Book Review: Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr

From the Publisher:

Kaylee Sloan’s home in Southern California is full of wonderful memories of the woman who raised her. But the memories are prolonging her grief over her mother’s recent death. A successful author, Kaylee hoped she could pour herself into her work. Instead she has terrible writer’s block and a looming deadline.

Determined to escape distractions and avoid the holiday season, Kaylee borrows a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing, and as she drives north through the mountains and the majestic redwoods, she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local watering hole is the heart of the town, and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a friend—or a stranger—in need.

Kaylee’s world is expanding in ways she never dreamed possible. And when she rescues a kitten followed by a dog with a litter of puppies, she finds her heart opening up to the animals who need her. And then there’s the dog trainer who knows exactly how to help her. As the holidays approach, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to spend Christmas than Virgin River.

My thoughts:

I had never read a Virgin River book before this one, but I am familiar with the setting and characters thanks to the Netflix tv series, which I binged earlier this year. So picking this up and reading felt like visiting old friends, although I should read the books too.

This book centers on Kaylee, who is grieving terribly for her mother. She and her mom were very close, best friends, and Kaylee is struggling with her grief and sadness. She has a book deadline due, and finds herself too distracted by her memories of her mother in her home to be able to work, so she takes the advice of friends and heads off to find some space to write, away from the barrage of memories. And the mountains and the town of Virgin River are the perfect spot to find this space. Until she arrives and finds the house she was planning on finding that peace and quiet, destroyed by fire. Luckily the people of Virgin River are helpful and kind, and Jack and Mel, who feature prominently in the tv series, give her a bed for the night.

Unfortunately, Jack has family coming to town and Kaylee can’t stay there for long – after looking at a few places, she learns of a guest house owned by an artist and dog trainer, Landry. She is a bit nervous at first, due to a paralyzing fear of dogs, but between the house being perfect and Landry (also being perfect) assuring her that she will be safe, she moves in.

And from here, the real healing and story begins. Kaylee finds so much more than she was bargaining for when the story began, and the reader just finds so much happy. There are the usual small hurdles that the characters need to conquer, and also the large one of Kaylee’s grief, but this book really is the happiest of happy books.

I picked this up after a particularly stressful month in a particularly stressful year, and it was a wonderful distraction that took my mind off of things. If you are looking for something easy with a HEA, full of warm characters and kindness, this book is for you!

Thank you to Little Bird Publicity for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: The Conjurer

Goodreads Summary:

Sidra didn’t murder her husband. Yet even a jinni can’t wish away a wrongful imprisonment. Determined to prove her innocence, she returns to her adopted home—a French village renowned for its perfume witches—with her friends Elena and Yvette by her side. Here is where Sidra’s true destiny awaits, but danger also lurks in the village’s narrow lanes.

On her trail is Jamra, another jinni, who’s after more than revenge for the murder of his brother. He also seeks vengeance for the indignities inflicted on jinn by mortals over the centuries. When he learns of an ancient relic capable of unleashing chaos on the world, and that the weapon is in the hands of his murderous sister-in-law, he vows to destroy Sidra to get it.

Relying on a sisterhood of magic, a mysteriously faithful dog, and a second-rate sorcerer, Sidra defends herself using the village’s greatest asset: its perfume. It’s as beguiling a lure as it is a formidable shield. But is it enough for Sidra to protect herself and those she loves from powers yet to be released?

My thoughts:

This third installment in the Vine Witch series did not disappoint. I loved the first two, The Vine Witch and The Glamourist, and I have to be honest, this one might be my favorite of all three. No, wait..maybe it was The Vine Witch. Or maybe, The Glamourist. It is hard to say! I loved them all!

This book made me yearn for a place I have never been, with its descriptions of desert winds and the perfumed scents, such a sensory journey. And I absolutely loved getting to know the character of Sidra more; of the three characters, she is the most mysterious. We finally get to learn her backstory, what really happened to land her in jail, where she came from, and more about the jinni itself.

We see different sides to this hot tempered character- emotions such as vulnerability, fear, loyalty, and even fondness for Yvette. It was also nice to catch up with Yvette, and see how she was adjusting to her newfound ancestry and powers, and also with Elena who we started the series with. I love how their fates have been intertwined and how their shared experiences together has bound them to each other.

This book contains so much, witches and jinni and fairies and powerful, evocative descriptions; romance and danger, evil villains and brave allies. It was a fantastic read, and the very definition of the expression that reading takes you places.

I loved this book and I hope to read more from this author in the future! Thank you to NetGalley and to 47th North publishing for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: 100 Things to do in a Forest

Publisher Summary:

In an age when people are in search of new and more fulfilling experiences to replace screens and bring families together, this book explores 100 ways to connect with nature and discover the benefits of forest fun. From bushcraft activities like whittling and firelighting to spiritual pursuits like forest bathing and meditation, forest educator Jennifer Davis has brought together activities for people of all ages, helping them to connect with their forests and woodlands, while discovering the healing and restorative benefits of a life lived outdoors.

My Thoughts:

I found this book to be such a fun read, full of great suggestions and ideas! I originally started reading this as an e-galley but I could only get it to load on my phone, and I really don’t like reading on my phone. I had read enough of it however, that I knew I wanted to add it to our family’s collection of nature books – so I ordered it. I am so glad that I did. This book will be one to return to for new ideas throughout the seasons!

A few favorites: A dice-rolling walk, the silence of twenty things, leaf pinning, and a wishing tree. There were a few ideas in the book as well, that did not necessarily need to be done in a forest, just outside. I was happy to see that we already do a few of them, such as wassailing our apple tree in the winter and canopy gazing, one of my favorite lazy Sunday picnic day activities.

Sometimes with list books, I find that there are more suggestions for things I would never do or try than I would actually do. This is not the case with this book though – there were more ideas that I want to try than not, although there are a few I will skip.

This book is also gorgeously illustrated! I am so happy that I splurged on a physical copy as I loved flipping through and looking at the illustrations. They are dreamy and beautiful!

This is a fun book, and definitely a book for those looking for a few more ideas for outside time – which I think many people are doing right now. I could see having our family take turns picking a random number on the weekends and opening the book to reveal our adventure for the day. Overall, a great addition to your home library!

Thank you to NetGalley and Laurence King Publishing for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: Adventuring Together

Goodreads Summary:

Parents today complain of fragmented relationships with their kids. What parents yearn for–and their kids too–is deep, heart-to-heart connections. But how can parents compete with all the other noise fighting for their kids’ attention?

The answer, says Greta Eskridge, is to break free from regular routines and familiar comforts of home to experience new places and adventures–even if those adventures go awry. From simply reading a book together to going on an overnight backpacking trip, activities together provide unique and crucial bonding opportunities. Adventuring Together highlights Greta’s stories of doing just that, including an array of ideas for outdoor and indoor ventures, what to do when your finances are limited,and how to adventure if your family can’t hit the hiking trail or spend the night at a campground.
 Giving readers the tools to make adventures happen, Adventuring Together is a step-by-step guide for parents–whether in the city or the country–to start building connections today that will last a lifetime.

My Thoughts:

This was an excellent read, and I was already so inspired by it!

Eskridge says right off the bat, that this book is for moms who don’t like hiking or camping without an actual bathroom (or in my case, a private bathroom even), bugs, heights – basically, those who don’t THINK they have an adventurous bone in their body. This book is to guide you out of your comfort zone and build heart connections with your child in the process. It doesn’t mean you need to go white water rafting as a family (unless you want to) but a short canoe ride would suffice, if that is where you are at. Or a short hike down a well tended trail in a nature park. Setting up a tent in your backyard and sleeping out. The adventures don’t need to be huge or epic, just adventures with your family, whatever that looks like for you. The important thing is to challenge yourself, challenge your family, try new things together. Then these adventures become lasting memories.

I am sure that we all have these memories. My mom was a single mom and she got out there and did so much with us, way out of her comfort zone most of the time. I remember one summer on a family vacation, we all went canoeing. My mom, aunt, and I were in one canoe, and my little brother went with my uncle and his family. Well, needless to say, my mom, aunt, and I tipped over and went for an impromptu accidental swim! The river was gentle, and not very deep yet my aunt came up holding onto my shirt like I was going to be lost down the river – and I was a teenager who was also on the swim team! We all ended up laughing and this story became one we told over and over again, always laughing as we did so. This is a memory we would never have had, if my mom had not tried and pushed herself to take her children out canoeing even when she was nervous to do it.

Just yesterday I put this into practice, on a very small scale. Not an adventure or anything exciting, but Wyatt and I are working on a France unit of study this month and I decided one of our projects was going to be building an Eiffel Tower out of wafer cookies. Now, I knew that if we waited for Billy to get home to have him lead the construction that the project would turn out perfectly. But I thought, no, I am going to try to do this with Wyatt on my own, and it might not turn out perfect but it would be something we did together, no matter what. And well.. it was the wonkiest version of the Eiffel Tower ever built out of cookies, but Wyatt and I laughed and laughed while building it, as it fell numerous times and he kept trying to eat while we worked. It was hilarious. I managed to grab a quick photo before it tumbled for the final time…

So while not something big or adventurous, still something that was difficult and new that we did together – and had a blast.

Another point that Eskridge makes that I absolutely love is that traditions make memories. So so true. I try to build little traditions into our lives and I love this idea that these traditions become happy memories that last forever. She adds in some suggestions to get you started if you need a little inspiration. The whole book actually has a ton of inspiration and little helps for parents who need the extra push or information. (like what to pack in your adventure bag!)

Eskridge ends the book with simple guides for some little adventures, such as hiking, and visiting an art museum. I absolutely loved her suggestions for the art museum visit, and can’t wait to put them in practice eventually!

This was a short, informative, and interesting read, and I highly recommend it – especially if you feel that you are not adventurous!

Book Review: The Creative Family Manifesto

Goodreads Summary:

Spark and nurture your family’s creativity–a guide for making creativity an intentional part of everyday life.

When you learn to awaken your family’s creativity, wonderful things will happen: you’ll make meaningful connections with your children in large and small ways; your children will more often engage in their own creative discoveries; and your family will embrace new ways to relax, play, and grow together. With just the simple tools around you–your imagination, basic art supplies, household objects, and natural materials–you can transform your family life, and have so much more fun! This book embraces a whole new way of living that will engage your children’s imagination, celebrate their achievements, and help you to express love and gratitude for each other as a family.

My Thoughts:

My husband grew up in a very artistic, creative family. His mother was always painting or drawing or creating pottery (still is) and she passed this talent and love for art on to her children. When I met my husband in third grade, we shared a double desk and he would draw me pictures. I wish I still had them now! My family is full of creative thinkers, but we are not particularly skilled in drawing or painting, except for my brother and my grandmother. Creativity and fun were a huge part of my childhood, but not necessarily art or drawing. I really want to create an environment full of wonder and art and creativity for Wyatt but I felt I needed a little support, and this book had some wonderful ideas on how to incorporate art into our everyday and lifestyle, and really make it accessible to Wyatt.

A few things that really resonated with me: First, to purchase quality materials for the whole family to use and keep them where your child can use them as they desire. That whole idea of keeping things for nice or special doesn’t work with art supplies. It can be discouraging and frustrating to use poor quality versions of things (we have all had that experience with crayons I am sure!) so I took this advice and invested in some better quality sketch pads, watercolor paints, and colored pencils, as a start. I didn’t buy the top of the line, but I didn’t buy the cheapest there was either.

We have already put our new materials to good use! We have been heading to a quiet spot in the outdoors and spending time sketching and drawing together. I am not an artist by any means but I feel by trying along with Wyatt then I am showing him you don’t need to be in order to enjoy it and do it, and that it will encourage and foster a love of art in him.

However, the book also talks about being resourceful in your materials as well! Don’t limit yourself to traditional items, explore places like the pantry and nature – use found items to create art. I know that we have definitely done this in our home, with all of our Fruit Loop creations earlier in the spring.

Other ideas that I love and that I am going to incorporate into our dynamic is just making fun of the everyday. I try to do this anyway, but Soule had a few suggestions that I loved. One suggestion was a family meeting in bed – I kind of love the idea of all of us piled into the bed on Saturday and Sunday mornings, discussing what we would like to do that day – and to make sure that you make time for art! I also loved the idea of having toasts for accomplishments at dinner – no matter big or small, if they are a proud moment, let’s toast to it!

Soule encourages families to try it all, basically – knitting, painting, photography, embroidery, plays and theater – the only limit really is your imagination. I found this book to be inspiring and can’t wait to see what we all create together!

Book Review: Honey and Venom

From the Publisher:

Considered an “industry legend” by The New York Times, Andrew Coté has one of the most intriguing, challenging, and unique jobs in New York City—maintaining millions of honey bees atop some of the city’s most iconic buildings. His apiaries have crowned the Waldorf Astoria and the Museum of Modern Art; reside on the North Lawn of the United Nations; reign above stores, hotels, restaurants, schools, churches, and synagogues; and are situated in community gardens, and even cemeteries, throughout the five boroughs.
 
In this debut collection, Coté takes readers with him on his daily apiary adventures over the course of a year, in the city and across the globe. Here, among his many duties, he is called to capture swarms that have clustered on fire hydrants, air-conditioning units, or street-vendor umbrellas. Annually, he travels with his father to regions like remote Fijian islands, rural Uganda, Haiti, Ecuador, or Iraq with his organization, Bees Without Borders, where he teaches beekeepers how to increase their honey yield and income via beekeeping endeavors.
 
Written with Coté’s trademark humor, acumen, and a healthy dose of charm, Honey and Venom illuminates the obscure culture of New York City “beeks” and the biology of the bees themselves, from the humble drone to the fittingly named worker to the queen herself—who is more a slave than a monarch. The hive world, Coté reveals, is full of strivers and slackers, givers and takers, and even some insect promiscuity—startlingly similar to the prickly human variety.
 
For Coté, a fourth-generation beekeeper, this is a family tradition, and this personal significance pervades his celebration of the romance and mystery of bees, their honey, and the beekeepers whose lives revolve around these most magical creatures.

My Thoughts:

When I think of beekeepers, I think of pastoral, rural, peaceful settings, a life full of flowers and honey ; Andrew Coté is far from this image. His life and career is globetrotting, star studded, and full of rooftops and city streets, hard work and long hours (although I am sure those rural type beekeepers also work long and hard hours!)

I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I should have realized that the life of an urban beekeeper would be leagues different from those on farms and homesteads, however I never would have imagined the amazing things that Coté, has done in his life as a beekeeper. One such thing is his Bees Without Borders program that he founded to help fight poverty, and he has travelled to such countries as Kenya, Nigeria, and Iraq and others, to teach them beekeeping skills. Some of the stories he had to tell about his travels were were humorous, while some highlighted the dangers he faced in his mission to help others, and bees.

Coté, also had stories to tell of commercials, tv show appearances (Cake Boss, for one), and being a beekeeper to the rich and famous – namely one very famous woman renowned for her lifestyle whose name begins with M. In addition to all of this, Coté, also founded the New York City Beekeepers Association, maintains his own empire of bees, and assists with dangerous bee situations that plague the city – such as a hoarding house whose bees became a danger and nuisance to the city, working side by side with the police in such cases.

I really loved this book – I loved hearing about all of Coté’s adventures, his family history with bees and beekeeping, and the little facts that he threw in about bees as well – such as the fact that the scent of bananas enrages them! This book was a great read and I loved learning about a whole different world, the world of the urban beekeeper.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Summer at Lake Haven

Goodreads Summary:

Samantha Fremont may still be grappling with her mother’s death, but this summer she’s determined to build a new life for herself. Starting with making her friend’s dream wedding dress and establishing herself as a boutique fashion designer in the process. What she does not need is a surprise litter of puppies, the voice in the back of her mind saying she can’t do any of this—or her friend’s gorgeous brother who’s visiting from England for the wedding.

Ian Somerhill knows a sabbatical in Haven Point is exactly what his children need to recover from their own mother’s death. And even if he and Sam got off on the wrong foot, she has a way with Miranda and Thomas. As Sam—and her adorable puppies—bond with his children, they fall into a friendship unlike any he’s had in a long time. But Ian has obligations in England her can’t ignore—and a complicated past that might just stop this summer romance from ever blooming into something more.

My Thoughts:

Remember when you were a kid, and summer seemed to last forever and was all about playing outside, reading all night, fireflies and popsicles? That is what this book made me feel while I was reading it – like I was on an endless summer vacation. It was so light and easy and happy – plus, it had puppies and a rumply, British professor love interest…

Samantha is a romantic – how could you not be, if you are a wedding dress designer? She and her late mother used to run a boutique together – now that her mother is gone, the boutique is Samantha’s, which she runs while designing custom wedding dresses as well. Samantha is learning to live life out from under the shadow of her sharp tongued mother, who seemed to always have a derisive or mocking thing to say, even to her devoted daughter. Starry-eyed Sam, she would call her, making fun (and not in a lighthearted teasing way) of Samantha’s quick propensity to fall in love. So now that Sam is on her own for the first time ever, she is trying to override that little voice inside that wants to hold her back, that niggling of self-doubt.

When Ian and his family move in next door for the summer, Samantha vows she will not fall head over heels for this handsome, fish obsessed professor. She has learned her lesson. Ian has a past – and future – of his own that overshadows any hope of a relationship, the least of which is the geographical distance.

I enjoyed this easy little summer read very much – I love RaeAnne Thayne and Haven Point, so this was a sweet return to favorite characters. They just make me smile! And this book was no different. I loved seeing the evolution of Samantha and Ian, and also their own personal growth overcoming the history that is weighing them down.

All in all, a must read for your summer reading, whether you are on a beach or just at home!

Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Picture Book Review: Under My Tree

Under My Tree by Muriel Tallandier

From the Publisher:

A modern take on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree that celebrates the friendship between a curious child and her favorite tree.

When Susanne leaves her city home to visit her grandmother, she finds a very special tree of her own in the forest. Each time she returns to the tree, she observes something unique about it—from the sheltering protection of its branches to the scratchy surface of its bark.

This is a wonderful introduction to trees for young children that gently cultivates an appreciation for nature. Interwoven in the fiction text are unique facts about trees and simple activities that encourage readers to touch, smell, and observe the world that is all around them. Printed on FSC-certified paper with vegetable-based inks.

My Thoughts:

By the time I finished reading this book to my five year old, I knew that this was one that we need to buy for our own personal library. A little girl so in love with her tree, that she looks forward to seeing it every year when she visits her grandmother. I love this depiction of a child’s relationship with nature! I loved the science sprinkled throughout, the thought provoking questions for children, the prompts to use their senses when thinking about the tree. I loved that the little girl loved her tree so much she shared it with her friends and her family. We are such a nature loving family, that this was a wonderful story to share with my son, to encourage his own relationship with our natural world, and engage his curiosity and senses. I loved this book, but even better, so did my five year old.

This book is compared to Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, which is a wonderful book, although a sad one. I think this book has a different tone, one that respects the tree, which I enjoy much more.

This was just a lovely story with beautiful illustrations, and one I plan to buy for my son’s shelves, to be read again and again.

Thank you to NetGalley and Myrick Marketing and Media for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: A Death Long Overdue by Eva Gates

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From the Publisher:

When her former director is found dead in the water, librarian Lucy Richardson will have to get to the bottom of the mystery before the killer ends her tale.

It’s summertime in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Bertie James’s college class is having their 40th anniversary reunion. The opening night reception is held at the Lighthouse Library and Lucy and her colleagues have assembled an exhibit of library artifacts showing how libraries have changed over the years. After the reception, some of the women take a walk down the boardwalk to the pier, using flashlights to illuminate the dark path, but what’s scarier than the dark is finding the former director of the Lighthouse Library floating lifeless in the water.

Helena Sanchez, the former director, wasn’t much loved and spent the party being rude to almost everyone there. As a result, Lucy finds herself in deep water as she rocks the boat, questioning several suspects. But she’ll have to batten down the hatches and fast before she’s left high and dry…and right in the killer’s crosshairs.

My Thoughts:

I am so enjoying this series! I first began reading it last October, when The Spook in the Stacks was part of an autumn book display at my library. I picked it up, took it home, and haven’t looked back. The Lighthouse Library series is such an interesting and fun mystery series and I love the setting, an historic lighthouse on the Outer Banks!

Lucy Richardson has been living and working in the Lighthouse Library for a year now, and in that year, her coworkers, boyfriend Connor, and local police have all gotten used to her penchant for detective work. Maybe it is all the mysteries she has read, but Lucy has a knack for solving the crimes and unofficially helping the police. And the Lighthouse Library does seem to have some sort of unlucky star over it for some folks, as an unusual amount of people do seem to turn up dead near it.

This book is no different – following a class reunion at the Lighthouse Library, the former director, who was not beloved by her patrons or coworkers, was found dead in the water…and it was not an accident. Lucy’s irrepressible curiosity and clever mind lead her down many avenues of inquiry, some alongside Detective Sam Watson, others on her own. I particularly loved the ending of this book! Sometimes a series can grow stale, but this one just keeps getting better and better.

I loved this book, and found myself reading it whenever I found a few free seconds – not easy when I am also parenting a five year old during a shelter-in-place order! Despite that, I managed to read this book quickly – I had to find out the “whodunit”!  I think this book is perfect for summer reading at the beach, on a rainy day, or just whenever you need a great escape, and a mystery to solve. The literary references and adorable Himalayan Charles are perfect little added bonuses. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves a cozy mystery!

 

Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read and review this book!

 

Quarantine Book Tag

We are still under the Stay at Home Order here in Michigan, although some businesses are being reopened in phases again. And good news from my area – it is no longer considered a hotspot so the order is working! So while we sit tight a little longer and let the essential workers do their jobs as safely as possible, I thought it would be neat to do this book tag! I saw it on Woven From Words‘ blog and I thought it looked fun! She has some great answers so be sure to pop over there too! The Quarantine Book Tag was created by OurBookNook.

Must-Have: a book you *have* to have with you while quarantined:

Watership Down , 100%. My favorite book of all time and I never ever get bored with reading it. And now that spring is basically here (despite the winter snowstorm in our forecast) it is time for me to reread it again. I just love this band of courageous rabbits!

Isolation: a book where the MC spends most of their time alone

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating made a huge impact on me. It is now one of my favorites and honestly is almost made to be read right now. (Review)

Binge Read: a long book series you’d recommend to someone who has a lot more time on their hands

I love a good cozy mystery and Hamish Macbeth is one of the first I ever read! I love his quirky village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands, and this book series is super long at over 30 books!

Toilet Paper — All the TP is gone! What book are you using?

Yeah it was between this and Twilight… and if I had to choose I would keep Twilight over this one.

Anti-viral: a book that went viral that you have avoided or not read… yet

This book seemed to be everywhere for a while! I haven’t read it yet though.

Super Binge: What book and TV series combo would you recommend?

Because Jamie Fraser…..

Those are all the questions! If you would like to take part, consider yourself tagged!