Category Archives: Book Review

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower (BEST of 2015)



We all see the First Families as they go about what they do on TV.  Speeches and events, there to celebrate triumphs and stand tall when the world has been shaken to it’s core…

The Residence gives us a peek into what we do not see. Told from the point of views of those who have worked in the White House, maids, cooks, butlers, florists, doormen and more share their stories of what it is like to work for the First Family.

Who makes their own bed in the morning, or insists on monitoring every meal, who watched personal expenses closely, and who frivolously needed fresh flowers in every room daily.  What have these people seen through the years of working for the Presidents and their families?  What stories will warm your heart and which ones will make you sad or shocked?


I absolutely devoured this book.  I listened to it on audio and so enjoyed the narration by Karen White.  Beautifully spoken each story was so interesting.  Author Kate Andersen Brower shares the stories of those who spoke to her about their time working in the White House. Everything from the Kennedy Assassination and who stood alongside Jackie Kennedy as she came back home that evening still wearing the blood stained dress to Nixon’s resignation and how the Clinton household functioned during his impeachment.  This book is a side to the stories you have never heard before, quite literally an inside scoop.

While one may think this may read like tabloid tell all, it does not.  The Residence is a tasteful close up on the First families in good time and in bad.  I learned so much while listening to this book.  Highly recommended.


  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 16 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Harper Audio
  • Release Date: April 7, 2015


Bookies Review, Food, and Getting Into Character With Gone With The Wind


There is a reason our book club has a wait list.


are a ton of fun.

We always enjoy taking our reads to the next level through excellent discussion not only on book, but author as well, often food to go with what we read, and occasionally (my favorites) we dress up.

When we chose Gone With The Wind for our Annual Classic Read I was so excited about the possibilities for dressing the era.  When the buzz started with the girls saying they would make curtain dresses, having never read the book before I was thrilled with their enthusiasm…. making dresses!  Way to go Bookies!!!

And then…

I was sent a link to the Carol Burnett spoof on the book…

Ahhh….. what exactly were the Bookies going to do?

There was a little buzz on our Facebook page.  They were havig trouble finding used curtains for their dresses. I went to a Halloween shop and found mine …. it was called Goth Vampire but I figured if Scarlett could be who she was… she certainly could also be goth.

So book review night comes.  I had it at my house, converted to the Plantation Tara for the evening.  And as the girls entered… I was impressed with their creativity..


The Bookies…

do not disappoint.

As you can see in the picture… several made the curtain dress!  Kathy (far right in white) even had the curtain rod in hers!  Between using old curtains, buying curtains, dressing in an ere looking dress, and being creative….

the Bookies take on Gone With The Wind like pro’s!  You will notice up front we have a Mammy… and another surprise you can not quite see in this picture, but you will soon!


There she is… in the back to the left with a halo…. yes Gone With The Wind fans…. Lori dressed up as….


Yup.  God’s nightgown.

The exclamation that Scarlett would frequently say throughout the book when she was frustrated.  The first time in Bookie history that someone dressed as an exclamation.  Nicely played Lori…

nicely played.


Laura, with the help of her mother, went all out and sewed up this cute little curtain number from new curtains.  I told her she could wear this next year to our Gatsby party as well!

Of course… it wouldn’t be a Bookies book review without great food….

PicMonkey Collage

We had corn pone, Frankly My Dear I Don’t Give A Ham sandwiches, Butler Balls, shrimp creole,fried chicken, brownies, and sweet potato pie (recipe below) and a Scarlett OHara drink (recipe below).

PicMonkey Collage 2

We had an excellent discussion on the book.  There is so much to talk about in Gone With The Wind!  We all agreed that Ashley was NOT a catch.  We discussed Scarlett’s relationships with her different husbands as well as with her children.  She was indeed… a unique individual.

We also had good discussion over the author Margaret Mitchell… kudos to her for creating such a protagonist as Scarlett… what an unusual perspective for the times…. this headstrong woman who was not a nurturing mother or wife but instead always looking for the best way to support herself and her ambitions.

It was interesting also to hear the difference of thoughts from those in the group who had read the book before (very few actually), and those who had seen the movie, to those of us like myself that had not done either.

For a classic, the overall consensus was an average read AND not to bad for a classic rating – BELIEVE ME.  A few of us, myself included, rated the book a 5 which is our top of our rating scale.  See my personal review here.

Why Does Gone With The Wind make for a good book club read?

1Gone With The Wind is indeed vast with pages, but worth the efforts for book clubs.  The option to read or listen to on audio makes for a wide variety of discussion on both.  There is much to discuss as a group from the civil war, to the reasons this is a banned book, to Scarlett herself as well as her relationships with others.  AND the little extras you can do to make your discussion even deeper.

Please click here for group discussion questions and ideas for a group review

Sweet Potato Pie

you will need-

1 1/2- 2 pounds sweet potatoes

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 9 inch pie crust

  1. Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.
  2. Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.  ( as seen at All

Scarlett O Hara Drink

2 ounces Southern Comfort

8-10 oz cranberry juice

1 squirt of lemon juice to taste

mix and serve over ice

I am linking this post to both Saturday Snapshots and Weekend Cooking.

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell


How does one do a synopsis of Gone With The Wind?

Well… for this first time reader and having never seen the movie (still haven’t), I will give you the synopsis in my own words as though I were telling a friend about this book….  (after all, we are friends right?;) )

Gone With The Wind is about a plantation… about a family… about a war… but mostly, about a girl named Scarlett.  Scarlett is in modern terms, a mean girl. She is spoiled, selfish, and while she is not beautiful, her personality drawn men to her – and in Scarlett’s opinion (after all, what other opinion is there?) that is everything.

When the Civil war breaks out Scarlett learns that not everything comes as easy as it once did.  In fact many things are going to take all that stubbornness she possesses as she learns to adjust to the changing times… but Scarlett is not your typical girl of the south and the way she chooses to live her life and survive can come as a surprise, even to her.




First up… I need to say how proud I am of my book club for choosing to read this books for our Annual Classic Read.  This has been a bucket list book for me forever and our book clubs choice to read it as a group is what finally pushed me to opening this book.

I am so glad I did.

I was pleasantly surprised with Scarlett, while she is not very likable, the girl has gusto.   Her selfishness at times is laughable… at other times, it is sad.  She is, and I say this thankfully, not a damsel in distress but instead a witty sprite of a girl who learns many lessons the hard way, but does not allow her spirit to be broken.

You kind of have to admire that.

While I did start reading this book, I found that my time commitments did not allow me for a lot of “sit down and read” time, so I switched to audio.  Let me say, if you love Gone With The Wind and have not experienced it in audio, I highly recommend you do.  While I have been canning these past weeks, Linda Stephens narration was just the thing to pass the time and keep me engaged.

My over all thoughts on the book was it is a win.  I do not agree with those that call this book a romance … God’s Nightgown, no…. this is a whole new level of dysfunction at its finest!  Going into this knowing barely the story line I was happy to read that the book was not the predictable read I thought I was encountering – yet a fascinating time hop to the civil war and a plantation that worked like no other, Tara.

If you have not experienced Gone With The Wind this is my recommendation that you do make the time to read (or listen to) this book.  It is truly worthy of the classic title.


Did-You-KnowAuthor, Margaret Mitchell died after being hit by a drunk driver while crossing the street with her husband on their way to see a movie.  Gone With The Wind is Mitchell’s only book, and one she wrote because she was bored.




  • Paperback: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reissue edition (May 3, 2011)


  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 49 hours and 7 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Recorded Books
  • Release Date: October 1, 2009




*Be sure to watch for my book clubs thoughts on this book as well as the food we ate AND the clothes we wore to celebrate Gone With The Wind.

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

the night sister, Book Journey, Jennifer McMahon

The Tower Motel was once a place where people stopped and stayed… a continuous flow of activity.  Now, many years later the hotel lays in despair and the girls who used to play there; Amy Piper, and Margo only have their memories.. and the memory of what happened that destroyed their friendship.

When a crime is committed that Amy is accused of, Piper and Margo are forced to relive what they had hoped they would never have to speak of.  The secret that had been held in the past – generation to generation… to come to light now.


Author Jennifer McMahon has amazed me before with her books such as Promise Not To Tell, Winter People, and The Island of Lost Girls. She has a way of adding an element of darkness to her stories.

Such is the case with Night Sister, once again Jennifer McMahon weaves a dark tale, but this time I just did not connect.  I just found the story too far fetched and the back and forth feel of the girls in modern time searching out the clues to the flash backs of what happened in the past… I don’t know.  It just didn’t work for me.  I finished the book hoping for some big revelation but it never really came.

Here are a few different opinions I found on line:

View From My Home   Highly recommended for fans of the author, coming of age stories in rural settings, mysterious suspense, and those willing to take a chance on a story with a plot ending you would never see coming when you started out.

Tales Of A Book AddictThe way this book unfolds is so impressive. It’s like Ms. McMahon just lightly peels away layer after layer until you’re finally at the heart and soul of the story.

The Caffeinated Book Reviewer I have been in the mood for suspenseful reads and The Night Sister with its creepy vibe and paranormal elements/lores was just the perfect fix.


I listened to this one on audio, the narration by Cassandra Campbell is almost always a draw for me and while I didn’t love her narration in this one (some of the females were too winy voiced) she is a narrator I admire and will continue to watch her work.



  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 22 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • Release Date: August 4, 2015


The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

shelley pearsall, the senth most important thing, book journey, the seventh throne of heaven

I grabbed this book that had just come from the publisher off the table as I left for the cabin last week.  The title intrigued me and it looked to be a fairly easy middle grade read – just what I needed for this cabin trip.  Turns out… I grabbed the right book at the right time.  ~ Sheila

Thirteen year old Arthur Owens is having a horrible year.  With the sudden accident that killed his father Arthur feels that his family is just going through the motions.  When Arthur comes home one day to find that his mother has cleaned out his fathers things from their home, his mood only darkens.

It was a bitter cold day when Arthur Owens throws the brick at the Junk Man’s head.  Lucky for him, the Junk Man had moved to pick something up and the brick missed his head, instead damaging his arm.  It wasn’t for racist reasons.  It wasn’t for the sad state of dress the Junk Man wore.  Arthur had his reasons for throwing that brick but it would not be reasons that would make his mom or the judge change their mind.

With Arthur on a one way path to juvie, it is the Junk Man himself who comes up with an alternative for the judge.  Arthur will work off his 120 hours of community service working for the Junk Man.  Arthur will be the one who takes the rickety old shopping cart around looking for the seven moth important things:  glass bottles, foil, cardboard, pieces of wood, light bulbs, coffee cans, and mirrors.  Arthur thinks the Junk Man is a few fries short of a happy meal, but has no choice but to do as he is told.

It isn’t long before Arthur understands that there is more to the Junk Man than one first sees.  The “trash’ he is collecting has so much more meaning… a meaning that Arthur soon finds to be filled with lessons he will carry with him for the rest of his life.

I really enjoyed reading The Seventh Most Important Thing.  As each item reveals it’s purpose I found myself not wanting to put the book down, wanting to know what the next item could mean.  The connections Arthur makes throughout the book with class mates, teachers, his probation officer, as well as the community is a bigger vision to this story.  I loved that the book appeared to have a hidden agenda…

and as I ended the read I found out what it was – and I was blown away.

I can not share that part of the story as much as I want to as I feel this is something for each reader to find out for themselves.  However, never one to miss a chance to discuss a book further, I will put the info on a spoiler page for those of us who have read the book and wish to discuss it in more depth.


Over all, a Middle Grade read that will leave the reader with a little something more than they thought they were getting, and an excellent discussion book for a parent and child.

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 0760 (What’s this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (September 8, 2015)


A Week At The Lake by Wendy Wax

wendy wax, a week at the lake

Emma Michaels, Mackenzie Hayes, and Serena Stockton used to be the best of friends.  Every year they would spent one week together at a cabin owned by Emma;  laughing, sharing, and eating way too much ice cream.  Then one year, Emma stopped inviting Mackenzie and Serena.  The girls no longer spent their annual week together and without knowing what happened, they drifted apart.  Now, 5 years later, Emma feels it is time to clear the air and share a secret she knows can destroy them all.

As the girls all arrive for their planned weekend, Emma is in a serious car accident and Mackenzie and Serena start to piece together what had happened all of those years ago on their own.



I have always enjoyed Wendy Wax’s books (my first was Leave It To Cleavage and has a funny story to go with it).  Her books tend to be about relationships and friendships and never over the top but more like good summer reading (insert large sunglasses, ice tea, and a light snack here).

In many ways A Week At The Lake fit in with much of what I just said about Wendy Wax.  For the most part the book is a good summer read. I have to mention a few moment that didn’t feel real, or a little far fetched – it was still worth the read.  I like stories of women’s friendships and this book fit that genre perfectly.

A quick read that will wish you long for a beach chair.



  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (June 23, 2015)
  • Language: English



Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

whisper beach, Shelley Noble, Book JOurney

Vanessa “Van” Moran stands right where she left twelve years before.  Having left her home town as a young girl heartbroken, betrayed, and alone, she had vowed she would never come back.

And yet, here she was.

When her cousin’s husband dies in a freak accident, Van comes to pay her respects.  Her plan is to get in and get out as quickly as possible and move on to her true vacation at a fancy resort many miles from Whisper Beach.  Since leaving Van has created a wonderful business in Manhattan that has made her quite successful.  Part of her reason for this brief visit is for everyone to see that she was now established, doing well, and this town had not broken her spirit.

Things never go as planned.

When the woman who helped her all those years ago Dorie, asks Van to stay a few days to help her with some business decisions, Van decided a few days can not hurt.  Her good friend Suze is also staying at Dories and it would be fun to catch up.  As long as Van can avoid the one guy who broke her heart and the girl that stole him away – she will be just fine.  Anyway, she can leave anytime she wants.

As I said, things never go as planned.




I really enjoyed Whisper Beach.  Once again I find myself locked in a beachy read centered around a triangle of old friends working on healing old wounds.  (When you read enough beach reads you really find a pattern).  It didn’t matter.  I liked Van.  I liked that she was successful through everything she went through in her younger years.  She was strong and broken – but not beyond repair…. I can not say the same for others in the book. ;)

Author Shelley Noble flushes out some very real issues with this book and those within.  I found her writing style to be engaging and while some of the characters you meet in Whisper Beach you really would rather not know- I still wouldn’t mind popping in and hanging out at the Blue Crab with Dorie, Van, and Suze…. and oh yeah… Joe.  I think there could easily be more to this story and I for one would be happy to come and visit Whisper Beach again.

Looking for a good read this summer?  Add Whisper Beach to your list.



  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 16, 2015)


bookends by Jane Green

bookends, Jane Green, Book Journey

After recently finishing one Jane Green book (Summer Secrets), I went to shelf that one and found this one that I picked up at a sale years ago…. with a title like that, how I could pass on it?  ~Sheila

Catherine, Simon, Portia, and Josh were the inseparable four during their college years.  Catherine (Cat) always the side kick who blended well with the rest enjoyed her cozy life and circle of friends and like her comfy sweater, she was happy with things just as they were.  Simon (Si) was always looking for love with just the right guy but love – true love for whatever reason eludes him.  Portia is tall, slender and gorgeous.  She is used to getting whatever she wants with just the blink of an eye but carries a coldness within her.  Josh wishes he could win Portia’s heart but has more or less given up on that dream.

Then one fateful night of poor choices and damaged egos breaks the group apart and Portia finds herself left behind.

Years later Josh is married to the delightful Lucy.  Cat and Si are still very single… Cat happily and Si not so much.  The four get together frequently for dinners and talks.  When Portia suddenly arrives back in their lives, her appearance unleashes events that threaten to push apart the friends.  At a time when Cat is starting to believe in love again she instead has to deal with her old friend and the damage that can be done when trust is not an option.

Score another one for Jane Green!  bookends was a delightful read and surprised me when I found out that bookends is actually the name of a book store within the book.  Well hello good story!  I enjoyed spending time with this group of friends as they lived out their dreams and their worst nightmares.  I find that it is a bonus when a book makes you wish you knew the characters in real life and that is what bookends did for me.

Jane Green once again surprises me with a fun light read with real life issues.  In bookends you will get it all – the fun, the pain, the reality of living in today world… the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It’s good to have good friends to help get you through.

Jane Green fans do not miss this one.  If you liked Summer Secrets, I think you will enjoy bookends as well.  Jane Green will be an author I keep an eye on.

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (May 27, 2003)


Summer Secrets by Jane Green

Summer Secrets, Jane Green, Book Journey


Cat Coombs always seemed to struggle in finding her place in her world of London.  She did not fit into the popular crowd, but eventually discovered that with a few drinks in her, she could bring on the liquid courage that seemed to make her fit.  In her teen years and into her 20’s it became known that the party had not started until Cat had arrived. Sure, Cat did not always remember events that took place in these crazy drinking binges, and she did not always make it to her job as a journalist on time, but being “absent” from a dad that does not seem to really care and a mom that keeps her distance isn’t so bad.

When Cat meets Jason, a handsome guy who is a recovering alcoholic Cat tries to stop drinking for him (although she is sure she doesn’t have a problem) but a bombshell dropped by her mother sends Cat not only into a shock… but also to the states and Nantucket to stay with family she doesn’t know.  This family is a lot of fun and Cat slips easily into old habits. A serious mistake destroys relationships all around her and sends her back to London planning never to return to Nantucket again and put what happened out of her mind.

But…. things have a way of popping up when not dealt with.

As Cat grows into her 40’s, now a recovering alcoholic who understands the importance of her meetings and never drinking again, she finds herself stuck on the 9th step in her recovery:  Made direct amends to such people, wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

While Cat has completed most of this step, she has not addressed what happened in Nantucket or the people she hurt deeply.  When an opportunity arises for Cat to write a story on Nantucket and she is able to spend two weeks there, she knows it is time to face whatever happens… even if it means risking it all.




I have to admit Summer Secrets surprised me.  I found I liked Cat.  This is the first book I have read that really placed me inside an AA meeting and I found that interesting.  Of course I have heard of the steps, but learning more about the meetings through Cat’s character was interesting and really thinking how hard that 9th step has to be – to face those you have hurt, has to be so hard and yet so lifting as well, no matter what the outcome.  Author Jane Green did an excellent job of covering this topic through Cat’s character without it ever feeling heavy or draining.  Well done.

Summer Secrets has a great mix of people, places, and situations.  This is not your typical “Nantucket read”.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think that this would make a great book to pick up and enjoy this summer.  If you enjoy summer reading, realistic family dynamics, great friendships, and learning a little something along the way do not miss out on this book.



  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (June 23, 2015)



All The Single Ladies by Dorthea Benton Frank

All The Single Ladies, Dorthea Benton Frank, Book Journey

If you are looking for a fun read with women friendships, a wonderful southern low country buzz running through the background and the smell of something good cooking on the stove with a tasty drink in your hand, reach for a book by Dorthea Benton Frank.  ~Sheila

When Lisa St Clair watches her favorite patient Kathy Harper lose her battle with cancer, she is impressed with the two friends that stayed by Kathy’s side during her long battle.  Carrie and Susan have been placed in charge of taking care of Kathy’s personal things and Lisa offers to help in any way she can.  The three women become closer as they try to solve the mysteries of Kathy’s past that she had kept so quiet.  With relationships popping up everywhere, a crazy greedy landlord, a wonderful 99-year-old woman, a young adult making poor choices and a dog named Pickles, who knows what will happen?

When I had an opportunity to invite a group of friends over to discuss this book I quickly said yes.  If it has Dorthea Benton Frank’s name on it, of course I would say yes!  At the time of our gathering none of us had read the book but we all received it that afternoon.  I started the book later that day.

Book Journey, Sheila DeChantal

Book Journey, Sheila DeChantal

Upper left – the food that was suggested to make for the get together: Ritz crackers with cream cheese and red pepper jelly, cheese straws (mine were cheese bars), and shrimp with the seasonings sent in the book package Upper right – The All The Single Ladies Drink: vodka, with a splash of cranberry juice (we diluted this with 7 up) Lower left – Sweet Tea! Lower right – the entire cast of goodies

Having a fun event is a great way to kick off reading a book.  I enjoyed All The Single Ladies by Dorthea Benton Frank.  It is an easy summer read.  I liked the cast of characters and the story line was set up as a light mystery centered around a woman who I wish I as well as the three protagonists knew a little better.  Kathy sounded like someone worth knowing.  There are a few life lessons mixed within the pages, light sprinkles of wisdom when it comes to family dynamics, I suspect each of us as readers can find someone within this book or some situation that is discussed that hits a familiar note.

A sweet easy read and perfect for Summer time.

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (June 9, 2015)



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