Colonial Williamsburg

We recently moved to the Tidewater/Hampton Roads area of Virginia with the Army and I know it is going to be a great experience if nothing else for the field trips. We also just went through the death of a close family member that resulted in a longer than planned spring break, essentially ending our school year in February 2022 instead of May as I had planned. In order to make sure that we stay on track we are starting our 2022-2023 school year June 1. The kids aren’t thrilled. As everyone is getting ready for summer we are getting ready for a new year. I’m super thrilled because I love a routine, summer is lacking in that…I don’t love the heat so school during the hot months to open up some fun days in the fall and winter is A-OK with me.

This year we are studying Vikings- current times in history and a unit study on the Constitution. I can’t think of a better place to be than Virginia to study Jamestown, Colonial America, the constitution, Presidents, our country’s government. We plan to take full advantage of everything DC and this area has to offer. Over Memorial Day weekend Colonial Williamsburg offered free entry for Military and their dependents, so no brainer we took advantage. I wanted to line up the field trips with what we were studying but also life is expensive so we need breaks when we can.

We visited CW in 2009 so I figured researching ahead of time was much needed and I’m so glad I did. It’s always nice to have a game plan ahead of time, a budget, set expectations, and know what the snack situation is…hanger is the ender of all good days. CW allows you to bring in your own food and drinks and there are so many benches and lawns to enjoy picnics or let little ones burn off energy.

We started our day at the weavers where we learned how clothing was dyed and what was used to make the colors. FUN FACT: urine (usually of young boys, too young to drink) was used in developing the dye and helping it to adhere to the cloth!

We then went to the guard house where we learned about the uniforms and the recruiting tactics of the British and Colony Armies. If you know my husband in real life you know he can spend hours talking about military uniforms!

Then we visited the Market House where the kids tested out some games and school supplies.

The little doll that Charlotte is playing with is called a Hotch Potch and he helps teach letter formation…we brought him home.

When we stopped for our snack break we watched a slave wedding that ended horribly when the slave owner announced he didn’t recognize the wedding and that the slave would be taken to auction regardless.

We stopped and chatted with the blacksmith, the shoemaker, the printing shop, the milliner. Then we took a tour at the capitol where we learned the inner workings of the courts where felonies were tried and learned that much of that system was used to make the court system we are used to seeing today.

When it was finally time for lunch we tried the Chowning’s Tavern Garden. The food was really good, not too bad in price since it was our only meal purchased thanks to the snacks. A meal was roughly $14 and that included an entrée, chips, and slaw. I added a local beer and we enjoyed the thatched cover that provided plenty of shade.

After lunch we had some fun recreating a picture we took when Clayton was 16 months old.

Other than the free tickets (amazing enough), CW also offers a Liberty Lounge where military and their dependents can enjoy clean bathrooms, AC, water, tea, coffee, comfy chairs and great conversation with fellows service members past and present.

We made one final stop at Wythe Candy to grab some snacks for the road. It was the best day, great weather, low crowds. I hope the kids retained what they learned so when we reach that spot in out studies they can have those references. Thanks Colonial Williamsburg for a great day and great first field trip of the school year.

Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack

Escape to the breath-taking beauty of Venice – The City of Love.

When pragmatic, sensible and resolutely single Deirdre York (Didi to her friends) is sent to Venice for work she is determined not to be taken in by the romantic clichés. Winter in the floating city may be breathtakingly beautiful, but she’s here with a clear purpose and will not let the magic of Venice distract her.

Piero Zanetti is the epitome of the handsome yet tortured artist. Heart-broken by the end of his love affair with a glamorous opera singer, he has lost his ability to work, and his inspiration has drained away, along with his zest for life.

But Didi needs Piero working – she has been tasked with commissioning him to do a glass centrepiece for a luxury department store Christmas display – some how Didi has to cheer Piero up or at least find him a new muse…

As Didi and Piero slowly become friends, and as Venice starts to melt Didi’s heart and gently nudge Piero out of the blues, something special begins to happen. Can Venice – the City of Love – work a Christmas miracle and help Didi and Piero to find their happiness at last…

Leonie Mack is back with the most gloriously romantic escape, perfect for all fans of Mandy Baggot, Jo Thomas and Carole Matthews.

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Author Bio –  Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great international locations. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!

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Personal Review

I struggled a little with the flow of the plot. I felt like some things took awhile to develop where some things developed to fast to be realistic. There were a few plot explanations that didn’t seem to follow through or cam out of nowhere but over all this was great read for the holiday season. I enjoyed the characters and the way they developed together even if I didn’t love their individual development.

I would recommend this 3 star read to anyone looking for a fun holiday read, pretty clean and a great setting.

Thank you to Leonie Mack, Netgalley, and Boldwood Books for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli

I love and I mean LOVE Christmas time. Not for the lights and decorations or even the music but those are all a great backdrop to my true love, Christmas movies and more importantly Christmas themed books. While I love the Hallmark(y) movies and books they can be a bit repetitive and predictable, so this year I was in search of something a little different. My stack of Christmas books is so large I’m a little overwhelmed on what order to read them. Buddy reads and book clubs help a little but what about in between? I won Holly Jolly Diwali (HJD) by Sonya Lalli from Goodreads and when I opened my calendar to roughly map out what to read for November, Diwali was starting soon so it just felt meant to be that I would kick off holiday reading with something a little out of the norm for me. HJD is the story of Niki, an Indian American that stays close to home, follows the rules of predictability, even dated the perfect men at least on paper. When Niki loses her job and decides to throw caution to the wind and travel to India for her best friend’s (Diya) wedding she hopes to get some clarity and relaxation after such a huge change to her future. While the reader travels to India with Niki and meets her friends and family we also learn the process of an Indian wedding, why Diwali is celebrated and how the Indian culture shapes the way love is experienced and embraced.

Of course like everything I else I do this turned into a “give a mouse a cookie” situation. I needed to learn more about Diwali so I could have a little background to the celebration and what these characters were celebrating. While Diwali wasn’t the main focus of the book, more an opening setting, I still felt drawn to learning more, but I also needed to start the school day…that meant we all learned more about Diwali. This tied in great to our study on the caste system in India. We watched a few YouTube videos including a read aloud of Binny’s Diwali which was super cute and informative! Niki also went a journey to discover why Diwali is celebrated and what it means to her culture. Ultimately, we all learn that the celebration of light is about letting the in the light and goodness that triumphs over evil. It is the celebration of new beginnings and prosperity and new adventure.

Diwali wasn’t the only thing I learned from this book. I learned about the sexual assault and discrimination that women and certain member’s of society faced, I learned about traditional clothing and wedding traditions and I did a ton of research on the locations Niki visited in her journey.

Niki not only celebrated Diwali while she was in India but she meets Sam who is also making some big and unexpected life changes. Making yet another un-Niki like decision she joins Sam on Diya’s group honeymoon where she meets Sam’s family and gets to know the real Sam and maybe even a little of the real Niki. I also enjoyed seeing Niki and her parents relationship change, for the good and Niki finally understanding why her parents decided to raise her so American. It’s such a common theme in immigrant families-walking the line between the culture they leave behind and the one they join.

This book was so unexpected for me. I entered the giveaway because Goodreads told me to and I’ve already explained why I read it when I did. I expected a fun easy rom-com, my fave, and it was that but so much more also. I wasn’t prepared for the rabbit whole of research I would go down. I really enjoyed this read and would recommend it to anyone that loves rom-coms, especially those set in the holiday season.

Triggers: language, colorism, sexual assault

Rating: 4 huge stars

Thank you again to Goodreads for the giveaway!

Damnation Creek by Ash Davidson

This was definitely a love it or hate book. I read this for several reasons. Book of the Month Club, Netgalley and a buddy read on Instagram, so I think I have a decent grasp on the thoughts of fellow readers. The opinions have been 50/50 and hard core on either side. I am on the love it side like 5 stars loved it, ugly tears crying in my tea loved it. But I feel like I need to say I also 100% understand why someone wouldn’t like it. There are tough topics. Fighting, controlling male narcissisms, miscarriages, infant loss, environmental issues, gas lighting and more. But the way debut author Ash Davidson walks the reader through these issues with the characters experiences and interpretations was breath taking to me. I found the plot to roll out slowly and there was a lot of logging jargon which made it a little hard to get going at times but again I think the intense details is what made me feel so imbedded in the logging town, it’s people and the collateral damage they suffered.

Rich is a 4th generation logger with his sights set on taking care of his family by logging an area called 24/7. Colleen is his wife and midwife that can’t seem to bring her own children into this world other than her little boy Chub. Rich is a good bit older than Colleen and that may be why he took longer to come around to the truth about the horrific consequences the herbicide spray the logging company was using was doing to their town and the people. Daniel, a past resident and friend of Colleen’s comes back to town doing research on the herbicide and it’s long term effects on the people of multiple generations, past and present. When Daniel brings this issue to the people of the town and the logging companies, Colleen and Rich find themselves on opposites sides of the issue. It’s hard to see truth when that truth can disrupt your whole way of life and way to make a living.

There were so many times while reading I hated who certain characters became and I cried for the ones that didn’t feel like they had a voice. There was so much loss and sadness and hopelessness that I did have a hard time processing but I can honestly say I have not been moved this much by a book in a long time. I will take this story with me and hope I can pull strength from these people I have come to learn so much from.

Thank you Netgalley, Ash Davidson, and Scribner for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Good Sister was part of my Hepworth binge I mentioned in The Mother-in-Law post and I liked it even better than I did The Mother-in-Law! A favorite of September. This is another mystery thriller and I can usually figure those out pretty quickly but I was shocked (although some would say the title gave away some hints that I missed).

I loved the way the character’s were developed and the way the reader received the backstory. Hepworth used the diary of Rose, the twin sister of Fern to tell us how twisted the girls childhood was and how their relationship came to be what it was. Fern has a sensory processing issue and struggles to cope in the world of the average person but her sister Rose is her closest companion and helps her navigate, sometimes by overstepping and stifling Fern. Fern trust that Rose is honestly the only person that truly knows her, partly because Rose and Fern have a secret that Rose holds over her sister anytime Fern tries to exercise her freedoms. This relationship forms a bond and trust between the twins so deep that they would do almost anything for each other, even alter their own lives and maybe others.

Fern works in a library and does her job well, although a little quirky. One day a gentleman, called Wally by Fern, walks in to use the showers that the library allows the public to use. Fern sees an opportunity in Wally to help her sister accomplish a dream she has taken on. Over time Fern and Wally form a relationship and Fern begins to feel like she’s making some life choices on her own and trusting herself. Rose doesn’t approve of their relationship and starts to intervene causing Fern to question Rose’s sincerity and take a look back at their childhood realizing they may not have remembered it the same way or had the same experiences.

I give The Good Sister 5 stars!! The plot line was unique and the character introductions caused me as a reader to trust the wrong people, which is a pillar attribute of a good mystery right? I’m excited to continue my Hepworth binge and recommend you all jump on this train if you haven’t already, go now.

Thank you Netgalley, Sally Hepworth and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

(While I am fortunate to have a mother in law that I like (and I think likes me) we have all heard the horrible MIL stories right? Sally Hepworth takes this common theme to a whole new level. This was the first Hepworth book I’ve read and then I went on a Hepworth binge, not sorry.

The Mother-in-Law opens with a knock on the door telling Lucy and her husband that Diana, Lucy’s MIL was found dead. The family was surprised but also not shocked because Diana had cancer…except the autopsy showed no signs of cancer but then a found suicide note was found that said she was tired of living with the cancer and had decided to end her life, yet there were signs of poison and evidence of suffocation. From there readers are moved between 2 timelines, one of the future and one of past where we learn the secrets and truths of what seemed like a perfect family.

Diana was a socialite and leader of a non-profit that helped refugee women and mothers. Diana appeared to be living a grand life with a grand house and perfect children, but looks can be deceiving. When Lucy came into the family Diana kept her far enough way that they couldn’t bond and far enough away that Lucy couldn’t really get to know Diana as a person. But as Diana’s life starts to change and she starts to get older and she needs to make some tough choices she finds Lucy to be an ally.

As readers are taken through a who-dun-it plot we are let in on all the secrets this family has and how each member is desperate to fix their mistakes or make a life they thought they deserved, and sometimes at a cost. I did figure it out before we are let in on the ultimate secret of how Diana died but Sally Hepworth is a writer that leads you right to the answer then takes a different turn and it happens from pulling info we already learned but may have over looked back to the surface for the AHA moment.

This was a great mystery, thriller that wasn’t too cozy or too over the top. I love when a mystery is believable mystery and this hit that note for me. I also love when there’s a back ground character that actually plays a significant role but is somewhat overlooked. Tom, Diana’s husband was that for me. I loved his character and I knew that at some point he as going to show us something but I didn’t expect it to be the true character of Diana in the way they loved each other.

I give The Mother-in-Law 4 stars. Character and plot development were on point, the time frame was great and the way background info was shared was also great.

Thank you Netgalley, Sally Hepworth, and St Martin’s Press for the advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Ask Again, Yes is the story of two kids that grow to love each other and eventually become husband and wife but it took years and time and forgiveness from several people to get them to that point. Katie Gleeson and Peter Stanhope’s story started when their NYPD fathers moved to the suburbs and their moms became pregnant at the same making them 6 months apart. That’s where the similarities stop. There were different worlds behind each closed door. Katie’s mom was determined to get to know her neighbors where Peter’s mom wanted nothing to do with anyone and readers eventually learn that Peter’s mom suffered a lot of heartache that led to unstable behaviors. When a childhood injury of leads to an argument between the parents an incident happens so catastrophic that the families don’t speak again for years and there is a rift between Katie and Peter that seems unfixable. But love is a strong bond and relentless in it’s pull to bring true soul mates together. After years of family turmoil and secrets and marriage and children, Peter and Katie come to their own cross roads and in a moment when Peter questions their love Katie reminds him that if ever asked if she would marry him again her answer would be yes.

I saw a ton of pictures and reviews floating around the book world of this book so I was skeptical because when the book doesn’t hold up to the hype it’s disappointing. I did end up liking Ask Again, Yes but it wasn’t my favorite. There seemed to be parts that I couldn’t place their purpose and the plot line was a little drawn out. I did enjoy the character development and the interaction of characters over several years and generations. I gave Ask Again, Yes 3 stars. I would recommend it to certain friends though.

Thank you again to Mary Beth Keane, Scribner Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

All Pets Welcome by Adele Griffin

I was asked to review the first book in this series, The Beckett List, and I fell in love with it! Actually, I decided to read it to the kids as a read aloud for school and we all loved it. When Algonquin Books reached out and asked me to review book 2, All Pets Allowed, I was thrilled and said YES. When I told the kids I had this opportunity they were so excited as well.

In book one we meet Rebecca Branch, or Becket, and her family as they transition from a life in the city to a life in the country when Becket’s parents move their veterinary practice and family to Blackberry Farm. Here we learn how Becket sees the world and how different she is from her twin brother, Nicholas. We also learn what a BEAUTIFUL ALERT is and how to look for the good and beautiful in life, even when it’s not what we hoped for or expected.

In book 2, All Pets Welcome, readers are taken along as Becket and Nicholas take on the adventure and unexpectedly hard job of owning pets. Becket has been dreaming of a dog but much like everything else in their lives Nicholas doesn’t agree and wants a cat. Turns out after a trip to the animal shelter, they both get their wish. Dibs the dog and Given the cat join the Branch family on the farm. Each kid had their own idea of what pet ownership was going to be and as we all know, it didn’t go according to plan. Dibs is going to need a lot of training and Given is a little more social than Nicholas had hoped. These personality differences led to some hard lessons in patience and acceptance.

We enjoyed so many laughs and learned how to adjust expectation as Becket and Nicholas navigated this new responsibility. We also learned the struggles of making new friends, taking on new responsibilities, working through sibling strife and time management.

I would recommend this sweet, funny, clean, children’s book for all children, either as a read aloud and or for individual reading. I recommend ages up to middle grades for read aloud and mid elementary and above for individual reading. Oh, and I can’t not mention the really cute and sweet illustrations by LeUyen Pham, they really brought the story to life.

Thank you to Algonquin Youth Readers department of Algonquin Books, Adele Griffin, and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

I give All Pets Allowed 4 stars

Mr. Right Across the Street by Kathryn Freeman

Mr. Right Across the Street by Kathryn Freeman was a perfect romance to kick off 2021. I also participated in a read along with One More Chapter. The photo featured was a challenge from the read along . We were prompted to use inspiration from the book to create something fun. I created a mocktail like the one Luke created in his bar.

First and foremost you must read this with a British accent, unless of course you already have a British accent then well, just read it. I am a sucker for a British rom-com, there’s something about the banter between lover’s in British rom-com that reminds me of my beloved southern culture.

Mia is a young techy type living away from home in a small apartment in a new place, escaping a horrible ex when she notices her across the street neighbor who happens to flex his muscles at the same time everyday in perfect line of vision from her at home office. At the insistence of her family Mia decides to venture out and finds her self at a bar that’s tended by none other than Mr. Right Across the Street, Luke. Over time, mistakes, secrets and a unique way of communicating, Mia and Luke find they have more in common than their apartment complex. When Luke first showed interest in Mia she was coy and stand offish, going as far as not giving her number so Luke had to get creative and started leaving messages taped to his window as way to get her attention. Mia reciprocated and they quickly fell into a romance spawned from post it notes.

I loved the romance between Luke and Mia. I found it fun and refreshing, new and not rushed. I loved the way Kathryn drew out the build up for both the reader and the characters. The ending was great including the proposal which was perfect and tied the whole plot up in a perfect bow at the perfect moment. There was so much growth in all the characters, including my favorite character, Stan and the relationship he had with Mia was perfect.

Final takeaway: We can let our past define our future or we can rewrite with new experiences. If we are patient with each other as we learn to trust again the experiences and relationships we gain will be so worth it and satisfying.

Thank you One More Chapter, NetGalley and Kathryn Freeman for the advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

I read Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid for my neighborhood book club but it had been on my TBR for awhile. I felt like it was an easy read in that I read it fast and it held my attention throughout, but it was not an easy read as far as content. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book at first. We are in a time in our life when it’s uncomfortable to talk about race and how people of different colors interact with each other, the division we are facing and how we got here. This book made me take a look at my interactions with people and how I see the world and how the world sees me. In the book, all of the white people were searching for a way to connect with POC and not always in a genuine way. I felt like the POC just wanted to be left alone of seen as just people.

As for the book itself I thought the plot line was great and interesting. The reader wasn’t given all the information at first but instead little bits at a time as the story unravels. I loved all the characters and hated all the characters. I found Alix repulsive throughout, she was crazy, but at the same time boy was she interesting. The worst part of Alix is how she knew she wrong, in more than one incident yet never admitted to her faults and played the victim that was better than her circumstances. In the end I think every person was wrong at some point whether it was self deprecation or hate or manipulation. My least favorite partnership or character pair was Kelley and Emira. They were never going to work and Kelley was an ass and I didn’t like him at all.

My ultimate takeaway is that Emira was treated poorly by everyone including herself. She was a pawn in everyone’s agenda and Briar, the little girl, was the only person that saw Emira for who she really was. This proves that adults are unable to see the truth in people because of life experiences and prejudice.

I gave Such a Fun Age 5 stars. The courage of Kiley Reid and the beautiful way she shared this story are worthy of this rating.