Review

The Color of Light. Emilie Richards

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The Color of Light
Emilie Richards
Published: Mira
Date: July 28th 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 496
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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For more than a decade minister Analiese Wagner has felt privileged to lead her parishioners along a well-lit path. Her commitment has never been seriously tested until the frigid night she encounters a homeless family huddling in the churchyard. Offering them shelter in a vacant parish house apartment and taking teenage Shiloh Fowler—a girl desperate to rescue her parents—under her wing, she tests the loyalty and faith of her congregation.

Isaiah Colburn, the Catholic priest who was her first mentor and the man she secretly longed for, understands her struggles only too well. At a crossroads, he’s suddenly reappeared in her life, torn between his priesthood and his growing desire for a future with Analiese.

Divided between love and vows they’ve taken, both must face the possibilities of living very different lives or continuing to serve their communities. With a defeated family’s trust and her own happiness on the line, Analiese must define for herself where darkness ends and light begins. 

My thoughts banner
The Color of Light is #4 in the Goddesses Anonymous series by Emilie Richards.  It is one of my top favourite series and the The Color of Light just added to the allure.
When Emilie Richards writes of church she has a ring of authority and compassion.  A vision that is inspiring. And so we have in this novel the story of Analiese the pastor of the local church. Annaliese is the kind of pastor I’d want for any and every church.  She is strong, caring and compassionate.  She is not about institution, she is about people.  However the life of a pastor is not an easy one.  If you belong to or have belonged to a parish of any kind, I am sure you are aware of the variety of people and their politics. That must be very taxing as a minister tries to follow their calling and deal with all the other minutiae that goes along with the role.  Annaliese has a lot to contend with, often no time to eat or call her own.  But she has a calling to ministry and it goes deeply into her being.
Annaliese welcomes a homeless family into a small apartment that is attached to the church when she finds them preparing to camp out in the cold.  The Fowler family play a big part in this story and through it a church is offered the chance to explore what church is really about.  This family has many problems and at the beginning it is Shiloh a fourteen year old that holds them together.  How best to help them? There are a variety of ways, but which way is going to lead to self respect, dignity and eventually the chance to be independent and whole again as people and as a family?
Isaiah is a Roman Catholic priest and Jesuit, arrives in the area, taking time out to explore his calling. Analiese and he have known each other many years ago, when he helped her discover her calling to ministry.  However they have not been in contact for many years until now.  I thought Emilie Richards explored his path and journey very well.  I was very satisfied finally with the way he made his choices in line with his calling.
Of course we meet other characters from previous books and see their lives continuing to take shape. We see the struggles of the homeless, we see a very topical issue facing the church and Annaliese – one that Annaliese handles extremely well. While it is foreshadowed before it happens I don’t want to discuss it so as not to give away the plot.  
This book oozes warmth and humanity at its best and occasionally at its weakest.  My heart was deeply touched by an “I love you” and the response to it.  And no, it wasn’t between Annaliese and Isaiah!
Story telling with sensitivity and at its finest.
5 stars

Review

Spring Fever. Mary Kay Andrews

Spring Fever
Mary Kay Andrews
Published: Macmillan Audio
Date: 2012
Format: Audiobook
Length: 15hrs 35 min
Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Own book
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Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews was a great listen.  Very entertaining and Kathleen McInerney made it even more so.  I loved her voices for the characters, especially Sophie.
This is the story of Annajane who has been married to Mason and then divorced, but she continued to work for the company. She also attends the wedding of Mason to his new love Celia.  And it is at that point the fun begins.  Enter Sophie, Mason’s daughter, a five year old and completely adorable. She causes life to become interesting.
Mason’s family run a soft drink company and Annajane is reluctantly leaving to go down to be with her new love Shane.  Yet there are some things happening round town that gives her pause for thought.  Davis her immediate boss and Mason’s brother seems to be wanting to sell the company, and what does Celia have to do with that?
Loved Annajane and her close friend Pokey, sister to Mason. Pokey is straight talking and a wonderful ally for Annajane.  The two of them are the complete opposites of the two other very bitchy unlikeable women in the novel.
Mason was a very responsible and family guy, although he and Annajane had made strange choices early on.  I thought he was a little slow where Celia was concerned, especially as in everything else he was discerning.  
A very enjoyable listening experience.  Now to look out another Mary Kay Andrews’ book!
4 stars
Review

The Perfect Son. Barbara Claypole White. Review & Giveaway

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The Perfect Son
Barbara Claypole White
Published: Lake Union Publishing
Date: July 1st 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 398
Genre: Fiction
Source: Author and Publisher via NetGalley
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From a distance, Felix Fitzwilliam, the son of an old English family, is a good husband and father. But, obsessed with order and routine, he’s a prisoner to perfection. Disengaged from the emotional life of his North Carolina family, Felix has let his wife, Ella, deal with their special-needs son by herself.
A talented jewelry designer turned full-time mother, Ella is the family rock…until her heart attack shatters their carefully structured existence. Now Harry, a gifted teen grappling with the chaos of Tourette’s, confronts a world outside his parents’ control, one that tests his desire for independence.
As Harry searches for his future, and Ella adapts to the limits of her failing health, Felix struggles with his past and present roles. To prevent the family from being ripped apart, they must each bend with the inevitability of change and reinforce the ties that bind.

My thoughts banner
The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White was a book I simply loved.  I thought starting out it was women’s fiction, and I see some have classified it as that, but I think it falls more into general fiction. The book opens on a flight where Ella has a heart attack. This throws her husband Felix and son Harry into a deep dark hole.  Ella who has given up her jewelry designing to care for their son and home while Felix is the earner.  Now everything is turned about.
Harry has a number of conditions – ADHD, anxiety and Tourettes syndrome.  Wouldn’t one be enough for anyone to cope with? Three is a lot. Just turning seventeen Harry is one of the characters I fell in love with.  What a warm heart, what a discerning mind he has. I loved what he finally chose to do in life.  Yet his mother has always been there for him, now Ella is distancing from him and Felix must be the parent he turns to.  His Dad doesn’t have much idea and can’t even cope with a hug.  I really liked seeing the person behind the syndromes, I have met many a person with ADHD and anxiety but not Tourettes. I think I felt a little nervous about even meeting anyone with this, yet now having read this book I feel I would look beyond to the person.  I love it when a book helps me to take a new viewpoint.
Felix the dad and husband is a flawed and dare I say beautiful character.  He loves Harry and his wife Ella, but in his very English controlled way.  I liked how his character developed the most in this book, the challenges he is thrust into would take anyone’s breath away.  The way he renegotiated his work commitment, expressed his love for Ella and slowly built a relationship with his son was very satisfying. His back story is difficult and his love for his brother Tom redeeming. Had it not been for Tom where might Felix have ended up?
The minor characters of Katherine ( Ella’s friend), Eudora – the little old lady next door who is no push over, and lastly but not least Max – the very good friend of Harry and Sammie – Harry’s first girlfriend.  They all added flavour to this book, I  loved Max, what a guy.
I don’t really want to give any of the plot away, although this is a very character driven story.  I smiled at times and felt deep emotion at other times. This read was so good I know it is a book that I will want to go back to. Perhaps it all tied up a little too cosily at the end, I’d have been satisfied without the epilogue but it was there so… – I vote for it!
4.5 stars
This book is available on Audible (narrated by Justine Eyre) Amazon or the Book Depository. I am sure there are other places, they just happen to be my haunts.
Because it is mid year and mid summer in some parts and mid winter in others, I am going to do a giveaway for a paperback copy of this book.  Open internationally so long as the Book Depository ships to you free. Closes on 12th July. To enter just fill out form below.
Review

A New Hope. Robyn Carr

A New Hope
Robyn Carr
Published: Harlequin
Date: 30th June 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 336
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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A New Hope is #8 in the Thunder Point series.  It takes up the story of Ginger Dysart, who has been staying with Ray Ann and healing from a broken marriage and losing a child.  She has found a job working for Grace in the local florist shop.

The book opens at the Lacoumette farm where the wedding of Scott and Payton is taking place.  One of Payton’s brothers – Matt, makes a nuisance of himself with Ginger and she floors him! He too is recovering from a broken marriage and something else which has led him to not being his usual self.  When he realises what he has done he seeks out Ginger at Thunder Point and apologises.  And the romance develops from there.

Ginger is a wonderful character, she has grown through her grief and her eyes are wide open.  She is learning to be direct and speak her mind. Loved that about her.  She still is dealing with her ex as well as the anger that Matt is carrying, and she is not prepared to just put up with it. Matt to give him his credit is a very likeable character, a little henpecked by his sister if he allowed it, and ready as time goes by to engage in a new relationship.  I thought Robyn Carr took an excellent line with this character, it was great to witness.  I won’t give anything away because I don’t want to spoil the journey for other readers.

While Ginger and Matt are the two main characters in focus, I love how we are given glimpses of some of the other characters.  Another marriage takes place, so continuing the story of two previous characters. I especially enjoyed Winnie’s story (the mother of Grace who has come to live with her) and her nurse Lin Su and her son Charlie. The next book is going to track their story and I just can’t wait because I just know its going to be good.

I so love these stories because they are more than romance.  They include a wide range of characters, young and old, each with a story and challenges of their own.  The books have substance.

4.5 stars
Review

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky

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Blueprints
Barbara Delinksky
Published:  St Martin’s Press
Date: June 9th 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 416
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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The is the story of two strong women, Caroline MacAfee, a skilled carpenter, and her daughter Jamie, a talented architect. The day after her 56th birthday, Caroline is told the network wants Jamie to replace her as the host on their family-based home construction TV show. The resulting rift couldn’t come at a worse time.

For Jamie, life changes overnight when, soon after learning of the host shift, her father and his new wife die in a car accident that orphans their two-year-old son. Accustomed to organization and planning, she is now grappling with a toddler who misses his parents, a fiancé who doesn’t want the child, a staggering new attraction, and a work challenge that, if botched, could undermine the future of both MacAfee Homes and Gut It.

For Caroline hosting Gut It is part of her identity. Facing its loss, she feels betrayed by her daughter and old in the eyes of the world. When her ex-husband dies, she is thrust into the role of caregiver to his aging father. And then there’s Dean, a long-time friend, whose efforts to seduce her awaken desires that have been dormant for so long that she feels foreign to herself.

Both women ask, as the blueprints they’ve built their lives around suddenly need revising. While loyalties shift, decisions hover, and new relationships tempt, their challenge comes not only in remaking themselves, but in rebuilding their relationship with each other.

My thoughts banner
Blueprints by Barbara Delinksy was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and as soon as I read the opening pages I was hooked. Both Caroline and Jamie are smart, competent women, each very talented at what they do.  
Caroline is thrown by her possible axing of being the host of the home makeover show Gut It.  She senses it’s because of her age that Claire the snarky director is wanting to replace her with the younger Jamie.  This creates tension for Claire, she is very good at what she does, yet it would be her daughter who would replace her. She loves Jamie and they have always been there for each other. Suddenly their relationship is strained and Caroline finds herself at odds with her daughter. 
Jamie loves her mother, has been thrown by the sudden responsibility of caring for her step baby brother when he loses both his parents in a fatal car accident.  She then finds Brad, the man she is about to marry, isn’t keen on having a ready made son in the mix.  She meets a local at the park, a Dad with a son just a year older than Tad. He seems to offer support and a whole lot more  that Jamie soon appreciates.
Life becomes very busy for both women, it seems like their relationship is strained for ages, although in actual time it is not really that long.  Each one finds herself in a new situation, dealing with issues that are so important for them.  With the support of the men who love them, each one finds her way through the maze to something new and satisfying.  
Love for family, the bond between a mother and daughter, the enjoyment of passionate love with a strong partner, strong women competent at what they do,  all combine in this book to make it a downright pleasurable read. 
4 stars
Elizabeth over at Thoughts From an Evil Overlord has a giveaway for two copies of this book for USA residents. Hop on over and enter.  Well worth the win and the read.  Blueprints review and giveaway.

Review

The Lake Season. Hannah McKinnon

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The Lake Season
Hannah McKinnon
Published: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Date: June 2nd 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
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Iris Standish has always been the responsible older sister: the one with the steady marriage, loving family, and sensible job. But this summer, as her carefully-constructed life spins out of her control, a cryptic postcard from her beautiful, free-spirited sister Leah arrives at the perfect time: Please Come. Iris seizes her chance to escape to her childhood lakeside home, where Leah is planning her wedding to a man their New Hampshire clan has never met.

Still, despite the rush of dress fittings, floral arrangements, and rehearsal dinners, Iris is learning to put herself first. And amid a backdrop of late-night swims and a soul-restoring barn renovation comes Cooper Woods, an old friend who beckons with the promise of a new start.

But Leah has secrets of her own, and while her sister faces a past that has finally caught up to her, Iris prepares to say good-bye to a future that is suddenly far from certain. As Hampstead Lake shimmers in the background, Iris must decide when to wade in cautiously and when to dive—and, ultimately, how to ferry herself to safe harbors in this enticing novel of sisters, second chances, and the ties that bind.

My thoughts banner
The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon was a book that I enjoyed.  Iris is married to Paul and they have three children, Sadie thirteen, Lily and Jack.  All is not well in the household, the opening of the novel portrays a chaotic household that reeks with heaviness.  Paul and Iris no longer communicate.  Sadie is being a typical young teen and Iris seems to be getting things ‘wrong.’
When Iris receives a plea from her sister to come home to help her with last minute preparations she decides to go. She leaves Paul to handle things at home.  When Iris arrives home we meet her family, her mother Millie who I found a little odd, but she obviously loves her daughters.  Her sister Leah is acting really strange too.  She appears somewhat unstable. Add in Iris herself who is struggling with her marriage issues and life is rather filled with tension.  The interactions of mother and daughters, and sisters was thought provoking, so much holding back, not everything shared.  What is going on under the surface?
Iris really needs this time apart from her family to reassess her life, to discover what she values and where is life and happiness for her.  Right up until the very end of the novel I was not sure exactly what she was going to choose.  I liked her friend Trish, she was a supportive friend and sister like figure in Iris’ life.  Iris is responsible – always has been, her family comes first, however is she going to be swallowed up by that and relegate her own needs to the bottom of the pile? I knew what I wanted her to do, and as I said above I wasn’t sure until the end what it would be.  At 96% read I was becoming worried!
Themes of family, being happy, marriage, children, being a parent, being valued and communication or the lack of it run right through this novel.  The importance of not keeping important information back, being honest is so key.  Lack of it breeds distrust.  I think this book would be a good book club book as I am sure it would engender quite a bit of discussion.
4 stars
Review

I’ll Stand By You. Sharon Sala

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I’ll Stand by You
Sharon Sala
Published: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date: June 1st 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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No one is alone… Dori Grant is no stranger to hardship. As a young single mother in the gossip-fueled town of Blessings, Georgia, she’s weathered the storm of small-town disapproval most of her life. But when Dori loses everything within the span of an evening, she realizes she has no choice but to turn to her neighbors.

Everyone says the Pine boys are no good, but Johnny Pine has been proving the gossips wrong ever since his mother died and he took over raising his brothers. His heart goes out to the young mother and child abandoned by the good people of Blessings. Maybe he can be the one to change all that…

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I’ll Stand by You by Sharon Sala is a warm, feel good contemporary romance. Sharon Sala has written many books, but it just happens that this is the first I have read, it won me over and I sat engrossed in it, completing it within a day.

The small town of Blessings in Georgia is the setting, and it’s a mixture of people, some good hearted and some gossip centred.  Dori is only just turning eighteen, young but mature, she has had to cope with a lot in life, and there is still more to face.  She loves her young son, and when the local neighbors leave her to cope on her own after a crisis, there is one person who steps up to help her out.

Johnny is only twenty, but he has the care of his two much younger brothers and he does a fabulous job, ready to go in to bat for them where needed. Also determined to help them grow up well.  They are a delight.  When he sees how others have turned away from Dori he opens his heart and his home up to her.  Little does he know what is to come next.

When things get tough for Dori and Johnny there are people in the town ready to stand up for them and cheer them on.  This is a book where the good win and the bad…. get what they richly deserve.  It has a fairytale feel to it, it hooked me in and I suspended judgement and just indulged in a real feel good story.

4.5 stars
Review

Jericho. Ginger Jamison

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Jericho
Ginger Jamison
Published: Kimani Press
Date: 2014
Format: Paperback
Pages: 330
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Own book
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Georgia Williams has traveled a hard road from sheltered preacher’s daughter to struggling single mother. Determined to build a secure future for her baby girl, she takes a job as a night nurse at Jericho Military Hospital. But her precarious world shifts yet again when she meets her newest patient.

A marine who nearly died fighting for his country, Lieutenant Christian Howard is a man of duty, honor…and deep desires. Something about the scarred war hero touches Georgia, awakening feelings she’s tried to keep hidden. One passionate night together changes everything, erupting with consequences neither could have foreseen. Now Georgia faces the most momentous decision of her life. Should she trust Christian, a man she barely knows, with the devastating secrets from her past? Could this be a love that will heal and save them both?

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I saw a review somewhere for Jericho by Ginger Jamison and decided it sounded interesting. I think it was in the Romantic Times where it was a top pick.  I have just got around to reading it and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is a romance with great character exploration, a plot that kept me engaged and excellent writing.
Georgia is a very spunky young mother, caring for her delightful little daughter and as well working nights as a nurse at Jericho Military Hospital.  She is beloved by the patients because of her kindness and caring.  It is there that she meets Christian and soon a relationship starts to build.  However Georgia is in danger of losing her job when seen kissing Christian.
Christian on discharge finds that he needs to find Georgia and from there, the relationship develops further.  However Christian is somewhat unsure of Georgia, is she with him because she needs to be or could she possibly love him.  As well Christian struggles with what he will do from now on in, to find purpose in life – does that involve going back to the war front?
Christian has no family, he still carries guilt about his parents dying.  Georgia was cast out by her family when she accused a family friend of rape – resulting in a child.  Her ‘religious pastor father’ will have nothing to do with her and forbids the others as well.  This is a heavy weight that Georgia carries.
I enjoyed watching the relationships pan out, the struggles with various feelings of anger, guilt, loneliness and the possibility of forgiveness. The minor characters added a richness to the mix, all in all a very good read.
4 stars
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Sweet Tea at Sunrise. Sherryl Woods

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Sweet Tea at Sunrise
Sherryl Woods
Published: MIRA
Date: 2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 389
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Local library
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Emotionally wounded single mom Sarah Price has come home to Serenity, South Carolina, for a fresh start. With support from her two best friends; the newest generation of the Sweet Magnolias; she can face any crisis.

But sometimes a woman needs more than even treasured friends can provide. Sexy Travis McDonald may be exactly what Sarah’s battered self-confidence requires. The newcomer is intent on getting Sarah to work at his fledgling radio station; and maybe into his bed, as well.

Sarah has learned not to trust sweet words. She’ll measure the man by his actions. Is Travis the one to heal her heart? Or will he break it again?

My thoughts banner
Sweet Tea at Sunrise is #6 in the Sweet Magnolia series.  It is the second one in a trilogy about the younger generation in this South Carolina town.  It is the story of Sarah, friend of Annie and Raylene who is now living with Sarah.
Sarah has come through a difficult divorce, her past husband eroded her self-esteem by continually picking on her and pointing out her faults.  Therefore it is difficult for her to believe it when Travis starts to pay attention to her.  Unlike her past husband – Walter, he has only positive things to say. Will she believe him?
Sarah is a great mother, a forgiving woman and also a talented one.  I loved seeing her go from strength to strength on the new local radio station.  It was also interesting to see how her relationship develops with Travis and alongside that how Walter is tangled up in it all.  Travis’ dad is not a great role model and for quite awhile Sarah seems to get mixed up with the idea that the apple does not fall far from the tree!  What is Travis real nature, is he is own man and can Sarah trust him.  I loved Raylene’s gentle prodding in this area.  
All the usual characters waft in and out of the story, it seems a lot of them are pregnant, so the town is soon to have a boost in population.  Sherryl Woods always writes a good story and this one is just that.
3.5 stars

Review

The Summer Girls. Mary Alice Monroe

The Summer Girls
Mary Alice Monroe
Published: Blackstone Audio
Date: 2013
Format: Audiobook
Length:  11hrs 42 min
Narrated: Mary Alice Monroe
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Own audiobook
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Three sisters reunite on Sullivan’s Island off the coast of South Carolina after years of separation in this heartwarming first novel in a new trilogy from a beloved author. 80-year-old Marietta Muir is a dowager of Charleston society who has retired to her historic summer home on Sullivan’s Island. At the onset of summer, Marietta – “Mamaw” – seeks to gather her three granddaughters – Carson, Eudora, and Harper – with the intent to reunite them after years apart.

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The Summer Girls written and narrated by Mary Alice Monroe was well worth the listen and I will be eagerly listening to the next two in this trilogy.  It is about three girls – half sisters, and their grandmother – Mamaw.  They have all been invited to her house for the summer, and with a somewhat tentative approach they all end up responding to the invitation.
Eudora (Dora) is the oldest and has a young son who is autistic.  She is in the process of seeking a divorce from her husband.  Carson has turned up from California where she has just lost her job. Harper is the youngest, and works as an editor in her mother’s firm.  While the girls did meet up for summers when they were young, they are not particularly close.  Perhaps this summer that will all change.
This story is mostly about Carson, she is a keen surfer and enjoys being out on the sea, until a chance encounter changes things up a bit for her.  She also befriends Nate and helps him to learn to swim. Together they befriend a dolphin, that will have far reaching consequences.   Carson also forms a relationship with Blake, a keen kite surfer and who also works on tracking the local marine life in this area.  A bond forms between Carson and Blake, although it is not really centre stage.  The story is more about how Carson is faced with her past and present and must decide how she is going to move into the future.
I liked all the characters, Mamaw was a wonderful southern character, the girls were all different and each had their flaws and strengths.  I look forward to reading the next two books to find out the developments.
There is an environmental message to this book, it is not tacked on, but rather becomes very integral to the plot.  I liked the way it was done and it is an important message.  I also liked Mary Alice Monroe narrating the book, sometimes I shy away from an author reading their own book, but it works well on the whole.
4.5 stars