Buy Piper Green and the Fairy Tree for all young readers with confidence

I admire children’s book authors for their ability to climb into the mindset of a child and relate an important life-lesson to them with words and images that burn happy memories into their brains forever.

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree written by Ellen Potter and illustrated by Qin Leng is an early-readers chapter book released on audio by Live Oak Media in September 2020. It is narrated by Tavia Gilber, who does a charming job bringing the voice of young Piper to life.

Piper Green is starting second grade. She lives on an island, rides a ferryboat to school, has a special shield to ward off irritating boys, and thinks her new teacher has glorious wavy blonde princess hair.

Piper thinks second grade is going to be the best year ever, even though its the first year her beloved big brother has moved away from home and into a boarding school dormitory.

But when Piper arrives on her first day of school and learns her princess teacher wants her to remove the monkey ear muffs her big brother just gave her, Piper realizes second grade is going to be the worst year of her life.

This darling early-reader chapter book is a fabulous find for school and home, libraries and even listening to on audio while riding in the car with mom or dad.

Potter does a wonderful job executing this touching story of a little girl, her big brother and the lesson of relinquishing something very special.

My eight-year-old granddaughter and seven-year-old grandson would love this book, which they would blaze through during reading time or after school. Both young readers would have no trouble relating to Piper or her story in this touching tale.

Let me throw in one personal note, reader.

From the time our three girls could sit in our laps, my husband and I shared our love for imagination and story.  Our weekly visits to the public library’s storytime were an invaluable contribution. Our girls grew to be well spoke, well read adults, blessed to offer the world an enhanced version of themselves.

Books like Piper Green and the Fairt Tree need to be in every child’s hands, whether it is physica, digital, on the shelves of their libraries, in their homes or filling their young ears with love and wonder while listening to audio in the car.

My true and intense desire is to see stories by this author, and many others, form the backbone of happy memories for your children and grandchildren for many years to come.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Wrap yourself up and relax with this inspiring Christmas romance

The Christmas season is not complete, in my opinion, until I read at least one Christmas novel. And though Wrapped in Christmas Joy, by Janice Lynn is my first Christmas novel for this season, it isn’t the last.

Like all holiday fiction, Wrapped in Christmas Joy offers readers the eternal gift of love, joy, and a warm inspired heart, and, as a bonus, this lovely story is wrapped up with a pretty Christmas bow at the end.

Awww. So sweet. True love in its purest form. Couldn’t we all use a little love in our life. I know in mine, this is about as close and I am going to get.

The plot of Wrapped in Christmas Joy, is an old standard; boy meets girl … yada yada yada … and everything turns out wonderful. This story, however, has a deep military-service undertone that addresses their heroic and often difficult-to-overcome service to the United States, and the too-common consequences that arrive home within the hearts of military members who see conflict during their service.

Our protagonist, Sophie,Davis, is a sweet young adult who owns a quilt shop with her sister and is living life with a loving heart and empty arms. Sophie and her sister have a connection to the struggle former combat members suffer because their father, an Iraq veteran, abandoned them as children.

Our hero, Cole Aaron, is a recently released military veteran whose name describes him well;: He is cold, and burning hot.

Left alone, Sophie and Cole would never hook up, even though the couple’s private thoughts are irresistibly drawn to one another. But, just like Cinderella’s Fairy God Mother, the “Butterflies” quilting group intervenes to help true love and healing blossom in the young couple’s hearts.

Wrapped in Christmas Joy is the epitome of a Christmastime chick flick. And it’s worth every minute that screams past as you read or listen to this book on audio.

My suggestion is this, reader: Put down the cookies – or maybe serve yourself another plate of cookies – grab this book, wrap yourself up in your favorite quilt, climb into your soft, comfy bed next to your purring cat, and enjoy this inspiring read. It won’t take you long to realize that each stage of Wrapped in Christmas Joy is yet another stitch in another Hallmark Publishing classic love story.

I’m such a sap … I love this stuff.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Changing your experience is within your grasp

The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions & Compulsions Using Mindfulness & Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Second Edition, by Jon Hershfield, MFT and Tom Corboy, MFT – A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook, offers readers a therapist in a book; a rescue inhaler for those struggling to push breath in and out of their bodies during each minute of their struggles.

Mindfulness Workbook

According to Hershfield and Corboy, 2.3 percent of the population struggle with obsession, unwanted intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. The OCD Workbook is designed to help readers reduce or avoid the discomfort of those tiring maladies.

This book was created to discuss how “mindfulness” can be used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder in combination with a type of treatment called “cognitive behavioral therapy. Patients, however, can successfully interact with the OCD Workbook whether or not they are in active therapy. 

“You’re not just anxious. There’s something sharp jabbing into your mind. But all is not lost. Although your suffering may e great, your ability to change this experience is within your grasp,” Hershfield and Corboy write.

The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD is put together in three sections:

  1. To develop a basic understanding of the relationship between mindfulness, cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy.
  2. To break down common obsessions found in OCT and describe how much the use of mindfulness can help.
  3. To explore other details of living with OCD and using mindfulness to maintain healthy relationships.

Hershfield and Corboy intersperse the OCD Workbook with questions posed to readers in an effort to help control the continuous struggle with roaming-thought-problems. It’s advice is presented in a logical, understandable and encouraging way.

“Once you educate, and remove the unknown … (It is possible to turn) OCD aspects of your life into something positive or at least manageable on a day-to-day basis,” Hershfield and Corboy write.

The greatest mindfulness challenge for the OCD sufferer is to respond non-judgmentally to physical sensations, he says.

“Mindfulness asks that you view physical sensations just as you see thoughts and feelings. They are experiences. Pain is pain, and we all agree that it feels bad. But if you let it feel bad and leave it at that, then you maintain clarity,” Hershfield and Corboy write. “Clarity is what enables you to see the difference between a headache and a brain tumor. In other words, see physical sensations as what the are and observe your urges to define them as what they could be.”

Mindfulness is setting time aside from a single moment to several hours, to stop resisting the present moment and just observe it … tether  your attention to one thing (erg. the experience of breathing, sitting, or hearing) and acknowledge when you attention strays from that thing. Then, begin again with your attention on the first thing without judging yourself for having wandered, they say.

Whether you are considering the OCD workbook for yourself or someone else, as a gift or as a much-appreciated tool that can help you face your daily struggles, this book is going to help and could easily be the lifesaver OCD patients are looking to find.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Was Sabotage written for me? Ouch.

I told my therapist last Friday how deeply, Sabotage by Emma Gannon, changed my outlook on life.

Released in late September by Andrews McMeel Publishing, this non-fiction title fit my description of the perfect self-help book.

My perimeters? It helped.

I dislike those self-help authors who appear to think that filling my head with their lengthy resumes will somehow convince me to swallow their message hook, line and sinker.

Perhaps that is why I am seeing a therapist. Hmm.

But this author was “asingin’ my song,” as my mother once said.

Gannon is a self-described woman and works as a “creative” in the fast-paced world of filmmaking, writing, marketing, and speaking.

Hopefully, she won’t be speaking about me. Oh wait, this book could have been written for me.

Bummer.

Gannon is ultra-experienced in the “Interaction-With-Jealous-Coworkers-And-Friends-Who-Are-Girls-Or-Cads,” department. Gannon has dished and been dished enough to realize that she too, actively engaged in self-sabotage. So active in fact, she could write a book.

Hmm. I feel that experienced too. What would my book be titled? How to Ensure You Destroy Your Own Day, Everyday? Accurate. I wonder how many people would read it?

Here are a few questions intended to identify toxic relationships in your life, according to Gannon:

Are you scared to tell them good news? Well, that eliminates most of my nuclear family.

When you tell them good news, do they look pleased or pained? Seriously? Some of my relatives try to stop my good news from happening.

Do they try to hold you back from trying new things: Ever heard of the word GUILT?!

You feel yourself becoming less and less confident around them? Are you supposed to feel confident after being with them?

Gannon’s book is so readable, or in this case, listen-to-ale, because she pegs the human tendency to set oneself ablaze with thoughts and actions that burn our own self-worth and desire to keep climbing toward our potential straight to the ground.

Hey, you commuters!

Sabotage is an audiobook, easy to access, and quick to understand. It’s cheap therapy from someone whose been there, (remember, you are NOT alone,) and a much more fulfilling choice for tolerating bad driving and For-No-Reason-Traffic, than listening to your favorite shock jock; imbibing yourself silly before you hit the road – figuratively or literally; or in California at least, finding … ah … OTHER ways to ease your tension in life.

WARNING: If you dare listen to Gannon’s Sabotage, you might just find all those “friends” and “helpmates” in your past life were actually right about some pretty unfortunate things and that after all your fighting, the root of your problem … is you

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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I Forced a Bot to Write This Book is funny, I think

Mad Libs meet 2020 in Keaton Patti’s new book “I Forced a Bot to Write This Book.”

Or, for you Millennial readers, RI meets BS, which translates to old readers like me as, RI meets Bullshit, I think.

This creative collection of 1,000 computer hours smashed in between two covers is strange, to say the least. Patti was brilliant just conceiving and developing this idea, and genius in executing this title.

I Forced a Bot to Write This Book is very … Millennial, I think. Or is it Gen Z?

I’m on the cusp of the Baby Boomer and Clueless Generation, which, in this case makes sense. Coming from a 56-year-old befuddled person, the best way to describe I Forced a Bot to Write This Book is that this title is computer science meets pop culture, meets every Starbucks drinker on the globe, I think.

It is an assortment of computer-generated conversations that address popular common cultural norms, like dating profiles and TV scripts for The Office, Family Guy and Mr. Rogers from the viewpoint of a computer.

The reader, in this case … me, gets a front-row view of what television, computer interaction and knock-knock jokes are like from the point of a bunch of zeros and ones. (Which is the atom of computer science for all of you who think I lost my mind.)

Patti includes computer-generated country song lyrics, romance novels, mommy blogs, poetry … pretty much everything “Millennial.”

Years ago, when I thought things were funny I went to a book signing by a former LA Times writer who penned a collection of letters in which the author, who acted as an anonymous American consumer, asked high-power mainstream corporations like Coca-Cola outrageously ridiculous questions and making equally obviously absurd requests. The letters he wrote were poking fun at forced political correct tactics company CEOs subscribed to when dealing with a nutcase … and the general public. The Fortune-500-company replies and concessions were drop-dead hilarious.

Now that I think of it, that book could have been called a knock-off of Candid Camera. But that reference really ages me, and Allen Funk isn’t here to defend himself. Besides, the Punk’d television series was the most immediate knock-off of that show.

Aannyy who … as Steve Erkle would say … (It’s another old reference for you Millennials out there.) I Forced a Bot to Write This Book is today’s version of those timeless classics that spoof the current world and capture the hearts of their generations.

So lap it up Millennials. This is your youth, your world. But watch out you caffeinated hipsters, the Gen Z’ers are right behind you, and by the time you are my age, there is a very high likelihood that everything you attempt to review is going to cause absolute confusion.

That, dear reader, I am sure about. Now I need to figure out what RI means.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Ex wife regrets the day she met Paul West – and his murder

Happy trails to you …

Hm, hm ……. hm, hm…….hm, hm, hmmmm …

Beaches, Bungalows & Burglaries

Beaches, Bungalows and Burglaries: Camper and Criminals Cozy Mystery Series by Tonya Kappes has nothing to do with Roy Rogers, the 1950’s-era movie star who made that song famous. But it does have something to do with happy trails. Happy Trails Campground in Normal Kentucky, that is.

Eye sawear reader, I am thinkin’ with a Kentuuucky draaawl rite naw. It’s kinda fun.

Beaches, Bungalows and Burglaries is the first in this series and introduces us to Mae West, a heroine whom everyone she meets insists on calling her by her first and last name. That’s a problem for Mae because she was forced into the camper in which she lives and into Normal Kentucky, thanks to her husband, Paul West, a big city snake oil salesman who took the life-savings of just about everybody in Normal and used it to provide Mae a lavish lifestyle, then lost it after being busted for running a ponzi scheme.

Now, Mae Waaest faces the exhausting devastation her swindler husband, EX HUSBAND, reigned down on all those he conned, after Paul West is busted, tried, jailed, escaped and found dead in Normal’s Happy Trails RV Park pond. Mae’s only possession after the trial,  is an old pop-up rolling camper and the deed to Happy Trails RV Park.

Now on a mission to restore Happy Trails Campground and the entire town of Normal, Mae Waaest digs deep into her husband’s secrets and those of the town folk to find the killer of Paul West.

As a lot of books I read, or in this case, listen to on audio, this one is formulaic and twisted. Its resolve was a challenge to reach. And, as always with cozy mysteries, I found myself playing along with Mae Waaest while she searched for her husband’s killer. I like the cozies in which I cannot guess the killer. And this one took me all the way to the end before I learned the mysterious criminal’s identity.

I must report, however, that my first brush with this audio took me back a bit, because the narrator made Mae West sound hauntingly familiar.

Who the heck was that? Oh ya. She was a sound double for Meg Ryan’s racy, super rich twin sister in “Joe Versus the Volcano.”  (Which, by the way, encapsulates the story of mankind in his search for meaning, and is stunningly good.)

Once I pegged that drawl, I couldn’t help also recognizing part of the “Sweet Home Alabama” storyline and the sound double of Dorthea, the hometown gural who helped Reese Weatherspoon’s character re assimilate into small-town life.

Beaches, Bungalows and Burglaries was charming, and I fell in love with its characters’ personality quirks. It wasn’t long before I forgot all about the voices and enjoyed the happy trails of Mae West’s new adventure in Normal Kentucky.

On an important side note; I got this title from “Libby,” s public library audio tool used in libraries across the country and intended to allow readers to hear their stories instead of read them. I highly recommend it.  But, before I got my chance to listen to this wonderful cliché look into rural Kentucky, I was forced to wait for weeks until other readers listened to it first.

Perhaps, reader, that waitin’ list all by itself testifies that Beaches, Bungalows and Burglaries will send your cozy mystery-lovin’ heart rite awn dauwn happy trails.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Darling dog offers outstanding grip on grace

I’ve decided it would be great to be a dog … especially the blonde Twitter pooch who penned the most charming gift and tabletop book I have ever seen.

Authored by Twitter sensation Matt Nelson and released Oct 27 by Andrews McMeel Publishing, Thought of Dog is a 100-page delight featuring, a very special dog whose favorite thing in life is to live it alongside his owner, “the human” and with Sebastian, his stuffed elephant best friend.

When I began reading this adorable book, I was a bit confused.

Terrible spelling, grammar, and punctuation that distracted me so much I questioned whether this book was edited. I kept thinking this book is written so poorly, it could easily be penned by a dog.

Dah. (Insert V8 head slap here.)

Once I comprehended this first-person text was the story of a dog’s life, written by the dog, I was not only enchanted but knew it was perfect.

Thoughts of Dog was a true page-turner. I couldn’t wait to see what this sweetheart of a pooch was going to say next. It wasn’t long before I started contemplating how fun living a dog’s life would be.

After all, “Everyone should experience the joy of sticking their tongue out of a moving vehicle,” this dog writes in his book.

Thoughts of Dog was an oddly calming reminder that we humans spend too much of our lives in a state of stress and production, when clearly, the innocent loving demeanor of this dog and his faithful “fren” Sebastian is a far better road to follow. Thoughts of Dog makes me want to hug someone – perhaps my own Labrador retriever.

I saw Thoughts of Dog as a message to human readers that while we exist in this world of responsibility and pressure, our dog friends live in a world of love and service.

This is an excellent Christmas or Hanukkah present for the stressed-out reader who needs a reminder that innocence and kindness still exist.

Silly humans. We still think making money and gaining success is the way to go.

Reader, I promise you, after you are finished enjoying Thoughts of Dog, you too will realize that seeking happiness just rose to a whole new level.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Absolutely everything is absolutely … long

If you ever wanted to know intimate details about the Earth’s history, then Absolutely Everything! History, Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and other things too numerous to mention, by Christopher Lloyd, is the book for you.

I listened to this youth-directed audiobook – or at least skipped around considerably out of sheer frustration and boredom – over the course of a few weeks.

Absolutely Everything is a thorough, well-researched history of ancient times … emphasis on “ancient” times. The final chapter, however, covers the 1940s to now.

I do have a beef with this title and it has nothing to do with the quality of this author’s work or the work of the narrator.

Its title, Absolutely Everything,etc. etc. has one enormous hole that, frankly, squelched my interest in listening to this audio word-for-word. 

I felt like I was being duped.

Just like the idea behind attending a university to learn diverse viewpoints and opinions, this academic explanation of our Earth’s inception and development deserves to address the weighty human belief that there are other Earth-inception theories and belief systems.

I doubt Lloyd was around to see the Big Bang. And that’s another thing … I thought there was no sound in space …

Even I, a relative moron compared to Lloyd’s vast knowledge base, know that human beings have more than one explanation about how this colorful round globe about to be wiped out by a host of different possibilities, came to be.

My first introduction to alternative theories was zoroastrianism in junior college.

Yes. I went to junior college. There were not many scholars out there just itching to award me a scholarship. Surprised?

Back to my point. What about Greek mythology? I thought Atlas was holding the globe afloat. So does Hollywood, by the appearances of their Oscars. Then there is Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and a wide variety of Indian nations that all have different explanations about how the Earth bounced into reality.

Absolutely. This book is scientifically presented, focused on the destruction of our Earth by the thoughtless acts of mankind, and is genuinely solid in its lengthy, detailed presentation … emphasis on lengthy.

But its absolute one-sidedness about the creation of Earth aimed at young readers, bothers me.

But Michelle, you say … the Bible is equally one-sided. So is the Koran, the Book of Mormon and the Tanakh. Why should Absolutely Everything be held to a different standard?

Touche.

Note to self: Stop arguing with yourself so much.

Perhaps the answer here is a warning label like the movies, that we can apply to the literature we give our kids. This book, the Bible, Koran, ancient Greek Mythology, or Grimms’ Fairy Tales should carry a warning:

This information is one-sided.

Oh wait. I just described the news.

Absolutely Everything: Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and other things too numerous to mention is a good book. It incorporates more knowledge and information I could fantasize about learning in two lifetimes. Lloyd is an excellent, thorough author and the audio is very “interesting” sounding.

Just give this book to your kids with this message in mind:

It’s not everything.

By the way, smartassery is my specialty.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Flower grows a beauty with her new cozy mystery series

Author Amanda Flowers’ new book Dead End Detective, is the start of something beautiful … again.

Dead-End Detective: A Piper and Porter Mystery from Hallmark Publishing is the first in her new series featuring Darby Porter, a young, sparky, single detective who co-owns Two Girls Detective Agency with her close friend, Samantha Porter.

And Darby is happily enjoying a wonderful life and career until her business partner announces she is dissolving their company.

Less than 24-hours later, Darby’s partner is dead, and she is the most likely suspect for Samantha’s murder.

Though Darby is devastated by her life’s tragic turn and uncertain future, it is Samantha who proves she’s always known what is best for Darby’s future.

Motivation, opportunity, and method could not be more fun.

Amanda Flowers’ cozies are among my favorite series’ in the 150-plus cozy mystery books I’ve consumed in the past two years. Her story-telling is easy, amusing, and always keeps me guessing. I like her perky characters and am always hungry for more at the end of her reads.

It was my special pleasure to listen to this book on audio, which was narrated by Laura Faye Smith and produced by Dreamscape Media.

Smith’s portrayal of Darby and her co-cast members was right on target. I was focused on Flowers’ storytelling and not Smiths’ voice the entire time, which in my opinion is exactly what a narrator should do; disappear into the story and allow the author to work her magic.

Flower and several other authors in her genre continue to further solidify why cozy mysteries are so much fun, and why, in three years, I will write my own cozy mystery series on the market. What writer can read this genre and not want to jump into this pool?

I give Dead End Detective a 5 on my Color Commentary scale.

I cannot wait to get my hands on Flowers’ next title.

Dead End Detective: A Piper Porter Mystery hit the shelves Aug. 25, 2020. Her next title, Candy Cane Crime: An Amish Candy Shop Mystery will be released Oct. 27.

For more information about Flowers’ books, visit her website at www.amandaflowers.com. You will not be disappointed. See my reviews at michellelovatosbookreviews.wordpress.com.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Overground Railroad: Why this book is personal

I admit it. I am a privileged middle-aged white woman who struggled through life to understand or genuinely feel the deep horror and resentment African American men and women still tolerate in this country today.  Until, that is, I listened to Candacy Taylor’s book Overground Railroad on audio.

Overground Railroad by Candacy Taylor

It is ignorance, really, that keeps me on that level of “privilege.” Ignorance, lack of education or experience, combined with the distinct absence of culture in my own life has contributed to this problem. I do not consider myself racist. But, thanks to Taylor’s book, I now consider myself uneducated, void of a sharp continuing hatred with which I will never become aquainted.

Overground Railroad is of personal importance to me. My hometown of Apple Valley, CA, appears in the Green Book.

Nolie and Lela Murray, who owned the Murray’s Overall Wearing Dude Ranch, ran the only black-owned dude ranch in the country at that time.

I did a considerable amount of studying their lives when I wrote about the Murrays in my first Arcadia book, Images of America: Apple Valley. I grew to respect them through that study, and I saw a time of inequity that laid sorrow on my heart. I knew that despite the discrimination of most people around them, the Murray’s welcomed everyone of every skin color into their home and business from the day they arrived in Apple Valley in the young 1900s. I respected them. I knew their contribution to black history through their dude ranch was courageous and important.

But I did not realize the magnitude of extensive all-consuming love Nolie and Lela Murray gifted the world during that time of hatred until I listened to Taylor’s book.

I did not “read” the stories of Taylor’s ancestors; the ones that inspired the Green Book’s publication.

I heard them. I heard their depth and emotion for the very first time. I was stunned.

The extent of my black history knowledge circled high school history class sections featuring slavery, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, that a civil rights movement occured and Martin Luther King was a great man. I thought after the 60s, racism disappeared.

Admittedly again, I grew up in Southern California, attended a black majority high school and most of my close friends throughout my life were black as well.

I had no idea that in the 1930s and beyond, a black family who simply wanted to vacation or travel put chauffeur’s hats in their car to excuse and dumb-down their presence and status in life to any random asshole who had the audacity to harass them. I had no idea they were denied food, gas and lodging.

Through Taylor’s book, I heard fear. I heard humiliation. I heard the acceptance of living in a very broken country full of human beings who were told they were free, then jailed in shame and outcast to levels lower than the family dog. I heard anger.

The Murray’s jumped back to my mind.

In my earlier research, I’d read about their toughness, their spirit of service and their keen business sense. But when I looked at my knowledge of the Murray’s dude ranch through the eyes of this book, I lost my breath.  And the reality and weight of outragous sacrifice to humanity the Murray’s portrayed covered me with awe.

My heart became heavy. Very heavy. While my ancestors were demeaning those like them, they were loving people like me. 

If there was ever a story waiting to be written, this is it. I want to share their message very fervently.

The site of their lives is about five miles out of Apple Valley now and Murray’s Overall Wearing Dude Ranch is an empty field. There is a mobile home park and a gas station across the street.

Before this book I visited that site with respect, and now thanks to Taylor’s compelling narrative, I can go out there with a different perspective. I can look across the dirt and creosote bushes and see Nolie and Lela, their buildings, their outreach. I can smell Lela’s fabulous cooking. I can see the massive Easter Sunday services they organized for years on end.

I can see the Murrays and hear them and feel them around me, and I have a heaviness on my heart to share the kind of love they their shared too.

I am changed. I am glad.

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Traveler’s guide captures history and tragedy of racism

Overground Railroad, by Candacy Taylor is nothing short of earth-shattering.


This immediate classic, released on Tantor Audio at the end of September 2020, was originally released in hardback by Abrams Books January.


In Overground Railroad, Taylor tells the story of being black in a racist society through the creation of the Green Book, a black traveler’s annual guide that directed scared, mistreated, and degraded travelers throughout the country. The Green Book was a collection of black-owned and black-friendly businesses that welcomed their company.

Created by Victor Hugo Green in 1936, the Green Books captured a time in America when racism was overtly observed, often legal, expected and enforced.

Within the covers of the Green Book, travelers could find black-owned restaurants, gas stations, and hotels. Green held a lifelong dedication to the Green Book’s publication, imploring travelers to carry it because “You might just need it.”

To further prove that dedication, throughout its publication, Green worked full time as a mail carrier and made little more money on the Green Book than it cost to produce.
Candacy covers black travelers’ subjection to Jim Crow Laws, sundowner towns and miles upon miles of nowhere to obtain gas or eat food.

Heartbreaking to listen to on audio, this author enlightens its readers to the reality of the time and the great compromises black travelers were forced to make because of their skin color.

Taylor tells the stories of black soldiers denied the simple respect of driving peacefully through the country they served during times of war and the nationwide group of black-owned businesses who provided safe shelter to those soldiers and all other black travelers who took to the roads.

Narrated by Lisa Reneé Pitts, Overground Railroad is an eye-opening non-fiction classic regardless of how the reader consumes its’ information.
Pitts is authentic in her narration and able to emphasize Candacy’s words in times of necessity.

Overground Railroad is an honest, stark education to readers and a perfect way to share the humiliating plight of black travelers with readers of all ages.
Overground Railroad would be particularly helpful in high school classrooms as required reading. Its honesty is the perfect jumping-off point for conversation, communication, and understanding. Taylor’s story-telling is real and unsheltered.

Overground Railroad, regardless of what form you choose to embrace, is a read well worth reader’s time. But beware, you might just learn your own great grandparents and grandparents wielded the heavy hands of that racism generations before you were born.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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The Switch made me seriously want to SWITCH

Sometimes I wish I could switch lives with someone else. The problem, however, is no one wants to switch lives with me.

Perhaps I have shared too much …

Regardless, The Switch, by author Beth O’Leary was just what the doctor ordered to tame my raw nerves after a long day’s work.

As a commuter, I listened to the Switch on audio, a treat that utterly enchanted me, leaving me spellbound by the character voices of Allison Steadman and Daisy Edgar Jones.

Published by Macmillan Audio and Flatiron Books, The Switch hit the shelves of booksellers in August 2020.

In this story, three generations of Cotton women face vastly different lives from the ones they lived at the time of 20-something family member Carla’s death.

Now estranged from her once-close mother, 30-something Lena tries to bury herself in work to avoid dealing with her deep grief as grandmother, Eileen, picks up the pieces of her daughter’s devastating life.

Lena faces her emotional breaking point after having an anxiety attack at a corporate meeting while Eileen reels from the abandonment of her life-long husband, who left in haste and never returned.

Boy, can I relate.

Eileen and Lena, who share a  special closeness, decide it’s time for a break and the result is shocking.

Hmm.

Secretly, if I wanted to be one of these characters, I’d choose Grandma Eileen. So classic. So reserved. So … shocking.

Set in both London and rural England, The Switch is like most other fish-out-of-water stories that successfully entertained readers and moviegoers through the years.

Lena’s textured and trendy friends move this story forward and Eileen’s friend set are cliché but truly wonderful.

What do you expect from old people? (Just kidding. I’m old.)

The Switch’s characters transform what could have been another formulaic story into a stress-reducing pass time worthy of this commuter’s long drive.

Heck, there were a few days I took the long way home to hear a few more chapters.

Though this story is somewhat predictable in its nature, the Eileen storyline is original and often surprisingly fun.

I give The Switch a 9 on my stress-reducing scale.

The Switch is perfect for young and … ah, older women reader’s who want to relax with a good read,  escape the kids for a 30-minute soak in the hot tub, or hide from their own lifelong husband.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Christmas past comes alive with Retro Christmas Ornaments

Nothing captures the warm, and loving feeling that defines the Christmas season like the creation of family heirlooms through crochet.

Christmas Past Comes Alive

Retro Christmas Ornaments: 15 Beautiful Thread Angels and Many More, published by Leisure Arts offers the perfect road to travel.

This  book’s Thread (and yarn) Crochet Clothespin Angel pattern (page 26) reminds me of the days when my kids were small, their little hearts so alive with the joy and excitement of Christmas.

One year many moons ago my mother, always the crochet artist, made a clothespin angel and gave it to me just before the holiday season started.

It was the year our eldest daughter, 8 or so, saved all her money to buy a Christmas tree that stretched all the way to the ceiling.

When my mother came to visit that year with her angel in hand, the kids bickered and bickered over where to put the special gift on the tree. They fought over how it should be hung and which side it should face. Finally, it was set, admired, adored.

So many branches to decorate. And decorate we  did.

A few years later my loving mother showed up with a second angel she crocheted from a pattern identical to the one in Retro Christmas Ornaments. This one, the Starched Angel, was a tree topper, and, a show stopper. (page 54). This time my mom made three – one for each granddaughter. Each was displayed along side of the clothespin angel and a host of other homemade Christmas ornaments.

It’s been 30 years now since those crochet heirlooms arrived in our home. I have them still, wrinkled and worn from love and wear. The clothespin angel is only a head and a bow now. I have no idea how THAT happened. And the starched angels that were once strung with colored ribbon and represented each child are remolded by their love and handling.

Now I have grandchildren of my own. And my heart nearly leapt out of my chest when I saw this beautiful Leisure Arts book that reminded me of so many happy memories.

In case it  crossed your mind, OF COURSE I’M MAKING SOME!  I’ve collected my thread, pulled out my trusty steel hook crochet needles and am so excited to start some new memories of my own. I can’t wait to see the grandchildren when I pass on this wonderful legacy.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Best of Knit Accessories is a more productive hobby than eating

At one time in life I was very good at solving my propensity to get bored during the day by heading straight to the cupboard. Oh I can imagine the cookies now, all warm and soft and full of sugar.

But, the unfortunate truth of the matter is that over time, too much boredom made too much Sunshine to spread around all over the place.

So, fraught with the idea that I’d never return see my skinny jeans again I realized I needed a hobby.

Knitting is one of those things that started out feeling a lot like torture and turned into one of those things that I crave more than sugar. The needles between my fingers, the twisting of the yarn and threading it up through my hands create calm into my soul.

One of the things I like about Best of Knit Accessories: 40 Quick Projects Mitts, Scarves and More  by Leisure Arts, is that it’s cover-to-cover doable. This collection of hats, scarves, wristies, and bags is a practical guide to making  the most of your yarn stash, not to mention the path to gifts for everyone in your family.

The cable scarf (page 84) is professional, plush and perfect for a getaway weekend project. I love the felted tote bag (page 38), though I think I might go with some grey and stone colors and my favorite pattern is the Toe Up Socks (page108). I’m starting these the minute I get done with the mountain of Christmas presents I’m working on.

Best of Knit Accessories: 40 Quick Projects Mitts, Scarves and More is knitter-friendly in its instructions, offering different sizes printed in different colors, something I find very helpful.

Published nice and big for people like me who can’t see a tick on a tree 100 yards away, this 8.5 x 11, full-color book should be on every knitter’s shelf.

Best of Knit Accessories: 40 Quick Projects Mitts, Scarves and More is a great Christmas present, not to mention an even better Fall Festival early Christmas present.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Mini Maker Kits a Crafters Knight in White Armor

My new Mini Maker Stitchery Kit is like a retreat in a pouch.  I’ve done several of these little kits over the years. I love them. When My fingers are sore from knitting needles poking them or my joints are tight from crochet, I  turn to embroidery and cross stitch. Thankfully for me, Leisure Arts, the company that makes Mini Maker Stitchery knows that once a yarnie, always a yarnie and usually a yarnie across every possible creative yarn endeavor.

This kit, Wildflowers, is complete. It has fabric, needle, hoop, all the embroidery floss and very easy-to-read instructions.

I use Mini Maker kits when I travel. They are the perfect distraction for the airport or the wedged-in feeling of being between two other people on an airplane. They are very useful when the children are bothersome and, though not making any sort of punishable trouble, are definitely on your last nerve. Mini Maker kits are also fabulous for those unfortunate times when you find yourself sitting in a cold car while your husband talks ad nauseum to some unsuspecting and hopeful car salesman you know your husband is ultimately going to dissappoint.

Crafting for the crafty. That’s what Mini Maker kits are to this unrelenting crafter.  Next time you go to your craft store, pick up one or three Mini Maker kits to have around for times you’re feeling a bit prickly, or maybe you

don’t expect to leave your situation personally engaged and enthralled. You will thank yourself later. Just a bit of advice from Sunny.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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No wonder crochet is so darn trendy

Joy, oh joy. How much joy can I possibly handle in one day.

I just got my copy of Big Book of Crochet Accessories: 40+ Stylish Hats, Gloves, Scarves & More. I LOVE the neck warmer on page 41. It’s lined with sherpa – you know that fabric so soft you think you just fell into a vat of angel arms. On one side, a beautiful textured leaning crochet ribbed pattern, and the other side, softness to keep you warm and remind you of heaven.

The Trail Creek Neck Warmer pattern (page 41) designed by Christine Naugle is stunning. I can see why the art of crochet is evolving into one of the globe’s trendiest activities these days. But that’s not all this great book has to offer.  Socks! Crochet socks! I don’t see many of those patterns. Striped socks, trellis ribbed socks, over-the-shoulder bags that are practical, easily stylized and perfect for someone who wants to carry little more than their cell phone, this book is just waiting to be abused.

I love the Cables’ N Ribs intermediate pattern (page 53) designed  by Melissa Leapman. This pattern reminds me of my favorite Montana scarf. I got it at a thrift store for 50 cents. Someone who did not know how to appreciate the effort and money that went into this super long, super wide fisherman’s ribbed scarf sold it to me for half a dollar.

I used that thing for just about everything.  I covered my head, wrapped my neck and strung it to my dog one day when I was in a pinch of a leash. That scarf was so loved and so used it finally gave way and I had to pass it on.

But this Cables N’ Ribs pattern, which by the way, has a matching hat pattern, gives me hope for another favorite scarf set that I can count on in just about any weather or walked-out-of-the-house-without-a-leash situation my future might hold.

Big Book of Crochet Accessories: 40+ Stylish Hats, Gloves, Scarves & More has several crochet jewelry patterns, gloves, handbags and the cutest hat pattern the authors call  a Brimmed Cap (page 98) but that I call that hat like my uncle Marvin used to wear in the 70s when he was going for the hip biker look.

Oh joy.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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The Seraph Seal: a creative, heavily-researched fiction interpretation of Revelation

Now that the weather is becoming gloomy and the days short, I find it’s the perfect time to get around to a few reads I’ve put on the shelf over the summer. So I sat down recently, pondering a stack of books with great potential and too many words for me to conquer in a weekend.
The first book on my to-read list was The Seraph Seal, a Thomas Nelson title by Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner.
The Seraph Seal is a book best enjoyed with an open mind. Set in 2048, this is the authors’ interpretation of what the unknown future Apocalypse might hold.
Like so many other well-meaning authors Sweet and Wagner venture to tell a fictional story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse talked about in the book of Revelation.
Biblically speaking, while I agree with some potential end-times ideas played out by these horsemen, I do not subscribe to all of them. None the less, I enjoyed reading this interpretation because I was able to apply an important lesson I learned from reading the Shack.
The Bible says that no man can know the time or place of the coming of the Lord, but every man is invited to search the deep mysteries of the Bible. And the Shack taught me to consider other people’s ideas, compare them to the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit move me toward belief or disbelief.
A fiction story is a fiction story – even if it’s based on the Holy Word of God.
As an end note, I respect the time, knowledge and study it took these authors to produce The Seraph Seal.

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Even seemingly-boring reference materials deserve review – and promotion

By Michelle Lovato
World’s first book color commentator
Assistant City Editor
Lake Chelan Mirror Newspaper
http://www.lakechelan.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: The book commentary listed below features Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes, Second Edition by Lawrence M. Page and Brooks M. Burr; Illustrated by Eugene C. Beckham, Justin Sipiorski, Joseph Tomelleri and John P. Sherrod.
But the name of the previously mentioned title is sooo long and boring that if I put it in the actual commentary, I would be compelled to strip my own self of any future book commentary on the grounds of being void of any ability to provide even the least bit of entertainment or color to the reader while reviewing a seemingly-snoozable title.

Peterson Field Guide to Fish of North America North of Mexico is one of those books a fishing advocate can’t live without. Regardless of where you live, this book is an angler’s best friend.
Highlighting 1,000 North American fresh water fish, Peterson’s Field Guide offers readers new maps, new plates and new information.
New species were discovered, others were re-positioned in different families.
The 689-page whale of a reference book is full of color and black and white illustrations of the inhabitants of North American fresh water.
I don’t know about you, reader, by thumbing through this interesting field guide reminds me about how incredible God is for creating such variety and beauty that thrives in the water below us.
Since its first publication in 1990 Peterson Field Guide to Fish of North America North of has been the primary identification resource for North American fish.
One thing is certain – no, two things: There’s nothing fishy about this title and God is great.

EDITOR’S ADDENDUM: Okay, this really is a snoozable title. But there is someone out there that will love it. You should see how many angler enthusiasts we have at home here in the Pacific Northwest. For everyone else, never mind…

ml@michellelovato.com     BoutiqueBooks@hotmail.com

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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