Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

It seems I’m reading books this month that put me in the mood for travel. Well, it might actually be a combination of summer and the books I’m reading. The last book I read took me through some streets of NYC, and this one through the picturesque landscapes of Scotland.

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When hotel consultant Andrea Sullivan is sent to Scotland on a job, she knows she’s being punished. After all, she’s handled multimillion dollar accounts, so why does her boss insist she handle some spoiled celebrity chef who has set his mind on starting a hotel? Then she meets James MacDonald in the most embarrassing, unprofessional manner and is determined not to let his charm, annoying self confidence, and smooth talk pull her in. James is attracted to Andrea from the moment he lays eyes on her, but the more he learns about her, the more impressed (not to mentioned captivated) he becomes. Both has suffered pain and loss in past relationships. Both have avoided them since. While Andrea put all of her time, focus, and energy into her job, James won’t allow himself to get attached to one woman. But when Andrea comes with him to his beloved home in Scotland, he takes the challenge of making her fall in love with his homeland. While the beauty and majesty of Scotland is easy to fall for, could there be more? Are five days in Skye enough to allow a man and woman to let go of the pain from their past and hope for a future?

The descriptions of Scotland throughout the book are mesmerizing. I felt like I was falling in love with the land along with Andrea. The lochs, the castles, the mountains, even the rain and cold, all sounded so beautiful. Breathtaking and haunting. Old world with centuries of history behind them. Laureno not only nailed the scenery, she also plays on the reader’s emotions with Andrea’s struggles with her past, with letting go and enjoying herself as well as James’s sticky relationship with his brother. If you’re looking to escape to someplace mystical and romantic, consider spending Five Days in Skye. Oh, and even better news, there’s a second book with James’s brother. From the description, it’s set in London. I know what I’ll be reading soon.

***David C. Cook provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and fair review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday Soundbite

Well, my plan for Silly Saturdays fizzled out after just two weeks. Sorry, I got kind of busy. Plus, I was having a difficult time coming up with a good story a couple of weeks ago. Since the calendar’s about to flip to a new month (can you believe it’s June already), I’m going to try something a little different that will allow a little more variety. I’m also going to give myself the option to post this random sound bite post on either Saturday or Sunday. With summer upon us, my schedule is filling up. Vacations, day trips, great movies, and more fill my times.

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend and a friend and I went camping in Mammoth Springs, KY. I thought I’d share some of the photos from our trip here this week. It was nice to get away from home and all of the things that should be done. We spend the first day relaxing around the campsite. My friend slept in while I read. Once the sun came out and lit up the tent, I had a hard time sleeping. On Sunday, we hiked around a couple of trails before taking a tour of the cave.

I love taking photos while I’m hiking. Anything that looks interesting, light playing in shadows, something that catches my eye. I snap a picture. My friend usually doesn’t mind as it means she gets a rest. Here are some of the hiking trail.

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We had to turn off the flash on our cameras once we were inside the actual cave so not many of my pictures turned out. We spent two hours touring two miles of the cave. Our guide informed us that there are over 400 miles of discovered passages in the cave over six levels. This is the entrance.

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We tentatively discussed camping at Land Between the Lakes in June, but that trip has not yet been planned. We’ll see if we make it. The first week in August I’ll be in Colorado with my parents so should get some good pics of Estes Park.

Enjoy your summer!!

Once Upon a Summertime by Melody Carlson

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New York City is on my shortlist of places I’d like to visit some day. When a book is set in the city, I get to experience it just a tiny bit. What I loved about Once Upon a Summertime was the main character was new to NYC and through her experiences, I got a tourist’s view of the city.

Anna Gordon thought her life would be more than managing The Value Lodge in her small hometown in Indiana. In college she’d had dreams of making a difference while managing a hot hotel. Instead she’s stuck in a rut. The owner’s of the Value Lodge don’t want to spend the money to make their establishment more inviting to guests, the employees don’t do their jobs, and Anna is sleeping on her grandmother’s couch. When she runs into a friend from the past, an opportunity to land a position at a boutique hotel in New York City feels like providence. While it wasn’t the job she’d hoped for, Anna accepts a management position at the new establishment. During her tour with one of the owners, she runs into another face from the past. Sean O’Neil was three years older than her and hadn’t paid her or his friend’s little sister, Marley any attention when they were teenagers. Now, Sean is paying lots of attention. So much attention, Anna fears losing her job. Will Anna have to choose between the job she desperately needs and the man who just might be the love of her life?

I’ll admit, after reading a little bit of a dud from Melody Carlson earlier this year, I was a tad bit hesitant to pick up another offering from her. Sometimes a risk offers a reward. Overall, I enjoyed this story. The NYC setting was a huge plus. Anna’s journey was interesting. The reader gets to know Anna very well before Sean enters the story about a quarter of the way through the book. Anna’s friend Marley is hard to get a good read on. One moment she seems friendly and excited for Anna, and another she’s angry and upset with her. The ending was a little too hastily wrapped up, and the solution to the huge problem was not the one I was expecting. This one still has a few issues that were not hammered out well in the book. That said, this is a great beach read for summertime. Take with you on vacation or read it by the pool. It offers what we’re all hoping for during the warm summer months: an escape.

***Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Work in Progress Wednesday

Another week has flown by, and since I spent the long weekend camping, I got zilch done on editing. On the bright side, if I work on two chapters a day this week, I’ll be through book four by June 1. Woo Hoo!! Once the entire book has been edited, I’ll order some proof copies, hand a couple of them out to beta readers, and set one copy aside to go through myself in another month. This will not only give me little break from this book, I will be through this project enough that I can focus on the next project. Book number five. The first one in my second series.

And here’s what I’m excited about with the new series. First of all, the first book, whose working title is currently Entertaining Angels, placed in the top 10 in a writing contest I entered. Man, that was so encouraging. Second, the focus I’ll be placing on book five right now will be sending it through a new critique group. This group is new to me but I’m very excited to have some published authors in the group who I know will offer great insight and opinions. Also, this series deals with some very difficult but very real subjects. Each of the titles for the books (and I’ve written three so far with plans for at least one more) has come from song titles. In case you’re wondering, book and song titles cannot be copyrighted. Because of this, I’m considering naming the series The Rhythm of Love (which is also a song).

So here’s an interesting (maybe only to me) tidbit about my fifth book. The title of the book actually came to me first. I was out walking one day with my iPod. I have some old school music on there (music from my college years), including some old Newsboys stuff. I mean like the Newsboys that was fronted by Peter Furler and had Phil Joel on the guitar. The song “Entertaining Angels” came on and I thought about the Bible verse about entertaining angels unaware. And then I decided it would be a great name for a book. But what about that book could relate to the title that had started to take root. Okay, my main character was somehow going to take care of children (because what better to draw an audience in that kids or puppies). Once I had that general concept, the rest of the story started flowing. I am excited about this one. I’ve learned so much about writing over the past couple of years, I hope mine is getting stronger. Spending time in critique groups is really challenging me to explain things better (show not tell, point of view, dialogue vs. backstory, etc.).

Let me leave you with the inspiration that started my second series.

Summer’s List by Anita Higman

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Summer Snow is lost. When she calls off her engagement, she knows it’s the right thing to do. There was never a spark, a real connection with her fiancé. But will she ever experience that? Feeling the need for comfort, she visits her granny who gives her more bad news. Summer’s granny’s health is failing and her beloved Granny, who is her last remaining relative will not be around much longer. Granny gives Summer a list of things she wants her to do to try and find herself instead of taking care of her. The first thing on that list is to find her childhood friend, Martin Langtree. As Summer and Martin cross items off the list, their friendship picks up right where they left off twenty years ago. But is there a possibility for more than friendship?

While reading this book, I kept expecting more. More what, I’m not sure. More conflict or more mystery perhaps. This story was pretty straightforward. Martin and Summer and polite to the extent of annoying, and they both seem almost too perfect. The romance is too straightforward. Probably the best part of this story was the struggle between Martin and his brothers (and that dynamic could have been explored more). All in all, the book was so-so. Not something that will stand out as exceptional or memorable.

****Moody Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.