Saturday Song: I Could Fall in Love with You by Celine

Three days ago, my husband Bill would have been 75 years old. In February of 2005 after he proposed to me, he sent me a Valentine care package which included chocolates and other items plus a cassette tape of love songs he’d downloaded on his computer. “I Could Fall in Love with You” was one of those songs. It took me three months to realize that I could fall in love with him, but I did. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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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.

Like me on Facebook.

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Novel Brings Generations Together

Francesca’s Kitchen

by Peter Pezzelli

Copyright 2006

 

In Providence, Rhode Island, Francesca is an Italian widow who misses her grandchildren. She finds a job baby-sitting for Loretta, a single mother with a boy and girl in elementary school. Francesca becomes a grandmother figure to the children, who appreciate her culinary efforts. As an added plot twist, Francesca’s son Joey develops a relationship with Loretta, and Francesca becomes acquainted with Loretta’s boss. The book includes an interview with the author and family recipes.

I enjoy positive family stories like this one, but the pace is too slow. The author devotes too many chapters to the development of Francesca’s character as a despondent widow whose grown children live elsewhere. He also inserts too much description and back story in places where the story needs to move along. This is one of Peter Pezzelli’s earlier works. I may try one of his more recent books to see if his style has improved.

Despite the slow pace, some parts of the book brought back memories for me, like the scene when Francesca and the children are playing spoons, a card game my family used to play around Grandma’s kitchen table. I was right there in the kitchen with Francesca, as she prepared mouth-watering Italian delicacies and shared them with the children.

I like how the author uses this book to emphasize the importance of families coming together. I rarely see any of my relatives anymore. Maybe I need to be the one to bring everyone together once in a while, but that’s a lot of work. However, Peter Pezzelli says in his interview that if you take one thing away from this book, it’s the idea that any effort you put into bringing generations together is worth it. He makes a good point.

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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.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Review: Christmas on 4th Street

Abbie-1

Christmas on 4th Street: A Fool’s Gold Romance

by Susan Mallery

Copyright 2013

 

This story is set in the fictional town of Fool’s Gold, California, where Christmas and other holidays are taken seriously with parades, festivals, and other activities. Noel has moved to the little town from Los Angeles, after surviving a serious illness and leaving her law practice, to open a Christmas store. Gabriel is an army doctor visiting his family for the holiday season. When he and Noel meet by accident, and he offers to help in her store, romantic sparks fly between them.

After Gabriel’s experiences with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s not ready to commit to a relationship. Although Noel has loved and lost, she wants to move on and tries, unsuccessfully at first, to convince Gabriel that love is worth taking a risk. Then the two of them are snowed in at a deserted mountain cabin while searching for the perfect Christmas tree. The rest isn’t exactly history.

I used to enjoy this type of book. Boy meets girl, and girl falls in love with boy. Boy leaves girl heartbroken. Boy apologizes, and there’s a Christmas Eve wedding.

This is not very realistic. Yes, there are men and women who have fought overseas and are dealing with their own demons, but unlike Gabriel, it may take them longer than six weeks to propose marriage. It took my late husband Bill six months to work up the courage to ask me to marry him, and he wasn’t a war veteran. I hoped this time it would somehow be different, that a couple of days snowbound in a cabin with Noel would be a turning point for Gabriel, that he wouldn’t run off and break her heart, only to return at the end of the book, ready to marry her, but as the story wound its way to a conclusion, the outcome became more predictable.

Also, who in their right mind opens a Christmas store, even in a town like Fool’s Gold? I suppose a venture like that might be profitable from Labor Day through December, but after that, then what? It would have worked better as a Hallmark store. Oh well, such is life. On a more positive note, click this link to hear me sing a familiar song about winter romance.

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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.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Review: Christmas in Paris

Abbie-1

Christmas in Paris: A Novel

by Anita Hughes

Copyright 2016

 

Alec and Isabel retreat to a posh hotel in Paris during the holiday season after their weddings are canceled. Isabel has called hers off after realizing she and her fiancé can’t agree on anything. Alec’s fiancé has left him for another man. Fate brings Alec and Isabel together. The plot then takes an interesting if not unrealistic turn when a fortune-teller predicts Isabel will marry a French aristocrat. The book includes discussion questions for reading groups.

I think the main theme here is that things happen for a reason, and I agree with that. If I hadn’t married my late husband Bill, who would have taken care of him after he suffered his first stroke? He would have ended up spending the rest of his life in a nursing home and may not have lived as long.

However, I hope young people reading this book won’t take seriously the concept of love at first sight. It doesn’t always happen that way. Bill and I met through Newsreel and had a long-distance relationship for two years. It took six months for Bill to work up the courage to propose marriage and another three months for me to realize he was the one. You can read more about that in my new memoir. As for Christmas in Paris, it’s a sweet story to read this time of year.

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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.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Holiday Review: The Mistletoe Inn

The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans. Copyright 2015.

 

Kim is an aspiring romance writer who lives in Denver, Colorado, and works as a finance officer at a car dealership. She’s not too keen on romance because she was jilted at the altar, and other relationships failed. However, when she attends a writers’ retreat in Vermont during the month of December, she becomes involved with a fellow author. When she’s unable to accept constructive criticism of her manuscript from him, this causes a rift, but then the story has a surprise ending.

I like the way Richard Paul Evans provides Kim’s back story in the prolog and beginning chapters. I always get frustrated when authors start the story in the middle and then go back, although it’s said that’s the best way to hook a reader. Actually, Mr. Evans did a pretty good job of hooking me with the prolog.

I also like the way he illustrates the idea that fame and fortune don’t always make a person happy. He also does this in A Perfect Day which I reviewed on this blog a couple of years ago at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/a-perfect-day/ . I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to give away any more of the plot. If you want to know what I mean, you’d better read the book. In fact, you should read both books. To learn more, go to http://www.richardpaulevans.com/ .

Since The Mistletoe Inn is a holiday romance, click below to hear me sing a romantic holiday song.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/winter%20wonderland.mp3

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.

 

 

Holiday Review: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovich. Copyright 2006.

 

In Williamsburg, Virginia, when Megan, a potter, and Pat a pediatrician, meet unexpectedly, it’s love at first sight. However, after one botched engagement and a second man leaving her at the altar, Megan is determined never to marry. Pat develops cold feet when he realizes the financial difficulty involved in supporting a family. Add a rabbit, a baby, Thanksgiving dinner with two families who barely know each other, the former boyfriend who left Megan at the altar, and a pregnant horse, and you have an intriguing story with a predictable end.

I used to enjoy romances like this one. Now, I may have outgrown love at first sight, orgasm over bread, and the long, agonizing scenario of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. I downloaded this book from Audible, and C.J. Critt, the narrator, does an excellent job giving each character a distinct voice. I especially liked her portrayal of the former boyfriend, and one of my favorite scenes is when he’s playing darts with Pat in a bar, and Pat throws a dart that hits him right where it counts. This audiobook is only about five hours long, but it seems like an eternity until the resolution. The humor interjected in the story helps. I recommend this book to anyone who likes romance, babies, animals, and a funny holiday story. To learn more about Janet Evanovich and her books go to http://www.evanovich.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.

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.