Review

Write My Name Across the Sky. Barbara O’Neal

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Publisher: Lake Union
Date: 10th August 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley 

Life’s beautiful for seventysomething influencer Gloria Rose, in her Upper West Side loft with rooftop garden and scores of Instagram followers—until she gets word that her old flame has been arrested for art theft and forgery, and, knowing her own involvement in his misdeeds decades earlier, decides to flee. But that plan is complicated when the nieces she raised are thrown into crises of their own.

Willow, overshadowed by her notorious singer-songwriter mother, has come home to lick her wounds on the heels of a failed album and yet another disastrous relationship. Sam, prickly and fiercely independent, is on the verge of losing not only her beloved video game company but the man she loves, thanks to her inability to keep her always-simmering anger in check.

With the FBI closing in, Willow’s career in shambles, and Sam’s tribulations reaching a peak, each of the three woman will have to reckon with and reconcile their interwoven traumas, past loves, and the looming consequences that could either destroy their futures or bring them closer than ever.

Write My Name Across the Sky  is the story of two sisters, who have had a rather challenging upbringing. Both of them are at tough points in their lives now.

Sam is a creator of video games, but her company is failing and she has fallen out with her best friend Asher. She seems to be a little bit of a loner and really when it comes to some people in her life, has a very sharp tongue that wounds the chosen recipient.

Willow is a talented musician but her life is down in the doldrums as well. She is a gentle, caring person and I liked her. 

Gloria their aunt has looked out for the two and lives in the apartment their mother bought from her days of music fame. She loved being a world traveller but some involvement in an art scam years back seems to be catching up with her.

It took me a little while to get engaged with their lives but very soon I was very involved and wanting to know what would happen to them. And I loved that New York apartment. At the end I think prickly Sam turned into someone I was cheering on.

A warm hearted story of sisters and their aunt, the past catching up with each and a new and better future possible. I really liked the choice of facing up to past mistakes and moving on.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment and er… add to your groaning TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn here at The Book Date.
Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels or anything in those genres – join them.

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Hope you are all doing okay in this ever changing world. I am hoping for a going down of levels of lockdown announcement today for my area. Although that means tidying up the house a bit as it allows for us to intermingle more.

What I read last week:

What I am reading now:

Battle RoyalAnd listening to

Checked Out for Murder

Up next:

From the recent addition to my bookshelf shelf!

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It’s Monday! What Am I Reading

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment and er… add to your groaning TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn here at The Book Date.
Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels or anything in those genres – join them.

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Greetings to you all. Hope you are keeping safe. Thinking about those facing a hurricane, or fires or Delta. I always like visiting so many of your posts and finding out how you are all doing in your place in the world.

We are still in lockdown although my area will lessen a little, with those who work in construction can go back to work safely on Wednesday and people can get takeaways in non contact way. However Auckland where the big outbreak is, they don’t have any of that.

After my first week in lockdown and a bit of moping, I’ve now  got myself into a rhythm and am keeping myself occupied happily.

What I read last week:

What I am reading now:

Ever wanted to inherit a castle!!!

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And listening through and enjoying The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Up next:

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Last Week’s Posts

Book Family Complications

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Book Connections

Garden Books.

I am not a gardener although there are plenty in my family who are and my forebears were gardeners too. Most of my garden is very dry at present, and I do have a small veggie garden. Love picking from that.

There have been quite a few books I’ve read that have almost at centre stage – a garden.

book cover The Unfinished Garden is the author’s debut novel and the only one I hadn’t read of hers until now. Tilly the main woman character is into gardens and garden and loves it. Both in North Carolina where she has a business and in her home in England where she spends some time as well. Then there is James who wants Tilly’s help with a garden for his place. He has OCD and can’t put his hands near the earth. This book I think is titled The Unfinished Garden because a garden is never finished. How true!  Barbara Claypole White always presents a very compassionate stance towards her characters with mental illness and I always love her knowledge and the help she provides her readers to take these people into their hearts.

book coverA Home Like Ours also has a special Australian garden at its centre. It’s very important and brings a community together. My review for this one will be up soon. It was a 5 star read for me.

book coverThis was an engrossing tale, told from a few different viewpoints and times. The story and mystery unfold – the reader has enough clues to see what has happened before the characters. Its both sad and and uplifting. What a complicated family! It involves a kind of secret garden.

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The Garden of Happy Endings  involves sisters and a community garden in a poor part of town. I loved this story, so thoughtful and enjoyable. Loved the  women and each of their stories. Their search and exploration of what makes them happy was important. I especially appreciated Elsa’s journey – her spiritual one and her search for her partner in life. Felt very real and authentic.

book coverThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman. Witty and insightful. Wonderful group of characters. Two sisters, well two sets of sisters who made me laugh and at times sad. A group of people who come together around a gardening project and form what I think will be lasting friendships. Tons of good hints about gardening.

There is another book I’ll be wanting to read… The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly which comes well recommended.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This September?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment and er… add to your groaning TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn here at The Book Date.
Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels or anything in those genres – join them.

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Well August has ended, on Saturday I had a wonderful “bookish moment” when my niece and children and sister and brother in law turned up to sing happy birthday as the children had been sick and had missed my birthday. We had a lovely morning and I loved their birthday wishes singing of course. I was also given this gorgeous painting by my niece Sonia (artist) of Max (5) and Scarlett  (4) sharing a book. It will be treasured evermore.

Two children reading

What I read last week:

I enjoyed When We Believed in Mermaids, if you like stories about sisters, you’ll like it. Rival’s Break review will post this coming week. The Shell Seekers was a delight on audio.

What I am reading now:

 

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And I’ve started to listen to Connections in Death.   #48 in the series.

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Up next:

Not sure!  Either a library book or one from my TBR shelf.

Last Week’s Posts

Connect Five Books Link for August – October

August Month in Review

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment and er… add to your groaning TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn here at The Book Date.
Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels or anything in those genres – join them.

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Well some days of rain, and one or two sunshiny days. Those days took me outside to do a bit of weeding and admire the freesias beginning to flower. Signs of Spring! The winter veggie garden needs digging in, in preparation for potatoes. If all goes well I’ll have some help with that. So plenty to keep me occupied when I am not reading!  Makes me sound like a gardener, but I am not really, just a basic one!

What I read last week:

Life and Other Inconveniences was a good read.  A Thread of Truth was okay but a little wordy but I hung in because of the quilting link and Waiting for Tom Hanks just really wasn’t my kind of read. I think I am not a Rom Com reader!

What I am reading now:

I like Barbara O’Neal’s books and she has set this one in New Zealand, so a little bit of extra fun seeing what she has highlighted.

 

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I have almost finished listening to The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, has been a bit of a mission but enjoyable. Listening is always a great way to do a reread, and really I had totally forgotten the story.

Up next:

A review book then a library book.

 

Last Week’s Posts

Five Favourite Author Books 2019

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Review

The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal

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Published: Lake Union Publishing
Date: 17th July 2018
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 364
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Rating
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When Olivia Shaw’s mother dies, the sophisticated food editor is astonished to learn she’s inherited a centuries-old English estate—and a title to go with it. Raw with grief and reeling from the knowledge that her reserved mother hid something so momentous, Olivia leaves San Francisco and crosses the pond to unravel the mystery of a lifetime.


One glance at the breathtaking Rosemere Priory and Olivia understands why the manor, magnificent even in disrepair, was the subject of her mother’s exquisite paintings. What she doesn’t understand is why her mother never mentioned it to her. As Olivia begins digging into her mother’s past, she discovers that the peeling wallpaper, debris-laden halls, and ceiling-high Elizabethan windows covered in lush green vines hide unimaginable secrets.

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The Art of Inheriting Secrets by Barbara O’Neal – a read I enjoyed.  Why?

  • Set in the English countryside
  • A falling down estate – especially the old English house – more than a small house – a stately house.
  • A woman who has just lost her mother and has come to England because she has found papers amongst her mother’s things.  She is about to find out she is now a Countess and the owner of the large estate.
  • A cold case – a young missing girl and a missing man, her mother’s brother.
  • Unscrupulous people who are out to get their hands on the estate and any money there.
  • Food – Olivia is a food editor and she appreciates the best tastes going.  To her delight she comes across and English /Indian family who are well versed in delightful tastes
  • Samir – a young man who is working as a thatcher but is so much more.
  • An old Earl who turns out to be a darling
  • A treasure hunt of sorts that Olivia’s mother has set up for her to find what she needs.
  • Warm friendships that start to form
  • The possibility of taking on Rosemere – the estate – and bringing it back to its former glory

All these things kept me reading, at times I found a little too much going on and some things then a little undeveloped for my taste, but that said, it was a great read.

Review

The Secret of Everything Barbara O’Neal

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The Secret of Everything
Barbara O’Neal
Published: Brilliance Audio
Date: 2009
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Angela Dawe
Length: 12hrs 5min
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Own book
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At thirty-seven, Tessa Harlow is still working her way down her list of goals to “fall in love and have a family.” A self-described rolling stone, Tessa leads hiking tours for adventurous vacationers — it’s a job that’s taken her around the world but never a step closer to home. Then a freak injury during a trip already marred by tragedy forces her to begin her greatest adventure of all.

Located high in the New Mexico mountains, Las Ladronas has become a magnet for the very wealthy and very hip, but once upon a time it was the setting of a childhood trauma Tessa can only half remember. Now, as she rediscovers both her old hometown and her past, Tessa is drawn to search-and-rescue worker Vince Grasso. The handsome widower isn’t her type. No more inclined to settle down than Tessa, Vince is the father of three, including an eight-year-old girl as lost as Tessa herself. But Tessa and Vince are both drawn to the town’s most beloved eatery — 100 Breakfasts — and to each other. For Tessa, the restaurant is not only the key to the mystery that has haunted her life but a chance to find the home and the family she’s never known.

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I ended up really enjoying The Secret of Everything – the audiobook version. At the beginning I wasn’t too sure of how it was being narrated. But very soon I was right into it. Angela Dawe did a great job with all the different characters voices, everyone was different.
Tessa has some past griefs that cause her trouble, she has been in an accident and is part recovering, part looking for a new tramping tours spot and part seeking out her past that has been lost to her because her memory can’t recall it. There is a mystery there for her – and when its finally solved some big surprises.
Vince, the guy she meets has three adorable daughters and when they entered the story I was totally hooked.  Natalie is the oldest at eight and she is struggling somewhat, she remembers her mother before she died, her two younger sisters don’t. Natalie also has a growing appreciation of food which sometimes puts her off side with her grandmother. Natalie and Tessa develop a bond that takes them eventually on a pilgrimage.
Vida owns 100 Breakfasts and this is where the food element comes in. She has had a tough life but her cafe is popular and she gives jobs to women who for example are on parole. She helps them get on their feet. One such woman is Annie who is learning all things from Vida. At the end of some chapters their is one of Vida’s breakfast recipes. Natalie has sampled a fair few of those!
There are some wonderful dogs in the story, the plot moves along at a leisurely and enjoyable pace. It is what is happening to the characters that count. With a few surprises there. Mystery, animals, food, children – great combination.
                                                      4 stars
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Review

The All You Can Dream Buffet. Barbara O’Neal

Book Cover of The All You Can Dream Buffet

The All You Can Dream Buffet
Barbara O’Neal
Publisher: Random House: Bantam Dell
Date: March 4th 2014
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 400
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Popular blogger and foodie queen Lavender Wills reigns over Lavender Honey Farms, a serene slice of organic heaven nestled in Oregon wine country. Lavender is determined to keep her legacy from falling into the profit-driven hands of uncaring relatives, and she wants an heir to sustain her life’s work after she’s gone. So she invites her three closest online friends—fellow food bloggers, women of varied ages and backgrounds—out to her farm. She hopes to choose one of them to inherit it—but who?

There’s Ginny, the freckle-faced Kansas cake baker whose online writing is about to lead her out of a broken marriage and into a world of sensual delights. And Ruby, young, pregnant, devoted to the organic movement, who’s looking for roots—and the perfect recipe to heal a shattered heart. Finally, Val, smart and sophisticated, a wine enthusiast who needs a fresh start for her teenage daughter after tragedy has rocked their lives. Coming together will change the Foodie Four in ways they could never have imagined, uniting them in love and a common purpose. As they realize that life doesn’t always offer a perfect recipe for happiness, they also discover that the moments worth savoring are flavored with some tears, a few surprises, and generous helping of joy.

Firstly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  It is about four women and the stages that they are at in their lives and the challenges that face each of them.  I especially warmed to Lavender who is about to celebrate her 85th birthday, Ginny who has really never travelled out of her neighbourhood and now in her 40’s needs to reinvent  her life and Ruby who is pregnant and always cheerful but has had a difficult road to hoe in many ways.  Then there is Virginia who has lost many of her family in a bad crash and now has one teenage daughter that she is endeavouring to guide through the teen years.  
As I watched these women tussle with the challenges they meet along the way, I knew what I wanted them to do and choose, but I wasn’t sure up until the end what they would do.  These women had met through blogging, each of them had a very viable blog with many followers, Virginia was the only one who was not blogging and hadn’t for a couple of years.  I think every blogger enjoys reading about characters who blog – at least I do! 
Ginny has a baking blog and she also specialises in photography, even teaching a course online. She has made enough money to buy herself an Airstream.  ( I had to google images to take a look at what she had bought herself – very nice too!)  Despite what her husband says and her mother and friends she embarks on a journey that is to change her life.  Imagine, up until this time she has never flown on a plane, seen the ocean or been to the mountains.  With her she takes her wonderful dog Willow.
Ruby has just been dumped by her boyfriend and she is learning what it means to stand on her own two feet and choose life as a strong woman. Virginia has a daughter who is struggling to make meaning of her life now with the rest of her family gone.  I felt I saw the least of Virginia, I am sure she has more of a story to tell.  
Invited to Lavender’s birthday they all meet, some of them for the first time, they enjoy each other’s company and support each other in the choices they make.  Lavender has grown into a delightful older woman who has lived life to the full and lived it with passion.  Now she wants to see that passion for her farm carried on by someone with equal passion for it.  Who will be the right one is her question of life at this point.
When the book finished I was sad to leave this wonderful community of women, I wished I could follow their lives through their blogs!  While this book is essentially about the growth and friendship of the characters, there are some males in the book who add to the spice in this story.
An excellent book, I recommend it to anyone who loves to read about women journeying together to truly live their lives.  I am sure some of you will see yourselves in at least one of these women as I certainly did.
4 stars
Review

How to Bake a Perfect LIfe

                                                     TBR Challenge June
Title: How To Bake a Perfect Life
Author: Barbara O’Neal
Published: Bantam 2012
Format: Kindle edition
Pages: 416
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Award: RITA for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements (2012)
Source: Own e-book.

Summary from Goodreads:
Professional baker Ramona Gallagher is a master of an art that has sustained her through the most turbulent times, including a baby at fifteen and an endless family feud. But now Ramona’s bakery threatens to crumble around her. Literally. She’s one water-heater disaster away from losing her grandmother’s rambling Victorian and everything she’s worked so hard to build.

When Ramona’s soldier son-in-law is wounded in Afghanistan, her daughter, Sophia, races overseas to be at his side, leaving Ramona as the only suitable guardian for Sophia’s thirteen-year-old stepdaughter, Katie. Heartbroken, Katie feels that she’s being dumped again—this time on the doorstep of a woman out of practice with mothering.

Ramona relies upon a special set of tools—patience, persistence, and the reliability of a good recipe—when rebellious Katie arrives. And as she relives her own history of difficult choices, Ramona shares her love of baking with the troubled girl. Slowly, Katie begins to find self-acceptance and a place to call home. And when a man from her past returns to offer a second chance at love, Ramona discovers that even the best recipe tastes better when you add time, care, and a few secret ingredients of your own.


My thoughts:
First thoughts – I hate 1st person POV and told in the present tense.  I usually avoid these books, although I have to admit I have enjoyed the ones I have persevered with.  This one had both, and as it was near $10 on my Kindle I wasn’t going to give up on it.  (Note to self, download the 1st chapter in future, don’t be lazy!)

That said, this was an enjoyable book!  There were great characters – Ramona, fortyish and with quite a life history, determined and gutsy.  Her daughter Sophia who is pregnant, happily married with a step daughter and suddenly faced with  a husband facing a long recovery, with life never to be the same.  Like her mother, gutsy and determined as well.  Step daughter Katie is a lost soul, but with the help of an adorable dog – Merlin and the mysterious old lady, plus all the love and care from Ramona she begins to face up to real life.  The third gutsy and determined female in this book.  Ramona’s family are both a blessing and a curse and the book details Ramona’s love/hate relationship with them.  Jonah is the love interest and Ramona’s and Jonah’s story is slowly and satisfyingly developed.

If you enjoy baking bread, then this might be a book for you.  There is a recipe at the beginning of every chapter.  Ramona bakes her own bread and has a starter that has come from Ireland with her great grandmother.  She runs a bakery and through most of the book is on the brink of failure as money woes mount.