Magnolia Market by Judy Christie

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description:

The self-help books lied: fresh starts aren’t nearly as glamorous as they appear. And love isn’t any easier the second time around.

Avery Broussard was savoring her long-dormant optimism. It was the first anniversary of her husband’s death, and she was finally going to buy the dress boutique from her former mother-in-law. After a year of saving, the deal was nearly done. Avery was about to get her life back.

But every deal in Samford, Louisiana, can change at the whim of a Broussard.

After being unceremoniously ejected from the very boutique she planned to buy—the boutique she herself had rescued from ruin—she becomes a woman without a future . . . suddenly at war with her late husband’s family.

When carpenter T. J. Aillet begins working for the Broussards doing manual labor, he overhears enough to know that Avery is being victimized. Soon enough, T. J. is lassoed into the squabble by his family connections, his good heart . . . and the undeniable attraction he feels toward Avery.

But the Aillets are no strangers to Samford society—and T. J. knows what happens when you cross the Broussards. Could these two misfits ever make a start together? Or will the pressures of Samford society pull them apart before they even get a chance to try?

About the Author:

Judy Christie writes fiction with a Louisiana flavor. She is the author of the Green series of novels including Gone to Green. A fan of primitive antiques and porch swings, she blogs from her green kitchen couch at http://www.judychristie.com. She and her husband live in northern Louisiana.

My Review:

This is not an author I have read much of, and she gave the book a unique flavor. The book was the second in a series, which makes some sense now, but I wished it was marked more clearly when I read it to begin with.  All that aside, it was slightly confusing in the beginning, but although this is not a page turner, it is a sweet book. I loved the byline on this one, “The self-help books lied: fresh starts aren’t nearly as glamorous as they appear. And love isn’t any easier the second time around.”  It gave the book a unique spin, where the character was not looking for a second chance and sort of had it forced upon her by in-laws that were from somewhere below the surface of the earth. You honestly wanted to scream “Hire a lawyer!! Please stop letting them just walk all over you!!!”

I found the manner of the book, sweet, charming and light. It did not really dig deeply into any issues, although it could have. It left some loose ends and a few things to be desired in the writing style, but over all, it was a very southern, sweet story about a girl overcoming the odds, making a new life after being widowed and losing everything.

Plus, you likely crave biscuits when you are done reading and get the urge to bake them and hand pies!

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for review. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book: (From the publisher website)

Sometimes the courage to face your greatest fears comes only when you’ve run out of ways to escape.

At the end of a long night, Elizabeth leans against the industrial oven and takes in her kingdom. Once vibrant and flawless, evenings in the kitchen now feel chaotic and exhausting. She’s lost her culinary magic, and business is slowing down.

When worried investors enlist the talents of a tech-savvy celebrity chef to salvage the restaurant, Elizabeth feels the ground shift beneath her feet. Not only has she lost her touch; she’s losing her dream.

And her means of escape.

When her mother died, Elizabeth fled home and the overwhelming sense of pain and loss. But fifteen years later, with no other escapes available, she now returns. Brimming with desperation and dread, Elizabeth finds herself in the unlikeliest of places, by her sister’s side in Seattle as Jane undergoes chemotherapy.

As her new life takes the form of care, cookery, and classic literature, Elizabeth is forced to reimagine her future and reevaluate her past. But can a New York City chef with a painful history settle down with the family she once abandoned . . . and make peace with the sister who once abandoned her?

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed Dear Mr. Knightly, but Lizzy and Jane touched me in a deeply personal way. The language of food spoke to me for one thing, but secondly, the BRCA gene effected my personal life deeply in the last three years. That is much more than I ever thought a gene which was formally unknown to me could have. I lost two family members to its hold, and another close family member will undergo surgery in a couple of weeks to avoid it.

What I enjoyed so much about this was book, was the fact that this book was not about the BRCA 1 gene, or cancer as much as it was about relationships, pain, hurt and overcoming them in our daily trials.

The depth in which I saw Ms. Reay capture how we can allow transgressions such as Elizabeth and Jane had experienced in the past, and in the face of possible tragedy, they allowed themselves to give each other another chance. I know this is not always possible, but when it is, we should try to mend the fractures between family members.

The word pictures that were created with the spices, flavors, scents, I have expected to smell them as they leapt off the page. Ms. Reay created a book that will touch the hearts of many people, even if you are not an Austen lover, you will catch the symbolism throughout the novel and relate. If you are an Austen lover, you will smile like an old friend just came home.

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Menu Plan

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Saturday: Cranberry muffins,

Sunday: Baked potatoes, popcorn, salad

Monday: Wild Rice Soup, muffins

Tuesday: Crock pot Lasagna bake, salad

Wednesday: Sloppy Joes, coleslaw

Thursday: Crock pot Burrito bowls (make rice in rice cooker, chili type beans etc. in crock pot to eat in bowls)

Friday: Pizza, carrots

Saturday: Enchiladas, rice, salad

Sunday: Leftovers

Monday: Scalloped potatoes and turkey ham

Tuesday: Teriyaki meatballs with Quinoa, Asian cabbage salad

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MFW Weeks #9 and #10

We are homeschoolers when it comes to our education choice. That means a lot of different things for different people. Some people think that means we get to be lazy, for us it is quite the opposite. For me, it means that from the time I wake up, until the time I go to sleep, I am thinking on how I can cram one small amount of knowledge into my children’s heads in a new way. I usually attempt to find ways that they don’t realize they are learning. It doesn’t mean we don’t have fun. P1080160 It can  often mean I get to hear our history sung in falsetto… P1080161 Or we may strike dramatic poses while listening to our brothers read dramatically. P1080166 We take some pauses to observe nature around us and the bug outside let us get close to it. P1080171 Sometimes it means we have moments of collapse. It is not limited to only the children. P1080158 Sometimes we all want to just lay down on the job. It is not recommended though. =) P1080169 P1080168 We had a free moment to use a coupon at a local cafe with my husband and son.  Don’t take health lessons from my husband, he thought the shake was not sweet enough and stirred jam into it. P1080182 We were late on your science project with cleaning pennies in coke, and here is a picture of them soaking. It was really hard to buy that! 1795168_10203075571790014_7998481270109954750_o 10629337_10203075572830040_236724460891775420_o We also sometimes have little guests that decide to help us with our school days. P1080159 We do a lot of reading time. We try to at least require 30 minutes of non-school reading every day. For my anti-readers, it can be a challenge, but they are learning and starting to enjoy it, despite themselves. P1080163 Notice the large boxes in the background? Yes, the homeschooler still has to fundraise, and we are selling popcorn for our homeschool theater club. P1080181 This was an audio book we were listening to, as well as finishing Across Five Aprils. We really enjoyed Across Five Aprils. I found a book with some questions about the book and activities to do, which we did a couple of. P1080179 P1080176 Math? No, I think I will learn about the Explorers, in this sticker book from Usborne. P1080174 Watching a documentary on Netflix about the Civil War during breakfast is always a learning experience. P1080175 H. having reading practice with his fun tutor that comes to visit every other week. 1011753_10203120693604195_3604858327931201354_n Nature walks for exercise are a must to keep energy levels so they can focus. Plus, basketball practice and games always help too! We won our second game we played of the year this week too. P1080183Math Drills? We got them!!! P1080185 History? We read it aloud, and sometimes leave the crafts to just read about. This week, instead we looked up about the Railroad spike monuments. P1080184 Grammar? We attempt to learn that as well! We will conquer the mountains that face us! P1080173 All that makes a mom tired. I think I will pause with a cup of tea and a salad. Next week is another week. Right now, I am thankful for the weekend!  I may still be thinking about lesson plans, my oldest’s sons assignments he has due and all the other things we have on our plate, but for now, I am happy to have completed another couple of weeks! Moms…homeschool or not, no matter the educational choice you have chosen for your children, remind yourself that this is a tough gig. It is okay to feel worn out sometimes, but make sure to admit that you can’t do everything sometimes. Try to keep a sense of humor through all the ups and downs! Parenting is tough, but it sure can have it’s rewards! Keep going!!!

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Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

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Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

About the book: (from back cover)

Back in fifth grade, Micah Knight got an Amish pen pal, and over the years, they’ve exchanged many letters–and many secrets. At age seventeen, Micah finally has the chance to meet her pen pal face-to-face. The only problem is that because of confusion about her name when the pen pals were assigned, her pen pal was a boy, Zack Miller. And all this time, Micah’s never told Zack that she’s actually a girl! While she wants nothing more than to experience life on Zack’s Amish farm, she’s afraid he’ll hate her for deceiving him all these years. But she makes up her mind to face the music–and that’s where the fun really begins.

Bestselling author Melody Carlson brings young adults another fascinating tale of worlds colliding, secrets being revealed, and friendships forming. Teens will love this story of miscommunication and mishaps along the way to the truth.

My Review:

This young adult book is one among several that Ms. Carlson has written about “English” and Amish. It is sort of the equivalent of Judy Baer’s Cedar River Daydreams, with Amish characters. I personally tend to avoid Amish fiction, as they are not my cup of tea, but the description of this one caught my eye and I thought I would give it a try.

The one thing I actually liked about this book was how rude Zack’s mother was to her throughout the book, capturing much of the way that many Amish would treat a young person that she felt was threatening her lifestyle, beliefs and even her son’s salvation. While the book is not terribly accurate on many levels and quite far fetched, it was fairly harmless. However, I felt that it contained some scenarios where it was very disrespectful of  the teens to their parents, putting them down because they were of different beliefs than them. For that reason, parents should likely should discuss afterwards with their teens about the long term consequences that decisions like that can have.

I think Melody Carlson should stick to adult fiction, which she does an excellent job at, and maybe leave the teen fiction and Amish fiction in general alone.

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Forever Christmas by Robert Tate

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book: (From publisher website)

Book Description

This Christmas will change Andrew Farmer’s life forever.

Andrew can’t remember the last time he spent Christmas away from work. The end of the year is crunch time for literary agents. But when your career is your life, your life starts to suffer . . . beginning with your marriage.

When a heart-wrenching accident in a Christmas Eve snowstorm jars this high-powered agent from his obsession with success, a Christmas miracle will give him a second chance at love, life, and gratitude, but only if he can put aside his own ambition and learn to appreciate each moment.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to change a man’s life—and to teach him to treat every day as if it were his last.

About the Author

Robert Tate Miller began his writing career with homespun essays of small town life that were published by Reader’s Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1980s and wrote successful family-oriented telefilms for NBC, ABC Family, and the Hallmark Channel. Robert lives in Northridge, CA, with his wife Gina and stepdaughter Chloe June.

My Review:

This familiar story line caught my attention from the first chapter. The writing style is very smooth and drew me into the story and away from my responsibilities for awhile. I could feel the pain suffered by his wife, his cry of his heart when he realized his errors of his ways, and what length he was willing to go to, even if it was just a moment to fix it. This book is one that you could read as a husband and wife couple read, maybe as you were reflecting on slowing down for the holidays. It was a good reminder to me that every minute can count in our lives. Our decisions, even the minor ones can often have consequences that are far reaching. I don’t think you will really have angels that will visit you, or beautiful gold keys appearing, but you may see the vision for your own family as you read this.

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Deceived by Irene Hannon

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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About the book (From the publisher website):

A grieving mother. A mysterious child. And a dedicated PI who’s determined to solve the puzzle.

For three years, Kate Marshall has been mourning the loss of her husband and four-year-old son in a boating accident. But when she spots a familiar-looking child on a mall escalator, she’s convinced it’s her son. With police skeptical of her story, she turns to private investigator Connor Sullivan for help. As the former Secret Service agent digs into the case, the boating “accident” begins to look increasingly suspicious. But if Kate’s son is alive, someone is intent on keeping him hidden–and may go to lethal lengths to protect a sinister secret.
As Irene Hannon’s many fans have come to expect, Deceived is filled with complex characters, unexpected twists, and a riveting plotline that accelerates to an explosive finish.

My Review:

Another 5 star book from Irene Hannon. It seems to me that her suspense books, and her contemporary books have outdone themselves lately. I find myself eager to pick them up to read. This story begins with heartbreak, the heartbreak any mother will relate to, the loss of her husband and child. However, when she believes she sees her son, she doubts herself even, but keeps digging to see if there is a possibility it could be true.

Hannon keeps you turning the pages hoping beyond hope that you will find a way to make this mother’s dream’s come true without endangering anyone, plus, you have a hint of healing and romance for the widowed mother as well.  I found myself in one place on the couch, reading away, wanting to reach the conclusion, but dragging out the reading time so that I didn’t have to finish this amazing read. I highly recommend it! If you like suspense without too many gory details, these are your books!

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