Monthly Archives: February 2014

Book Review: City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

City of Jasmine (click book or see below for description)
By Deanna Raybourn
Releases 3/1/14
Free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 3 bones

Finish Time: 4-5 nights.  I’m continuing my streak of just okay books.  This one I really wanted to like but it just didn’t call to me each night as I picked it up.  I stayed with it and it was interesting, and I can’t really figure out what it was about it that I can’t rave about.  For me, I found it a bit confusing to keep track of the characters, who was in alliance with who, what happened when, and where they were.  The alliance part was not bad as that made for twists and turns, but I felt lost many times during the book.

You can read the description below and I think see why I chose to preview this book.  First of all historical fictions are my favorite.  Intrigue and danger also rope me in, and I always love a good love story.  Evie, who we begin to know as a widow aviatrix, is the main character.  She is smart, spunky, unpredictable, and I did enjoy getting inside her head.  She was very tactical in her decisions and how cool would it to be an aviatrix!  I almost wish there was more on that part of her life.

There was definitely a lot of action, at some points I even felt exhausted for them.  And as mentioned before alliances shifted, or rather were figured out or uncovered.  The “relic” in question was hard to keep track of, but fun to follow.  I am thankful for modern technology and never want to be stuck in a desert in my life!  And the love story was frustrating, but probably my favorite part.

Good ending, and not too long of a read.  Not my strongest review as I can’t put my finger on what it was I didn’t like, maybe it was just too much of all of it.  Don’t not (yes double negative) read it because of this, as I would love to hear your thoughts!

Description from Amazon:

Set against the lush, exotic European colonial outposts of the 1920s, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn delivers the captivating tale of one woman who embarks upon a journey to see the world—and ends up finding intrigue, danger and a love beyond all reason. 

Famed aviatrix Evangeline Starke never expected to see her husband, adventurer Gabriel Starke, ever again. They had been a golden couple, enjoying a whirlwind courtship amid the backdrop of a glittering social set in prewar London until his sudden death with the sinking of the Lusitania. Five years later, beginning to embrace life again, Evie embarks upon a flight around the world, collecting fame and admirers along the way. In the midst of her triumphant tour, she is shocked to receive a mysterious—and recent—photograph of Gabriel, which brings her ambitious stunt to a screeching halt. 

With her eccentric aunt Dove in tow, Evie tracks the source of the photo to the ancient City of Jasmine, Damascus. There she discovers that nothing is as it seems. Danger lurks at every turn, and at stake is a priceless relic, an artifact once lost to time and so valuable that criminals will stop at nothing to acquire it—even murder. Leaving the jewelled city behind, Evie sets off across the punishing sands of the desert to unearth the truth of Gabriel’s disappearance and retrieve a relic straight from the pages of history. 

Along the way, Evie must come to terms with the deception that parted her from Gabriel and the passion that will change her destiny forever….

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Why they say Cleveland Rocks!

So you’ve heard by now, we are relocating up north, like way up north.  Take a pencil from Atlanta and go directly north as far as you can in the US and you’ll hit Cleveland, OH.  Not a foreign land to me, like it may be to many born and bred southerners, after all I am from Philadelphia and spend 19 years of my life in Pennsylvania.  But it may be to you, so that is why I am posting today things to look forward to in Cleveland.  This list is not only for my own reference, but also yours as we want you to come visit.

I think by now I have expressed how much I will miss everyone in GA (and the GA weather especially this time of year), so this list serves as my way of justifying that I can do this (and maybe convince you to come too!).  Atlanta will always hold a (large) piece of my heart and has so many great points too (in case I am too convincing for you!)  Ha!

I am excited to reconnect with family that I haven’t seen in a while.  And ofcourse to be closer to Penn State!  (Hoping to take Steven and the kids to their first game this fall!)  Cleveland is a bit smaller than Atlanta, so we are also hoping traffic will not be a huge stress for us, and most importantly, will allow us to find a MUCH better commute for Steven.  Like 15 miles (v. 55), one way!

Some fun Cleveland nicknames before I start are: Forest City, Metropolis of the Western Reserve, The Rock and Roll Capital of the World, The Plum City, C-Town, The Cleve, Sixth City, North Coast, Mistake on the Lake, Halle Berry’s Hometown, Comeback City, Land of tha Heartless (found from this fun blog here!)

Now onto some things my detailed research has found:

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The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – a place that I’d say at least 50% of the people I mention Cleveland to automatically mention.  With music being such a big part of our lives, I think we’ll soon become members!  Steven is excited to take the kids to teach them all about music, especially The Beatles exhibit, whose songs LL has been singing since she could talk.  It looks like they have preschool programs and many events that will keep us entertained all year round!  We’ll be sure to have some extra tickets on hand for your visit too!

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The Great Lakes Science Center looks like an awesome museum too, as Cleveland sits right on Lake Erie.  Home of the OmniMax, great exhibits, and even a Polymer Funhouse for the little ones.  This place is high on our list of things to do!

The West Side Market – I have seen this listed on every list of what Cleveland has to offer, and agree that it deserves a spot as this place looks awesome!  Cannot wait to make this a weekly stop.  Sounds perfect on my quest to eat cleaner and local!

  • Produce Is Fresh Daily
  • A Wide Selection of Organic Foods
  • Unique and Specialty Items Found No Where Else
  • Produce Costs an Average of 30% Less than Grocery Stores
  • Higher Quality & Better Selection of Meats
  • The Best Butchers in the Area
  • Family Owned Businesses, Operating as Long as 75 Years
  • Personal Service
  • Weekly Specials in All Areas of the Market for a Greater Value

“Today the market is home to over 100 vendors of great ethnic diversity. You can find not only fine meats and fresh vegetables, but also fresh seafood, baked goods, dairy and cheese products, and even fresh flowers. There are also booths that sell ready-to-eat foods, herbs, candy and nuts.”

Lots of other museums/places to go including (but not limited to):

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One local place (to where we will be staying for awhile) is the:


Lake Erie Science and Nature Center – This looks like it has programs and events geared toward the little ones.  Including being able to adopt your own animal!  And it even has a planetarium – I haven’t been to one of those in forever – I think the kids will love it!

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If none of those are convincing enough, behind the Rock & Roll HOF, the second most mentioned landmark is Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH.  This amusement park, located on a Lake Erie peninsula, is less than an hour from Cleveland, and boasts some of the biggest, baddest roller coasters in the world!  Now if this doesn’t get you up our way – I don’t know what will!

“Cedar Point is known for a couple of things. It’s known as the roller coaster capital of the world. But some just refer to Cedar Point as the world’s best amusement park. Cedar Point is an amusement park that brings people together through thrills. With 120-mph roller coasters that have 80-degree drops. An amusement park that, on top of roller coasters, has exhilarating thrill rides. An amusement park that has rides for the entire family and gives you water rides that make you wonder why it’s simply only the roller coaster capital of the world. And, of course, Cedar Point amusement park gives you great dining. What else would you expect from the roller coaster capital of the world? Or, as some say, the best amusement park in the world. Cedar Point is the place to strengthen family bonds and stomachs.Cedar Point. Thrills Connect.”

Cleveland even offers all your professional sports and seems to have a lot of pride in them: (the Monsters are minor league hockey)

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There seem to be parks on every corner and even a few beaches along Lake Erie.  We are very much looking forward to getting the bikes back out, teaching LL to ride a bike, and even purchasing a bike trailer to tow the kids too!

And ofcourse if you know me – I love a good festival – so tons of those to visit too!

Skiing is not too far away, another plus for Steven as he loves to ski and can’t wait to get the kids on skis while they are little.

Lots of new local restaurants to try.  (I know every city has this – but we love eating out – so excited to try some new local places!)  Also included with eating is drinking – so looking forward to new local craft beers, like the Great Lakes Brewing Company and Rocky River Brewing Company!

And who knew – Superman was created in Cleveland too!

I could go on as I am finding out so much, I’ll save more for later, like restaurants, parks, and festivals I want to try.  (And hopefully some reviews of these places when we actually get up there!)   Please feel free to add your favorites here too, this list is just my attempt to organize some things that are on our Cleveland Bucket list, and like I said before, to get us excited about going to a brand new city.

Thanks for reading and please COME VISIT!!

Thanks to Positively Cleveland for many of these ideas!
And here’s another good list I found: 25 Reasons Why Cleveland Is The Best


Filed under Celebrations, Children

Book Review: Invisible City by Julia Dahl

Invisible City (click on book for description)
By Julia Dahl
Available 5/6/14
Provided free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating:3 bones

Finish Time: 5 nights.  I’ve been hesitating to write this review.  This book was fine.  It was an interesting topic, somewhat of a page-turning mystery, but it didn’t floor me, and I just don’t have a lot to say about it.

The book focuses on Rebekah Roberts, a free-lance reporter for the New York Tribune, a tabloid newspaper.  Her role as reporter quickly turns into investigator as she is assigned to cover the murder of a member of the Hasidic community in Brooklyn, NY.  A culture that has always intrigued her, as her mother who abandoned her when she was little, was a member of this very community.  But that very culture holds their secrets tight and is wary to outsiders.

I won’t get more into the details as you can read the blurb from Amazon at the end, but I guess I just never liked that Rebekah was a reporter.  This is totally personal preference, but I can’t help but think if I were a member of the community, the last person I would want to talk to is a reporter, for a tabloid!  I felt uncomfortable for her, as it is beyond my comprehension to approach people in their time of grieving.  She is good at fitting in and getting the information, but she takes on more of an investigator role, which I think would have been more fitting for the book.

Again, just my opinion, and maybe a little discomfort in reading is good.  I enjoyed the tidbits thrown in about her mother and really liked discovering more about her past along with her.  The characters were all very well described and the book, while slow at times, definitely kept you guessing and hanging on til the very end to figure out who did it.

And then the ending, well without spoiling it, left a lot to be desired.  As I read the subtitle (A Rebekah Roberts Novel), I’m guessing there may have been some before and will definitely be some after.  I’m just not a big fan of series either.  So I’ll end it here as I don’t like to be negative, it was a good story, kept me interested, just frustrated I guess!

Description from Amazon:

Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can’t let the story end there. But getting to the truth won’t be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it’s clear that she’s not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider.

In her riveting debut Invisible City, journalist Julia Dahl introduces a compelling new character in search of the truth about a murder and an understanding of her own heritage.

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Teaser Tuesday – February 18th

It’s that time again – Teaser Tuesday!  I just finished this book, review coming later today!




It’s from Invisible City by Julia Dahl, click the book for the description, it releases May 6, 2014, and I am reading a pre-release copy (thanks NetGalley!).  Here’s the teaser from about 68% of the book:

“They weren’t ever really lies, and I can see now that it was not a story at that easily lent itself to a child’s comprehension, but it always felt to me like another big secret was coming – another piece of the picture dangling above my life like a piano.  Ready to drop and force me to climb over it.”

Here are the rules:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Thanks for stopping by today – please leave your link below too!


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We won’t move without You

“God Walks With You”
Isaiah 43:2

It’s been awhile, I apologize.  It’s been one of those times, where a prayer has been answered, just maybe not (or really not) what we expected (wanted).  It’s taking time to adjust, and while I’ve felt close to God, it’s been a lot of “Really, God?”, and just pleading to open my heart to acceptance, surrender, and faith.

We are moving from Atlanta, GA to Cleveland, OH.  I had started a post, and hope to find some time during this hectic time, to list out some of the positives.  It will be good, and my attitude is probably 99% of that.  But it will be hard.  To leave family, friends, our church, our preschool, our neighbors, the amazing network we have worked to build for us and our kids.  And while I have and will cry many tears for that, I feel God keeps placing on my heart that He is what matters, He will provide, and He will not abandon us.

“We won’t move without You”

Lyrics sung tonight by Jay & Abby Akins (two people high on our list of who we will miss) at Evergreen Church, that hit right to my heart.  We may be physically moving, but we won’t be leaving God behind.  He will guide us there, He will be with us every step of the way, and He will never leave.  I need to be comforted in this, I am, but during such an emotional time, it’s hard.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
Isaiah 43:2

More to come, but tonight, I wanted to share with you the aforementioned song (take a listen below) that I’m singing and meditating on this evening.  You will lead us, we will follow, and we will always cry out that You are the LORD OUR GOD!  Amen!

The Lord Our God
Kristian Stanfill/Passion

Promise maker, promise keeper
You finish what you begin
Our provision through the desert
You see it through ’til the end
You see it through ’til the end

The Lord out God is ever faithful
Never changing through the ages
From this darkness You will lead us
And forever we will say
You’re the Lord our God

In the silence, in the waiting
Still we can know You are good
All Your plans are for Your glory
Yes, we can know You are good
Yes, we can know You are good


We won’t move without You
We won’t move without You
You’re the light of all and all that we need


And forever we will say
You’re the Lord our God

The Lord our God (x2)


Filed under Calling

Book Review: Long Knives by Charles Rosenberg

Long Knives (click book for description)
By Charles Rosenberg
Available 3/1/14
Downloaded free through Kindle First

Rating: 4 bones

Click on these links for 2 teasers too:  Teaser #1, Teaser #2


Finish Time: 8ish nights.  I keep promising a blog post with some big news, I’ll go ahead and spoil it and then more details are coming.  But we are moving.  A big move and it’s been a very emotional time, on top of MANY details.  So I haven’t been reading AS much, but I still try and get in a chapter or two each night to take me away from reality, and try to clear my mind of the stresses, unknowns, and just craziness of each day.

This book was far from peaceful, but I enjoyed each night being taken into the even more chaotic world of Jenna James.  Not my favorite name for a main character, I like Jenna, but I believe that full name bears similarity to a certain, let’s just say, less than wholesome woman.   That being said, Jenna was a great main character.  She was a former big shot lawyer who left behind the world of courtrooms to pursue a career of teaching and was currently seeking tenure at UCLA.  She was very real as her insecurities were felt, but she was always very true to herself and strong in her beliefs.  Although her coffee drinking may have been a bit out of hand!

The story begins with one of her students found passed out in her office, and later dying in the hospital.  Jenna is almost immediately a suspect and the story proceeds from there.   While maintaining her classes, doing research and writing articles, keeping a mysterious boyfriend (in the sense that to me he seemed to be hiding something), having a suspicious nephew as her roommate, someone maybe trying to murder her, a bitter rivalry with a colleague, pursuing tenure , Jenna is thrown into the center of a murder investigation.   I’m sure I’m missing a few too, this book is definitely not lacking in the action department.  Some characters and story lines are more developed than others; this book definitely had a unique cast of characters.

A big part of the book, but still very random to me, is that Jenna’s area of teaching is admiral law, which I think is law over the oceans, especially dealing with sunken ships (and their treasures.)  Just not a topic you’d think of often and a rather odd specialty.  The murder also involves a “treasure map”, thus her involvement, but something about it still just seemed a little hokey.  My internet is actually down as I am writing this, or else I would probably spend some time on Google finding out if this really is a popular specialty.  Or maybe not.

I was torn between the 3 and 4 rating, 3 because the subject matter, as I mentioned, was kind of far-fetched to me, but I guess different, so I don’t want that to be a huge negative.  Also I was disappointed with at least one story line that they mentioned at the end, but left as an unknown.   But I settled on a 4 because the book really did keep you guessing until the last page.  Throughout the book, I found myself forming my own theories, suspecting different people, and wanting to pick it up each evening.  It’s a worthwhile read, so I would recommend it.

I always appreciate at pre-read a title and haven’t been disappointed in the Kindle First Program yet!

Here are my January 1st and February 1st reviews!

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Teaser Tuesday – February 11th

Better late than never, Happy Tuesday to you.  Big news coming, and the reason I am still reading the same book as last week and haven’t had much of a chance for anything.

So again, this week’s teaser is from Long Knives (click on book for description) by Charles Rosenberg, my February Kindle First book.

“I assume,” Greta replied, “that you’re being sarcastic, Samantha.  As you and I both know, there are a lot of long knives on this campus, and quite a few people skilled in their use.” p.418

Here are the rules:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Thanks for stopping by today – please leave your link below, and more to come soon!!


Filed under Chapters

Teaser Tuesday (and New Releases) – February 4th

Happy Tuesday!  Lots of exciting things going on this week.  First – THREE of the books I’ve had the privilege to preview through NetGalley come out TODAY!!  Check them all out here:

Golden State by Michelle Richmond (5 bones)
The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley (3 bones)
I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira (4 bones)

And I just finished this super sweet book – and since it didn’t overlap a Tuesday – I added a little bonus teaser in my review:

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (4 bones)

So for this week’s teaser (rules below), I’ve just started Four Knives (click on book for description) by Charles Rosenberg, my February Kindle First book.

“As she approached me, she swiveled her head back and forth, clearly looking to see if there was anyone around.  There wasn’t and as she passed she handed me a brown manila envelope and walked on.  The whole thing was absurd, but then, the last two days have been absurd all around.” p146

Here are the rules:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Thanks for stopping by today – please leave your link below!!


Filed under Chapters

Book Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Lost Lake (click book for product page)
By Sarah Addison Allen
Published: 1/21/14
Book received free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 4 bones

Finish Time: 4 nights.  Actually 3, and one afternoon.  This was a quick read, not too challenging, but so sweet.  And I had to confirm, especially being in Georgia, the setting of this book, but Lost Lake(or Suley, GA) is sadly not a place.  Although they were only in black & white on my Kindle, the postcards that began each section were so cute and could have been real, but from my quick Google search, are not.

Since I will not make it to a Tuesday to do a Teaser Tuesday from this book, I thought I would share one two.  Not only are these great teasers, they really are words to live by and help me describe the overall greatness of this book.  The book is full of these little nuggets!

“When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone.  Because if you do, you will miss the opportunity to fill it again.”

“If we measured life in the things that almost happened, we wouldn’t get anywhere.”

The full description can be found below, but the story follows Kate Pheris, a young widow, and her 8-year-old daughter Devin.  (Similar to my name and my 1st dogs name!)  After mourning her husband for a year, she finally “wakes up” and with no ties to her current place of residence in Atlanta (other than an over-bearing and controlling mother-in-law), she find an old post card for Lost Lake, and decides to make the 4-hour drive down there.  She soon is thrown into the lives of her great-aunt Eby, her mute best friend Lisette, many other quirky long-term guests at Lost Lake and other locals.

The very beginning of the book introduces Eby, the owner of Lost Lake, her (now late) husband George, on their extended 8-month honeymoon to Paris and other spots in Europe in 1962.  It begins seeming like it would be a mystery as they save a girl from near suicide, but it quickly fast forwards to the present and doesn’t beat around the bush at what happened.  Not bad, just unexpected, as books that tend to begin that way, seem to take the whole book to explain it!   Eby and George both came from families with a lot of expectations (mostly financial), and they make the decision, upon return from their honeymoon, to give it all away and invest in a little lake getaway – Lost Lake.   Fast forward many years and Eby’s great-niece Kate shows up at just the right time as Eby is considering selling the place.  Her past, present, and future all rally together to celebrate Eby and Lost Lake.

A bit predictable, but such a sweet story.  The characters were all very developed for a short book and all so unique (you’ll love Selma and Bulahdeen).  There were a few love stories woven in.  Devin brings the youthfulness to the story and what may be confused with an active imagination ends up being a critical point in the book.  I found myself smiling and really satisfied with the ending.  If you have a few days (or even just a few hours), I would really recommend this book to put a smile on your face, you’ll like it!

Description from Amazon:

From the author of New York Times bestseller Garden Spells comes a beautiful, haunting story of old loves and new, and the power of the connections that bind us forever…

The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future.

That was half a life ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby’s past. Her husband George is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that’s left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the Southern Georgia heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to Lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires.

It’s a lot, but not enough to keep Eby from relinquishing  Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand, and calling this her final summer at the lake. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door.

Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve,  before she learned of loneliness, and heartbreak, and loss. Now she’s all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope too, thanks to her resilient daughter Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer… and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago.

One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren’t sure they needed in the first place:  love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended.  Can they find what they need before it’s too late?

At once atmospheric and enchanting, Lost Lake shows Sarah Addison Allen at her finest, illuminating the secret longings and the everyday magic that wait to be discovered in the unlikeliest of places.

As I just searched for the author – Sarah Addison Allen – I found this little eBook here that says it’s a tie in to Lost Lake.  Bonus!  I’ll let you know what I think!  I’m definitely intrigued enough to pick up some of her other books, which doesn’t happen often for me!


Filed under Chapters