Books: Honeymoon Cottage

Honeymoon Cottage
© 2012 by Barbara Cool Lee
First book in the Pajaro Bay Series

Camilla Stewart’s fiancé, Dennis Hutchins, bought a little cottage for them, left his eight-year-old son Oliver in her care, and disappeared. A short time later she was arrested — and discovered the truth. He was a con man.

From a great job in the accounting dept in a high-tech CA firm, she’s hit bottom. She’d trusted the sweet guy who waltzed into her life one day and won her heart, then used her computer to get access to her and the company’s bank accounts. She was finally cleared of the charge that she’d been the embezzler, but now she’s obligated to pay the company back. She needs to sell that cottage.

Out of money, out of gas, she’s come to Pajaro Bay to claim the house locals still refer to as, “Honeymoon Cottage.” But first her car needs to get them all the way to the door. She’s forced to sell her engagement ring — and the woman in the antique store is stalling.

Ryan Knight, in charge of the Pajaro Bay Sheriff’s Dept has been called by the owner of the town’s antique shop, who was suspicious as to why this stranger’s trying to sell such a valuable ring. Must be stolen. Running a check on Camilla’s ID, he discovers the real reason why she’s driving an old clunker and trying to sell a diamond ring bought new only the month before.

He escorts her to the house and she gets her first look at the place. She won’t be paying any bills with what she gets for this tiny, tossed-together mess!

“It looks like it was built by a drunken leprechaun,” she finally said.

I read this first book in the series and quite much enjoyed it. There’s the mystery of what happened to the lowlife who left her and his son with this place — and obviously some romance as Captain Knight tries to help her sort out her legal situation and the house repairs that must be done. The romance is light, the behavior of all characters decent and considerate.

Camilla’s efforts at drawing Oliver out of his shell and respecting his feelings for his father are impressive. There are some tense scenes as it becomes apparent Camilla and Oliver are being set up for some kind of “accidental” death.

A well executed plot by a skillful writer. I’d give it 5 stars and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

According to the book blurb:

“The Pajaro Bay mysteries are filled with light and breezy, heartwarming fun, and always leave you with a happy ending. Each is a stand-alone novel so can be read in any order.”

Truth Hurts, Doesn’t It?

One day years back my husband read this little anecdote to me, written by a fellow who shares our last name, and we both had chuckle.

With a bit of time to waste one day, the fellow who wrote it had wandered into a pinball arcade. He stepped up to one of the machines and was about to put money in the slot when he noticed a little sign on the machine. It read: “Why are you wasting your money playing this dumb game?”

The thought has a sting of truth to it. Pricked in conscience and annoyed with the guy who’d taped on this sign, he tore the note off the machine. Underneath was another note: “Truth hurts, doesn’t it?”

In the end he must have gotten a chuckle out of it, or he wouldn’t have written this and told on himself.

Telling the truth is risky!

So many times I wish I’d been more tactful when someone got huffy because of what I said! Other times I regret that I didn’t speak up, but was afraid of giving offense. But “beating around the bush,” as we say, may not have changed the outcome. Looking back, I appreciate the times when someone gave it to me straight up, rather than hinting so tactfully that I didn’t grasp the truth until years later.

If the words we say, wanting to be helpful, deliver a bit of sting in their truth, the hearer’s going to feel it and may respond angrily. But sometimes only the truth served straight up — as it was in this account — will get the point across. 🙂

Have you ever upset someone by telling them the truth? Did they appreciate your straight-forward honesty in the end?

Older — And Maybe Wiser?

I posted this on my first blog some years back — now I’ll re-post it here for those who haven’t read it yet.

For a few years I worked in a doughnut shop, mostly with young people in their teens & early twenties.  One  of these was very much on the opposite end of the “scene” from me: he was a drummer in a rock band and claimed to be a devil worshiper, while I was a very conservative Christian in my late forties.  The vibes were not good!

Being older and a lot wiser than when I was a teen, I couldn’t help trying to pass on the odd bit about what works and what doesn’t in the issues of life.  One day this particular young fellow made a cynical comment about me always being so full of wise thoughts.  “What wise thing do you have to say today?” he asked in a mocking tone.

I thought a minute, then told him something that I have noticed time and again: “The more piercings, the more tattoos, the weirder the hairdo somebody has, the more insecure they are.”

He contemplated this for a minute.  I was surprised when he actually admitted, “You’re right.”

Book Review: Finding Sky

Book #1 in the Nicki Valentine Mystery Series
by Susan O’Brien
Published by Henery Press

I just finished reading this book and I’ll say it has a satisfying conclusion. This is the first book in a new series so the writer will gain confidence and in turn give her protagonist a little more confidence, in the next books.

I expect mysteries to be fairly fast-paced and suspenseful. This book isn’t. It’s more like chick-lit with a mystery element. Nicki Valentine tells us her story, explains her situation — a widow with two children — talks about her children’s personalities and behaviour, her fears and issues with safety, food, dirt, and germs. If you enjoy following friends’ day-to-day lives on Facebook, you’ll probably enjoy these open-hearted accounts of where they went, what they did, what they ate, games they played.

Nicki tells about her best friend and neighbor, Kenna, whose desire to have a baby adds the mystery angle to this tale. Andy and Kenna plan to adopt, but the eighteen-year-old mom-to-be has disappeared. Pregnant and alone, where did she go? Is she safe? Kidnapped by a teen gang? Kenna asks Nicki to help find this girl and we read of her efforts at interviews, stake-outs, and searches. Her search gets her involved with troubled teens and a gang member, understandably bringing yet more anxieties.

You see, Nicki is taking classes to become a private investigator. This is a huge stretch for her type. At the best of times she struggles with almost neurotic anxieties for herself and her children, has little self-confidence, and is rather a klutz. Her conscience prods her if she tells a lie in the course of investigating. Can she become a successful PI? She’s attracted to her hunky instructor but resists the attraction. Low self esteem kicks in. Why get her hopes up when he’d never be interested in her?

There’s a good story in here if you’re patient. I’m more a fan of classic mysteries where the sleuth is occupied with the whodunit puzzle rather than angst about herself and her abilities. But all this self-analysis is common in modern cozies. I found it easy to scroll through all the angst and day-to-day stuff and read the parts that actually deal with finding the missing girl. (Spoiler alert: Nicki does get her answers in the end.)

In my opinion the book could be cut by at least 30% — and I’d encourage the writer to get to know Miss Marple, who’s kind and clever, not always sure, but never floundering in self-reproach.

Nicki reminds me a lot of Salem Grimes, another new sleuth with a lot of down-to-earth issues and angst. She stars as The Trailer Park Princess, a series written by Kim Hunt Harris

Amee’s Story: Non-Fiction

Last year I encouraged friend and fellow writer, Carol Harrison, to do her paperback book as an e-book. I promised if she’d publish Amee’s Story in e-book format I’d do a review of the book on my blog. She’s done that; it came out in October. So you can buy it in paperback from her or e-book from Kobo. Here’s the link. And here’s my review.

AMEE’S STORY
by Carol Harrison

“What’s happening? Why isn’t she crying?” my husband whispered.

Minutes ticked by as the couple watched the medical team working on their newborn baby girl. Almost seven minutes passed before they heard a tiny sound from the baby. The nurse immediately scooped her up and rushed her out the door.

“What’s wrong? Why won’t they let me hold my baby?” I asked my doctor.

He explained that the baby had inhaled some of the fluid from her sac of wastes (meconium) as she was being born that caused her some breathing difficulties. She needed to be in an incubator. However, days passed and something was still wrong. Baby Amee was barely breathing, had no strength to nurse.

She was transferred by ambulance to a major Saskatoon hospital; there she lie in an incubator in pediatrics intensive care fighting for her life. Tests and more tests were ordered.

In addition to breathing in the meconium, the doctors found that Amee had a stroke as she was being born. Later tests confirmed that the left part of her brain was badly damaged and a small spot in the left frontal lobe was dead. She was constantly having seizures. Finally the doctor told them, “I believe there’s a five percent chance she’ll ever walk…or talk…or leave this hospital.”

Thus began a journey of faith and prayer, a fight for life and strength, hope and understanding. It has culminated in the book Amee’s Story, ©2010 Carol Harrison, printed by Guardian Books, Belleville, ON.

Amee has asked her mother to tell her story for God’s glory. We see in this book His care for His children, His ability to answer prayer far beyond all human prediction. Carol’s book is a must read for all parents and teachers, especially those who are dealing with handicapped children.

Gifts and Children’s Whims

Seasons greetings to all my Readers and Followers.

Is everyone in a “holly jolly Christmas” mood? I wish for you one and all happy holidays with lots of sweet getting-together times. We’re planning to enjoy Christmas dinner with our children and grandchildren and have a gift exchange in the afternoon.

Seems we’re going to have a white Christmas after all. We’ve come through a spell of unseasonably mild temperatures and the snow that fell in November slowly disappeared. In the last few days we’ve gotten a bit more and the temp is dropping.

I haven’t posted anything for a week, trying to get through an un-jolly blue funk. I sometimes feel like I’m swimming through mud, wishing I had lots of energy and enthusiasm but rather feeling exhaustion and depression. Getting stuck in a mire about what little I’ve accomplished versus what all I should be doing.

I find it heartwarming to hear those cheery old Christmas carols like “Joy to the World.” I realize that feelings come and go, will drag us down at times, but the world is singing of great Joy: our God remembers us in all our trials and has sent us a Counselor and Guide. I’ll never be all I should be or do all I should do, but Christmas comes every year to remind us God is ever merciful.

On a happier note, for Friday Fictioneers this week I wrote this story to go with the photo prompt: “The Princess and the Pea Green Hat.” Now I offer a “choose your own ending” for this tale. Read the story and choose which ending you like best of those below. Or add your own in the comments. 🙂

1) Princess loved the hat and wore it everywhere until she outgrew it.

2) She loved it, wore it on their holiday trip, and left it at a MacDonalds 1500 miles from home.

3) She wore it to school once but no one else was wearing a hat like this. Being a sensitive child she refused to wear it again and be called weird.

4) She wore it to school, but so many others were wearing a hat like this, hers wasn’t a novelty at all. Being a sensitive child, she refused to wear it again and look like everybody else.

5) She had a fight with her friend Tiannia, whose Mom knitted the hat, and tossed the thing in a dumpster for spite.

6) She felt sorry for all the poor children who have no hats, so she donated it to a charity.

♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬

I can sympathize with Princess, her eager-to-please mother and long-suffering father. When it came to Christmas gifts, I was an odd child — or a normal one with very indulgent Aunt & Uncle. (I grew up with them as my parents.) I asked for some ridiculous things, on a whim more or less, and Mom & Dad F (read “Dad” here) bought them for me.

Like when I asked for a typewriter when I was nine, or a microscope when I was ten. Whatever possessed me!? Of course these items were a novelty for a few days after Christmas, then I put them away and seldom looked at them again. (What an ungrateful wretch!)

Much to my parents’ dismay. “You wanted this thing and now you’ve got it and you never play with it!” I felt bad, but I’d completely lost interest. Mom & Dad F were just scraping by; Dad had serious health issues after the War and missed a lot of work for awhile. Only as an adult did I realize the sacrifice they made to get me those things. To top it off, my siblings (raised by our parents) consequently often griped that “Whatever you ask for Uncle Fred buys you.”

Children have such brilliant — but fleeting — whims. For my folks’ sake I wish they’d said, “Forget it. Here’s a doll.” Or I’d had some smarts myself and not asked for expensive novelties. (Though the typewriter did get some use several years later when I was in high school.)

Mind you, they usually gave me the book I wanted, too — often the current Nancy Drew Mystery — and those I appreciated for years. So I have lots of good Christmas memories in addition to a few guilt-trippy ones. 🙂

All I can say now is, give your children and grandchildren whatever you want, but don’t expect undying appreciation. They are children.

Why Does God Give Some Parents Children?

Why does God put innocent little babies in lousy homes? Why doesn’t He put babies in some really good homes?

One day a young man, recently divorced in the States, used his visiting privileges to take his son away from his ex-wife and fled to Canada. His intention was to stay in Canada until the statute of limitations ran out and he could no longer be charged with abduction.

It happened that we met this fellow and he told us his story. He felt his ex-wife was a very poor mother, living a wild life, and had wanted custody of the boy for pure spite. To make matters worse, he said, she had joined a well-known religious group/cult. He was sure God wouldn’t want his little boy to be raised in that setting so he kidnapped him and fled.

I asked him, “Why does God give children to those people then, if He’d never want a child raised by them?” The fellow had no reply to this. He and the boy disappeared before we could learn the outcome to this sad story.

And what about all the just plain bad parents out there? People who have been scarred themselves, who have no parental skills, people who are druggies or mentally ill? It seems most of these folks can reproduce, yet I’ve known some really good parents who were only able to have one or two children, or who adopted children because they weren’t able to produce any.

Do you sometimes ask, “Why is God not more sensible? Why does He allow this?”

But how should God remedy this? Just never allow sinners to have children? God is extremely fair. “He maketh His rain to fall on the just and the unjust…” We were damaged ourselves and far from perfect parents, but we thank God for our lovely daughter who has grown us up as well as been raised by us.

Sometimes it’s the very innocence of a child that brings conviction to a hard heart. Having a baby brought a very dear friend of mine back to God.

Our society has developed the mind-set that if I’m not happy, someone else is to blame. It’s how I was raised, the home I came out of , the insults and abuses I suffered, that determines my happiness or lack of it. But there are a lot of people who’ve grown up in very bad homes that made something of themselves, and those that grew up in horrific settings who turned to God as adults, found the strength to overcome past abuse, and are spiritual leaders today.

The theory is that if you raise a child in a nurturing setting, you’ll have a well-balanced child who will go on to live a successful life, but we’ve all seen adults who grew up in good homes with the best parental input and made bad choices so their lives have turned out rotten.

Joshua says to the children of Israel, “Choose ye this day…” The Bible gives us to understand that our own happiness is up to us: it’s a consequence of the choices we have made and are making today.

I believe God set this world in its order and it basically continues that way without Him straightening it out or cracking the whip over us all the time. He rather works by calling all the hurting people –which is every one of us– to find healing. “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matt 11:28

It’s amazing what God has done for those who, in all sincerity, sought His mercy. If we become angry and bitter at God for what life has handed us, our hope for improvement is thwarted and we tend to become our parents all over again. Then our own children will tell the same sad tales of their upbringing.

Those of us who have found this rest and felt His healing would like to shout it out to the world: “It’s true! It’s beautiful! It’s free to all.”

That’s why some of us blog. 🙂