The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Down on Mischief Farm by Hilarie Burton Morgan

rural

Pages: 257

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: May 5, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: I purely picked this book on Netgalley because I loved watching Hilarie on One Tree Hill. I knew a little about her life on the farm from Instagram but was blown away by how down to earth she really is. I wish I had half the talent in renovating and gardening as she does. I admire her grit and determination to be the best mom, wife, friend she can be.

I applaud her for how she tackled her #metoo story in the book and how she has not let that overshadow her life. Instead, she gathered all her strength and courage and made her life what she wanted.

Anyone who reads this fast-paced memoir will learn something about themselves or how to face a difficult situation.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, HarperCollins, through Netgalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: New York Times Bestseller

The beloved actress and star of One Tree Hill, White Collar, and Lethal Weapon, Hilarie Burton Morgan, tells the story of leaving Hollywood for a radically different kind of life in upstate New York with her husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan—a celebration of community, family, and the value of hard work in small-town America.

While Hilarie Burton Morgan’s hectic lifestyle as an actress in New York and Los Angeles gave her a comfortable life, it did not fulfill her spiritually or emotionally. After the birth of their first son, she and her husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the star of The Walking Dead, decided to make a major change: they bought a working farm in Rhinebeck, New York, and began a new chapter in their lives.

The Rural Diaries chronicles her inspiring story of farm life: chopping wood, making dandelion wine, building chicken coops. Burton looks back at her transition from urban to country living—discovering how to manage a farm while raising her son and making friends with her new neighbors. She mixes charming stories of learning to raise alpacas and buying and revitalizing the town’s beloved candy store, Samuel’s Sweet Shop, with raw observations on the ups and downs of marriage and her struggles with secondary infertility. Burton also includes delicious recipes that can be made with fresh ingredients at home, as well as home renovation and gardening tips.

Burton’s charisma, wide-eyed attitude, and fortitude—both internal and physical—propels this moving story of transformation and self-discovery. The Rural Diaries honors the values and lifestyle of small-town America and offers inspiration for anyone longing to embark on their own unconventional journey.

Horace & Bunwinkle (#1) by P.J. Gardner

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Pages: 208

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Published: September 15, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Review: Being a Boston Terrier mom for 14 years, before my little one passed away in October 2019, I found this spot on representing Boston Terriers. I felt like I was reading about my Maggie, from the licking to the aversion of being dirty.

I am excited about this potential series and plan on buying the hard copy of this book when it releases in September. It is perfect for young animal lovers in your life. I cannot wait to share this with my littles when school resumes.

Be prepared to laugh with your littles while reading this beautifully written book. Perfect for readalongs.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: The first in a young middle-grade animal series in which an anxious Boston Terrier and an exuberant potbellied pig team up to solve crimes in their barnyard—from debut author PJ Gardner, with illustrations by David Mottram.

Perfect for fans of the Mercy Watson series, The Trouble with Chickens, and A Boy Called Bat.

Horace Homer Higgins III despises dirt. And the outdoors. And ducks. But when his person, Eleanor, moves to a farm called the Homestead, the anxious Boston Terrier is forced to adapt. As if that isn’t enough to strain his nerves, Ellie adopts a perpetually cheerful potbellied pig named Bunwinkle to be his baby sister.

Bunwinkle is delighted to be on the farm despite the stuffy demeanor of her new canine brother. She’s sure she’ll crack his shell eventually—no one can resist her cuteness for long—especially once they bond over watching a TV pet-tective show.

When the duo discovers that neighborhood animals have been disappearing, they decide to use their new detective skills to team up to solve this barnyard mystery. Is it a mountain lion? Or their suspiciously shot-loving veterinarians?

Only one thing seems certain: if they don’t figure it out soon, one of them might be next!

Amish Generations: Four Stories by Kathleen Fuller

generations

Pages: 368

Publisher: Harper Collins/Zondervan

Published: June 2, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: Young Love—My favorite of the four stories as I can relate to Fern.

Long-Awaited Love—An enjoyable read and makes you think about how many relationships we know that are similar.

Second-Chance Love—I enjoyed the exchange of letters between the characters.

Never Too Late—Provided laughs and lets the reader believe in love at any age.

Perfect for teenagers and up as a clean read.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Harper Collins/Zondervan, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: Four sweet and funny Amish love stories, spanning four different generations. Love comes at all times and for all ages!

Young Love—When Fern was diagnosed with a chronic illness in her early twenties, she knew it would limit her abilities to be a good Amish wife. And with Dan, the object of her affection, in a serious relationship, there didn’t seem much point in dating. But Dan is now single, and he seems to be taking notice of Fern. She’ll need a strong dose of courage to talk down the fear her illness has brought on if she ever wants to pursue her dreams.

Long-Awaited Love—When Everett left ten years ago, Jemima’s love quickly turned to hate. But when they arrive back home at the same bus station on the same day, they discover some old flames aren’t put out so easily. Can they move past the forces that pulled them apart ten years ago, or are some hurts too much to overcome?

Second-Chance Love—Benjamin and Lora Beth both lost spouses not long into their young marriages and connect over letters, exchanging recipes and commiseration as their now-grown children try to coddle them. They’re only in their forties, for heaven’s sake! The letters quickly reveal a deep friendship . . . or could it be more? When you’ve already had a great love, how do you learn to fall in love again?

Never Too Late—Jerald is a committed old bachelor. He loves nothing more than good Amish food and giving his best friend’s wife, Regina, a hard time. When people have asked—and believe him, people have asked—he’s always said he’ll marry when he finds the right woman. It’s just never happened in his seventy years. Until he tastes the best blueberry pie and discovers the woman behind it: Regina’s best friend, Elva.

 

Grateful American by Gary Sinise

 

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Pages: 305

Publisher: HarperCollins – Zondervan

Published: February 12, 2019

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Review: An interesting look in how Gary Sinise became one of the most prominent military and first responders supporters. It was nice to read about an actor who uses his popularity for a good thing. As a daughter of a Korean War and retired Army, I want to say thank you to him for caring and helping those in need.

In regards to his personal life, I had no idea he has been married to his wife for 40+ years. Congrats. What an accomplishment in these modern times. I also did not know all the movies he has been in and now want to try and watch them all.

If you are looking for a positive Hollywood story Grateful American is the book for you. Available now from your favorite book retailer.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, HarperCollins – Thomas Nelson, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: As a kid in suburban Chicago, Gary Sinise was more interested in sports and rock ‘n’ roll than reading or schoolwork. But when he impulsively auditioned for a school production of West Side Story, he found his purpose–or so it seemed.
Within a few years, Gary and a handful of friends created what became one of the most exciting and important new theater companies in America. From its humble beginnings in a suburban Chicago church basement and eventual move into the city, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company launched a series of groundbreaking productions, igniting Gary’s career along with those of John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Gary Cole, Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Perry, John Mahoney, and others. Television and film came calling soon after, and Gary starred in Of Mice and Men (which he also directed) and The Stand before taking the role that would change his life in unforeseeable ways: Lieutenant Dan in the Academy Award-winning Forrest Gump.

The military community’s embrace of the character of the disabled veteran was matched only by the depth of Gary’s realization that America’s defenders had not received all the honor, respect, and gratitude their sacrifices deserve. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, this became Gary’s mission. While starring in hits like Apollo 13, Ransom, Truman, George Wallace, CSI: NY, and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Gary has worked tirelessly on behalf of those who serve this country, entertaining more than a half-million troops around the world playing bass guitar with his Lt. Dan Band, raising funds on behalf of veterans, and eventually founding the Gary Sinise Foundation with a mission to serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need.

Grateful American is the moving, entertaining, profoundly gripping story of how one man found his calling: to see that those who defend this country and its freedoms are never forgotten.

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

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Pages: 464

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: I really wanted to give this book 5 stars but due to the fact that it took close to being 150 pages before I felt like I could not put it down, I have to give it only 4 stars.

There are a few dry chapters as they read like a history book but they are necessary to get the background of how the Kindertransport started in Austria. There are a lot of characters to keep track of in the beginning and at times I had to stop and think who and what their importance was to the story.

I will say, once I got around 150 pages I did not want to put the book down. I found the ending heartbreaking but I do understand that that time is history was full of heartbreak.

The Last Train to London is a worthy read for those readers who love to read about World War 2.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, HarperCollins, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley:

The New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Exiles conjures her best novel yet, a pre-World War II-era story with the emotional resonance of Orphan Train and All the Light We Cannot See, centering on the Kindertransports that carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe—and one brave woman who helped them escape to safety.

In 1936, the Nazi is little more than loud, brutish bores to fifteen-year-old Stephan Neuman, the son of a wealthy and influential Jewish family and budding playwright whose playground extends from Vienna’s streets to its intricate underground tunnels. Stephan’s best friend and companion are the brilliant Žofie-Helene, a Christian girl whose mother edits a progressive, anti-Nazi newspaper. But the two adolescents’ carefree innocence is shattered when the Nazis take control.

There is hope in the darkness, though. Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance, risks her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to the nations that will take them. It is a mission that becomes even more dangerous after the Anschluss—Hitler’s annexation of Austria—as, across Europe, countries close their borders to the growing number of refugees desperate to escape.
Tante Truus, as she is known, is determined to save as many children as she can. After Britain passes a measure to take in at-risk child refugees from the German Reich, she dares to approach Adolf Eichmann, the man who would later help devise the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” in a race against time to bring children like Stephan, his young brother Walter, and Žofie-Helene on a perilous journey to an uncertain future abroad.

Hearts in Harmony (An Amish Journey #1) by Beth Wiseman

hearts

Pages: 320

Publisher: Zondervan Fiction

Published: March 12, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:
Musical prodigy Levi Shetler hasn’t touched a piano since he secretly played one years ago. His strict Amish community forbids instruments or the singing of any music not in their approved songbook. Levi asks God often why music tempts him when playing an instrument isn’t allowed in his world.

One person knows Levi’s talents: Mary Hershberger, the girl who promised years ago to keep his secret. Mary comes from a more liberal district than Levi, but she’s facing family troubles of her own. The mutual care for an aging Englischer, Adeline, reunites Mary and Levi as young adults. They realize that, despite their differences, they have a shared love of music—and a shared confusion about whether their talents are God-given gifts or temptations luring them into the Englisch world.

The couple realizes they must compromise or part ways, but a tragic accident shakes their decision. Both Mary and Levi will need to reconcile what they love with what their hearts say is right—because even as their passion for music brings them together, it could be what tears them apart.

My review:
Box of Tissues warning. You will need them almost from the beginning. This book is beautiful; the love flowing throughout (not just romantic love) makes you believe in the good in the world amidst so much hate we hear constantly on the news. I did not want to put this book down. I found myself reading every little chance I got. Adeline, Mary, Levi, and Natalie felt like friends I had had for life.

Hearts in Harmony is about so much more than the love of forbidden music. It is about doing what is right and loving others for who they are not what they can give or provide you. Mary, Levi, and Natalie show us that being selfless and helping those who need it is what life is about. You can have all the money and possessions on the world but without love you have nothing.

I have already noted in my calendar when the second book releases (September 2019) and am anxiously awaiting to read it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

With Winter’s First Frost (Every Amish Season #4) by Kelly Irvin

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Pages: 352

Publisher: Zondervan Fiction

Published: February 5, 2019

Rating 5 out of 5 stars

Widow Laura finds herself feeling a little useless as of late especially since she has given up working as a midwife and filling in at the local bookstore. When a close friend of hers needs her after the difficult birth of her newborn twins, Laura finds herself enjoying life again taking care of babies, cooking for the family and taking care of the house. There is one exception to this, widower Zechariah, the great-grandfather of the babies. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease and finds himself very grouchy especially when his grandkids and kids don’t think he can do anything for himself.

As the winter progresses he finds himself falling for Laura and Laura feels the same. Can they both let go of the past and let love fill the rest of their days?

What an emotionally charged story that will make you look at love in the elderly in a new way. Laura and Zechariah have imprinted my heart and will not be leaving for a very long time. I want to be them when I grow old, I want to be able to love that unconditionally with everyone in my life. So beautiful and moving. This story will change your life.

What you don’t believe me? Find out yourself by buying a copy on release day of February 5, 2019, from your favorite bookseller.
Every Amish Season Books in Order:
1. Upon A Spring Breeze 4 stars
2. Beneath the Summer Sun 4 stars
3. Through the Autumn Air 5 stars
4. With Winter’s First Frost 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan Fiction through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

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Audiobook: 14 hours

Publisher: William Morrow

Published: September 8, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A story of romance, illicit affairs, espionage, and tragedy.

It’s 2013 and Sarah Blake needs to find inspiration for her next best-selling book. At her wit’s end she opens her great-grandfather’s chest and discovers information that could be history changing regarding the sinking of the Lusitania.

Go back 98 years to April 1915 and we meet Caroline, a first-class passenger, who is married to Gilbert. Gilbert is very pre-occupied and Caroline hopes this cruise ignites a spark in their marriage. What she did not expect was to run into her first love, Robert Langford.

Tessa Fairweather, a second-class passenger, is working with her sister to obtain the music composition that is in the hands of Gilbert. Tessa does not understand why she is to get this music but one thing she does understand is that she is falling for Robert.

What does Sarah learn and how does each passenger above affect the outcome?

I opted to listen to the audiobook and let me state it is FOURTEEN hours of listening. I enjoyed the audiobook as the narrator did an excellent job with all the characters. My issue was I did not have a lot of time lumped together to listen to a good chunk at one time.

The story jumps between Sarah (2013), Caroline (1915) and Tessa (1915) so you do need to keep track of who is talking and what year it is. It is pretty easy since the majority of Caroline and Tessa’s time is on the Lusitania.

I knew very little about the sinking of the Lusitania and The Glass Ocean has whetted my appetite for more.

His Promise (Amish of Hart County #6) by Shelley Shepard Gray

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Pages: 334 (Paperback)

Publisher: Avon Inspire

Published: October 23, 2018

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Grace has made her niche in life by pet sitting for Englishers who go out of town. This year for Christmas while she is pet sitting a very cantankerous dachshund her family has to go to her grandparents to take care of them. When the dachshund gets into a little trouble Grace runs into John Michael Miller, her sister’s ex-boyfriend and the boy she had a crush on when she was younger.

John Michael regrets hurting Grace’s sister several years ago but he had a good reason, he was falling for Grace. John Michael is now a firefighter and this season has been busy with arson fires being set to cover local burglaries.

Can Grace forgive John Michael for hurting her sister and let their feelings grow? Can John Michael keep Grace safe even when he is not around?

Let me start with the end, the last forty pages had me in tears. Why? The beauty of the story coming together and the action happening. See if you don’t have a glimmer of tears in your eyes as you read.

Shelley Shepard Gray has a way to make the love come through in a beautiful, clean way. I would feel very comfortable giving any of her Amish books to any young teenage girl to read.

I loved that Gray included helpful fire safety tips especially during the Christmas season in the story. A few things I learned and have started looking around to make sure my parents and family are as safe as I can make them.

Gray’s Amish of Hart County is a six book series that can be read any in order and each as a stand alone book. Once you take a visit you will want to keep visiting.

I received a complimentary copy from the author and any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaimen

ocean

Pages: 181 (Library Book)

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 2013

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

First, let me say I had to read this for my library’s summer quest program. I am not a big reader of the Fantasy genre. I can count on one hand how many Fantasy books I have read in my lifetime.

Second, why three stars? It did not keep my interest (probably because it was fantasy). The first half I soared through but trudged through the last half. I could not wrap my head around what was happening. People that have been around for thousands of years but never age, creepy people who want to harm you entering through a hole in your foot, and all kinds of weird things that happen.

All I can say it is reading time I will never get back to read another book. Neil Gaimen may be a fantastic writer but he is not for me.