The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker

The Frog Princess by E.D. BakerIMG_4297 (2)

This is a variation on a fairytale, “The Princess and the Frog” with Princess Emeralda “Emma” being ungraceful and unsure of what she wants at the age of 14. Her mother has invited Prince Jorge to the palace hoping they will become betrothed. Emma escapes to the swamp, her favorite place to hide. She meets a talking frog who claims to be Prince Eadric and if she kisses him, he’ll turn back into a prince. She refuses and visits her Aunt Grassina in the castle tower. Grassina is a witch and has attempted to teach Emma a few spells, but she messed them up. When Grassina leaves for a few days, Emma visits her swamp, and the frog convinces her to kiss him. But Emma is wearing a bracelet from Grassina that reverses the spell and Emma turns into a frog.

The story focuses on Emma and Eadric as frogs as they learn to love eating insects, staying away from predators, and breaking the spell. Emma and Eadric argue most of the time but become friends. They also make friends with a bat and snake who help them return to Grassina.

It’s a fun twist on an old fairytale and Emma’s introduction into magic which is the focus of the next book.

 

Marriage Can Be Murder

Marriage Can Be Murder by Emma Jameson 2014

Marriage Can Be MurderSet in England in 1939, Dr. Benjamin Bones and his wife Penny are returning to her hometown near Plymouth. She was the beauty and sophisticated young woman that no one liked. He was a young doctor when he met her and married her soon after. He realized her pregnancy was too far along for him to be the father, but the baby was stillborn. Then she had an affair and he considered divorce. They are trying to patch up their marriage with a change of scenery. Instead of joining the army, he is exempted and being sent to the town to help out after the local doctor died. They arrive at night and as they cross the street during a blackout, they are struck by a car. Penny is killed and Ben breaks both legs.

He is still in a wheelchair when Lady Juliet requires his medical expertise concerning a sick maid. Juliet kicked out her husband after she realized he married her for her money. She has yet to formerly divorce him. She is attracted to the doctor and he admires her honesty. She is tall and dresses like a man but joins him in his quest to find out who killed his wife.

The story introduces many interesting characters from the inept constable Gaston to Mrs. Cobbeput who believes in ancient magic, a ghost named Lucy, and several patients.

The story reminded me of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca where he discovers new and disturbing secrets about his wife, Penny. The story has plenty of British words and captures the period of 1939 England for those who want to experience the time and place of the story.

There is a hint of romance between Ben and Juliet and rival Rose, a schoolteacher. Juliet and Ben begin to rule out suspects including Mrs. Archer, whose husband had an affair with Penny and ran off leaving her with twin sons who like to burn things. They find a lighter belonging to Freddy who was beaten as a child and lost his teeth and hearing because of it.

Social class and prejudice are woven in with spying and Nazi loyalty during the period. The people in town help and hinder Ben’s search for the truth. The story held my attention, but I was a little disappointed by the long confession at the end.

 

Cranberry’s Bluff by Deborah Garner

Cranberry’s Bluff by Deborah Garner

Cranberry BluffThis story could be considered a cozy mystery but there is no dead body. Garner weaves an interesting and complex story about a bank robbery involving innocent Molly Elliott.

Molly is making a deposit at the bank for her boss in Florida when a women, bearing a striking resemblance to her, robs the bank and runs out. After recovering from the initial shock, Molly walks to work but is arrested. Everyone thinks she robbed the bank according to the news even though the police discover their error and let her go. Then she begins receiving threatening notes saying they know she took the money. The police can’t figure out who is sending the messages or who searched her apartment.

It’s all too much for Molly who inherits a Cranberry Cottage bed and breakfast across the country in Oregon. She screens customers and seems to have her life under control again until one night when five guests arrive.

The honeymoon couple Dan and Susie, the shopper Sadie, a quiet loner Charlie and a handsome writer Bryce turn out not to be who they say they are.

Garner shows talent releasing the information slowly to reveal the suspects, motives, and plots to find the money and blame Molly for the crime. Some readers may guess some things early on, but she holds back a few surprises for the ending. This is a great read for those who like to solve mysteries in a cozy setting.

 

 

A Mail-Order Heart by Janelle Daniels

A Mail-Order Heart by Janelle Daniels

Mail Order HeartThis is the second Mail-Order bride story I bought, and a lawman married both of them. This one has a dramatic kidnapping and chase in it unlike the other, tamer story. There was nothing wrong with the story, but I would have liked the women and especially Clara to face more realistic hardships. Daniels introduced Simon as a bad guy and didn’t use him. Maybe he returns in a later book since this is a series. I think Daniels is ambitious having nine mail-order brides, especially if each woman has her own story.

Clara Stewart arrives in the mining town of Promise Creek, Montana to marry Ivan only to find out he has eight other women he’s promised to marry, and Ivan is dead. Sheriff Sawyer Morrison and Clara butt heads but also have a strong attraction to each other.

Sawyer thinks as sheriff he isn’t entitled to a bride, and Clara takes charge of the women and is determined to make the best of the situation. There are plenty of men who are looking for wives, but the women want to choose. Mayor Bracken tells them Ivan has left them his large house and gold mine, but they all have to agree to stay. Clara convinces them its best. The women’s different personalities clash but Clara takes the brunt of the problems.

Sawyer and Clara are in the mine when it collapses but find another way out. Someone caused the cave-in. They spread the rumor there is gold in the mine only their lie is the truth and leads to trouble.

 

To Catch a Spinster by Megan Bryce

To Catch a Spinster by Megan Bryce

To Catch A SpinsterIn most Regency novels, the man seduces the innocent woman and is forced to marry her. This is a regency novel that turns the genre on its head with a woman more interested in losing her virginity than keeping it and refuses a proposal of marriage afterwards.

Olivia is 27 years old with five married sisters. She has accepted her lot in life as a spinster but would like to experience being courted and bedded at least once and live on the memories. She chooses Nathaniel Jenkins, 39, who is being henpecked by his mother to wed. He is not interested in the young girls dressed in orange.

Olivia asks her brother-in-law to introduce her to Nathaniel and she offers to pay him to court her and bed her. Nathaniel, being a gentleman, refuses but is intrigued by Olivia. They are well-matched and likable to the reader. As he gets to know her, he changes his mind and after a night of lovemaking, he proposals.

Olivia, much to his surprise, refuses him. The families on both sides try to change Olivia’s mind through most of the book. She is afraid they will fall out of love like her parents and other couples she has known.

I enjoyed the writing and the twist about Olivia being the seductress but the plot was too simple. I expected more to happen. But for writers, this is an excellent example of taking an idea and adding to it. So much more could happen to the heroine in your version with similar circumstances. It’s all in the telling, after all.

The Blow-In by Susanne O’Leary

The Blow-In by Susanne O’Leary 2017

511XhiWz+DL._SY346_This is another ebook I purchased. It is a modern sweet romance set in Ireland and to the author’s credit, she uses the setting and language to put you in the Irish countryside. If you’re going to visit Ireland, read this book first.

The story is told in first person by Finola McGee, a reporter who has quit her job after exposing corrupt politicians and moves from Dublin to the countryside of Knockmealdown. She takes over as editor of a small-town paper and plans not to stir up any trouble. But there is already a mystery as to why the previous editor left town in a hurry. Also her publisher informs her they need to double circulation or lose the paper. So much for resting.

Finola has three men introduced into her life for a new romance. Her old one crashed and burned.

One is a kind veterinarian but no spark; one if a momma’s boy with no spine; and one is a movie star named Colin working on a film that may save the paper.

The author introduces us to bullying in the small town and the hatred toward immigrants. Even Finola is called a “blow-in” for not being born in the town even though she’s Irish.

To discover more, you’ll have to read the book.

The Heartbroker by Kate O’Keeffe

The Heartbroker by Kate O’Keeffe 2015

This is a chick lit category written in first person but with a rom-com ending. I is told in first person and does not include the hero’s POV.

Brooke Mortimer has a successful personal growth business in New Zealand and is looking to partner with an American company. Logan and Brad are the representatives from the American company. Logan and Brooke have instant chemistry and fall in love and in bed midway through the story. But Brad, who is the son of the owner of the company, takes Brooke’s company over in an underhanded scheme. Brooke thinks Logan is part of it, romancing her to distract her from the coupe.

The story also has subplots with her family. Her stepmother is diagnoses with cancer and she finds her teen brother drunk and doing drugs. Her two best friends, Alex and Laura, have happy lives and worry about her romance with Logan since her previous romance with Scott, left her a shattered mess. Scott tries to reconnect with her after his romance fails. We hold our breath as she gets drunk. Will she make a mistake she’ll regret?

It has everything a chick lit book requires with a lot of inner debating by Brooke. Think sex in the city or Bridget Jones Diary. It was well written and the story has plenty to offer with the added bonus of sharing some of New Zealand’s charm with its scenery and language.

 

Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown

Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown 2014

This is a middle grade level book but fun and very informative about space.

IMG_4295 (2)Arty, real name Arcturus Betelgeuse Chambers, is in love with space and hopes to discover life on Mars. He has an older sister, Vega, who is in love with Bacteria (real name Bacterium) and younger sister Cassie, real name Cassiopeia, who is a cheerleader and doesn’t want her past love of space made public to her cool friends.

When his dad loses his job at the observatory, the family has to move from Missouri to Los Vegas, and no one takes the news well. The book begins with his job loss and ends with the move. It covers all the anxiety and anger in between.

Arty spends time with his best friends Tripp and Priya who also support his idea of finding life on Mars. They also worry that the new neighbor is a zombie or vampire when they see him sneaking into the woods every night.

When his parents go to Los Vegas to house hunt, Arty has to spend the night at the zombie neighbor’s house who has a secret locked room. Arty discovers the neighbor, Cash, was a real astronaut and begins an unlikely friendship to learn everything he can about space from him. They build Huey to send messages to Mars, but Cash has cancer and goes to the hospital days before Arty plans to move. The ending is heartbreaking and yet uplifting – perfect for the age level.

Brown captures the complicated workings of family and friends in the story and the difficult decisions that uproot and impact their lives.

Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant

Unlikely friendships was the theme this year in the One School, One Book reading program revealed in early March, when students learned the title of the book they have spent the month reading. Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 9.08.49 AM (1)

Approximately 400 kindergarten through fourth-grade students at Northfield Elementary School each received a copy of “Gooseberry Park” by Cynthia Rylant at an assembly March 5.

“We have fun things that go on during assembly, and the book is revealed on screen,” said teacher Lisa Bass. “As the children leave, they receive a copy of the book and a home packet. Activities begin that night.”

The assembly committee asked students if they had picked up on clues scattered around the school like displays of trees, acorns and a dog house. The music of “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” played as the students entered the gymnasium and a slide show paired unlikely animals as friends.

Although clues were placed throughout the building about the book, teachers were careful not to reveal the title before the big reveal, Bass said.

“It’s very hush hush,” she said.

First grader Sedinam Vittor said she saw the acorns and trees but didn’t know about the dog.

“I saw the dog house but didn’t know it was about the book,” Sedinam said.

Fourth grader Alex Malafarina has read previous books through the program and has won a pig eraser, water bottle and finger puppets.

“We get to read two chapters tonight and do easy trivia questions,” Alex said after getting her copy.

Along with the book, students received a take-home packet with a reading calendar, trivia questions, a flat character, crossword puzzles, word searches and fun comprehensive activities.

Some of the items include vocabulary words, animal facts about each of the animal characters which include Kona a Labrador retriever, Stumpy a squirrel, Murray a bat and Gwendoyn a hermit crab. Students can write poems about the characters and learn to draw them.

“Reading aloud at home is valuable because it better prepares your child to be an effective reader, and it is also a fun, worthwhile family activity,” according to the Northfield Elementary staff in the letter home.

The program involves the entire school body, staff and community in reading one book at the same time, Bass said.

“This is the fourth year doing this,” Bass said. “The entire school reads the book with their family. Every family gets involved at their own capacity.”

The staff puts together a reading calendar for the students to read one or two chapters a night through March 29, Bass said. Students answer matching comprehensive trivia questions and turn them in the next day.

From Chapters 1 and 2, the trivia questions were “Who is about to become a mother?” and “What are Kona’s favorite animals?” If students answer the trivia questions correctly they are entered into a drawing.

“We have a prize committee that picks a winner from each class from the correct answers,” Bass said. “We try to have as many children as possible win prizes.”

In addition to prizes for correct trivia questions, there is a grand prize at the end of the program, she said.

The school with the support of the PTA has raised money for prizes from different events and they have asked for donations or gift cards from business partners, Bass said.

“It’s grown so big,” Bass said. “We decorate the entire school in the theme of the book.”

A Twitter account allowed readers to tweet out fun things about the book during the program, Bass said.

Businesses and organizations that supported the program include Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Great Clips, Pulp, Sky Zone, The Nailtique, Cinamark at Macedonia, Costco, Fun-n-Stuff, KFC, Pepper’s Fresh Market, The Goddard School in Macedonia, Northbrooke Tile Co., Westerman Group, William Davidson, DDS & Assoc., Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Home Depot in Macedonia and Fairlawn, and athletic events at Nordonia Middle School and Nordonia High School.

A couple of years ago the main character was Humphrey Hamster and a live hamster was kept in the school library, Bass said.

“Kids could visit him on their library days,” Bass said. “At the end of the program, a child won Humphrey, with the parents approval.”

To make the program a success, work begins in September with several committees working on each aspect of the program. The hardest part is keeping the book a secret until the open assembly when it is revealed.

Every single person in the entire building was involved in so many ways, Bass said. Co-teachers, administration, parents, the Northfield Elementary PTA, Northfield Schools Foundation, teachers, office, public library and many others in the community.

Closing assembly on March 29 will have lots of fun activities and grand prizes awarded, she said. As students leave assembly they all receive a secret surprise.

“And they keep their books forever,” Bass said. “It’s truly magical.”

Maternal Failure by Barb Baltrinic

Families keep secrets, but with DNA and genealogical searches, children are uncovering the mysteries their ancestors hid.SS Barb Baltrimic book

A Munroe Falls resident, Barb Baltrinic, 67, was an English teacher for 35 years at Ellet High School and worked seven years at the University of Akron in the College of Education. She has worked three years as an education consultant and written three books.

Baltrinic always wondered why her mother, Dorothy Clark, couldn’t love her. She had given her up for adoption and then reclaimed her, but not for maternal affection. It would take her years to find answers and in her third book, “Maternal Failure,” she shares the journey of her mother’s upbringing, her own horrific childhood, the resulting dysfunctional relationship and the search that unearthed the skeletons buried for so long.

“My mother made choices which would become the secrets she carried to her grave,” Baltrinic said. “I had been born illegitimately, put up for adoption, but at 9 months old I was taken out of the process when my mother married the man who eventually adopted me.”

Even though her mother took her back, she didn’t bond with her, Baltrinic said.

After marrying her husband, Michael, and her two sons, Mike and Mark, were born, Baltrinic began the research to find her two illegitimate brothers and biological father and to understand her mother’s inability to love her.

“After her death in 2000, I pursued uncovering all her secrets,” Baltrinic said.

“Maternal Failure” follows the many dead-ends, shocking revelations, and extraordinary twists and turns Baltrinic faced in her research.

“My mom never gave me the correct info,” Baltrinic said. “I remembered some things she said and put that into my detective work.”

Baltrinic discovered she did not have the only troubled childhood among her family members. Her mother and grandparents suffered from generational dysfunction influenced by poverty that created the inability to love their own children. Dorothy made the wrong choices, and she spent her life hiding them, she added.

“I share the dysfunction and behaviors toward me, the physical and emotional abuse in the book,” Baltrinic said. “I came to learn she [Dorothy] couldn’t love herself. I became her scapegoat for her unhappiness because I was a reminder.”

The cover of the book is a photograph of her mother Batrinic found in a drawer. Dorothy tore the picture apart and then taped it back together.

“I couldn’t figure out why she would tear up such a beautiful picture,” Baltrinic said. “But it’s symbolic of the mother and daughter relationship.”

Baltrinic found her mother’s intake papers [social worker’s notes] when she gave her three illegitimate children up for adoption, including Baltrinic. The attitude at the time toward unwed mothers was negative and both the mother and child were considered mentally deficient by social services, yet Baltrinic and her two brothers she found six years ago are very successful.

“I think my background helped me to become a good teacher for urban schools,” Baltrinic said. “I was a good role model and taught them to reach for what they wanted. Education is your ticket out. I knew that would get me out of where I came from.”

The paper trail answered some questions, but DNA revealed family members she never knew existed.

“It was finally DNA which uncovered the biggest secrets my mother kept hidden,” she said. “This book offers hope to others who seek answers about their adoption, finding bio-parents and bio-families, and using DNA testing to help solve the mystery of their beginnings.”

Baltrinic does not regret her search.

“My life is now incredibly rich with the answers I have found and embraced,” she said. “My search for answers helped me overcome my own feelings of frustration with my mother and her inability to love me. I now believe she did love me, but her many secrets blocked her ability to build a relationship with a daughter who only wanted her love.”

Part of the book is about the search for answers, and Baltrinic hopes others can follow her leads in their own family searches.

“I walk people through the journey of searching and finding family members,” she said.

With the popularity of ancestry shows and the availability of DNA testing, Baltrinic said her book appeals to those searching for long-lost family members. In addition, her book shows how she survived growing up in a dysfunctional home and had a successful life, she said.

Her sons did not know her story until they read her book, which was published in October of 2018.

“Both were appalled by what I went through,” she said. “It gives them a better appreciation for what they have in life.”

Writing the book helped Baltrinic forgive her mother.

“You don’t forget, but I forgave much of what she did and have come to peace with it,” Baltrinic said. “I had to wait [since the book’s publication] to be able to talk about it without getting emotional.”

Book launch set for March 4

Baltrinic will host a book launch at the Tallmadge Library at 6:30 p.m. on March 4 with a book sale and signing prior to and after her presentation from 6 to 7:30 p.m., which is open to the public. The book is also available on Amazon.

Her previous two historical novels, “A Founder For All” and “A Patriot’s Price” are set around the Revolutionary War period.