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.

The Husband List

THE HUSBAND LIST 2012 by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly

Set in the gilded age heiress Caroline Maxwell is being groomed to marry an English titled aristocrat only her heart is set on Jack Culhane. Although the story set up begins slow it picks up pace and runs to the ending. Caroline and Jack first deny their feelings. Jack is a confirmed bachelor but when they admit their love, they see no future with her mother’s unwavering plans to see her wed to Bremerton, a man in need of a fortune but a heart as cold as ice. When her mother leaves her alone in Bremerton’s ravished estate and, she discovers he most likely murdered his first wife, who had lied about having a fortune, she takes matters in her own hands. The story has colorful characters like the heiress chasing Jack; the maids and governesses helping Caroline; and Caroline’s family, reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennett’s.

Impending Love and Promise

Impending Love and Promise by Laura Freeman

Published Dec. 17, 2018 by The Wild Rose Press and available at Amazon https://goo.gl/B7lKMs

The Civil War is over, but a chance encounter between Jules Beecher and a man from her past turns a simple trip to find her orphaned cousins into a dangerous journey. Determined to keep a promise to her father,she puts her life at risk but finds a reluctant hero in Dr. Roe Greystone. Can Jules heal the “broken doll” of the battlefield or will the past destroy any future?   

Roe abandoned the profession of medicine, exhaustedfrom the suffering and butchering of the Civil War. Co-owner of a sternwheeler,Roe knew Jules was trouble the moment the kindhearted innocent boarded the Jenny Lee. He is determined to protectJules from a madman, but will this Romeo risk all to rescue his Juliet?

Excerpt:

Roe Greystone stood firm but felt sorry for the women who left in silence, their faces drawn and downcast. They had given up. Soldiers hadn’t been the only casualty of the war.

He asked names, noting if they had the majority of their teeth when they spoke. He looked for sores beneath the powder and rouge. Up close he could see bloodshot eyes and smell the odor of cheap liquor on their breath when they answered his questions. He allowed those to remain who appeared healthy and had a spark of life still glimmering in their desperate eyes. The work wasn’t easy, and they’d earn their passage.

He reached the end of the line and stopped in front of a girl. He glanced at the other women who were older, dressed in garish mismatched outfits, or had lacked any signs of education, grace, or manners when they had spoken.

This one didn’t belong. The young woman wore a tailored jacket and simple skirt that emphasized her trim figure. Her face startled him by the resemblance to another woman he knew. He’d been thinking of Miss Jessie yesterday. He had admired her for her beauty and courage, but she had been married, and with a husband like Major Morgan Mackinnon, entertaining thoughts of seduction would have been suicidal. He glanced at the girl’s bare hand. No ring.

Her features were similar yet differences existed between the two women. They could have been sisters. This one had large blue eyes that met his gaze. She smiled, and he was captivated. “You have all your teeth.”

Her eyebrows arched above a look of surprise. “Are you buying a horse or hiring a waitress?”

Remember When by J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts

REMEMBER WHEN AKA BlG JACK September 2003

This is two stories tied together. The first is a romance (written by Nora Roberts) in which Laina has built a new life after being moved from place to place by her IMG_2533 (2)criminal father Big Jack O’Hara. When one of his partners, Uncle Willy, is hit by a car in front of her gift shop, the past catches up. Private Investigator Max Gannon is looking for missing diamonds in a heist Big Jack participated in. Jack and Willy were con men who didn’t believe in violence but their partner Crew has already killed the fourth inside man in the job and is planning on having all the stolen diamonds for himself. Max thinks Laina is part of it until he meets her and both fall for each other in typical Robb fashion—fast and furious. Laina is her father’s daughter and the reader is kept guessing who’s going to end up with the diamonds in the end.

Fast forward to 2059 and the granddaughter Samantha Gannon has written a book about the romance and hunt for the diamonds. She returns home from a book tour and discovers her house sitter is dead. Then her cleaning lady turns up dead. It is up to Eve and Roarke to discover who is behind the murders. It doesn’t take long for them to realize it’s tied to the diamonds.

For anyone who wants to write a series that spans across time or genre, they should study this book. The background story revealed in the first book is repeated in the second but with different characters and reactions. Robb changes POV more in this book than in others which threw me a few times. She also reveals the killer’s coldness by using his POV and actions late in the book.

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich  2010

This book is based on characters in one of the holiday books Janet Evanovich wrote and were tied to the Stephanie Plum series. Diesel, who has been in previous Stephanie PlumWicked Appetite stories is matched with Lizzy Tucker who has special powers to identify magical Stones tied to the Deadly Seven Sins. Diesel’s cousin Wulf also wants the stones and Lizzy to find them. Enter Diesel to protect her. Lizzy works at a bakery and makes magically delicious cupcakes with her two not-so-normal co-workers. Glo buys a book of spells that go wrong in her hands. (Think Lulu). Lizzy inherited her aunt Ophelia’s house and Glo rescues a weird cat that turns out to have belonged to Ophelia. Add Carl the monkey (from the Plum series), also rescued by Glo and it’s typical Evanovich chaos. The book is better than some of her holiday stories, but still lacks the chemistry the early Plum stories had. It’s disturbing that Diesel climbs into bed naked with Lizzy after just meeting her. In today’s world of perverts and unwelcome touching, his actions made me uncomfortable although Evanovich tries to paint it as normal fun and games.

I think I like the Stephanie Plum series because Stephanie represents the ordinary every girl surrounded by hunks and crazy people, and she deals with them without breaking a sweat. Some characters like Stephanie have a great connection with the reader, and I wish I knew what made the difference.

What makes a character connect with you?

Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich

Turbo Twenty-Three 2016

I continue to read this series even though the slapstick is predictable, and Stephanie will never make up her mind about the men in her life. Stephanie is having sex regularly with Morelli but on a trip to Disney World, she spends the night with Ranger. Nobody wants to commit so Stephanie will remain single forever. And the series will go on. Evanovich has plenty of action, and the books are a fast read. Just sit back and go along for the ride.Turbo 23

Stephanie stumbles onto a plot to ruin ice-cream man Bogart when the HR person ends up frozen and covered in chocolate and nuts in the back of a stolen truck driven by one of her skips. Ranger is hired to do security and Stephanie goes undercover. She works the factory line, loads the truck, and works as the clown before the truck is blown up. [Fans know that was coming.] Another skip is an Asian mobster who turns out to have ice cream cups in his office he’s using to ship drugs around the area. He threatens Stephanie, and a clown breaks into her room and almost strangles her. She recognizes the clown when staking out the Asian’s office. They capture her and plan to make a popsicle out of her.

What do you think about Stephanie and the series?

Do you think she should choose between Morelli and Ranger or remain single?

Who is your favorite character?

 

 

“Z” is for Zero

“Z” is for Zero – No more.

A CraftonI finished reading the series and I thought I would summarize what I’ve learned from Sue Grafton’s books. She began writing in 1982 and died in 2017. That’s 35 years to write 26 books. Some writers pen 3 to 4 books a year, but Grafton did a lot of research and you could always count on learning the details of a subject in her stories. She liked description and used it for locations, buildings, clothing, and the characters.

Even if you don’t use a lot of description, a few lines help to set the place, person, and mood of the story.

Grafton wasn’t afraid of trying new things. The earlier stories followed a traditional detective or PI point of view as Kinsey is hired to find out who killed someone, and she has to interview the suspects, watch for lies, and make notes of the clues until a final showdown with the bad guy, escaping with her life and capturing the killer.

Many times the original murder occurred years before and in later books, she uses other POVs to flip back and forth between the past and present to flesh out the other characters beyond observation and help explain any motives. Sometimes her plots are complex and other times she gives us a breather with only a few characters and a simple plot. Don’t follow the same old formula when writing a series. Kinsey’s personal life is doled out over the series, and she adds friends to her circle with more of them becoming regulars as the series progresses. Jonah, Cheney and Dietz move in and out of her love life, and it would have been nice to see how they all ended up in “Z” or if Grafton would have left us guessing. I’ll add Henry to a possible husband although Kinsey laments their age difference. What does it matter as she gets older?

Grafton showed how to keep even a lone wolf like Kinsey surrounded by interesting people. She ended up in trouble more than once helping out her friends. Some of her later books had multiple story lines that tied together in the end. It takes skill to keep the stories clear and bring them together logically and smoothly. Grafton also used current events and social issues in her stories like Medicare fraud, mental illness, and abuse of the elderly. Look to the news for story ideas.IMG_0943 (2)

In the end, she made us care about Kinsey and that’s what a great writer does. No matter how intricate the plot, no matter how beautiful the setting, give the reader a reason to fall in love with your main character.

Do you have a favorite author you would recommend to others?