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Performance of “Jesus” at the Sight and Sound Theater
Dolly Parton Stampede
Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop
by Rebecca Raisin
When you are Festive Flora, you have your almost dream job of assistant-cashier at Deck the Halls Christmas Emporium, you are dating adventurous poet Luke, and you are living in your best friend Livvie’s spare room, what could possibly go wrong? Well, for Flora, everything—all at once!
Flora is accused by various boyfriends of being eccentric, and she is. She’s passionate about the Christmas spirit and wants everyone to feel the same way. She is also kind and generous with a tendency to speak and act before she thinks. Flora is never “good enough” according to her parents’ standards. She and Livvie, who also had a difficult home life, received love and support as children from Flora’s Nan. At her house they created wonderful Christmas memories.
Livvie decides that the solution to some of Flora’s problems is “a Christmas van, like a pop-up shop.” Thus Flora becomes a Van Lifer and heads to Lapland, “the home of Santa Claus,” to sell all things Christmasy with Hallmark movies being the blueprint for her future: a meet-cute with a good looking young man, conflict between the two, followed by romance and a “happy ever after.”
The story pretty much follows that pattern as she meets some nice, helpful people along the way, but also has to deal with a group of jealous “mean girls” who apparently never developed emotionally past high school. The love interest is Collom, the handsome manager of the Christmas market, a never smiling loner who is passionate about ecology, not Christmas. Flora takes on the task of turning Collom from a Grinch to a believer in the Christmas spirit. She has to complete this goal before the Christmas market closes down for the season and they all go their separate ways.
Flora’s Travelling Christmas Shop is told from Flora’s point of view with dialogue interspersed with Flora’s thoughts which she sometimes wonders if she has spoken aloud. Whoops! Author Rebecca Raisin succeeds with another romantic comedy, sure to have you turning the pages to see if Flora’s next zany idea will win Collom over—to love Christmas and maybe Flora too. Along the way she has some embarrassing moments that will keep you in stitches, ranging from stage fright to being a naked Britisher in a Finnish sauna.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins (HQ) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
Notes: 1. This is the third in a series about Van Lifers, but stands completely alone from the first two.
2. Despite the Christmasy, festive atmosphere of this book, there is a surprising amount of foul language used casually throughout the book.
Publication: October 28, 2021—Harper Collins (HQ)
It’s not just about holding down a job, it’s that my whole life keeps imploding at every turn. My parents think I’m on a desolate road to nowheresville.
“I probably sound unhinged, but what if we all lived as though our life were a Hallmark movie? What if we took chances, and said what we thought, and believed that true love would find a way, no matter what? What if we were honest about our feelings, knowing that it would all work out in the end? Then the world would be a better place!”
They give me those polite smiles that mange to convey they have absolutely no idea what I’ve said but they’ll tolerate me talking to them in halting Finnish because at least I’m giving it a go.
Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop
by Rebecca Raisin
Personal Note: Fall is bringing glorious temps in my area along with some hints of winter to come. Days are too short and dark is uncomfortably extended. It’s the perfect time to mix up my stringent standards of reading books, excepting book club tomes, in the order in which they were published. It’s also a good time to again acknowledge that I am fearfully behind in my reading queue, but I am gradually catching up, mainly because I am requesting about half the number of Advanced Reader Copies that I did when I lived in Mexico. What does my sudden free-spiritedness have to do with this review?
I just finished reading Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop, a fun romance and the first in a series that focuses on some nomadic souls. I’m going to jump into the next one tomorrow, soon to be followed by the third, which has a Christmas theme—perfect!
My Review: It’s Rosie’s birthday and she just turned 32. Her husband Callum has a surprise for her, but it is not a pleasant one. As the sous chef at a famous London restaurant, she works long hours, has almost total independence in creative decisions, but gets no credit for her contributions to the restaurant’s fame.
Can she be successful personally and financially as a Van Lifer, someone who lives out of a van, travelling with no schedule, following fairs and special events or his or her personal whim? Does she have what it takes to strike out on her own, preparing and selling special teas and comfort food in her tiny kitchen at these events? Can she recover from Callum’s betrayal and find love with either sensitive Ollie whom she met on the Internet or with hunky nomadic Max who draws her outside her cocoon of contentment with adventures?
I obviously enjoyed this book. Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop has romantic themes, but it also addresses the serious events that the main characters have experienced that make them the way they are. Rosie is a really nice person and all through the book I wanted only the best for her, although life doesn’t always work out that way. Rosie is a planner with OCD tendencies. She has not had much time for friendships so interacting with romance book loving, free-spirited, kind hearted Aria is a challenge. I can’t forget to mention Poppy, Rosie’s fuchsia pink van; Poppy is as important to Rosie and to the plot as any flesh and bones character! The next book in the series will focus on Aria and her Travelling Bookshop; I’m hoping for a very bookish romance with some adventure and fun thrown in as Rosie and Aria continue their Van Life travels.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to HarperCollins for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Notes: 1. #1 in The Travelling Shops Series 2. When I posted my review on Amazon on 12/6/2021, the Kindle version of this book was on sale for $.99.
Publication: February 16, 2021—Harper Collins
“The right person is out there, you just have to take the leap and find him. But first you need to figure out what makes you happy, and then have it in spades.”
“Anomaly is just another word for extraordinary, and who wants to be ordinary, anyway? To me you’re a shining light in a crowd of beige.”
And now I see with such life-altering clarity, that all those material things did the exact opposite of fulfilling me, they held me back, kept me in debt, kept me working to maintain a lifestyle that didn’t satisfy me at all.
Dear Virtual Friends and Book Lovers,
I have been absent for months during a huge transitional time in my life. For years we had traveled back and forth between the temperate mountains of Mexico and a cabin in the colder mountains of the Southwest. About two years ago, we pulled the plug on Mexico and bought a home in the Four Corners area, a mere two and a half hour trip between houses. The plan worked perfectly as we loved our home, our church, our friends, and our new town. Unfortunately, the state governor destroyed the economy of our town along with the rest of the state and the spirit of the people during one of the worst state lockdown regimes in the U.S. Our response has been the selling of our home, moving our goods into storage, and exploring states that value freedom and individual rights as found in the U.S. constitution. We have retreated to our cabin, made an offer on a house, and are going through the next steps.
For anyone exploring the current status of the real estate market in the U.S., you will realize what a miracle it is that we were able to get this far in purchasing a new home. In many areas, homes are selling within 24 hours of being listed and for above the asking price. My sense is that God held this particular home for a few days for us. I rely on God to guide me, and therefore my prayers are that He will not allow the deal to go to completion if it is not the right home or location. I know things will get complicated again for me personally, but right now I am enjoying a cup of tea as I watch a gentle rain outside my windows. Through God’s grace I survived a bear encounter (not attack!) yesterday while walking my dogs. Last night I worked through all my emails executing mass deletes regarding posts by fellow bloggers. I hated doing that just as I have hated not being able to keep up with your blogs. I have not accomplished much reading during this crazy time, but I have been writing reviews as I finish books and will hopefully post them in the coming days and weeks.
Happy Spring! I look forward to reading your posts and interacting as we discuss books and life!
Desde mi cabaña en las montañas hasta tu casa, ¡Feliz primavera!
A Walk in the Woods
by Bill Bryson
The Appalachian Trail, a little over 2,000 miles of challenging terrain, is a test that hikers of all ages, genders, and experience levels attack in various ways. There are parking lot visitors; they drive in, look around a bit and perhaps picnic, but do not actually hike the trail. Section hikers traverse parts of the trail at various times with a few completing the whole trail over the course of a lifetime. Then there are a few hardy souls who are full thru-hikers; they keep at it from south to north until they complete the trail.
As you might imagine, hiking the Appalachian Trail is an endeavor that requires a lot of planning and the purchase of expensive equipment to get the lightest weight gear possible. Carrying a forty pound backpack all day over rough terrain with formidable ascents and descents is a difficult task indeed. Author Bill Bryson who has written a number of travel books relates in A Walk in the Woods his experiences on the Appalachian Trail with Stephen Katz, a former school chum he had traveled around Europe with twenty-years prior. Much of the book describes the harsh realities of the hike and the delightful relief of their occasional forays into civilization to replenish supplies and sleep in a real bed. Some of the book relates their changing relationship as they confront the trials of the trail together as well as anecdotes about the interesting people they meet along the way.
Bryson’s writing style is comfortable. The descriptions are detailed without being overblown, and there is just enough history of the trail to give the reader an understanding of why it is the way it is. Often humorous, it provides an interesting read taking the reader into a once in a lifetime experience on the Appalachian Trail.
Notes: Some profanity
Publication: December 26, 2006 (first published May 5, 1998)—Anchor Books
But even men far tougher and more attuned to the wilderness than Thoreau were sobered by its strange and palpable menace. Daniel Boone, who not only wrestled bears but tried to date their sisters, described corners of the southern Appalachians as “so wild and horrid that it is impossible to behold them without terror.” When Daniel Boone is uneasy, you know it’s time to watch your step.
I was beginning to appreciate that the central feature of life on the Appalachian Trail is deprivation, that the whole point of the experience is to remove yourself so thoroughly from the conveniences of everyday life that the most ordinary things—processed cheese, a can of pop gorgeously beaded with condensation—fill you with wonder and gratitude.
And all the time, as we crept along on this absurdly narrow, dangerous perch, we were half-blinded by flying snow and jostled by gusts of wind, which roared through the dancing trees and shook us by our packs. This wasn’t a blizzard; it was a tempest.
Consider This, Señora
by Harriet Doerr
If asked what a particular country is like, the wise respondent does not declare that the whole country is mono-anything. Cities are different from villages, mountains from deserts, and north from south. At the same time, there are cultural aspects that transcend regional differences. This is certainly true of Mexico as I can attest to after being privileged to live in that country for seven years. In Harriet Doerr’s Consider This, Señora, she captures the essence of rural Mexico, the things that make me nod and smile as I remember the way it is.
Here are things from the book that are, for the most part, neither bad nor good, just typically Mexican. I list them out, but in the book, they are integrated into the story:
- Workmen that don’t finish jobs.
- Problems solved by greasing the wheels with a little cash.
- Extended family relationships determining work placements.
- Government promises for utilities only partially or never fulfilled.
- Accidents caused by disregard for traffic “suggestion” signs.
- Brilliantly colored fiestas.
- Beautiful vistas.
- No understanding of queues, but extreme politeness one on one.
- Animals roaming free.
- Very young mothers.
- Children working from a young age.
- Beautiful babies with wide brown eyes and shy smiles.
- The staple food—taco.
- Popsicles sold from street carts.
The story is the tale of Sue Ames and Bud Loomis, strangers trying to escape their pasts who meet by chance in a property agent’s office in Mexico and buy a large plot of land to both live on and subdivide. Other people join them. Fran is a travel author. Fran’s mother, Ursula, is widowed and in her late 70’s. Don Enrique, the original owner of the land by ancestry finds a home there. Later the mysterious musician Herr Otto is added to the community. There are locals that make an essential supporting cast including Patricio, gardener and so much more for the Norte Americanos and Father Miguel who is a friend to all.
Consider This, Señora is a gem, a tale of travelers to another culture and how their lives intersect with the land and the lives of the locals. Although not a romance, love is a major theme in the book. Even though she is divorced, Sue has never fallen out of love with her husband. Fran, divorced twice, continues to search for an exciting but long-lasting love with men she meets in her travels. Ursula, widowed, is still in love with the husband she spent her life with. She, especially, contemplates what it means to love.
Sue is altruistic and generous, helping those in need. She takes on Altagracia, her part time maid from a young age, providing needed dental work and opportunities to bathe. As the girl emerges from her cocoon at age sixteen, Altagracia is described as one who “merely by her passage, turned the heads of men.” When Altagracia takes on a different domestic position, she supplies Sue with three of her little cousins who are starving. Sue opens her heart to them and provides help to the family.
Harriet Doerr’s descriptions are so well-written that the background comes to life enhancing the story without belaboring the details. She also includes a sprinkling of Spanish words adding to the authentic flavor, but most can be understood from context. The book flows, and I read it in one day wanting to know more and more about the characters and the little village of Lomas de Amapolas.
Publication: August 15, 1994—Harcourt (A Harvest Book)
Today had stopped happening. Already it had consigned its events to memory. Touched by the evening chill, she sat outside until dark, wrapped in the mists of her brief, uncertain future and the brilliant patchwork of her never-ending past.
The Mexican sky was excessive too, she believed. Wider than others, it stretched over people who appeared no fonder of life than death, as they darted on bicycles between trailer trucks and buses and hurried hand in hand, whole families strong, across divided freeways.
On all sides of the dead man and the mourners, headstones tilted into weeds. Two cypress trees shaded the crisscrossing tracks of animals, both tame and wild. A crumbling adobe wall bounded the pantéon and protected the dead.
Over the last few months, I have been implementing a huge change in my life. For the last six years, my husband and I have been living in México most of each year. We initially moved to Ajijic, Jalisco, where the climate is close to ideal. Unfortunately, it was like living in Little America, rather than México, with so many expatriates from Canada and the United States. After two years, we took the plunge and moved to the mountains of Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. We spent four years there in a quiet, rural, gated community, learned a little Spanish, and enjoyed the culture and the kind people we encountered.
We are now in a different season of our lives. A four day trip with two dogs in tow, twice a year, has become increasingly difficult physically and more stressful. If you are following the news, you know that the trek is also fraught with dangers from cartel activity and random acts of violence. Mexican drivers are generally untrained and adhere to their own set of rules. My husband and I are both licensed to drive ALL vehicles in Mexico including semi-tractor trailers, merely because we paid a fee. A bribe was not involved. On our last trip north, we witnessed the aftermath of several different accidents involving multiple trucks. It was sadly clear that some drivers would not be retuning to their families—ever. Road hazards include often unmarked and unexpected speed bumps called topes on the highway, drivers converting a two-way, two-lane road into a three and a half lane road according to custom, and small herds grazing unfettered. Due to these dangers, as well as the increased potential for criminal activities, the general recommendation is to not drive at night.
So now, we anticipate winters in Farmington, New Mexico, and summers in Chama, New Mexico. To travel between houses we have a two and one-half hour drive rather than four days. We can enjoy either house whenever we choose, dependent only on snow conditions. We are already getting involved in local activities that in México we would not have participated in due to language limitations. Great shopping is available seven minutes away rather than one hour. We feel free to drive to restaurants and civic events at night.
We enjoyed our time in México and the everyday challenges of living in a different culture and communicating in a different language. We will miss friends we made in Ajijic and Pátzcuaro. It was not easy to arrange the movement of some possessions and decide what to leave behind. We also wanted to return with some mementos of México to decorate our new home.
I don’t know what the future holds for us. Perhaps more community and church involvement, excursions in the Four Corners area to explore ancient Native American cultures, motorcycle trips from our two home bases, time to explore our hobbies and, after life settles down a little for us and for some of the countries we would like to visit, maybe some trips abroad. Argentina has terrific Italian food!
I did a happy dance and a cheer as I crossed the international border and felt the immediate relief of having survived the journey and the elation of being home again. It was an oddly different feeling from returning to the U.S. for a few months as in the past. “Welcome home,” the border seemed to say: home, sweet home.
To my fellow bloggers:
I was more or less (más o menos) without Internet for a month during this transition. Internet was installed for us about a week ago. I have over 600 emails to deal with, and I have only rarely been able to post on my blog. Even my reading has slowed way down. Please forgive my absence, and be patient as I try to establish a new normal at the same time that I review books I have already committed to. I am looking forward to reading your posts and reviews again. I will still occasionally write posts about my experiences in México and my views on education.
As a bellwether for my productivity in the immediate future, I should note that I started writing this post a week ago. Much to my frustration, life has not settled down yet as we still have purchases to make, installations to schedule, and so many decisions to make. I must declare, however, that all of this is easier in my home language, and I am enjoying that change.
God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road
by Tim Riter
I couldn’t imagine what a devotional with a motorcycle focus would be like. If you are a motorcycle rider or aficionado, then the answer found in Tim Riter’s God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road is fascinating, inspiring, and FUN. It could be read over the course of a year with one chapter per week, allowing the reader to absorb and apply the Biblical truths. One day I may do that, but for this reading I devoured, it not wanting to put it aside.
Having logged more than 240,000 miles on two wheels in 46 states, Tim Riter loves short rides, long rides (including Iron Butt), hot and cold rides, solo and group trips. He loves God and sees a strong connection between motorcycling and his faith. The chapters in God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road are formatted to begin with personal anecdotes from Riter’s many motorcycle trips. Then he finds lessons in the stories and connects them to spiritual truths. He finishes each section with “Kick-Starting the Application,” encouraging readers to challenge themselves.
Come along with God and Tim on motorcycle adventures, some painfully hilarious stories by a master storyteller, and some life changing lessons. You will be glad you did.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Harvest House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Religion and Spirituality
Publication: April 2, 2019—Harvest House Publishers
Why does God sometimes rescue some of his people and not rescue others? I have no clue….But I do trust his love even more than I trust his power. I suspect that’s the key. God’s omniscience trumps our finite knowledge. I’ve seen enough of his love to have faith in it.
Honda’s engineers want to provide the best riding experience. The closer we follow their design, the better we ride. God wants to provide our best life experience. The closer we follow his design, the better we live.
Frankly, leaning on God sometimes makes no more sense to our finite minds than does leaning a bike into a curve at speed. But that lean allows us to get through the curve. And reminding ourselves that God loves us in all of our trials and failures, that he always works for good, allows us to survive the curves of life.
Bienvenido a Casa!
This little lady and about 20 more greeted us on our arrival at our cabin in Northern New Mexico last week.
We have returned a little early due to some events north and south of the border. It is not the pretty scene of midwinter with everything covered in a white snowy dress. The display is piles of dirty snow, some ponds where there were none, and muddy areas with deer prints. Although it is not pretty, it is a welcome relief from the drought of recent years. As soon as the temps rise, we should see a lot of green as the trees and grass spring to life.
But backtracking a little, we had four long days of travel with 2 dogs in tow to get from the middle of Mexico to Northern New Mexico. We spent 3 hours inching along in our manual transmission pickup at the border crossing into the U.S. Here are a few pictures of the Plaza de las Culturas (Plaza of Cultures) as you exit Mexico at Tres Piedras to cross over into Eagle Pass. We have crossed there before, but I hadn’t really noticed the replicas of ancient temples, because in the past we had zipped right past them.
One highlight of the trip for me was the small Texas town of Eldorado. On our trips from New Mexico to east Texas, we have fun finding the doughnut shops as we pass through little towns. We don’t eat at all of them, but Eden, for example, has delicious fresh doughnuts. On this trip, the doughnut shop in Eldorado appeared to be closed. As my husband turned around to tell me the bad news, a sheriff’s vehicle pulled in. We had a friendly conversation, and he shared that the doughnut shop was now part of the liquor store in town. He not only gave us directions, but when I pulled out to go there, I found he was at the stop light waiting for us and gave us an escort! As in many small towns, for purposes of survival, the shop (called A’s) was not only a doughnut and liquor store but also a short order grill and convenience store with some of the nicest owners you would want to meet. Texas friendliness at its best!
As we were leaving town, we pulled over for GPS adjustments and I hopped out and snapped some gorgeous
As my lack of inactivity on my own blog and those I follow demonstrates, the last few weeks have been hectic–preparing for the trip, making the journey, and transitioning into life in the U.S. again. I am so far behind, that I will probably alleviate the stress of unread blogs by deleting most of my email notices. My apologies. The good news is that, perhaps, due to a new tower and Internet provider in my rural area, I may actually have a good connection this summer. I am currently using a loaner device and it is fabulous. Under past “normal” conditions, I would be unable to make this blog post. If my actual connection is only half of what I am currently getting, I will still be happy. I find I have less time in the U.S. for reading and reviewing as I have a different lifestyle here, but the future looks bright!
Ireland the Best
by John and Sally McKenna
Ireland the Best, a travel guide, is written in the same format as Scotland the Best, albeit by a different author. I looked at the Amazon listing for that book briefly, mainly to see if the sample book contained pictures. This series of travel books is composed of well-organized lists and does not show off each locale with pictures but does include links so you can easily see the attraction, restaurant, etc. for yourself online.
Given the style of this book, understanding the organizational format is of prime importance, and so the authors begin their guide book with…a guide to the book. They want to transmit to you the best that Ireland has to offer based on their 30 years of exploring the island. To help you search in the book you can use the index, categories in the Table of Contents such as “The Best Places to Eat and Stay in Ireland’s South West,” or the map to view items in a particular locale.
Codes are of great importance in this book and seem a little daunting at first, but as you use the references they quickly become familiar. They include things like “atmos” for atmosphere and “df” for dog friendly.
Tick or check marks (✓) are awarded for outstanding listings. There are indications of price ranges and difficulty levels of walks. Attractions are coded with map references also.
The meat of the guide begins with sections on the most famous attractions in Ireland, means of transportation, annual events, contributions of the Irish, and famous film locations. Next are sections focusing on Ireland’s four largest cities. They examine the lodging accommodations, style of cooking, restaurants, pubs, attractions, shops, walks, and views for each city. Next the guide expands to regional hotels and restaurants and sections that let the reader explore more specific topics like tea rooms (e.g. Miss Marple’s Tea Rooms), graveyards (e.g. Yeats’ Grave at Drumcliff Parish Church, Co Sligo), and Irish crystal and glass (e.g. House of Waterford). The last major section explores the many islands. Each attraction or feature in the book has a nice, short paragraph describing it.
I have not been to Ireland, but this guide book certainly inspires me to visit. I think this book would be an essential tool for me in planning a trip to the Old Country of my husband’s roots and then enjoying its features while there.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Collins Reference for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Reference, Travel
Publication: September 1, 2018—Collins Reference
Ireland has a fascinating past, sculpted by the great characters—knights, saints, writers, architects, freedom fighters, clerics, politicians, artists—who have shaped the nation, whether for good or for ill. We have loved discovering the castles and keeps, the graveyards and follies, the beaches and gardens that illuminate a picture of Irish culture going right back to pre-history.
Try a leisurely holiday with an Irish Cob horse, who will pull your home through the Wicklow landscape. Or go for a 7-day walk with a friendly donkey, who will walk beside you and carry your load.
The Shannon estuary is teaming with life, and Geoff and Susanne Magee run an informative tour of the river mouth running a Dolphin and Nature Boat Trip, on which you might see the bottle dolphins as well as grey seals and pelagic sea birds.