Jillie finds the ultimate treasure

JillieJillie by Olive Balla
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. This story is packed with interesting characters and suspense. It’s a story about sisters, family ties, survival and obsession.

Jillie, the main character, is a spunky eleven-year-old, who while defending her sister as she is being beaten to death, kills a man. Forced into an unbearable situation she runs away, trying to get back to her sister in the hospital. What Jillie encounters on her journey should never be experienced by someone so young.

Along the way, she meets elderly twin sisters, one the polar opposite of the other. Frankly, these characters are funny and amazing and just as likable as Jillie. I’ve always been interested in the bonds between siblings, and twins especially. Balla captures these relationships with elegance and humor.

When a rumor is started about a found treasure by Jillie’s now dead father, some very nasty people are determined to find it, no matter who gets in their way.

Thanks for a great read!

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A Stranger in the House – you never know!

A Stranger in the HouseA Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. There’s a lot of twists and turns in this suspense novel. It kept me turning the pages! While I suspected a couple of things (like the nosey neighbor), I didn’t expect the ending. Thanks for a thrill ride, Shari Lapena. This was a very good read.

A seemingly normal housewife receives a call that sends her dashing out of the house. It’s obviously an emergency because she forgot to lock the door, take her purse or her cell phone. None of which are at all like her.  When the police call hubby to say her car has been in an accident he rushes out to see if the woman in her car, in a very hinky part of town is really his wife. Not only is it his wife, but the police suspect her of no good. Why was she there, otherwise? And when a dead body is found near where she lost control of her car she becomes a suspect. There’s just one problem. She doesn’t remember anything that happened that night.

This lady gets into deeper and deeper trouble as they investigate, her and her husband’s “perfect” record. Nothing sticks out, which in itself seems strange. Add a nosey neighbor, a stalker and you have a bit of suspense that will keep you reading all night.

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Excerpt from “Feisty Family & Friends” the third book in the series.

The next morning Tillie woke with a start. “What time is it?” The clock read nine and she was impossibly late with deliveries to the café. “Oh, no. I’ve never been late before. This is so bad. Joe!” She jumped out of bed and looked down at her sleep shirt. It read: I can’t adult today.
“Bad omen.”
She dove into her slippers and dashed into the kitchen. “Joe!”
The room was clean, with lingering scents of cinnamon and butter.
Opening the door to the garage, Tillie poked her head out and found her SUV missing. She grabbed the wall extension and dialed Joe’s cell.
He picked up after two rings. “Good morning, sunshine. You finally woke up!”
“Oh, Joe, what have I done? What’s Peggy’s going to do without pastries today? Where are you, by the way?”
He chuckled. “I took care of this morning’s baking while you slept, delivered today’s goodies, ran an errand and I’m on the way home.”
“Thank, God. I never even heard the alarm this morning.” Tillie felt like crying. This was not a good way to start the day.
“That’s because I woke up before it sounded and flipped it off. You were snoring so nicely I didn’t have the heart to wake you up.”
“You did? But you didn’t have to. I love getting up with you and baking in the morning.” Tillie couldn’t believe she was complaining about getting to sleep in. “I’m sorry. I’m an ungrateful wretch.”
“Ungrateful, maybe, wretch – never! Go get a shower and I’ll see you in a couple of minutes. I have one more stop to make before I get home. Love you.”
“I love you, too. And, thanks.” Tillie hung up and shook her head. “I’m losing my mind. Maybe a little hot water will help to clear my brain.” She started the shower and dragged her silly tee off and into the laundry basket. “I’m saving you for day time, no more jinxed sleep.”
The water felt wonderful sluicing down her head and back. She squirted her scrub with lavender scented soap and rubbed everywhere. After washing her hair and rinsing all over she sighed. “I don’t remember the last time I took a shower and got dressed so late. It feels positively indecent.”
A tall silhouette approached the steamy shower door. “Want some help drying off? I have a nice fluffy towel all warmed up for you,” Joe said. “Come and get it!”
She slid the door open wearing nothing but a grin and walked into the towel he held out to her. He wrapped her tightly and slowly rubbed his hands all over her to banish the wet and to warm her skin.
“How’s that?” he asked.
Her eyes were closed, and she sighed. “Wonderful. You should pamper me more often.”
Joe laughed. “That’s my plan.” He ruffled her short white curls with the towel and kissed her nose. “Better?”
Tillie wiggled her arms free of the fabric and hugged his neck. “You smell good, like chocolate and cinnamon. Did you try a new recipe?”
“No. I’m not that brave, I’ll use your recipes a while if you don’t mind.” He scooped her up in his arms and carried her to the bedroom. “Want to mess around?”
“As tantalizing as that sounds, I think I need to eat. I’m getting dizzy from hunger.”
Reaching into her drawer Joe pulled out her long-sleeved Mighty Mouse tee shirt and handed it and some underthings to her. “How about some sweats and wooly socks?”
“Sure,” she said, donning the appropriated clothing as quickly as her chilled fingers would move. When the last sock was on, Joe picked her up again and carried her to the dining room.
“Put me down, you lovely dolt. I can walk.”
“I know, but let me play the gallant servant today, okay? Just one day.” His eyes pleaded with her.
“Okay.” Tillie laid her head on his shoulder, reached up and kissed his strong jaw and smiled when goose bumps flashed on his neck.
He cleared his throat and gently set her on one of the dining chairs. “I’ll get you something to eat, but coffee first?”
“Definitely, coffee first.” She grinned and pulled her stocking feet up onto the lip of the chair seat, hugging her knees.

Fun ride through the past to change the present.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline JacobsThe Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While looking through the stack of mysteries on my bookshelves I rediscovered this little gem of a book. I needed something fun and it fit the bill nicely. It’s difficult to pinpoint the time when we took the wrong turn or when an event derailed us, but a series of events when she was fifteen causes Caroline Jacobs to become a doormat. When she finally has enough she embarks on a journey, taking her daughter in tow to rectify the situation.

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Faithful, a novel by Alice Hoffman is a must read

FaithfulFaithful by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alice Hoffman writes so well, I always enjoy her books.

When an ordinary girl is involved in a life-changing accident and her best friend is damaged beyond repair, she is overcome with guilt and despair. With the help of her mother, strangers, and rescued pets she eventually realizes she is a good person with something to offer and is no longer defined by the tragedy she survived.

A story of family, faith, forgiveness, and survival – something we can all relate to.

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“Need to know” keeps you guessing to the very end.

Need to KnowNeed to Know by Karen Cleveland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vivian has it all, a wonderful husband, a home, an important job, and four lovely children. She’s having trouble juggling it all, being super mom and super central intelligence analyst. When she discovers the unthinkable, everything she believes is not what she thought it was, nor is she sure what she can do to protect her family. Lies have a habit of compounding and this story kept me enthralled. She finds she’s made of tough stuff, but the more she finds out the worse things get. Will she ever escape the downward spiral of her life – good question.

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Finding Joy in Sadness

I can’t imagine losing your child. Our kids aren’t supposed to go before we do. I’ve seen it happen, quite a few times and it is heartbreaking.

My best friend’s son died yesterday. He’s just a couple of years younger than my son. I’ve known him all of his life. He was such a good man, son, and father. Everyone is no doubt wondering “why.” We can’t answer that question, not really, but I like to think that because he was so special he was needed above. He’s making a fantastic Angel. And when he’s not busy helping others, he’ll be fishing with his grandfather, his grandmother rocking in her chair, crocheting, with a huge smile on her face.

Meanwhile, his parents, children, and friends grieve. His warm arms will not hold us as they did before. He was a great hugger, and he was kind enough to share them with me when my son is so far away. He worked so hard and loved so deeply, what a huge hole his absence is making in the world. It’s still so hard to believe he is gone from us.

I loved his laugh and I can appreciate a good one. He laughed with his whole body and that’s the only way to do it and do it right.

Watching him with his kids was amazing. And listening to his mother share stories of him painting the girl’s toenails really cracked me up. His patience with his sons showed his love for them, I hope they never forget it. With four kids and two jobs, he didn’t get much time for himself, but he didn’t seem to mind. I’m told he was a great cook and grill master, knowing just what to do with spices to make everything taste good. I’m sure his experiments worked out much better than my “creative cooking” ever could.

When you’ve lost someone so special, you can’t help but feel empty. The tears never stop and everything hurts. Nothing works to make that feeling of loss and pain go away. Except, maybe time, but I doubt it. You grow a scab and a memory may tear it off. Eventually, the good memories outweigh the sad ones and you laugh. God, I loved his laugh, it was so contagious and heartfelt. That’s the part I will remember, his laugh, and his bear hugs. We love you, Shawn.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunning first novel. The prose is vivid, as are the characters and setting. One by one, Kya has been abandoned by her family, so she carries on living alone in the shack in the marsh. The townspeople don’t understand who she is and dubs her the marsh girl. She is strong and a survivor. She gets a little help from a few others, but she spends her life isolated. A friend of her brothers realizes how smart she is and teaches her to read. He also shares textbooks about biology, because he is also a child of the marsh. The sense of nature, the lack of nurture, the stunning scenes and tension of being alone and different are a poignant part of the story. I loved this book. I could smell the fetid water and hear the cicadas. I could sense Kya’s heartbeat as it matched time with the waves coming into the shore of North Carolina.

Thank you, Delia Owens for writing such a compelling book.

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Dreams of Joy, follow up to Shanghai Girls – ROCKS!

Dreams of Joy (Shanghai Girls #2)Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading “Shanghai Girls” I had to find a copy of book 2. It was worth it. I read it less than 2 days. OMG. A 19-year-old Chinese American girl runs away from home (L.A.) to the Peoples Republic of China with stars in her eyes and guilt in her heart. She wants to be a part of something bigger than herself, where everyone is equal and shares everything equally. She jumps into the culture with her eyes closed and her heart open and suffers along with the comrades in the countryside.

Lisa See gives us an amazing glimpse into what it may have been like from 1957 through 1959 Maoist China. Nothing is as it seems and our young heroine nearly loses her life before she realizes how wrong she has been.

Amazing stories from a wonderful author that transport you and tug at your heart and mind. Thank you, Lisa See.

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Shanghai Girls, an amazing read.

Shanghai Girls (Shanghai Girls #1)Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa See has recreated Shanghai China in the 1930’s and the escape from the Japanese invasion by two sisters. Their experience is compelling. They eventually make it to Los Angeles and Angel Island. Although they are married (arranged by her father) to young Chinese American men, they struggle with interrogations and accusations by the authorities. Their new lives in America are difficult and opportunities become fewer as World War II rages. They are able to maintain a semblance of Chinese tradition and culture by living in Chinatown and working there. This story centers around the sister’s stories, their closeness, and their difficulties. It is not always an easy relationship because they are very different. One sister bears a child then the other raises it. The other sister loses her child. When one sister betrays the other once again, the results are catastrophic.

I was mad when I came to the end of this novel. There was so much more to the story. That’s when I found “Dreams of Joy” the second book and read it in two days also. Thank you, Lisa See for bringing such richness to the story, the people, the places and the time.

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