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Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story

Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story

by Meredith Shafer

Mad CowDespite its subtitle, Meredith Shafer’s Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story is not a mushy romance.  It is the hard-hitting tale of a woman who has lived in the trenches and struggled to scramble out for her own survival and that of her children and her husband nicknamed Mr. Wonderful in the book. “Mad Cow” does not refer to the feared Mad Cow disease; it is the nickname Meredith has given to the struggle her husband faces every day. He is a veteran retired on a medical disability and Mad Cow is a triangle of asthma, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury and all of the associated problems that often accompany these disorders including issues with depression and sobriety. 

Mad Cow is not a timeline biography, and it does not detail Mr. Wonderful’s war injuries or his specific medical issues. Instead, this memoir shares the struggles of this hot mess, circus-like, crazy family of six, led by a spunky mama and a wounded warrior as they navigate life, crises, and the VA medical system. We learn of financial struggles and family issues.  We discover how survival fueled by faith, trust, and God’s love becomes more important than a perfect house, after school activities, and productivity.

Meredith brings her background as a musician, lawyer, mom,  writer and speaker, a devotee of leopard, shoes, coffee and bling, and most especially a lover of Jesus to this book. She shares openly from her heart; there is no fakeness in this book. You will find humor scattered liberally throughout. There is one particularly funny chapter called “The Casita” which describes how the family of six lived temporarily in a 150 square foot house. Under the humor though is the pain of trying to save a husband who is past being able to save himself. Under the humor is a woman’s heart as she leans into her Father relying on Him to restore her family.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Memoir, Christian Nonfiction

Notes: You can find my review of Meredith Shafer’s first book, My Pink Champagne Life here

Publication:  2016

Memorable Lines: 

You can’t really go back, though. You can only move forward, which we are trying to do with generosity of spirit and good humor and grace, a whole truckload of grace. Wow, that’s hard.

I’ve decided that potty training a fiery redheaded she-child is kind of like training a wild tiger to dance to show tunes. It’s a delicate yet frightening process that requires infinite patience, a death wish, and multiple costume changes.

I guess thirty days off and three counseling appointments post deployment aren’t nearly enough. The military way, though it’s not written in any of their field manuals, is to soldier on. Self-medicate with alcohol if necessary as that is the acceptable method of of soldiering on.

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Pairing a Deception–more than a taste of wine

Pairing a Deception

by Nadine Nettmann

Pairing a DeceptionHave you ever met a wine snob? You know, the person who likes to show off their knowledge of wines? Well, I am the exact opposite. If you ask me what my favorite wine is, I would be likely to reply with (cringe)…a color choice or a description of a cute label. Not bad considering I came to the game rather late in life.

Enter Nadine Nettman with her latest cozy mystery Pairing a Deception. Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier from California has all the knowledge needed to create an interesting mystery based on the amazing varieties of wines available at a food and wine festival.

The main character, Katie, is studying for her three day Advanced Sommelier exam, but decides to squeeze in a festival in Santa Barbara with her selfless boyfriend, Detective Dean. While there, Katie gets to practice blind wine tasting skills, share her enthusiasm for wines as an emergency substitute speaker, and investigate a murder. Katie has a background of karate as a child and attended the Police Academy. Skills learned in both venues come in handy when she discovers the murderer.

I thought I might be overwhelmed or bored with all the wine talk, but it seemed natural considering the setting. I learned a lot about wine, especially wine tastings, liked the main characters, and found the plot interesting. The ending was a surprise, but believable.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Midnight Ink for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Sommelier Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone

Publication:   May 8, 2018—Midnight Ink

Memorable Lines:

The opportunity to taste the exact same grape grown in different areas, therefore each creating a unique wine, was one of the key elements I loved about wine and food festivals.

“We’d like to order wine. Which ones do you have?” “Oh, we have all the colors,” the waiter remarked. I paused, not sure how to respond.

I like helping people learn about wine and choosing the right one for their meal as I share the story of each bottle.

Flowers and Foul Play–a magical read!

Flowers and Foul Play

by Amanda Flower

Flowers and Foul PlayFlowers and Foul Play is an appropriately magical read. Fiona Knox receives a surprise inheritance when her Scottish godfather dies in the war in Afghanistan and wills everything to her including his land, cottage, and a walled garden with a reputation for being magical. It seems Fiona, a florist by trade, is somehow connected to the garden. Unfortunately, after her long flight from Tennessee to Scotland, she tours her garden and discovers a dead body.

Everything about the story is enjoyable. The plot has a lot of twists and turns. The characters are interesting, including the welcoming Lee who owns the Bellewick pub, Hamish, the elderly garden caretaker, and Chief Inspector Neil Craig  who is not only very competent, but also very handsome. Of course, everything is very Scottish and the setting makes this cozy mystery even more interesting. Author Amanda Flower throws in a huge mehir in the garden, tales of an ancestor’s shipwreck, and a local controversy over a real estate deal with environmental implications. The result is a book I didn’t want to put down until the mystery was solved.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5 

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Magic Garden Mystery Series

Publication:   May 8, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

“If you think this is a rough night in Scotland, you are in for a rude awakening my lass, a very rude awakening indeed. We have storms that come off the sea that will curl your toes and make seasoned Highlanders hide under their beds.”

It reminded me again how old everything in Scotland was. In Nashville, the city practically builds a force field around a house that was built in the 1800s, to protect it from wear and tear. But the 1800s weren’t even a blip on the timeline in a place like Bellewick, where most of the buildings dated back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

“I think that is what his death has taught me the most: don’t count on someday because someday will never come. Too many people put off fighting for what they want until what they think will be a better time—after they’re married, after the kids are grown, after retirement—but the truth is, there is never a better time for anything.”

The Otter of Death–fascinating otters and mystery

The Otter of Death

by Betty Webb

The Otter of DeathTeddy is a zookeeper at the Gunn Zoo in San Sebastian, CA. She lives on a houseboat and is engaged to Joe, the local county sheriff. She also volunteers conducting a census for the Otter Conservancy, a marine life rescue group. Trouble occurs during her routine survey when she discovers an otter with a cell phone. More troubling is a selfie on the phone that seems to indicate a crime.

The victim is well known, but not very popular, so there are a lot of suspects. Teddy puts herself in danger with her investigations, much to the dismay of Joe and her mother Caro. There are a lot of other characters in this book, including fellow zookeepers, neighbor liveaboards at the harbor, and the wealthy of San Sebastian.  The author, Betty Webb, does a good job of defining the characters and subtly reminding the reader of who they are, as necessary.

I found all aspects of The Otter of Death fascinating, starting with the mystery to be solved, but also including the inner workings of the zoo and information about the animals, especially the otters.

Despite the appealing cover, I went into this cozy mystery wondering if I would like it. I emerged ready to read more of this series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #5 in the Gunn Zoo Mystery Series

  2. This is my first book in the series, but it worked great as a standalone.

  3. You can read the first chapter of this book at bettywebbzoomystery.com.

Publication:  May 2, 2018—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

“I love your mother’s house. It’s so tiny and cute.” Tiny? Cute? For an eleven-room—not counting the kitchen and six baths—antiques-stuffed mansion on a shaded hillside overlooking the Pacific? Only a Betancourt could make such an outrageous statement.

I expected a thunderbolt from Heaven to strike me dead any second, but it didn’t happen. Instead, Frasier—thrilled as any man would be to be called fascinating and mysterious—started talking about his job. It was almost, but not quite, as boring as his wails about his blood-sucking ex-wife.

Trumpeter swans may be beautiful, but they are quick to defend their babies with beating wings and slashing bills. The injuries inflicted by these large birds aren’t as minor as you might think. A peck from a swan’s bill can take out an eye, and a blow from an enraged trumpeter’s four-foot-long wing has been known to break an adult human’s leg.

The Bagel King–don’t fall on your tuckes!

The Bagel King

written by Andrew Larsen

Illustrated by Sandy Nichols

The Bagel KingThe Bagel King is a sweet story about a grandfather who goes to the bakery every Sunday morning, rain or shine, and buys bagels to share with his grandson Eli. Then Zaida’s (grandpa’s) three friends arrive at his apartment with their assisted walking devices for a Sunday morning bagel feast. All of that changes one Sunday when Zaida slips at at the bakery and has to rest for several weeks. All are discouraged but Eli saves the day by making the bagel run himself.

The story is simple and uncomplicated. It is a short picture book so there is no opportunity for character development. There is a mini glossary of sorts defining the five Yiddish words in the book and explaining two food words. The illustrations are my favorite part of the book. They have a little bit of a comic book style to them, are gentle, humorous, and reflect the mood of the characters very well. For me, it is a good read aloud, but not a book I would treasure and pass through the generations.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: Age Range: 5-6 years

Grade Level: P-2

Publication:  May 1, 2018—Kids Can Press

I Scream, You Scream–deadly ice cream

I Scream, You Scream

by Wendy Lyn Watson

I Scream, You ScreamWendy Lyn Watson, author of I Scream, You Scream throws the reader right into main character Tally’s life and problems as Tally tries to rebuild her life after her divorce from two(or more)-timing Wayne. She’s started a struggling new business, Remember the A-la-mode, an ice cream shop named for its Texas (Alamo) roots.  Her part of the divorce settlement is a historic house (cha-ching!), and she needs her ex and his teenintsy girlfriend to hire her to cater desserts for his company’s annual picnic.

There is a murder following the picnic and suspicion lands on Wayne and then on Tally. Tally’s informal investigation takes her into the seamier side of her hometown of Dalliance where it seems everyone has a secret. Tally’s high school sweetheart returns to town making life even more complicated.

I knew I would like this book from page one. The characters with their Texas talk and customs are interesting and well integrated into the plot where the mystery holds center stage. The story clips along at a good pace and culminates in a surprise ending. I’m looking forward to more of this series, perhaps served up with a bowl of my favorite ice cream.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Mystery A-la-mode Series

Publication:  May 1, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

In a heartbeat, the curvy coed went from looking like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth to looking meaner than a skillet full of rattlesnakes. I dang near got whiplash watching the transformation.

Sure enough, he could turn on the aw-shucks, chicken-fried charm when it suited him. But behind his sleepy blue eyes lurked a whip-smart mind and a shrewd ambition.

She laughed again, a sound as rich as warm dulce de leche.

Hot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt–young time travelers

Hot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt

written by Linda Bailey

illustrations by Bill Slavin

Hot on the Trail in Ancient EgyptHot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt is a juvenile graphic novel that kept this adult interested from beginning to end.  In this book, which is part of The Time Travel Guides, the bored Pinkerton twins chase after their little sister Libby who has entered the rather creepy Good Times Travel Agency. Opening the owner’s personal guide book catapults the three children into Ancient Egypt. They learn that their adventure will not end until they finish reading the book.

The layout of the book is very appealing. The fictional story is told in comic book style at the top of the page. At the bottom of the page is a drawing of an aged book (Julian T. Pettigrew’s Personal Guide to Ancient Egypt) containing nonfiction text that explains and elaborates upon what is happening in the story. For example, when an Egyptian woman invites them into her home, the nonfiction text describes the house, food, and clothing of Ancient Egypt.

I can’t stress enough the current importance of books like this to interest children in history for three reasons. First, most people are familiar with the saying attributed to George Santayana that “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” There are many horrific events in history most can agree should never be repeated. Second, sadly to say, most children are not exposed to history in their younger years in school. The school day and curriculum in public elementary school is so regimented that the focus is reading, taught in a boring and uninspired way, math, and standardized testing. I am not kidding or exaggerating when I say that as a teacher I had to sneak in science and history and hope the principal didn’t catch me. Third, history is interesting and FUN. in an age when teachers do their best to incorporate games and movement activities called “brain breaks” (to replace the recess that was taken away), we need to restore the intrinsic fun that comes through learning interesting things. In that way we create life long learners.

In addition, a book of this type actively demonstrates reasons for reading—to learn more about something you are interested in and to be carried away by a story. I particularly appreciate that Bailey gave a belated shout out to her high school history teacher: “Great work, Mr. Visch—you made it fun!” She dedicated the book to her daughter who “once did a school project on the Sphinx and has been in love with all things Egyptian ever since.” Teachers and projects do make a difference.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: 1. new edition of an older book

  2. Grade Level: 3-7

  3. Age Range: 8-12 years

Publication:   May 1, 2018—Kids Can Press

Memorable Lines:

For drinks, try the national beverage—beer! It’s made from half-cooked bread and river water, and it’s thick, dark and sometimes a bit lumpy. You’re supposed to strain it well before serving, but not everyone does.

Down at the bottom are the farmers and laborers. Most people in ancient Egypt are at the bottom of the society—where there’s plenty of room!

Sightseeing in the middle of a getaway? This was a very bad idea. Emma and Josh tried to lure their little sister out of the pyramid.

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