Spatzle Speaks: Sunflowers and Suspicions Book Review

My mom’s at it again, reading books and my “adopted” brother Benji keeps getting in the way of my snuggles. That doesn’t stop me from having an opinion about Karen Malley’s latest Pine Springs romance Sunflowers and Suspicions!

Being a twin must be hard at times. Julie Wagner firmly believes something is wrong with her sister Jade so she heads to the big city to track her down. Jade’s neighbor, Matt Callahan from across the hall is the first person to be able to tel lt hem apart. But where has Julie’s sister disappeared to?

Matt is willing to help as he becomes enchanted by Julie. Soon his entire family is equally enchanted with her. But can they find Jade? Tracking down the mystery takes them on a journey fraught with danger and intrigue. The biggest danger is to Julie’s heart as she thinks Matt is really in love with her sister.

I don’t want to give too much away but this multi-layered story will keep you reading till the very end! Matt and Julie are compelling characters and the backstory for all of them kept me turning the pages.

I highly recommend Sunflowers and Suspicions by Karen Malley! I give it five bones becuse I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

The Value of a Day

I’m a proactive worrier. A planner. I want to understand all the contingencies and be ready.

Life doesn’t always allow that though and nothing I’ve worried about has ever come to pass. I’m not superstitious enough to believe that my anxieties and preparation had anything to do with that.

Worry robs me of peace and joy. It takes me out of the present into an invisible (to me) future.

Leaving worry aside and focusing on the here and now can bring me greater contentment. That is if I truly value the work I’m doing right now.

As I’ve grown older, (not grown up), I’ve had to re-think what’s important. I’ve always been a doer and getting things accomplished were a measure of my worth at least in my own myopic perspective.

God has brought me to a place where I can savor more of the less remarkable moments. Yes, I sometimes make a list of all I’ve done to reassure myself that I wasn’t lazy at the end of the day when I don’t have anything tangible to show for the time that’s passed.

Getting work done around the house, completing projects and even finishing a book or having one come out are all tasks that recycle. They never end. There’s always more laundry to do. The dogs track in mud on a freshly washed floor, my daughter needs something for school right away and the grass keeps growing and when that stops the snow will keep me busy. When the kids were younger I struggled to find value in keeping them clean, clothed, and fed. And there are more stories and books in my head than I can possible accomplish in the time God has given me today.

While I still need do all the necessities of daily life, cleaning, grocery shopping, looking after kids, paying bills, helping my husband, and doing contracted writing/editing/teaching work, I’ve found that sometimes the seemingly smaller things are more important:

  • My time with God each day.
  • Hanging out with my dying father even while he sleeps.
  • Giving my mom a break so she can get away from the 24/7 burden of caring for my dad.
  • Playing mini-golf with my husband or sitting and watching television together and date nights.
  • Spending time with my daughter shopping or working on something together.
  • Girls-night out (or in!)
  • Hosting the small group that meets in our home.
  • Having people over for dinner or playing cards.
  • Being aware of people around me wherever I go. Who would God have me bless?

I’m finding that while the daily stuff is important, making time for the eternal stuff, the relationships, is even more so. Even though I hope my stories will impact lives, encourage people to grow in faith, or see the world a little differently, and they may outlast me, I firmly believe relationships are more important than all of it. When I teach writers I emphasize this often. Don’t overlook the people in the rush to accomplish a task. It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

I like to get things done. But sometimes sitting back and valuing the moments in a day with another person, even if it is silence, has the greater value. It won’t happen unless I’m intentional about it.

I doubt I’ll ever have regrets about a dirty house, or a messy lawn when we are in the process of making changes. I won’t regret the dust that sits undisturbed. At the end of my life I won’t think about any of that. All that will matter are the people. If this were my last day on earth would I be happy about how I left the people around me? Would they know without a doubt how loved they were?

I’m not saying to abandon cleaning and caring for those around us and for the material possessions God has given us. I’m suggesting we find greater value in the people than things or tasks. It isn’t easy and I still don’t always do it well, but I’m growing in it.

What are you learning to value in your day?

Spatzle Speaks: Madi’s Secret (Book Review)

My mom wrote Madi’s Secret many years ago and then she forgot it was releasing. I think my brother, Benji, who has dementia has been distracting her. And then there are other life things going on too, much I don’t understand. Still, I really liked this book except there’s no dog in it. Really, mom?

So Madi comes back to Wisconsin with her teenage son, but she left without a trace a long time ago leaving the love of her life behind. He never really understood where she was or why she’d left.

Parker had moved on after a while and married, had a daughter and became a widow. As a paramedic he’d seen many challenging things but nothing challenged him as much as finding his long-lost love trapped in an upside down car on the side of the highway.

She was back. But why had she left? Why wouldn’t she tell him? And her son? Who was the father?

Could love reignite in the shadow of the secrets she hasn’t shared? Madi isn’t even sure what it is that she saw that has her hunted by unknown evil. She returned to Wisconsin because she believed God was leading her back. But would she survive that obedience? And would God ever give her a relationship with Parker once the truth came out?

I recommend this book. Sure, it was written by my mom, but I know she pours herself into these stories. Check it out. It’s in ebook only for now but hopefully it will come out in print soon!

I give this book five bones, because I’m a dog and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Spatzle Speaks: Whitney’s Vow Book Review

Mom has been busy getting the garden in and wouldn’t log me on so I could post a review of her very own book! As a dog it’s hard for me to type in the password to her laptop.

Mom told me that her author friend, Loree Lough had posted this photo (on the right here) on Facebook and stated that it looked like the cover of a romance novel. Mom thought Loree should write it but then opted to make the attempt herself.

Whitney’s Vow is the end result. A romantic suspense which is a newer genre for mom although most of her Gothic Regencies have those elements as well as some of her contemporary romances. Her publisher gave it a different cover which I think looks great.

Let me tell you a little about Whitney’s Vow. First of all Whitney was raised in a more affluent household but going to a public college cut her off from the purse strings of her parents and there she met Blake Anderson. They began their marriage on a beach along with four other friends from college.

Fast forward seven years and Whitney stays home at Rebel Falls Ranch in Montana, manages to make quilts, read books, garden and ride horses. Oh, and she’s a crack shot as well. Blake, however, is often gone for stretches of time doing some kind of undercover military operations with his team. Whitney is clueless about those operations, much less the actual day to day of running the ranch or their finances.

All of that comes to a head when she is informed that Blake is dead and that their beloved ranch is being forclosed on. The only way out is with an arranged marriage set up by her father. Whitney doesn’t want to remarry. She’s desolate…and vulnerable.

Blake is not dead and returns home just in time to stop the wedding and together they begin to unravel the lies and deception that brought them to that point. Whitney learns a lot about the ranch, and her husband’s military operations and undergoes a torturous journey to their happily ever after. Whitney becomes a part of the solution instead of a victim and I am happy to state she gets a dog too! (My favorite part!). Of course I’m biased and think you should read this book…but I will warn you, you might not be able to put it down! I give it five bones, because I’m a dog and that’s how I role!

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Polarization Pollution

Black and white. North Pole vs South Pole. Both examples of polar opposites in our world. We can accept these as valid and real. Interesting how no one wants everything all black or all white – the lack of color is limiting. Grey however is a good neutral ground and acceptable, but even then, it is often, in clothing and decorating added to with pops of color. Grey days are usually gloomy, although some people love them while others prefer the sun. Sun all the time without the darkness of night can be wearying too.

No one lives comfortably at the North or South Poles, or even close to them—they are too cold. And living along the equator is too hot for others so people often live in between either, and even then weather patterns can make life challenging. There is no one “ideal” place to live since the Garden of Eden.

I was pondering all this because of how polarized our culture has become, especially in the United States. Cries of racism and a growing segregation of people of color vs those with less melanin in their skin. But what about those in the grey area? Those of mixed heritage and culture? We are all essentially one race and this is not a “race” issue but a cultural one. What else could we pick on? Are people with blue eyes perceived as superior to those with brown? Or are people with curly hair more frivolous than those with straight? Are people with a higher BMI less valuable than those with less? We can all make judgements based on visual cues that have nothing to do with the reality of our value as image bearers in God’s eyes. I can forget this too sometimes.

I’ve been guessed as Hispanic or Italian based on my appearance, but in reality, I’m in the grey area. My heritage genetically is from a variety of other places but those two aren’t in the mix. I’m a mutt as it were. But I’m also exactly who God created me to be.

Modern medicine has us polarized as well. It has also given us unrealistic expectations, and some have made it their hill to die on. Vaccine or Non-vaccine. That’s it. No colors in between, or are there? Individual choices are questioned and condemned without understanding the other side’s perspective. And it may not even be based on what you think. Cursing someone’s choice however closes the door to understanding.

Or have we made a different judgement? Who controls the power over life and death? Is it Dr.  Fauchi with his ever-changing flip-flopping on things? Or the World health Organization with its own political agenda? Or is it the Centers for Disease Control which also might have underlying precepts that some might disagree with? All led by fallible human beings with their own way of looking at things which, sadly enough, can skew data or the way it is shared to accomplish a particular goal. Trust the numbers, it’s science. Maybe so, but statistics can be flawed if one isn’t careful to see the bigger picture of how the numbers are arrived at. But what do I know? Maybe my professors misled me when they taught me about that kind of thing? They taught me to be critical and discerning…numbers can lie. There is a history of science being skewed…and even wrong.

There are a few other things that concern me…and even I struggle with these. Have we expected too much of modern medicine? Have we made it our idol? Some have made alternative medicine their idol as well. I live in the grey, seeing benefits of both. And neither one can save your life when the LORD of the Universe determines your expiration date.

But something worse happens than physical death in our American society at this present time. It is relational death. The division of people based on superficial constructs—skin color, medical position on vaccines, or political party. (gasp!)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. (James 3:17, HCSB)

Maybe right now some of you are perceiving me as that awful pillow or comforter a relative made for you, with clashing colors that make you wince. Maybe so. Muddy waters aren’t pretty either and I’ve stirred the pot a little more.

What I’m really urging is for us to relax. Take a deep breath. Try to understand the perspective of the other side even if you disagree with it. Politics and Covid aside, the reality is we are human beings created for community. Fight against evil! Always. But be careful what you determine as evil. Is it someone who disagrees with your well-researched opinion? Instead of throwing mud at the other person, perhaps sit down, face to face, to find out how the other person came to their perspective, without judgement, argument, or debate. Ask questions, and even if you don’t agree…love them right where they are at.

Kindness and love are better than black and white or even grey on any day.

Writer Wednesday: Lori Lipsky

May be an image of Lori Lipsky and glasses

I’d love to introduce you to newly published author: Lori Lipsky! I met her years ago and found her tobe the sweetest person you’ll ever want to meet.

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to…?

In 2009, I was an avid reader who dreamed of writing a book someday in the future. A good friend decided to form a writing group at that time and invited me to join. The group submits and
edits each other’s work each month. Twelve years later, our group is still going strong.

I’m thrilled to say that my first book—the book I once dreamed of writing—is now published.

What’s your pet peeve?

Most of my pet peeves happen to be driving related. Just the normal stuff. Like when a driver pulls up to a four-way intersection and doesn’t look left (there I am, on their left, just hoping
they’ll see me) before proceeding.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

Any writer who puts their work out in the world risks embarrassment. It lies in wait nearby.
Editors provide armor, guarding writers from all sorts of embarrassment. Our little writing group
edits many of my pieces before I submit anywhere, so the group provides a terrific wall of
protection. I hired a professional editor for my book, and prior to that our group edited each story
that found its way into the collection.

Even with terrific editors, mistakes happen. I’m a bit of a coward who is convinced that bravery
is a must-have for writers and creatives. I’m sure that as long as I keep writing and publishing,
embarrassment lurks around the next corner.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

Balancing the demands of life. I’m a part-time writer, part-time piano instructor, part-time
childcare provider, wife, mother, and grandmother to one sweet little girl.

Over three years ago, a writing partner and I began to report our writing times to each other
every day. What a huge difference reporting has made! And now I have two daily writing
partners. I never put off writing or doing writing-related work anymore. Every single day, I
write. Before nodding off to sleep I text each partner a quick report of my writing-related
accomplishments of the day.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

Once I realized that the more a writer submits, the more rejections a writer receives, rejections
became a sort of badge of honor. One year when I was focused on submitting short stories to
journals and magazines, I decided to embrace the goal of collecting 100 rejections in a year. I
didn’t submit enough to reach my goal, but the challenge helped increase my submissions
number. Those types of mental games help me battle the sting of rejection.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

It has to be the publication of my first book, Used Cookie Sheets: Very Short Stories.

What is your current work in process?

I’m working on another collection of very short fiction. The planned date for the book release is
January 2022.

Bio: Lori Lipsky lives in the Midwest with her husband and a tender-hearted blue heeler. Her
first book, Used Cookie Sheets: Very Short Stories, was published in June 2021. In addition, she
is a contributing author of the book Wit, Whimsy & Wisdom. Her short fiction stories and poems
have appeared in The Avalon Literary Review, Every Day Poems, Creative Wisconsin Magazine,
Mature Living Magazine, The Penwood Review, Poppy Road Review, and various other
publications.

Lori currently teaches a crop of piano students at the Arboretum Music School in Waunakee,
Wisconsin. She holds a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When she
isn’t writing or teaching, Lori loves to read. She is an enthusiastic audiobook fan, and she has
been a member of the same book club and writing group for more than a decade. When visiting her dad each week, they try to outperform one other as they compete at games like Five Crowns, Dominoes, and Pinochle.

Website: https://lorilipsky.com
Blog: https://lorilipsky.com/blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoriSLipsky
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lipsky0220/_saved/
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lori-Lipsky/e/B08ZJKVVD7/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

Latest book release: Used Cookie Sheets: Very Short Stories released in June of 2021.

Writer Wednesday: Richard S. Brown

I am excited to introduce you to another writing in my own family!

Richard S. Brown is my dad’s cousin, which makes him my second cousin. I thought it would be fun to interview him for my blog here. So enjoy meeting Richard!

When did you decide you would be an author? Was it something you fell into or felt called to?

Since I was a freshman in high school, I’ve enjoyed writing. I worked on school newspapers and had dreams of becoming a journalist, but my life took a different direction. I’ve always been interested in history and, over the years, often thought about writing a book, but my work took precedence. However, about twelve years ago, after retiring from a civilian career with the U.S. Army, I no longer had the excuse of too much work. I decided to write and self-publish a memoir that I could leave to my grandchildren. After publishing that memoir, the writing bug grabbed me, and I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. I’ve had two novels published since and am working on a third.

What’s your pet peeve?

 I live across the street from a walking trail, and I walk for exercise almost every day. My biggest peeve—and yes, it’s a pet peeve—is when dog walkers fail to pick up after their dogs. Most walkers are very conscientious about it, but there are those few who apparently never learned what it means to be considerate of others.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

 My most embarrassing, and potentially costly, moment was when I realized that the photo cover I’d approved for my first novel about the Korean War had been used on at least two other books. Before publication, my publisher invited me to provide ideas for a cover. I found two black and white photos on-line that I determined to be in the public domain, and I forwarded them to the publisher. He selected what I thought was the better photo and used it for the cover with some minor color tinting. I didn’t think the photo had been used before, but after the book came out, I discovered on Amazon two non-fiction books with the identical photo on their covers. I never heard from the authors, or anyone else, about the duplication, and since the photos were in the public domain, I don’t think there would have been any legal issues. Nevertheless, I felt personally embarrassed by a mistake that I will never make again.

What has been your biggest challenge as an author?

Like other authors who have commented on Susan’s blog, I don’t like the marketing aspect of publishing books. I don’t think I’m very good at it, and what makes the task more difficult for an unknown author is the high price the publisher sets for paperback books. E-Books are an easier sell, but there’s a cost involved for on-line advertising. I’m willing to spend some on that as a cost for a hobby that I like, but there’s a definite limit to what I’m willing to spend. Fortunately, I don’t have to depend on royalties for a living.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

When I started out sending queries to agents and publishers, the rejections were hurtful, because I thought I was a pretty good writer. Then I started taking some creative writing classes on-line, and I joined a writers critique group. I found that I wasn’t as good a writer as I thought. I’ve learned to accept criticism, understanding that my perceptions are limited, and I try to use those criticisms to better my writing. When my first novel was published I received a few negative reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but I’ve learned to accept the fact that reading is a very subjective matter and that you’re not going to please everyone. There are many books I’ve read that are considered classics or great writing that I wouldn’t give two cents for.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

Success for me was finding a publisher who would publish my book. If I were writing to make a living, I’d be in the poor house. Fortunately, for me, I’m simply writing for personal enjoyment and satisfaction that there may be a few people who also enjoy reading what I’ve written. I admire those who love to write and commit themselves to writing as a career, knowing that there are so many good writers who never get published or recognized. When I finally found a publisher, I felt, not only that my book was worthwhile, but I was very lucky. In my mind, I compare the search for a publisher like being one of a thousand fishermen dangling lines into a small pond where there are three or four fish. What’s the chance of one of those fish biting on your hook? Not much. I consider myself a decent writer now, but also a very lucky one.

What is your current work in progress?

 I’m working on an historical fiction novel about a family of settlers, the Weavers, who migrate from Ohio to Wisconsin in 1855. A major plot element revolves around the relationships between the native-born white settlers, the white European settlers, and the Native American Indians. It covers the period from 1855 to about 1880.

BIO:

Born in Elgin, Illinois, I moved to Wisconsin at age 8 when my father began working for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. After high school, I served in the U.S. Navy for three years, then attended Northern Illinois University where I majored in political science. After completing graduate school at the University of Hawaii, I began a thirty-year civilian career with the U.S. Army working in civilian personnel human resources.  I’m retired now, married with two grown children, and live in Overland Park, Kansas. My most recent publication is a novel set in Wisconsin during the 1950s titled Going off the Rails. It’s about a train engineer falsely convicted of manslaughter for causing a derailment resulting in multiple deaths.

Spatzle Speaks: A Second Chance for Grace (book review)

Romance novel, A Second Chance for Grace, by Karen Malley is a great follow up to her debut book Following the Sparrows. Both take place in the town of Pine Springs so you get a peek at previous characters. I especially liked the first book because there was a dog. This book doesn’t have a dog as a main part of the story. I’m a dog. I’ll survive.

Susan Montgomery is a handy woman, managing her apartment building. When her niece finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, Susan steps in to be a mom to the teenage girl. A mysterious briefcase is discovered in an empty apartment with a unique challenge for Susan to secretly carry out. To top it off, she meets two men who are interested in her. Mac seems just her type and understands her completely, and the other? Well, it’s a mystery as to how well he gets her, but there’s no chemistry

Christopher “Mac” MacAllister was kind of the bad guy in the first book but a near-death experience brought him to God. Now he’s in new territory trying to understand how to be a Christian. Meeting the enchanting Susan makes him doubly glad he chose his new path in life. Except she’s giving him mixed messages. His son is also facing challenges and somehow those interact with Susan as well. And what’s with this new guy?

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

This book is multi-layered and filled with new twists and turns that kept my mom reading. I highly recommend it because I prefer her reading nearby rather than going somewhere or working in her office. I give this book five bones, because I’m a dog, and that’s how I roll.

Spatzle Speaks: An Escape for Ellie (Book Review)

Susan Karsten has released her third and final installment in the Honor’s Point Regency series, An Escape for Ellie. If you’ve enjoyed her series to date, you’ll not want to miss the final installment!

Ellie has been seeking shelter at Honor’s point, avoiding an unwanted engagement, but it seems her location has been discovered so she runs away and right in the carriage of Lord Dare and his sweet aunt.

Without giving away her story, she engages to become a companion to this older woman. She reads stories to her by day and writes them at night because she’s a budding novelist.

Lord Dare, however, is not so sanquine about the new addition to his household. His own love betrayed he struggles to resist the winning and sweet Ellie.

With unspoken secrets on the part of all three, and a devious plot by her parents, adventure lies ahead. Will Ellie and Lord Dare find their way to true love in spite of the obstacles? And when the truth is revealed by everyone, can love prevail?

My mom really enjoyed this series and loved this final installment so you’ll want to get a copy! I give it five bones because I’m a dog, and I don’t have thumbs or do stars.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Spatzle Speaks: Love Stumbled In (Book Review)

Love Stumbled In by [Nancy Shew Bolton]

Nancy Shew Bolton has written Love Stumbled In, another amazing historical romance filled with twists and turns that will keep you reading.

Set post-World War 1, the 1920’s are fraught with injury and loss due to a flu epidemic. Carrie is orphaned and has to go live with relatives who are so distant she didn’t really know them. They took her in and soon more deaths followed that home leaving the five brothers (one an adult) to look after their distant cousin.

Carrie struggles with a limp and an unrequited love with one of the boys who ends up leaving. Taking a job in a wealthy home to care for a disabled young woman, she finds herself struggling with broken dreams and and just what she wants to do with her life.

This is a wonderful piece of fiction and takes you back to a time when things were simpler but not so much when it comes to the human condition. My mom had a hard time putting this book down so you’re going to want to read it too! I give it five bones!

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.