Saturday, March 23, 2024

Milspouse Matters by Jen McDonald

When I first signed up to review this book, I figured it would be a good book to review, but I didn’t think much more than that. I have, after all, been a milspouse for over two decades, and I was familiar with the author from her blog back when blogs were new and shiny and popular. I figured it would be a nice little review of military spouse life, probably with some advice thrown in for good measure.

Fast forward to today’s panic moment when I got a message requesting the link to my review. I looked at my planner, where I had written “post review” on my to-do list. I turned my head and saw the two humongous black suitcases on the floor with the OCP-patterned extra-large backpack with its travel neck pillow hanging off the side. Oops, I thought. I forgot to finish and post it. My bad.

Basically, I had written part of my book review, and I was about halfway through the book—and I got distracted by the deployment timeline moving forward. Those suitcases and bags in the living room were absolutely a distraction, and not the welcome kind. Welcome to military spouse life, where plans change often enough to make your head spin and your eyes well up with tears sometimes. Nevertheless, I’m giving you the true story of why this is late, as well as an honest account of the book (and yes, I still need to finish, but I did skim through the rest so I can speak with truth!). My favorite line by far is “The certainty of uncertainty” (42). Change is inevitable, and plans have to be fluid.

Jen McDonald’s book Milspouse Matters is a lovely collection of stories—stories of love, of adventure, difficult times, friendships, and retirement. Some of the stories sound so familiar because they ARE familiar. The names of the locations and wars might change, but the feelings of the spouses at home are the same. The universality of these stories among the military community is evident on each page.

When McDonald’s book begins with the often-heard and seldom-liked statement “You knew what you signed up for,” I will be honest: I bristled. My story is like many: I married a man who was in one job, and he decided to transition to military life later on. Many others knew they were marrying into the service, and even they could not possibly have known what it’s like being married to a military member. It’s different for everyone, and yet as I stated before, there is a sense of community and universality of story.

This book is much different than I expected it to be, and I am so grateful. I will be recommending it to everyone I know who is married to a military servicemember: active duty, reserve, Guard, or even retired. It’s important for us to listen to (or read) each other’s stories, support each other, and of course, love each other.

Jen McDonald, thank you for sharing this book with all of us. Thank you for including me on your launch team. Thanks for understanding why this is late. And thank you to your husband and to you for your service. PS: We loved our time in Grand Forks—it was our first active duty station!

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

How does one walk into--or out of--a room with grace and wisdom?


Like many who follow EPF, I’ve been looking forward to her latest book, How to Walk Into a Room. When I began reading the book, I realized it was a keeper, a book to reference again and again, a book to study and ponder and parse out its wisdom.

For those of us who wonder if it’s time to go, or if we should stay, and how in the world can we ever decide which to do—this book is for us.

I’ve been a fan of Emily P. Freeman’s thoughtful, intellectual, spiritually grounded writing since I first discovered her books ten years ago. This one is different, certainly, but I think with its metaphor of rooms it is much more useful for different interpretations and uses in our lives.

If you know me, you know I’ve spent my whole life moving around—first within my own family of origin due to my dad’s job, then with my husband in his job as a pastor, later within the military. I joke that my teaching career is more widespread and shallow, ranging from one to five years in any given school. I am learning to embrace rather than fight this reality, as much as I am able. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with work, and ministry, and other opportunities that may or may not come my way. Knowing where and within which opportunities to invest time, energy, and resources is a challenge that often feels more like a struggle—even when those opportunities are good and right.

I found myself nodding and agreeing with so many different things within the pages of this book. Some answers I recognize as something I’ve tried, and others I feel like I should have tried or known already but didn’t think of it in that way before. Emily’s book reframes some of the situations we may know into the metaphor of rooms and hallways, with some personal stories and anecdotes that give us an idea of how she has skin in this game, and reinforcing our belief that her wisdom is well-earned.

I just finished the book with tears in my eyes, and I can tell you now that I will start again at the beginning and read it again, slowly, pen in hand and journal at the ready. Yes, it’s that good, and true, and helpful, and exactly “for such a time as this” for me.


If you have any questions about if it’s time to stay or go or wait, this book is for you.


Friday, March 08, 2024

Snow White? Not exactly.


Wake Me Most Wickedly (Once Upon the East End #2)Wake Me Most Wickedly by Felicia Grossman

While I really wanted to like this novel, and I *did* enjoy several scenes (especially the one with the older ladies who shared similar characteristics with several particular characters in the Disney version of Snow White), I had a much more difficult time with this book.

For starters, some of the characters that appear in "Marry Me by Midnight" come back to this story, which is fun; however, a few of them seem to have undergone either personality shifts or transplants. Another thing that was distracting were all the scenes of conniving. It got to be too much for me to want to keep up with: who is trying to scan whom, for what purpose, for how much money, etc. Finally, the bedroom scenes are much more steamy than I wanted to read--especially given the stated fact that one character was bad for another character, and their involvement would be awful. Did that stop them? Nope. It got to be a bit repetitive on that score.

I did, however, want to mention that (a) Hannah finally feels supported by the Jewish community in their synagogue, and I loved that so much; and (b) Sol doesn't convert for business, shows his sincerity in his faith, and always wears his yarmulke. Always (ahem, see steamy remark above).

The historical notes in the back of the novel are *chef's kiss* amazing. I'd love it if Felicia Grossman also wrote more on the Jewish experience in this time period with the whole scope of history and society. Fascinating.

I received a eARC copy of this novel on NetGalley, which had not gone through final copy edits and within which I found multiple errors that were distracting to me. I am confident they'll be fixed before final publication.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

The Dating Dance by Danielle Nowell: a Love Books Tour Stop


This post is a part of Kelly Lacey's Love Books Tours book tour for Danielle Nowell's latest novel The Dating Dance.


When Sarah Shuster meets Theodore Caddel, she's certain she's found the perfect man, although after what happened with Jake Leifhour, she's hesitant to get involved in a relationship. Sarah has a good job as a dance teacher and a steady life in Grenvale. As their relationship blossoms, Sarah is presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a dream job in New York City. The problem? It's over 2,000 miles away from Grenvale, and Theodore. Sarah is torn between her relationship with Theodore and her desire for career success. She doesn't want to leave Theodore but also knows turning down the job would be a huge mistake. As she grapples with this decision, Sarah starts to wonder what truly matters to her and what she's willing to sacrifice for her own happiness. Will Sarah choose the guy or her career? Or is there a way to have both? Follow Sarah's journey as she navigates the highs and lows of her relationship, professional ambition and search for fulfilment.


This novel is a sweet, slow-moving story about a growing romance and how young adults navigate real life situations into their dreams for a relationship, a career, and being happy.

To be completely honest, I did not love this book. I found some of the writing to be a bit redundant, the pacing was much slower than I would like, and the story wasn't as compelling as I believe it could be. In short, I think this book needed more showing and much less telling, and isn't that the first thing all writer coaches tell their writers? 

Additionally, some of the dance parts of the novel did not ring true for me. While I am not a dance teacher, I was a dance mom for over twenty years and know that dance teachers are at the studio a whole lot more than Sarah was--especially for dance shows and concerts and recitals. And to my knowledge, no dancer says "break a leg" backstage, ever. If I'm wrong on that, well, that's on me. But my girls danced in around ten different studios and schools in six states between them, and that's what I learned as their mom.

If you're looking for a sweet and slow-moving and clean romance, this book will probably be a good choice for you. 

Thank you to Kelly at Love Books Tours for a review copy of the novel. All opinions in my review are mine alone. I am grateful to the author for letting me read her book to review, and I'm sorry I did not love it more.

Links to purchase:

Love Books Tours affiliate link for UK purchasers

US Kindle link, not an affiliate link

Monday, June 05, 2023

You'll want to find this hotel in Italy.

The Little Italian Hotel The Little Italian Hotel by Phaedra Patrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading The Little Italian Hotel, the latest from one of my favorite go-to British authors, Phaedra Patrick. I think my favorite of hers is still the first one of hers I read (The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper), but I've enjoyed her others as well.

There were many things about this book that I enjoyed: I enjoyed the different members of Ginny's motley crew, and I really found myself identifying with several things that Ginny is struggling with (hello, menopause, this change of life is warm...). However, there were several choices made during the course of the plot that seemed, well, out of character for a couple of the characters. And while these characters were doing things that I wasn't expecting or thought they should do, that doesn't mean it's necessarily inconsistent; it could be more about what I enjoy about books not aligning with what the author felt was the best choice for her story. This, reading friends, is what makes books so much fun for everyone.

If you're a fan of Patrick, you'll enjoy this one. If you're not, but are wondering if you should grab this one from the new release table, my advice is YES. It would make a terrific summer read for the plane, the poolside, or the beach.

Release date: Tuesday 6 June in the US

Thanks to the publisher, the author, and NetGalley for an advanced ebook to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Kissing Kosher is a Must Read

Kissing Kosher: A NovelKissing Kosher: A Novel by Jean Meltzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jean Meltzer has become one of my very favorite authors in the past year, and with each subsequent novel she just keeps getting better. As a former rabbinical student, she often writes reflections for Shabbat that deal with a particular Bible or Talmudic passage and applying it to modern life. I love those posts on Instagram because they make me think and they give me insight into understanding Jewish faith in the 21st century.

Meltzer does the same sort of thing in her novels--she deftly weaves her Jewish faith into her novel storylines, in a way that reaffirms the Jewish reader, and informs non-Jewish readers without being didactic.

"Kissing Kosher" is her third novel, and in it she writes about the reality of living with chronic pain and inflammation. She writes about something I really did not know about, but once it was explained in the book it made sense: generational pain being passed down from parent to child to grandchild. She writes about families and love and loss and loyalty (and yes, this is a kissing book).

Avital and Ethan are well-developed and sympathetic protagonists, and this reader was rooting for both of them to find their footing and their calling. I won't spoil the plot or the ending, but the primary and secondary characters are amazing, the dialogue is both snappy and honest, and I really wanted to drive to Trader Joe's for some babka more than once (if I hadn't been on a road trip while reading this novel, I just might have).

Five stars, definitely recommend. Add this to your TBR and it will be published August 29, 2023, just in time for when the kids go back to school and the Labor Day weekend :)

Thank you to Jean Meltzer, her publisher MIRA, and NetGalley for an advanced ebook to read and review. All opinions (and all the gushing) are my own.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Zora Books Her Happy Ever After Review


A heart-pounding, curvy romance about an indie bookstore owner who finds herself in a love triangle when she meets the author she's had a crush on for years...and his best friend. 

 Zora has committed every inch of her life to establishing her thriving DC bookstore, making it into a pillar of the community, and she just hasn’t had time for romance. But when a mystery author she’s been crushing on for years agrees to have an event at her store, she starts to rethink her priorities. 

Lawrence is every bit as charming as she imagined, even if his understanding of his own books seems just a bit shallow. When he asks her out after his reading, she’s almost elated enough to forget about the grumpy guy who sat next to her making snide comments all evening. Apparently the grouch is Lawrence’s best friend, Reid, but she can’t imagine what kind of friendship that must be. They couldn’t be more different. 

 But as she starts seeing Lawrence, and spending more and more time with Reid, Zora finds first impressions can be deceiving. Reid is smart and thoughtful—he’s also interested. After years of avoiding dating, she suddenly has two handsome men competing for her affection. But even as she struggles to choose between them, she can’t shake the feeling that they’re both hiding something—a mystery she’s determined to solve before she can find her HEA.

Pattie's Review:

While I enjoyed McCoy's first book Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell, I wasn't as enamored with her sophomore release. I wanted to love it! I love independently-owned or "indie" bookstores. I love booksellers and writers and stories and best friends and grandmothers. But there were aspects of the book that grated on my nerves. To be fair, my review is based on the NetGalley ARC, so hopefully (fingers crossed) things like overly- repeated phrases (some of which due to differences in generation and language I would never use), as well as a misplaced explanation about a secondary character, were caught and fixed in final edits. There were a few other things with characters, however, that were not my preference to read. 

The bedroom scenes were certainly open-door, but seemed to fit well into the story as it is. There's some language (some of which seemed forced, and other words seemed to repeat more often than I think is needed), and certainly adult situations. However, there are some really sweet scenes with Reid's classes that I loved and that were absolutely real. I hope his school exists in real life!

I landed on a 3-star rating, which for me means I liked the book, it is fine, but not what I'd recommend or gush about. 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced ebook to read and review. All opinions are my own.