Thursday Book Feature: Cottage by the Sea

Cottage by the Sea
by Debbie Macomber
Copyright 2018.

After losing most of her family as a result of a mud slide near Seattle, Annie retreats to the seaside village where her family rented a cottage for several summers. By a miraculus twist of fate, she is able to rent that same cottage. A physician’s assistant, she finds a job at the local clinic. In her quest for healing, she affects the lives of a shy six-foot artist with whom she falls in love, her reclusive landlady, a teen-ager with an abusive stepfather, and other characters, all needing relief from their troublesome burdens.

I’ve always enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s work, and Cottage by the Sea didn’t disappoint me, but there are a couple of things I don’t like about this and other books she has written. First of all, the author uses way too much unnecessary narrative. As I’ve said before, it’s better to show and not tell, and too much narrative bogs a story down. Another thing I don’t like is her use of adverbs. It’s always better to use a stronger verb, and in the case of dialog, what a person says should speak for itself without the adverb. Because Debbie Macomber tells such heartwarming stories that make me feel good, I’m willing to put up with these pitfalls.

That said, Cottage by the Sea was a great end-of-summer read for me. According to the author’s note at the beginning, a mud slide near Seattle actually happened several years ago. I like the way this author uses real-life events to tell a compelling story. I also appreciate her not including descriptions of sex. There are better ways to show two characters in love like kissing, hugging, hand holding, and body language. Sex scenes are unnecessary and bog a story down.

I downloaded this book from Audible, and it was hard to put down. The narrator did an excellent job portraying each character. Although one minor plot detail could have been handled differently, I found the ending very satisfying. If you don’t have time or enough money to retreat to a seaside village, I suggest you read this book instead. You’ll be refreshed.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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Review: Sweet Tomorrows

Sweet Tomorrows

by Debbie Macomber

Copyright 2016.

 

This is the last of the author’s Rose Harbor Inn series. Jo Marie, the proprietor of the Inn at Rose Harbor, has been in love for three years with Mark, her handyman and formerly a military officer. A year earlier, Mark leaves on a dangerous mission in Iraq which Jo Marie doesn’t know about until after he’s gone. When she hasn’t heard from him in over a year, she assumes he died at the hands of terrorists and goes on with her life. She meets Greg and develops a relationship with him. She then learns that Mark is still alive, and she’s torn between the two men. Mark must also decide which is more important, Jo Marie or his career.

Then there’s the story of Emily, a teacher starting a new job in the fall at a local elementary school. She rents a room at the inn on a weekly basis through the summer months while looking for a place of her own. Having been jilted twice, she has given up on love until she meets Nick, the owner of a nearby house she wants to buy. She must decide if her heart is worth the risk of a third break.

I downloaded this book from Audible, and the narrator, who reads all the books in this series, does an excellent job as usual. I love the way she portrays each character and the way Debbie Macomber tells each character’s story from his/her point of view. The author’s reading of her introductory letter at the beginning of the book adds a nice touch. I’m sorry this is the last book in the series, but I guess all good things must come to an end.

Emily, the jilted schoolteacher, reminds me of my late husband Bill. Before he met me, he had two previous engagements that didn’t work out. Yet, he worked up the courage to propose to me, and it all turned out well in the end, despite his suffering two strokes that paralyzed his left side. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

 

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

 

Review: A Girl’s Guide to Moving On

A Girl’s Guide to Moving On

By Debbie Macomber

Copyright 2016.

 

Leanne and her daughter-in-law, Nichole, divorce their cheating husbands and move from a suburb to separate apartments in downtown Portland, Oregon. Both ex-husbands try to convince their wives to return to them, but Nichole and Leanne have had it. Nichole meets Rocco, a tow-truck driver, who pulls her car out of a ditch. Leanne meets Nicholai, a Ukrainian student in an English class she teaches at the community center. Things heat up when Leanne’s ex-husband is diagnosed with terminal cancer and Nichole’s ex-husband threatens to file for full custody of their three-year-old son, claiming that Rocco is a negative influence.

This is another of many books I’ve enjoyed from Audible. The two narrators who read alternating chapters from Leanne’s and Nichole’s points of view do an excellent job. Debbie Macomber’s reading of her introductory letter at the beginning of the book adds a nice touch.

My favorite scene was at the beginning of the book when Nichole, after finding out that her ex-husband has finally decided to sign the divorce papers, backs her car into a ditch, and Rocco, the tow-truck driver with whom she falls in love, eventually comes to her rescue. The most memorable character, I think, is Nichole’s three-year-old son, Owen. His resilience in the face of his parents’ divorce is inspiring, and his interest in tow-trucks after meeting Rocco is amusing. This book delivers a powerful, yet uplifting message about forgiveness. I recommend it to everyone and hope those in Leanne and Nichole’s situation can learn to let go of the past and move on.

Reading this book helped me put my life in perspective, especially at the end when Leanne cares for her dying ex-husband. At least my late husband Bill didn’t cheat on me so caring for him after he suffered his first stroke that confined him to a wheelchair was a no-brainer. I did this for six years, and my caregiving experiences are detailed in my new memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, which can be purchased online from Amazon, Createspace, and Smashwords in paperback and various eBook formats.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

 

Holiday Review: Dashing Through the Snow

Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber. Copyright 2015.

 

Four days before Christmas, Ashley and Dash, who barely know each other, end up sharing a rental car from San Francisco to Seattle when no flights are available. Ashley, a graduate student, hopes to surprise her mother for Christmas, and Dash, a former military intelligence officer, has a job interview in Seattle. Along their journey, they pick up and abandoned puppy, encounter a motorcycle gang, petty thieves, and a strange character who calls himself Stan the Man, and become involved in a case of mistaken identity. One thing I like about this author’s books is that everything turns out all right in the end, and this one is no different.

I downloaded this book from Audible. Although Debbie Macomber doesn’t narrate it in this recording, she reads the introduction at the beginning in which she explains how this story was inspired by her husband Wayne saying that he hated flying and wished he were on a no-fly list. I thought my imagination ran wild at times, but this story takes the cake. It never occurred to me that an ordinary U.S. citizen could be mistaken for a terrorism suspect. Since I plan to fly to Florida in March and perhaps California in April, I hope there are no terrorism suspects running around with my name. I also hope that after reading this, Wayne is re-thinking his wish to be on a no-fly list. To learn more about Debbie Macomber and her books, go to http://debbiemacomber.com/

Since one of the main characters in this story is trying to get home for Christmas, please click below to hear me sing a song that echoes this sentiment. Wherever you are, I hope you can be home for the holidays, if only in your imagination.

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

Vote for my new book idea.

 

October 2015 Reviews

Talking with Kids: Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know about Blindness by Brian K. Nash. Copyright 2011.

In this short memoir, the author describes his experiences as a public speaker during the 1980’s to kids in a Kansas City elementary school during an entire day, starting with the first grade class and moving up to the sixth grade by the end of the day. He starts the book by relating how silly questions asked of blind people like “How do you brush your teeth?” made him want to educate others on blindness. He describes how he touched on different topics in each class including Braille, guide dogs, and adaptive devices. He relates anecdotes from his childhood he told the kids like the time when he was about six and tried cooking bacon on the stove and got distracted by a phone call from a classmate and burned the bacon like any sighted kid would do. He describes the kids’ fascination with his Braille watch and talking calculator and how they enjoyed playing with his guide dog when he allowed them to do so.

He also describes eating lunch in the cafeteria with several teachers and the school social worker. During the meal, he related more anecdotes like the time when he, as an adult, was barbecuing outdoors and got distracted by the antics of neighborhood dogs like anyone with good eyes might do. This amused everyone except the social worker who told him that his blindness wasn’t funny, that he acted irresponsibly, and that she hoped he would be a better role model for the children. At the end of the book, like any sighted guy, he expresses regret that he neglected to get a particular female teacher’s phone number.

My late husband and I have each given presentations on blindness to children of all ages but never for an entire day as Brian Nash did. However, I gleamed some ideas I might use the next time I’m asked to give such a presentation. For example, when Nash was asked how he could tell the difference between candy bars when he ran a vending stand, he gave the teacher a $5.00 bill and asked her to buy a bunch of candy bars from a nearby machine. He then demonstrated to the children how he could tell one bar from another by its shape and size. He gave the candy to the teacher to be handed out later. I wish I had the forethought to do something similar years ago when a kid asked me how I could tell the difference between a bag of potato chips and a can of pop.

I recommend this book to anyone curious about blindness, especially people like that social worker who have such blatant, negative attitudes about disabilities. Brian Nash has written several children’s books and one other adult nonfiction book. To learn more about him and order his books, go to http://www.dvorkin.com/brianknash/ .

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Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. Copyright 1945.

This modern classic novel gives us a glimpse into the lives of an English Catholic family during the earlier part of the 20th century between the two world wars. The family lives in a country estate called Brideshead, and the older son’s name is also Brideshead. There’s also a younger son, Sebastian, and two daughters, Julia and Cordelia.

The story is told from the viewpoint of an outsider, Charles, who befriends Sebastian at Oxford. Sebastian turns out to be an alcoholic, and when the family tries to confine him for treatment, he disappears. Charles leaves the university and becomes an artist, traveling all over the world, marrying, and having a couple of kids.

Ten years later, he meets Julia on a ship returning to England. She’s also married, but they have an affair that lasts a couple of years until they decide to divorce their spouses and marry. Then Julia’s father dies after a long illness, and she tells Charles she no longer wants to marry him because he’s not of her faith. In the prolog and epilog, the military has commandeered Brideshead during World War II, and Charles, now an officer, returns with his company.

I found this story intriguing and sad. Since this is a classic, I hate to say anything negative, but the narrative is often bogged down by too much description and back story and not enough conflict. I must admit that because of this, I dozed off once or twice while listening to this excellent recording of the book produced by Hachette Audio and narrated by actor Jeremy Irons. If I wasn’t curious to see why the Brideshead estate held such significance for Charles, I probably wouldn’t have finished the book.

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Lost and Found in Cedar Cove by Debbie Macomber. Copyright 2013.

This is actually a short story that is part of the Rose Harbor Inn series. I downloaded it from Audible, but it’s also available on Kindle. Several months after widow Jo Marie opens her bed and breakfast in the fictional town of Cedar Cove, Washington, she makes plans with her handyman Mark to build a rose garden.

While they’re outside looking for the perfect spot for it on her property, her dog Rover wanders off. Jo Marie is devastated. She lost her husband in Afghanistan, and now her dog is gone. The ending is predictable, yet happy.

Some might argue that this tale doesn’t have enough conflict. This may be true, but who says you have to have a lot of conflict in fiction? There’s enough in the world as it is, and I think it’s nice to escape to a place where lost dogs are found in a timely manner.

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Come Home, My Heart by Phyllis Campbell. Copyright 1988.

Susan, an obstetrician, loses her vision after a brain tumor is removed. She is left to cope with sight and career loss plus reactions of her fiancé Eric who thinks she should let him and his mother take care of her. She refuses to do this, and after going through a rehabilitation program, she moves to a poor rural community in Virginia where she works as a social worker at a medical clinic. The remarkable ending nearly moved me to tears.

This is a sweet story. However, although the author is blind and did a great job portraying Susan’s feelings after she loses her vision, I found her portrayal of sight loss and adjustment to be unrealistic. Take for example a scene in the hospital. After Susan’s surgery to remove the tumor, she receives a visit from Ann, a counselor from a local agency that serves the blind. The reader learns that Ann is also totally blind, but she doesn’t appear to use a cane or dog. It seems to me that Susan would hear the cane tapping or rolling on the floor or the jingle of the dog’s harness as Ann walks into the room. She would also hear the cane bumping against things as Ann tries to find a place to sit or Ann telling the dog to find a chair. However, Ann just walks into the room and sits down as if she were fully sighted.

I was also disappointed in the way the author skims over Susan’s rehabilitation which takes approximately six months. It’s bad enough to lose vision you once had, and it takes a lot of courage to leave familiar surroundings and travel to a place unfamiliar to you when you can’t see. I would like for the author to have shown more of Susan’s struggles with adapting to the rehabilitation center’s way of life, learning to walk with a cane, read Braille, and prepare a meal. She could have created more conflict by having Eric continually badger Susan to leave the facility and marry him. I realize this would have made the book longer, but it might have created a better story. As it is, Susan appears to breeze through the program with flying colors and little contact with Eric, and the social worker position at the rural health clinic seems to fall right in her lap.

I also have a hard time believing Susan’s acceptance by virtually everyone in the small community where she works after her rehabilitation. It’s probably true that some people may wish to unveil their problems to a blind social worker, but there should have been a few nay sayers. Granted, one man, not realizing she’s blind, asks her what kind of doctor she is when she trips over a patient on the floor during an emergency, but he’s the only one. When I worked in a nursing home, one of my many bosses couldn’t work with my disability. Something like that would create more conflict and make the story more interesting. It also would have been nice to show Susan interacting with others in the community besides the patient involved in the emergency and her family, the staff at the clinic, and the nearby handyman and his family.

It’s nice once in a while to escape to a world where everything’s easy. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is otherwise. It’s hard to get back on your feet after losing sight you once had, and even in the 1980’s, it was hard for blind people to find work. However, despite the book’s downfalls, Come Home, My Heart is a heartwarming tale to be read during the holiday season since it ends with a Christmas miracle. For more information about Phyllis Campbell and her books, go to http://www.phylliscampbellbooks.com/ .

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.