunt Betty padded off toward the kitchen, the girls took in the surroundings. 
The living room seemed from another world.  It was a simple square room, with a mantel, hearth and several seascapes set in gilded frames. The mantel held a manger scene, some holly surrounding it, and a white candle in the center.  Next to that were simply framed black and white photos of what must have been family.  There was a meager 3-foot Christmas tree, garlanded, with ornaments but no Christmas lights.
The room was clean enough, but both women noticed that the white paint had yellowed and the rose wallpaper was faded, with some damp spots.  They saw floral Victorian antique lamps with opaque glass stems, hand-painted with roses or white and yellow flowers. 
They stood on a thin, patterned floral carpet and first heard, and then saw, an old grandfather’s clock standing resolutely in the corner.  Its tick tock was steady and loud in the muted silence.  A solid wood console radio, with a lighted dial, seemed to dominate the room, much as a TV would, but neither Jackie nor Megan saw a TV.
The furniture was simple and heavy, the couch and chair upholstered in solid fabrics, the couch looking worn but comfortable, and the broad arm chair sunken and looking dejected.
Jackie sensed something was wrong, but she was too hungry and tired to care.  Megan glanced about, feeling strangely out of place and time.  There was a quality of light and energy around them that neither had ever experienced before, and it was unsettling.  There was a growing, uncomfortable sensation that they had become lost—very lost.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen - REVIEW

Paradise isn’t quite what it seems as four college friends meet for an island vacation in this captivating new novel from the acclaimed author of These Girls.

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates' thirty-fifth birthday.
All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.
The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.

My Take:
This book is Women's Fiction, which I love to read. I love reading about the trials and tribulations of life - to other people! LOL!
This is the first Sarah Pekkanen book I have read, and I thoroughly loved it! I loved the characters as they were real and had depth to them, and I could feel a connection with all of them, surprisingly. I didn't think I was going to be able to connect with Savannah because of her flirty and sometimes slutty ways, but I did after a while. Once you got behind her hard shelled surface, there really was a loving person in there. For that matter, it was hard not to connect to any of the characters they were so very realistic. It was very easy to follow the story and each character, too, even though there were four couples. Pekkanen pulled this off to a "T"! 
Each chapter would talk about one of the characters and I was enjoying it so much wanting more I was so into it, but sometimes I would turn the page and the author switched to different character. That was a little frustrating, but a sign of excellent writing, keeping us glued to the story wanting more and flipping the pages wildly!
I will be seeking out more of Sarah Pekkanen's books she writes because I was just could not stop reading this one! She really goes into detail with each character and/or the characters' relationships with their spouses and their friends. That is four couples, or eight characters. I was carried away in bliss in this novel. I carried my Kindle through the house, everywhere I went trying to sneak in a few more sentences here and there, which I think you'll be doing, too. This is a book that if you had the time to sit and do nothing else but read, it will keep you captivated for hours until the end.

It is Dwight's 35th birthday, and his wife, Pauline, really wants to celebrate it. Little do her guests know yet she puts together this 5-star luxury stay at their resort they own in Jamaica complete with private transportation on their private jet, culinary chefs who cater to every guests meal and individual needs and desires when it comes to any food for that matter, any help that could be needed, snorkeling, body boards, everything you can imagine she has done that would fulfill and complete every guests whim. Made me tired with all that she arranges. She is one amazing host! Even though she sounds saintly, she has her own set of problems. Her husband Dwight wants to have children, and Pauline has not been able to give him any . . . yet, at least, and this weighs very heavily on her shoulders, not to mention she harbors a deep, dark secret she can't let loose. The other thing that bothers her are these are friends of Dwight's from college. Can she trust these women Dwight went to college with around her husband? Yes, he was considered a huge dork back in college, but money and age do make a difference, so could that be a concern from any of these guests of his whom she barely knows?

How would you like to get an invitation in the mail from an old college friend who happened to make it rich, so rich that you and your spouse are invited to an all-expense paid round trip, on a private jet, to your friend's personal villa in Jamaica? Personally, I would die! All four couples end up going on this trip, except one husband. Savannah's husband. It's up to her to decide what she is going to say . . . ? 

Tina, married to Ryan with four kids, dressed in her nightgown gets a knock at her door, and to her shock opens the door to see a messenger dressed in a tuxedo handing her an envelope when all she thought was she was just getting a delivery from She gets on the phone with Allie and they are both excited. This invitation could not have come at a better time as Tina feels so run down with caring for four children at home, especially as she is reading the invitation, her youngest gets sick all over her. She is so tired. 

Savannah, a real estate agent, whose husband Gary just left her for another woman, a nurse. She ends up going on the vacation without him. Does she want to tell everyone the truth, or hold it in and act like nothing is any different? How does she truly feel inside knowing divorce papers are sure to follow. She decides to enjoy herself and just have fun never leading on to the others what is happening in her life. Maybe she'll have a little fun herself in Jamaica, despite Pauline, Ms. Stuck Up her Butt Hostess. (LOL! I LOVED that!)

Allie, married to Ryan and very close friends with Tina, lived next door to Dwight while in college. They never dated, but are extremely close friends for life and still confide in each other. Ryan worries he'll feel like the odd man out. Just prior to leaving for this vacation, Allie finds out her future health may be at risk from a deadly disease. She feels she must keep this a secret and tell no one, not even Ryan, but can she live with this heavy burden that could made her husband a widow and her children motherless?

Hurricane Becky has been looming in the background the week they arrive. Do they ride the storm out? Do they make it okay? It's only a category 2 storm, but . . . 

Come join this wholesome cast of characters you're going to fall in love with while spending time on a first class vacation in Jamaica for a while and let loose as they do. You're going to fall in love with these characters! At least I did!
This was the perfect vacation to read in this record setting below zero temperatures and record setting 'stuck in the house' snowfall this year, at least for me where I live! I couldn't have chosen a better time of year to read this one!

One of my favorite lines from this galley was at the end, about real life relationships:

"But then again, didn't all marriages carry thousands of hurts? Didn't husbands and wives injure each other all the time, leaving wounds big and small, with a snapped word or forgotten anniversaries or emotional buttons deliberately pushed? But thousands of kindnesses existed in marriages, too. The important thing was that the kindnesses triumphed over the hurts."

I received this book for FREE from the Publisher, Atria through NetGalley in exchange to read and write a review about it. It is NOT required for this review to be either positive or negative, but of my own honest opinion. "Free" means I was provided with ZERO MONIES to read this book nor to write this review, but to enjoy the pure pleasure of reading it. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

The Best of Us: A Novel by Sarah Pekkanen
ebook: $ 9.73
print:  $11.98