The Inheritance

The death of clan patriarch Macgregor Tulloch has thrown the tiny Shetland Islands community of Whales Reef into turmoil. Everyone assumed Tulloch’s heir to be his much-loved grandnephew David. But when no will is discovered, David’s calculating cousin Hardy submits his own claim to the inheritance, an estate that controls most of the island’s land. And Hardy knows a North Sea oil investor who will pay dearly for that control.

While the competing claims are investigated, the courts have frozen the estate’s assets, leaving many of the locals in dire financial straits. The future of the island–and its traditional way of life–hangs in the balance.

Meanwhile, Loni Ford enjoys a rising career in a large investment firm in Washington, D.C. Yet, in spite of outward success, she is privately plagued by questions of identity. Orphaned as a young child, she was raised by her grandparents, and while she loves them dearly, she feels completely detached from her roots. That is, until a mysterious letter arrives from a Scottish solicitor. . . .

Past and present collide in master storyteller Michael Phillips’ dramatic new saga of loss and discovery, of grasping and grace.

It’s been a long time since I haven’t liked a book I’ve reviewed.  In fact, I can’t remember the last one I didn’t enjoy.  But I just couldn’t get into this one.

It’s got some great points, so I’ll start with those, and I’ll explain where I’m coming from — because I’ve read others’ reviews for this book and it seems like I may be the anomaly here!

First — Michael Phillips has unbelievable skills at descriptive writing.  If you are someone who can take a very well-detailed written description and turn it into vivid scenery in your mind, diving head first right into the book, and almost feeling like you’re there…. well, then you’ll likely love this book.

But if you’re like me, and your brain just doesn’t do that, you may find this book to be a bit of a struggle.  I have always had a hard time turning written or verbal description into pictures in my brain.  When someone tries to explain to me how they’re redecorating their house, it means nothing to me unless they’re accompanying the description with actual pictures.  Something I can physically see with my eyeballs.  So when a book gets very descriptive, I get lost in the details.  I do better with more dialogue and fewer details.  So this book, I’ll admit, had me lost for good chunks of it.  I had to reread parts to make sure I was still tracking with the plot.

Second — the characters are endearing.  I did enjoy following along with the characters as they developed, and as Phillips gave you bit by bit, another glimpse into who they are.  There are stark contrasts in the two settings in this book, flipping (expertly, might I add) between Loni Ford’s life in the financial district of Washington, DC and David Tulloch’s life in a clan-type way of life in the Shetland Islands in the Atlantic north of Scotland.  The pieces all weave themselves together in a way I have to give the author credit for, because I know I’d NEVER be able to pull all those pieces together like that.  And it wasn’t confusing, which books that flip between plot lines can end up being.

Third — I loved the way the jargon and the way of life of the Shetland Islands came to life.  This is me over here, not being able to process the detail, but soaking in every ounce of the dialogue.  Helpful hint, though:  I found the Scottish accent dialogue easier to read out loud (and it gave me a semblance of a fun accent!), so you may want to read alone ;).

When it really came down to it, I think I’d recommend the book.  But if I knew the person was like me and was not focused on details, I likely wouldn’t.  So, like I said, please take my review with a grain of salt.  It’s important to me that readers know what I thought of a book, so I’m being honest, but I also would never want to ward you off of an otherwise good book, as long as you love the details.  I shared this revelation with my Mom, that I thought the book just had TOO MUCH detail, and she really wants to read it now because she loves that sort of thing.

Have you read it?  What did you think?  Am I the only one to have gotten buried in the details?


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.



Like Never Before

I’m a sucker for a good love story.  And that’s exactly what this was.  Right from the beginning, I knew what was going to happen — I had a feeling that I knew who was going to finish the book in love with whom.  But the joy that came from reading through this book as characters fall in love with each other just never gets old.

I loved the way Melissa Tagg was able to weave in the need for the characters to go back to trusting in God and letting Him heal their hearts so that they could love again after they’d both suffered more heartache than any of us ever wants to in life.

I bonded so deeply with these characters — it was like I knew them personally by the end of the book!

Melissa Tagg’s writing style is light and airy, and this was a refreshingly, delightfully easy read.  Sometimes we see something referred to as an easy read, and we assume it’s simple or doesn’t pack a lot of literary punch, but as far as romance novels can go, this one did a very good job of holding my attention all the way through.  I had no trouble preferring to read over watching Netflix with this book!

I highly recommend you check this book out, but if my high praise of Tagg’s character development and beautiful love story with a thread of redemption and healing throughout don’t sell you, I’ll leave you with the description from the back of the book and a picture.

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley’s haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher…if only she new who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime–a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he’s inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She’s scrappy, but wounded. He’s dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley’s quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

I just can’t say enough.  Just…. be ready to get hit in the feels.  This book… let me tell you.  It’ll be well worth the hours it takes to get through it — because you won’t want to do anything else until it’s done.


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

What I Learned in the Quiet Zone — The Power of Speaking Without Words

Thursday and Friday of this past week, my colleagues and I headed to the big city for a conference on Celebrating Linguistic and Cultural Diversity.

Can I tell you how much my mind was blown during the two days of learning?  Unreal.

Ok, so not all of us are big city fans.  I do not enjoy trying to navigate Toronto in a car, and from where I live West of Toronto, the amount of traffic that would have been endured in order to arrive at OISE at 8 am, and then to leave Toronto at 3:45 pm the next day to return home… well… I’d likely have cried.

Naturally, then, we took the train.  We ventured from our homes, left our cars in Burlington, and took advantage of the wonderful transit system that we all wish would come farther West.  But that’s another topic entirely.

Throughout the two-day conference, I learned about things like respecting the voice of English Language Learners in our schools — letting them speak their own first languages, letting them show what they know in their language, and encouraging them not to lose that incredibly valuable and special piece of who they are.  I learned about social justice for refugees, and I got to listen to the fascinating linguistic research behind the developmental stages of our English Language Learners, and the linguistic research and data that drives the way we aim to help them best.

But to the point of this post, I was struck on the way home from the conference yesterday by the power of nonverbal communication — which is essential when a student enters my caseload, and therefore my care, and doesn’t speak any language at all.  When I don’t speak their language, and they don’t speak mine, how do we communicate?

It’s challenging.  It’s difficult, and I’m not here to minimize that.  On the train on the way home from Toronto yesterday, we entered a train car that was packed right full — we shouldn’t have been shocked, we boarded a 4:10 train at Union Station.  The lower level had no available seating, so those leading the way ahead of me continued on up to the upper level.  During rush hour, the upper levels of the GO trains are reserved as “The Quiet Zone.”  We knew this, and we were being quiet.  We were either whispering or talking very quietly, as some others on the train were.  Shortly after the train started moving, however, the passenger beside one of my coworkers removed her earbuds to say, rather snarkily, “hey guys?  This here is the quiet zone, so if you’re gonna talk, you need to go downstairs.”  She put her headphones back in and continued staring out the window.  Everyone around her looked at her like she had taken it a bit far (which I believe she had), but being the respectful individuals we are, we entered quiet mode.

If you know me, you know how much I hate having to be quiet.  I don’t mind quiet time, but I don’t like being told “you can’t talk.”  It stifles my process.  I tried to do yoga once — never again.  But I digress.

A couple of us pulled out books to read, one played on her phone for a bit, and the other sat quietly and looked out the window.  About ten minutes into the trip, the guy beside me answered a phone call.  I’m surprised the passenger who’d made her position on quiet VERY clear didn’t lose her mind.  I looked at one of my coworkers, who did nothing but wink at me, and I started to giggle… silently, of course, so I just looked like a smiling goof whose shoulders wouldn’t stop shaking.  Another coworker looked at me, raised her eyebrows, motioned at the guy on the phone, then motioned over her shoulder to the lady with the headphones sitting beside her.  I silently giggled again.  We all exchanged varying degrees of knowing glances, pointed nods, and hand gestures (all of them appropriate), before we got tired of not completely understanding each other and started to send text messages despite being seated right beside each other.

What struck me though was that before we gave up and moved to our phones, we were all able to communicate quite a bit with no words.  We just had to be observant enough.


The Red Door Inn

If you want to fall deeply in love with characters, and become wholly invested in the outcome of their lives, I highly recommend this book — The Red Door Inn, by Liz Johnson.

I’ve never been to Prince Edward Island — it’s on my ‘someday’ list.  Maybe next summer.  But the way Johnson paints a picture of the red sand beaches and the idyllic surf crashing against them, it has certainly moved up a few notches.

Marie Carrington, Seth Sloane, and Jack Sloane are all people with broken pasts and uncertain futures.  Marie and Seth especially need to figure out how to trust each other and let each other in enough to work together.  Jack needs their help to bring The Red Door Inn — a dream of his late wife — to life, and it will take all the cooperation they can muster.

Marie Carrington is broke, desperate, and hoping to find sanctuary on Prince Edward Island while decorating a renovated bed-and-breakfast. Seth Sloane moved three thousand miles to help restore his uncle’s Victorian B and B–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart. He wasn’t expecting to have to babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just two months will take everything they’ve got–and they have to find a way to work together. In the process, they may find something infinitely sweeter than they ever imagined on this island of dreams.

With characters bringing in heart wrenching back stories, brilliantly descriptive writing, and a powerful message of trusting God to heal brokenness, this book will reel you in.  I stayed up way later than any human being should last night to finish it.

I wish The Red Door Inn was a real place — with all of the beautiful descriptions of what the place looks like, I’d happily stay there whenever I do finally make my way to PEI.

I will be watching for more by Liz Johnson — especially in the fall when the Prince Edward Island Dreams book 2 is released.  The excerpt at the back of The Red Door Inn has me sure I need to read it, so I’ll have my eyes peeled for sure.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 12.33.26 PM

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc