Saturday, January 30, 2021

Out of the Storm by B.J. Daniels

 As a young bride and mother, Kate Jackson, experienced a devastating loss when her husband Daniel was lost in a refinery explosion.  Twenty years have passed by, but Kate has continued to look for her husband everywhere, convinced that he is still alive.  Her daughters grown, she has finally allowed herself to love again and has gotten engaged to her boyfriend Collin.  He takes her on an engagement trip to Montana so that she can see snow for the first time and make a snow angel.  While on their trip, Kate runs into a mysterious man, Jon Harper, and she is convinced he is Daniel.  Jon insists he is not, but what is his mysterious past?

 I don’t want to say more and ruin the plot of this one.  Out of the Storm is a great suspense novel and page turner.  I had a hard time putting it down as it was a very engaging story.  I liked that the characters were three dimensional, in particular the villain. 

 I read Out of the Storm as part of the Brenda Novak 2021 Reading Challenge.  As part of the book group, Brenda Novak interviewed author B.J. Daniels about this book and asked readers’ questions from the Facebook page.  You can still watch this meeting on Brenda Novak’s Book Group Facebook page.  It was fun and interesting.  My favorite thing I learned is that author B.J. Daniels based this story on her aunt lost her husband in an oil refinery accident and spent the rest of her life looking for him.  I thought that was fascinating.  I look forward to future group reads in this book group.

 Overall, Out of the Storm is a great romantic suspense novel.

 Book Source:  Purchased from

Friday, January 29, 2021

Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good by Tina Turner


Title:  Happiness Becomes You:  A Guide to Changing Your Life

Author: Tina Turner

Read by:  Adrienne Warren with chanting by Tina Turner

Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio

Length: Approximately 4 hours and 39 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Shuster Audio.  Thank-you! 

I have enjoyed Tina Turner’s music my entire life and was very happy to review her new book.

 Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock in Tennessee.  She had a hard upbringing with first her mother and then her father abandoning her to be brought up by grandparents and other family members.  She met Ike Turner while still a teenager and became a star, but behind the scenes she was living on the edge with constant abuse from Ike.  She had been raised an indifferent Baptist, and it wasn’t until the 1970’s that she discovered Buddhism.  She started to chant and pray every day and learn more about the religion.  It brought her inner peace although she has still had trials and tribulations due to her health and the suicide of her son.

 Happiness Becomes You is Tina’s story as she explains her Buddhist beliefs and how they helped her to change “poison to medicine.”  She explains how the reader can use these ideas for finding happiness in their own lives. 

 I found this audiobook to be very inspirational.  Turner has experienced a lot in her life, but she was able to find her inner peace and move forward.  I love that she shared this experience with the world through her book.  Adrienne Warren narrated the audiobook and did a fine job.  I will admit though, that I especially loved getting to hear Turner’s voice as she chanted at the end of the audiobook.  It was beautiful.  I didn’t know that much about Buddhism and thought it was very interesting to learn more about it.

 I love that each chapter started with a list of inspiration quotes from a wide array of people including such figures as Maya Angelou and Pope Francis.  I also enjoyed the afterword which had statements from a variety of people talking about how much Tina Turner meant to them. 

 Overall, Happiness Becomes You is a timely book that gives insight into Tina Turner’s life, but also insight on how we call all work on achieving happiness in our own lives.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

She Come By It Natural by Sarah Smarsh

Title:  She Come By It Natural

Author: Sarah Smarsh

Read by:  Sarah Smarsh

Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio

Length: Approximately 4 hours and 33 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Shuster Audio.  Thank-you! 

She Come By It Natural is an interesting and unique look into the impact that Dolly Parton has had on women during her career.  She Come By It Natural was originally published as a four-part collection that looked at Dolly's contribution to social progress for women by exploring her life and songs.  It also looked how Dolly and these songs impacted author Sarah Smarsh and her family, especially her grandmother. 

I thought it was an interesting way to tell Dolly Parton’s story and gave it a personal twist.  Dolly Parton gave a voice to those that thought they were voiceless.  This is not a straight biography of Dolly Parton, but more tidbits about her life.  What really struck me was her resilience and how she has stuck by her family and her people in her community.  She has gone beyond that and helps children across the country with literacy.  She has done a lot of good in her life beyond her beautiful and socially important music.  I also loved the side story of how her father washed her statue in her hometown every night, and she didn’t find out until after he had passed.  It was touching.  It was also interesting the work dynamics she had as woman singer with Porter Wagner and how that shaped her.  She is a strong woman.

One item that did surprise me is that the author brought in her personal politics.  I thought it went well with the story, but it could cause readers that don’t agree politically to be turned off by the narrative.

Sarah Smarsh the author also narrates the book, which I enjoyed.  It made it feel very personal.

 Overall, She Come By It Natural is an interesting look at Dolly Parton’s life and how it impacted the author and her family.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


Title:  A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman

Read by:  J.K. Simmons

Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio

Length: Approximately 9 hours and 13 minutes

Source: Review Copy from Simon & Shuster Audio.  Thank-you! 

 A Man Called Ove has been on my radar for a few years now with so many good reviews posted everywhere.  I have read My Grandmother Tells Me to Tell You She’s Sorry and Anxious People also by Fredrik Backman and have really enjoyed them.  I was happy that A Man Called Ove was selected as the January book for the Rogue (FLICKS) Book club.  I chose to listen to it on a review audiobook copy I had received from Simon & Schuster.  I finished it just in the time – the morning of our meeting!  It was a great book to discuss.

 Ove is a grumpy old man living in Sweden.  Everything seems to make him grumpy, especially if it’s someone breaking the rules.  He has recently been let go from his job and his beloved wife has died.  He thinks he has nothing to live for, but after new neighbors move in, he finds himself constantly busy helping them out with their problems.  Will he find he has something to live for after all?

 A Man Called Ove starts out in a dark place and Ove does seem rather grumpy, but as his story unfolds, you learn there is much more to Ove than meets the eye.  He learns that there is still a lot of good he can do in the world, and he learns to love people that are different than him.  It is a unique story, and the ending brought a tear to my eye.  I enjoyed this book immensely. I watched the Swedish movie on Amazon Prime with my family and we all loved it.  It followed the novel rather well.  The humor was fun as well as the story of not judging someone before you get to know them.  My family also really loved Ove’s cat.

 J.K. Simmons is the narrator of this audiobook and he did an excellent job.  He was the voice of Ove to me.

 Favorite Quote:

“Death is a strange thing.  People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s one of the great motivations for living.”

 Overall, A Man Called Ove is a moving and unique story.  I loved it.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Beauty Among Ruins by J’Nell Ciesielski (TLC Book Tour)

Do you love Downton Abbey? In particular, Season Two when the Abbey was turned into a convalescence hospital for World War I soldiers?  Are you looking for an independent heroine to rival Lady Sybil?  Beauty Among Ruins is the book for you!

 Lily Durham is a young American heiress who does not follow the rules.  Her family sends her to England to improve her ways.  After World War I starts, Lily stays in England and joins her cousin in Scotland to work in a grand old estate, Kinclavoch Castle, that has fallen on hard times.  It has been turned into a convalescence home for the wounded and the family lives in one old wing.  While her cousin Bertie is a nurse, Lily failed the exams and works as an aide.  She also fails to follow directions and soon befriends the owner, Alec and his sickly sister Viola. 

 Alec’s fortunes have fallen on hard times after having to pay a death tax after his father’s death.  He is trying to keep his estate in good standing by selling off his prized positions and paintings.  Even worse, a newspaper man is hounding him to sell the estate.  Alec meets the plucky American aide and even though he is on one hand annoyed by her vivacity, he also admires it.  After a soldier is kidnapped, the two work together to try to find the culprit.

 I greatly enjoyed this engaging story.  I loved the setting and the time period.  A convalescence home during World War I is a time period that I find very intriguing.  I thought it was especially interesting when the soldiers told their stories of what it was like on the front lines.   I also loved Alec and Lily’s relationship.  They had almost an Elizabeth and Darcy relationship with Alec being a grumpy man who said what he thinks, which is not always the polite thing to say.  Lily was very enjoyable with a great zest for life that is just the brightness that Alec needed in his life.  I also enjoyed Viola’s story which had hints of The Secret Garden. 

 It was great fun when Lily invited her friend Ethel Barrymore to perform for the soldiers.  I love old Hollywood/theatre history and it was fantastic to have Barrymore as a character in this story. 

 The mysteries were interesting, but it was fairly obvious who the culprit was.  I far more enjoyed the characters, history, and romance.

 Favorite Quotes:

“Pride had many layers.  And she had trampled on more than one of them since arriving.”

 “There was a time when men acted in honor and not in the interest of their bank accounts – when integrity was prized above all.  Those days are long gone.”

 Overall, Beauty Among Ruins is an intriguing World War I romance with a slight mystery involved.  I especially recommend it for fans of Downton Abbey.

 Book Source:  Review Copy from Thomas Nelson for being a part of the TLC Book Tour. Thank-you!  Please check out this link for more stops on the tour.

From the Publisher:

In Ciesielski’s latest sweeping romance, an American heiress finds herself in Scotland amid the fallout of the Great War, and a wounded Scottish laird comes face-to-face with his past and a woman he never could have expected.

American socialite Lily Durham is known for enjoying one moment to the next, with little regard for the consequences of her actions. But just as she is banished overseas to England as a “cure” for her frivolous ways, the Great War breaks out and wreaks havoc. She joins her cousin in nursing the wounded at a convalescent home deep in the wilds of Scotland at a crumbling castle where its laird is less than welcoming.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble Thomas Nelson

Connect with J’nell

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Twisted Twenty-Six by Janet Evanovich


Title:  Twisted Twenty-Six

Author: Janet Evanovich

Read by:  Lorelei King

Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio

Length: Approximately 6 hours and 45 minutes

Source: Overdrive through the Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you!

When I need a fun book pick me up, I look no further than the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.  I have enjoyed this series on audiobook the past few years as I LOVE the narrator. Lorelei King is my favorite audiobook narrator, and she brings this series to an entirely new level.   She has a different unique voice for each character and just makes the entire audiobook a joy to listen to.

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter and is not sure about her job and the predicaments it gets her into.  In Twisted Twenty-Six, the job gets more personal when someone appears to be out to get Stephanie’s Grandma Mazer.  Grandma has become a widow again after her groom of 45 minutes, Jimmy Rossolli, dies of a heart attack.  Jimmy was a local mobster and was the keeper of the keys for the goods for his group of mobsters.  No one knows where he puts the keys and are sure that Grandma has the answers.  Will Stephanie and Grandma be able to find the keys while Stephanie also works with her partner Lula to track down her bounties?

I love how this book was self-aware.  Stephanie reflects on what she would look like if she were fifty-six years old and is disturbed.  I think that would be her age is she aged along with the series.  She also reflects on how she never changes and is stuck in the same rut.  This made me laugh a lot as that has been my complaint the last few novels!  I like that Janet Evanovich took my and other readers complaints and made them into a point of humor in this novel.

Overall, Twisted Twenty-Six is a funny novel that is a perfect audiobook when you need a pick me up!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen

Mercy Grove has sadly had to give up her girls’ school at the return of her brother and his bride to Ivy Cottage.  She soon finds herself an unwelcome guest in her own home.  She contemplates taking a governess position, but what will that do to her position in life?  Jane Bell has to decide whether to marry her true love Gabriel Locke, even though she may need to give up managing her beloved Inn.  Can she marry Gabriel knowing that she may never be able to have a child?  What will she do when her estranged father reappears from India with a new young son?  Justina is being pressured to marry by her mother.  Will she wed her mother’s choice?  Who is the strange new seamstress in town?  Is she all that she seems to be?

 The Bride of Ivy Green is the third novel in the Tales from Ivy Hill series.  It is set in the small town of Ivy Green in England in 1821.  I love character driven novels and this series has really let me get to know the people of Ivy Hill and to enjoy their personal triumphs.  The Bride of Ivy Green has more than one wedding in it that brings the series to a satisfying conclusion.  I enjoyed the story and especially loved that the women work together in their own club to try to further women of business further in their small town.  The novel was a slower read for me.

 Favorite Quotes:

“Life is full of risks, thrilling and terrifying at the same time – rather like a tightrope act.”

 “James told me you saw the good in people, even with evidence to the contrary.  I see what he means.”

 Overall, The Bride of Ivy Green is a gratifying conclusion to the Tales of Ivy Green series, although I would love to read more about these wonderful characters.

 Book Source:  Christmas Present

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

In Search of Wisdom: Life-Changing Truths in the Book of Proverbs by Joyce Meyer

 In Search of Wisdom is a beautiful and thought-provoking study of the book of Proverbs.  It should be read in conjunction with the Biblical book of Proverbs.  I have always though the book of Proverbs was solely written by Solomon, but I learned in the introduction that Solomon wrote the first twenty-nine Proverbs except for a bit in the middle written by two sages.  A man named Agur wrote Chapter 30 and King Lemuel wrote Chapter 31.  What is the book of Proverbs?  “The Book of Proverbs is considered the Bible’s book of wisdom, and it deals with both the practical and spiritual issues of life.”

 In Search of Wisdom has a chapter for each book of Proverbs.  Each chapter explains the main principles that are included in the book of Proverbs and provides some questions to make you think about how it applies to your own life.  In the introduction, Meyers discusses what she believes are the seven foundational principles that are found throughout the book of Proverbs.  These foundational principles include wisdom, understanding, prudence, knowledge, and discretion, discernment, and the fear of the Lord.  I like how the first book of Wisdom taught that “but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  I also like how Meyers brought scripture in from the New Testament to explain some of the Proverbs.

 I had not read Proverbs for quite awhile and they have so many good tips.   They focus a lot on not committing adultery, but there are other great tips such as not cosigning for someone else’s debt, not being a false witness who lies, not being lazy, having integrity, choosing your friends wisely, being happy with your life etc.  They are good standards to live by to be a decent human being.

 I thought the discussion on Proverb 13 on sparing the rod and spoil the child was interesting.  It said that too many parents used this as an excuse to beat your child, but it just means that you need to discipline your child.  It said that rod was one that shepherds used to tap the legs of sheep if they veered off the path.  I have heard this phrase often, but I never knew the true meaning behind it.

 Favorite Quotes:

“Always keep your word.  If you tell someone you will call them back, meet them at a certain time, or do something for them, then do it.”

 Overall, In Search of Wisdom is a good supplement to the book of Proverbs and gives the reader a lot to think about to live life as a good and faithful person.  I recommend it.

 Book Source:  Review Copy from Hachette Faithwords.  Thank-you!

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Forever Girl by Jill Shalvis (Review and Giveaway)


Can true love stand the test of time?

Maze has traveled to Wildstone to be the maid of honor in her estranged best friend / foster sister Caitlyn’s wedding.  Caitlyn’s parents had fostered children and Maze, Walker, and Heather had become part of the family.  After a terrible tragedy, Caitlyn’s little brother Michael was killed, and her parents were unable to care for the foster children.  The family was broken up, but they share an unbreakable bond.  Caitlyn has gathered them to spend the week together before her wedding.  Maze must confront the demons of her past and realize what is important for her both in friendship and in love.  Will she be able to make a better path forward?

I enjoy Jill Shalvis’s books.  The characters are intriguing with interesting personalities and flaws.  They have gotten a rough start in life, but they must figure out how to move forward with their lives and their relationships.  The Forever Girl does have a great romance story with two prickly characters, Maize and Walker, but at heart, it is a story of family.  Will this family be able to put itself back together after an unspeakable loss and move forward?  I also loved Caitlyn’s story as the red flags were going off as she inched closer to her wedding.  I love how the chapters were from different characters point of view and had a “to do list” for what the character needed to do to try to get them ready for the wedding.  They were usually quite funny.

The Forever Girl is Book #6 in the Wildestone series.  I have also ready books #4 and #5 in the series.  They are all standalone novels with the same setting and some cross over characters.

I also must say – I love the cover of this book.  It really puts me in the mood for spring!

Overall, The Forever Girl is a great contemporary novel with intriguing characters, romance, and family relationships.

Book Source: Review Copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!


New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website,, for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

ABOUT THE FOREVER GIRL (a standalone Wildstone novel)

When Maze returns to Wildstone for the wedding of her estranged bff and the sister of her heart, it’s also a reunion of a once ragtag team of teenagers who had only each other until a tragedy tore them apart and scattered them wide.

Now as adults together again in the lake house, there are secrets and resentments mixed up in all the amazing childhood memories. Unexpectedly, they instantly fall back into their roles: Maze their reckless leader, Cat the den mother, Heather the beloved baby sister, and Walker, a man of mystery.

Life has changed all four of them in immeasurable ways. Maze and Cat must decide if they can rebuild their friendship, and Maze discovers her long-held attraction to Walker hasn’t faded with the years but has only grown stronger.

Connect with Jill


Facebook: @JillShalvis

Twitter: @JillShalvis









Barnes & Noble



As a part of the William Morrow Book Tour, I am giving away one copy of this novel. If you would like to win this book, please leave a comment on what interests you about this book.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to addresses in the United States.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday January 29th!

Please make sure to check the week of February 1st to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

Have you every traveled to the Caribbean?  If so, what island?  I have sadly never been there, but I love to read about it.

 Winter in Paradise was another book that I read through quite quickly.  It was the January pick for the Kewaunee Library Book club.  I haven’t been able to go to that book club for over a year since switching jobs, but with working from home and a virtual book club format, I was able to spend a delightful lunch hour with everyone this past week.

 Irene Steele is shocked to learn that her husband Russell has been killed in an accident while he was away on a business trip.  She is even more shocked to learn that he has a 15-million-dollar mansion on the island of St. John and a mistress.  How could a former corn syrup salesman from Iowa end up in such a situation?  Irene and her sons, Baker and Cash, take off for St. John to learn more about what happened to Russell and to collect his ashes.  The trip opens up more questions that it answers.  It also makes them realize that Russell’s mistress, Rosie, was a real person with many people who loved her.  How did Russell and Rosie end up together?  What exactly did Russell do for a living with his new job?

 Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this was a trilogy and the novel ends with a cliffhanger and no answers to my questions.  Luckily the next two novels have been published and I have put a hold on the second one at the library.  I thought the story line was intriguing in this book and I couldn’t put it down.  I like most of the characters, but Irene’s sons Baker and Cash both annoyed me.  The general consensus of book club was that they liked this novel.  We all liked the story line and I think were all indignant about a husband that could keep such a secret from his wife.

 Favorite Quotes:

“It’s newly astonishing to Irene that as much as we know about the world, we still can’t see into another person’s mind or heart.”

 “It’s not necessarily the creature comforts themselves, it’s that someone thinks you deserve them.”

 “Secrets become lies and lies end up destroying you and everyone you care about.”

 “They were taught in school that fear often derives from ignorance.  Once you understand a situation, it becomes far less intimidating.”

 Overall, Winter is Paradise has an intriguing storyline, but beware, it is the first book in a trilogy, and you need to read all three books to resolve the storyline.

 Book Source:  Purchased from

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Title:  Sense and Sensibility

Author: Jane Austen

Read by:  Alison Larkin

Publisher: Alison Larkin Presents

Length: Approximately 14 hours and 02 minutes

Source: Purchased on 

I love Jane Austen novels.  I’m not going to detail the plot of this novel as I have summarized it on my blog before (see this link and this link).  I reread Sense and Sensibility this time around by listening to an audiobook narrated by Alison Larkin.  I have discovered that I LOVE listening to Austen on audio.  It really brings the story alive and makes me think of Jane reading these stories to her family.  Alison Larkin is a great narrator with a pleasing voice.  She has a light British accent, and she makes the characters come alive.

I read Sense and Sensibility this month as part of the JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America) Northwoods Book Club that I just joined.  I had thought about joining JASNA for over ten years now, but it took COVID to finally make me take the plunge and join.  I was even more excited to find a group of like-minded ladies in Northeast Wisconsin with a Jane Austen Book Club.  I look forward to meeting them in person when things get back to normal.

This time around I was particularly struck by Eliza’s storyline.  I thought the storyline of Colonel Brandon and Eliza was so romantic and tragic.  I kept thinking about Eliza and how she was cast off from her unhappy marriage.  What did you do in the Regency era when you didn’t have a husband and you had an illegitimate child?  Luckily Colonel Brandon supported Eliza 2, but she was raised in the country.  Who loved her?  How could she marry stuck between two worlds and illegitimate?  I want a novel about this story.  I also wish Austen would have had more detail about Colonel Brandon and Willoughby’s duel.

We talked in book club about Willoughby and compared him to Wickham.  It was decided that I probably like the villain Willoughby better than the villain Wickham because Willoughby apologizes at the end of Sense and Sensibility and also seems to truly love Marianne. 

What do you love about Sense and Sensibility?  Do you have a favorite film version?

Overall, Sense and Sensibility is a timeless story that I will reread my entire life.  I love audio versions and Alison Larkin is a wonderful narrator of Jane Austen’s novels.