“Amanda in France” is an exciting book for middle-grade or youthful adult readers—like me. Amanda gets the opportunity to go to France with her best friend and aunt and stay at a bookstore where she works part-time. When they explore the city, I feel like I’m with them and seeing all the places I’ve dreamed of exploring someday. Amanda gets free tickets to see a musical, they end up in a bomb scare, and a man she keeps seeing is there. I felt her sadness as the fire at Notre Dame burned, and her need to help save the art. Amanda’s best friend has been hanging around someone whom she wondered about his motives and those after him. There is not only history and exquisite details but a mystery to be solved. I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure with Amanda and am ready to explore more with her.
By Joan Hall
“Menagerie” is a wonderful collection of short stories linked together with small-town living. Each story is unique, and several genres and time periods are included. They are beautifully written with attention to detail and vivid descriptions that captured my imagination. It’s hard to pick the ones I liked the best, but “Lone Wolf” immediately won my heart. Jake is trying to get over a painful breakup and camps in the mountains he loves every chance he gets. He runs across a lone wolf, and they watch each other from a distance. There was a potential for healing and a look at a relationship between man and a wild animal. I fell in love with that wolf and the land’s extraordinary beauty, but it isn’t always safe for wild animals around ranches. “Ghost Bridge,” a doctor, fell victim to a local legend in 1889. It is said he haunts a bridge now. Kate moves to an isolated house that overlooks this bridge. I admired the peace she found there but also something else. I enjoy exploring local legends in stories and how they affect the living. “Friends” was a mystery and a reconnection to the past. Cassie is a detective in a small town, and her ex-partner comes to help solve a cold case. It was fun guessing whodunit, along with her working with her partner, Nick. These are thirteen stories that I can highly recommend!
By Richard Dee
“Life and Other Dreams” is a unique story that questions what reality is for Rick/Dan. Rick is married to Cath, a character I dislike, and works a job he finds uninteresting. At night though, he has vivid dreams as Dan, six hundred years in the future, exploring another planet with his wife, Vanessa. Sleep becomes hard for him, and his wife, Cath, pushes him to get help. He ends up on experimental drugs that help him sleep and make his dreams more lucid. Rick’s wife becomes jealous of his dreams and decides he is cheating on her and leaves. I enjoyed the dream life in the future but disliked Rick’s current timeline and his marriage to Cath, or why he was even with her. He is likable in both realities, though, and you can’t help but root for him. This story doesn’t answer questions and offers more intriguing ones with the ending. I have a few theories and will read the next book to see where this goes and if Cath can redeem herself—or is even real. A fun read for sci-fi fans or those who enjoy a good thought-provoking read.
By Linda Broday
In 1876, sisters Maura and Emma were the daughters of a hangman in San Antonio. The sisters cared for the town’s yellow fever victims until they weren’t needed. The townspeople decided it was time for the hangman’s daughters to leave. With no house to return to, Maura sets out to find a place for the sisters and the recently orphaned children. She travels to an abandoned mission and discovers three nuns who would welcome them and the children. The Calhoun brothers, Jonas and Cutter, are trying to escape the outlaw gang Jonas has been in. Although twins, the brothers are on different sides of the law. Jonas and Cutter are pursued, and, in a shootout, both are shot. The story follows one unknown brother who finds a place to hide by the mission. Once the children and sisters get settled into the mission, Maura finds this man, takes him in, and doctors him, not knowing who he is. I quickly fell in love with Maura’s character. She was a strong, compassionate woman with a moral compass that guided her actions. Her love for her sister and those children was heartwarming, which nicely balanced how cruel the townspeople were to them. I found it intriguing not to know the brother’s name until the very end and enjoyed getting to know Uncle Max. As Maura and her patient grow close, a family and healing emerge at the mission, but the outlaw gang is a danger to them all. This fast-paced story has a couple of twists that make it hard to put down. I highly recommend “Winning Maura’s Heart” to all who love a good western romance.
I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews here! If I don’t like the book, I won’t finish it. It wouldn’t be fair to leave a review for an unfinished story, and life is too short not to enjoy my reading journey!
Embrace your inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn