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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The House on Blackberry Hill by Donna Alward

Fresh off my enjoyment of Her Rescuer Rancher, I stumbled across House on Blackberry Hill by Donna Alward on NetGalley.  This is Alward's first non-Harlequin and I was curious to see where she would go with it.

The Summary:
When a young woman inherits a rundown mansion, the last thing she expects to find is the key to her heart…

Abby Foster is a fish out of water in the Maine coastal town of Jewell Cove. The crumbling Foster estate, left to her by a relative she never even knew, has everyone’s eyes on her—an eerie reminder of the long-buried family secrets that have haunted her…forever. Single, stunning, and sometimes too strong-willed for her own good, Abby’s plan is to sell the house and hightail it back to Nova Scotia. But another part of her is intrigued by the idea of starting over somewhere new—and finally learning the truth about her heritage.

The House On Blackberry Hill

Enter Tom Arseneault. The best contractor in Jewell Cove, Tom is determined to restore the beauty and prestige of the Foster mansion—and maybe even work his charms on its beautiful new heir. The attraction between him and Abby is undeniable, and the more time Tom spends on the house the more he wants to be in it with her. But Abby’s not sure she can trust him—or anyone in Jewell Cove who seems to know more about her family history than she does. Home: Is it really where the heart is after all?

The Short Review:

I didn't love it, nor did I dislike it. Alward has a lot of potential in this market, but the book did have some flaws.

All the Deets:
First, the good. Jewell Cove (the series) has promise. I can see Alward becoming one of those authors who write small town series that I pick up for comfort (think Susan Mallery, Jill Shalvis, Nora Roberts).  Everything about the plot itself is fairy well done. I love the house, I like the town, I like the historical mystery. I didn't find the haunted aspect to be cheesily done, or completely unbelievable.  I enjoyed all of the secondary characters a great deal.

So what's the deal then? I didn't love the hero and heroine. Tom's backstory is well done. I understand him coming into the relationship with baggage, but it seems that it's written a bit to mislead you as to exactly what his problem is. Regardless of that, it unfolds slowly and evenly and is well paced.  Abby also has unhappiness and trust issues in her past, but I find it hard to relate to her and it seemed a bit unnecessary. Honestly, Abby comes off a bit bland and uninteresting.  It's really hard to see why Tom falls for her and the attraction is there on paper, but I didn't really feel it.

That said, this is Alward's first book for St. Martin's Press and I have high hopes that the next one in the series will improve on this. Obviously I have no real knowledge of publishing, but I would think the transition to another editor and style would take a little practice.

The House on Blackberry Hill will be out on April 29, 2014.

Hexagon update #13-2014

I failed to update last week, even tho I had my 30 hexies done, and now this week I am posting to report a big fat zero. Here's my sweet girl helping me count last week.


Current count: 1754 down. 1176 to go. Sooo lovely to watch this number go down down down.

Linking up with Jessica at Life Under Quilts.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Recent reading, three unrelated

Calculated in Death by JD Robb. I read this one several weeks ago and as I sat here to blog it I had a really hard time remembering any aspects of the actual murder. Much of the plot is full of details of the upcoming movie premier which has dominated the last few books in the series. I did eventually wind my way around to the rest and have to say that I enjoyed that it was a timeless situation and not something futuristic. These are really great for getting me reading during a slump or a busy week, but are otherwise not memorable.

Sunrise Song by Kathleen Eagle. I requested this one from NetGalley for several reasons. First because Kathleen Eagle is Ruth Wind, who wrote my all time favorite romance In the Midnight Rain. Then becauses it takes place right here in South Dakota. It's not common to find books set in South Dakota. It turns out that this is a reprint (rerelease?) from 1996 but one that I had not read. To be honest, I struggled a bit with this one. Eagle's books are very heavy books with a big emphasis on race relations. Sometimes this works for me and sometimes I just want to get on with the romance. Additionally, since this was in the 1970s, the scenes in Rapid City weren't in the Rapid City I know. In the end, I wanted to love it more than I did.

Country Music Broke My Brain by Gerry House. If I'd have known more about this one or been paying more attention I probably would not have requested it. First of all, it's by a radio personality and if there is one single group of people I find uniformly annoying, it is radio hosts. Specifically morning show-celebrity gossip- stupid stunt-not as funny as they think they are hosts. (I don't mind things like NPR where it's actual news and interviews, but I'd rather drive in a car full of cats than listen to Bob and Tom.) Then, the book turns out to be five dozen short chapters about various stars, which is more gossipy than I really enjoy. I admit to skimming a large portion of it. I think I was expecting something completely different. If you are a fan of celebrity gossip or country music you would probably really enjoy this. I had to fight my annoyance.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Kmart pulls bait and switch, then keeps my money anyway.

Mike and I have recently had a terrible experience with Kmart. I have sent the following letter to Kmart and gotten no response. I would love it if some of my internet friends would help me get their attention.

On Thursday April 3rd I ordered a trampoline at The online price was $284.99 and with tax my total was $302.09. The trampoline was listed as “In Stock” at my local Kmart. My transaction went through and I was advised by email to wait to be notified as to when I could pick it up. The next morning I woke up to an email stating that my trampoline actually was NOT in stock, nor was it available online, and that my refund would take 5-7 business days. Since this was a birthday gift my husband and I were upset both that it was not available and that our funds were tied up for another week. However, around 8:30am a manager at the local store (Tamra) called me to say that it had been an error and that they did in fact have a trampoline in stock. I would need to come to the local store to repurchase it. (Note: we only have one Kmart within 100 miles, it’s not a store mixup error.)

On Saturday my husband and I went to Kmart and rang for help in layaway, as instructed. The first associate (Cassandra) to greet us was very unfriendly. She did not care to hear why we didn’t have an item on layaway, just interrupted our explanation of why we were there, demanded identification and left with it. At the time she took my husband’s ID and left the room we had not been able to say “online order”, “trampoline”, or “layaway.” She had NO IDEA what we were doing there and she was very angry about having to help us. The second associate (Lisa) was more helpful, but also not willing to actually talk to us to find out the story about why she could not find our order on record. We offered to explain and instead she called someone else to ask. We finally got that straight and she rang us up for 299.99 plus tax for a total of 317.99. We questioned why the price would be $15 more than it was online, and were simply told that sometimes the price did not match and the in store price was 299.99. We bought it anyway since it was a birthday present. Yesterday I was told by an online Kmart representative that “Prices may vary a bit depending on what region you’re in and Kmart does not currently offer price matching.” They went on to say that they regretted that we had to pay twice and that if we had not received our refund within 3 weeks to contact them. As of now, 5 days, our credit card has been charged and there is no pending refund. (We wrote a check for the in store purchase.)

Besides the fact that they are currently holding onto $300 of mine, I find it really interesting that the order for an in stock item was cancelled and I had to go into the exact same store and pay a higher price for the exact same item that was sitting in the back room the entire time. It’s possible that terrific customer service on Saturday would have smoothing this over, but of course that was not the case.

We live in a very small town a very long ways from any other shopping and we’ve often thought that Kmart was the lesser of two evils and chosen it over Walmart. This will no longer be the case.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Pope Awesome and Other Stories by Cari Donaldson

I used to make fun of Mike for his reading habits (in my head, of course, until now.) He had a fixed set of things that he would always chose to read and it seemed like such a crazy mix of stuff- for fiction he likes thriller/suspense/political type books and for non-fiction baseball, Mt. Everest, and WWII (but not in the Pacific, only in Europe. Think Band of Brothers.)  Lately tho, as I try to actually blog everything I read, I discover a shockingly narrow range of interests of my own. (Romance novels, paranormal young adult/romance, brain science/psychology  non-fiction/memoirs and books about religious experiences/conversion.) So last fall when Cari Donaldson's book about becoming Catholic came out I made a mental note to look for it. I broke down and bought it over Christmas. A couple weeks ago we took a little car trip and for reasons unknown I skipped all my review books and decided to read this instead. I read all but the last few pages in one day.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that not many of my blog readers (all three of you) also read a lot of Catholic parenting blogs, but if you are looking for new blogs to read I can highly recommend Clan Donaldson. Cari is down to earth, funny and realistic about having a large Catholic homeschooled family.  I can honestly say I enjoy all of her posts, except the ones about The Walking Dead which I skip because we don't currently watch it AND I don't want any spoilers just in case we start.

Cari grew up going to church because you were supposed to go to church. Not because you felt anything or because of any theological reason, but because you were supposed to go. (Which is pretty much what I did. Looking back, it seems very strange that you'd go to church every week and learn these stories and listen to a minister talk, but no one ever says THIS IS WHY. It was all just stories and lock-ins but there was never any emotion or personalization. There was no discussion of what it all meant. I think perhaps as an adult you might start to clue in on your own, but as a kid? Not so much. You wore a cross because you went to church like a good girl, duh. And to get even more off track, I hear stories of little kids bullying other kids because they don't believe in God, but I bet even those bullies don't believe anything more than "good kids go to church/Heaven".) As a young adult and college student she actively avoided Christianity. She felt a void in her life but pretty much did every possible thing to fill it with any other religion or spiritual practice.  Pope Awesome is her hilarious recounting of how she ended up joining the Catholic church and how the Church ultimately overcame all her reservations about Catholicism.  Many of her reasons for not wanting to be Catholic matched up with mine, so I found that all to be highly interesting.  I'm not interested in a theological debate here on my blog, but this was a really great book that managed to be both funny and thought provoking, while not actually feeling like she's preaching to you. You never feel like she's trying to convince the reader to also become Catholic. In my informal study of religious memoirs, I'd put this right up there in my top two or three.

Now go read her blog.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hexagon update #12-2014

1724 down, 1206 to go. I think. This week: 30 hexies and two flowers.

The weather was lovely Saturday so I sat on the porch to make my hexies. The cute fabric here is the last of the scraps from The Princess's other quilt.

Linking up with Jessica at Life Under Quilts.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making by Jane Brocket

The Blurb:
Create totally unique quilts for family and friends
Stunning inspirational photography throughout
Discover how to quilt and design with confidence

The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making is a charming, inspirational and practical
collection of 15 quilts for would-be quilters by leading author Jane Brocket.
There’s a Russian Shawl Quilt, inspired by traditional motifs of Russian folk art, a
Floral Frocks Quilt inspired by summer dresses, flower gardens and herbaceous
borders and a Suits and Ties Quilt reusing sober woollen suiting contrasting with
extravagant silk ties designed in an Irish Chain.

Finally, a practical section covers all the knowledge you’ll need – from chainpiecing,
hand-quilting and sandwiching to binding, storage and caring for your
quilt. Armed with the design tools, you can embark on your quilting journey and
begin creating your own personal masterpiece.

Short Version:
The quilts are pretty but not original. The book's beauty and appeal is in the description of the process.

Long Version:
This is clearly a book based on a blog. The strength lies in the description of how she planned each quilt and the stories behind the quilt's inspiration. The writing is lovely and you could easily read through it as a visit with a friend.  The pictures are lovely and match well with the quilt in each chapter, but there aren't nearly enough pictures of the quilts themselves. It includes a lot of helpful information about quilting itself at the beginning, but much of that information is not original and could be found in any other quilt book or on the internet. The quilt patterns themselves are very basic, mostly different layout of squares or stripes with no intricate piecing.  If you are in the market for a pretty quilting book, this is a good choice. If you're looking for an inspiring quilt book, maybe choose something else.

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