Happy Father’s Day!

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This Father’s Day is the fifth we’ve celebrated and it’s crazy to realize. Lemon is five years old and Lime is three. (Side note, in case you don’t know, Lemon and Lime are our codes names for the boys . . .heaven help us when they figure it out!) We had a lot of fun today celebrating and taking it easy. This last week has been a little rough as the boys had fevers, so we really needed the family time.

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We did some organizing, including moving a bookshelf. I’d already organized it by color, which made it easy to unload and reload. This bookshelf is one of my favorite things. I love seeing the colors blend into each other and it just makes me happy. Thank you Pinterest for the inspiration!

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We finished the day with making homemade whole wheat pizza. Our toppings were yummy veggies: broccoli, peppers, mushrooms and marinated artichoke hearts.

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My current parenting read is this gem: How to Talk to Little Kids Will Listen. Oh. My. Goodness. It is spot on and hilarious so far. I’ve only just started, but I have a feeling it’s a good one.

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I hope it’s been a happy Father’s Day for you. I’d love to hear about it!

All the best, Abbey

Firefly Lane

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Firefly Lane

by Kristin Hannah

June 2017

Firefly Lane is the second Kristen Hannah book I’ve read and I really wanted to like it. I liked Home Front (even though it made me cry like a baby) and expected to enjoy this one as well. However, I was disappointed. One of the main characters was a totally narcissist and it basically ruined the book for me. She never changes, which was so unfortunate! The story is of two girls, Kate and Tully, who become best friends in high school and stay friends through ups and downs over the years. The book chronicles their years by the decade. Tully is always only concerned about herself and puts what she wants above everything and everyone. Spoilers: in the end Kate dies of breast cancer and still, Tully is so concerned about herself that she doesn’t even go into the church for the funeral!

Honestly, if it weren’t for Tully’s extreme selfishness, I would have enjoyed this book. I like Hannah’s writing and her plot was moving. I appreciated her drawing awareness to cancer and how that was an incredibly personal aspect to her story. I really wanted to like this one, so I’m sad I didn’t.

Summing it up: As much as I enjoy Hannah’s writing, I don’t recommend this book. The one “friend” was too self-obsessed and that was challenging to read. Did anyone else feel the same, or did that not bother you? I’d love to know!!

All the best, Abbey

Life On Mars

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Life On Mars

by Jon Agee

June 2017

This. Book. It’s amazing, hilarious and clever. My older son, Lemon (side note, that’s not his real name, but I wanted to preserve some privacy for the boy, and my husband and I actually use it as a code name), picked this book out at the library. I’d never heard of it and didn’t read it before checking it out, so I got the best surprise when I read it. This book is a must read. It is fun for children and downright hilarious for the adult reading it. I’m an instant fan of Agee and I really hope he’s written other books (just looked it up . . .he’s written a ton . . .awesome). The illustrations are simple and pleasing, yet dynamic, enhancing the story and giving it a layer of complexity which adds to it’s humor.

Life On Mars is about an adventurous little boy who flies to Mars hoping to find life. He knows he’s right and he’s determined to prove it.

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Before long he realizes he was wrong after all and that there is no life on Mars. And even worse, he’s lost his spaceship. But is he wrong?

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There is life (more than he thinks)! He happily returns to earth to show the flower as proof of life on Mars. There’s also a clever side story about a chocolate cupcake which is amazing!

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Summing it up: I highly recommend this book for young and old and hope you can get a copy to read really soon!

All the best, Abbey

Letters from Paris

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Letters from Paris

by Juliet Blackwell

March 2017

I was beside myself with excitement when I saw Blackwell’s second book, Letters From Paris, on the bookshelf! I adored her first book, The Paris Key (my review here – https://twentyninewillowlane.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/the-paris-key/). Seriously, anything French draws me in and this one was just spectacular. I love Blackwell’s writing and her plots. Once again, I got swept up in Blackwell’s story; wrapped up in her characters’ journeys.

Claire is a successful business woman, but returns home when her grandmother gets sick. There she finds a beautiful plaster mask that she adored as a child. Her mother died in a tragic accident, so her grandmother raised her. Her grandmother’s dying wish is that Claire would go to Paris to find out about the woman behind the mask. Claire agrees and after her grandmother’s passing, she makes plans to go. Once in Paris, Claire quickly finds the shop where the mask, L’Inconnue, was made. She is overwhelmed by the quantity of plaster masks and the abrupt nature the of rugged man running the shop. There’s a young woman translating who helps Claire. When she realizes Claire speaks French, she begs her to stay at the shop and translate while she runs out (since her brother is rather abrupt with customers). Claire agrees as she has nothing else to do and quickly gets caught up in shop life, as well as life in Paris. Spoilers: Claire ends up moving to the shop where Armand, the plasterer, also lives. They start off with a turbulent relationship, which slowly evolves into love as they get to know each other and spend more time together. They share loss of loved ones; Claire, her mother and grandmother and Armand, his daughter. By the end of the book they are a solid couple, strong and secure, not just infatuated with each other. The story of L’Inconnue is woven throughout the book. Sabine is a young girl whose only hope of survival in Paris is by becoming a model for artists (and becoming their lovers). The one artist she models for turns violent over time. She is unhappy, but has some hope as she has fallen in love with another artist, a plasterer. He is determined to free her, so they concoct a crazy plan: Sabine fakes her death and her lover makes her death mask. She is unclaimed, so is forever known as L’Inconnue and is remembered in mystery. In fact, she runs off with her lover, changes her name, and lives a long, respected life as the wife of the plasterer (and that same family has run the shop Claire is working in for years). When Claire discovers that Sabine drowned and later figures out that she faked her death, a few things click into place about her own mother’s death and she finds out that her mother faked her death to get out of a violent relationship. Claire is crushed that her mother would leave her and disappointed that her mother continues to keep her distance. She’s found her new home though and is able to work through the emotional side of things and find happiness!

Summing it up: I adored this book and I absolutely recommend it! I hope you read Blackwell’s books and then tell me what you think!

All the best, Abbey

When I Grow Up

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When I Grow Up

by Emma Dodd

June 2017

Emma Dodd is swiftly becoming one of my favorite authors. Her stories are simple, sweet and always have a beautiful message for little ones. This one is about growing up.

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The little bear wants to be just like his dad and talks about all the wonderful things he’ll be when he grows up, like wild and free. Dodd’s words are endearing and uplifting.

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Her illustrations are just as sweet and beautiful! They are simple and there are delightful textures and layers like the shimmery sun above. My boys love these books: reading them over and over!

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Summing it up: I love this book and highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

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Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

by Jenny Colgan

June 2017

I heard about one of Jenny Colgan’s books (having to do with Paris) and quickly added it to my ‘to be read’ list on Goodreads. Doing so, I realized that it wasn’t her first book in this series. I have a thing about reading in order, so I looked up book one, which was Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, and dove right in. Well, this book was cute, sweet and funny. It would make the perfect summer read. I really loved this book and just adored Issy, the main character. One aspect of Colgan’s writing that I enjoyed was that she tells the reader what each character is thinking throughout the whole book. So, two characters might be talking and she shares both of their thoughts in the same paragraph. It’s different, but nice. Sometimes I thought the story was a little wordy, but it didn’t taint my opinion that I loved this book!

Issy is 31 years old. She has a boring, but steady desk job, a great flatmate and she’s shagging her boss (quietly, as it’s not good for his image). Life is fine and Graeme might just be getting more serious about her. Then, one day Issy gets fired. They offer her a really good package, but it’s crushing. Especially since Graeme cuts off all contact, dumping her when she got fired. After a little while, Issy gets an idea. By her old bus stop, there is a vacant store. She always imagined a little cupcake bakery there and she starts wondering if that could be a reality. Her grandfather was a baker and taught her everything. Issy is a gifted baker and after lots of thought and planning, she decides to go for it, convincing first the landlord and then the bank (care of a rather handsome banker, Austin) that she has a viable shop. Austin takes a particular interest, helping Issy at length with all the details of what she’s getting into and how to navigate paperwork, etc. Issy hires a young, single mom, Pearl to help get the shop (the Cupcake Cafe) up and running. They bond quickly and before long it’s opening day! At first business is very slow, but after a road accident outside the shop (no one getting injured), they get flooded. Spoilers: business steadily builds from that day on, and they even need to hire another person. Issy decides on Caroline (a rich, rather snobbish woman who tried to rent the shop when Issy was going for it. She is great at marketing and keeping things running, even if she can rub people the wrong way, including Pearl. But she is a good fit for the shop.). Issy has an odd relationship with Austin (who has a ten year old brother he has looked after since both their parents died). They like each other, but they have a professional relationship because he is her banker and weighs in on financial decisions. They get close to being together, but then Graeme comes back and Issy goes back to him. She realizes it’s a mistake after a little while and leaves him (he’s selfish and doesn’t get why Issy loves her shop). Then there is a huge misunderstanding. Graeme is secretly planning to force Issy out of her shop in order to develop a new apartment complex. Austin finds out because Graeme comes to his bank to get a loan for the project. Austin assumes Issy knows because she’s dating Graeme, and thinks it’s a big plot by the two of them. Of course, Issy knows nothing and this all comes out at her shop on a crazy day. Issy is already not with Graeme anymore and she’s furious about Graeme’s scheme. She’s also hurt by Austin’s assumption. Austin realizes his huge mistake and does what he can to help stop Graeme. He denies the loan and helps get Issy an opportunity to extend her lease (of course it’s ending while all of this is going on). Issy gets an extension for 18 months and the business is so successful that she expands next door. She and Austin finally hash things out and get together. This whole time her grandfather has been battling dementia. He has been writing down his old recipes and encouraging Issy every step of the way, even to the end when it looked like the shop would close. He loves long enough to know she saves the store.

Summing it up: this whole book was so sweet and very clever. It was such a fun read and so heartwarming. It’s the perfect light read and I definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Devil in the White City

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Devil in the White City

by Erik Larson

May 2017

Several months ago my book club read The Devil in the White City. I was intrigued and nervous because this non-fiction is about a serial killer! It’s also about the Chicago World’s Fair, which was not nearly as intimidating. All in all, I really enjoyed it. I liked Larson’s pace and how he alternated between the World’s Fair story line and the serial killer story line. The subject matter ended up being fascinating and the book read nicely (it wasn’t dry, etc). That being said, it took me forever to read it! Even though I was interested, I just slogged through. I’m glad I read it though and I certainly recommend it.

As someone who knew nothing about either the World’s Fair or the horrors that were associated with it, I found The Devil in the White City to be engaging and interesting. Larson alternates between the two storylines, intertwining them chronologically, which was really cool. I was shocked that the World’s Fair started incredibly late for their opening date and even more surprised that they made it (mostly). Their plans were impressive and awe inspiring. The sad part was how many delays they had – one building had to be rebuilt at least three times. From weather, to fires, to strikes, it seemed impossible that the World’s Fair would open, and yet it did. My favorite piece of history that I learned was that the Ferris wheel was invented specifically for the fair. On the flipside, learning about Holmes (and his various aliases) was creepy and simply insane. He was crafty, clever and charming, bending countless men and women to his will. The creepy part was the pleasure he derived from killing people (mostly women and children). He either suffocated them or gassed them in the most horrific way. And the craziest part is that at that time, combined with the bustle of the fair, he got away with countless murderers before being tracked down. He could just call himself another name (and did so to marry at least three women), move around to evade debtors, and cause the disappearance of so many women without the a hint of alarm. In conclusion (some spoilers if you don’t know what happens), the World’s Fair was a huge success, but after it’s closing, faded away and parts burnt down. However, some remnants linger on today. As for Holmes, he decided to kill his accomplice, Pitezel, take three of his children (separating them from their mother) and then kill them for the pleasure of it. Pitezel’s wife was distraught at their disappearance (she did not know they were dead right away) and hired a private investigator to track them down. In the end, he followed Holmes’ trail, finding the two dead sisters first and then later finding their dead brother. Holmes was arrested, tried, and found guilty, ultimately being hung.

Summing it up: This story was creepy, fascinating, and I recommend reading it!

All the best, Abbey