WWW Wednesdays (December 31)

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This is a weekly meme hosted by MizB @ Should Be Reading. To join in, click on the image above, and answer these three questions: 

What are you currently reading? 

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Love’s First Flames is a novella prequel to the Banished Saga.

Devastated…
When a fire irrevocably changes the lives of the three McLeod brothers, Gabriel, Richard and Jeremy learn to depend on each other in their harsh new reality.

Determined…
To thrive in prosperous, dynamic Boston of the late 1800’s, the McLeod brothers forge a bond created from loss, loyalty and shared hardship. Led by elder brother Gabriel, the three brothers battle wits against class conscious, exploitive relatives, working together to maintain a sense of family.

 

What did you just finish reading?

The-Secret-Sisters-Club-cover-202x300  Trouble-Blows-West-cover-202x300  Simply-West-of-Heaven-cover-200x300  Being-West-is-Best-cover-200x300

I finished the entire series to date in less than a week! I fell in love with the West family. Can I travel to The Heart? Please? Click on each cover to be taken to my review!

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

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Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan—the Burgess sibling who stayed behind—urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.

How about you? Have you read or TBRed any of these? What are you reading this week?

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own WWW Wednesday post, or share your answers in the comments here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks! 🙂

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2014 In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Review: Being West Is Best

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Being-West-is-Best-cover-200x300Title:  Being West is Best
Author: Monique Bucheger
Publisher: True West Publishing
Release Date: April 2014
Length: 350 pages

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Twelve-year-old BFFs, Ginnie West and Tillie Taylor, are matchmaking geniuses. Together, they maneuvered Ginnie’s widower-dad into proposing to Tillie’s divorcee-mom. Sweet! Certain they are well on their way to sisterhood, each girl is floored when Tillie’s lousy-excuse-for-a-birth-father puts in an appearance after a six year absence. Too bad “lousy dad repellant” doesn’t come in a can.

Even though Tillie’s dad has sobered up and is determined to make amends, Tillie would rather he just disappear again. If he stays, “Operation: Secret Sisters” may need to be renamed “Operation: Not Gonna Happen.”

***** Review ******

This is the 4th book in the Ginnie West Adventures series. You can read my reviews of the first three books here, here and here.

Things get heated in the fourth installment of the Ginnie West Adventures!

The girls and Toran have had the moment of their lives: Todd proposing to Amanda. They are all on Cloud 9…until Ginnie and Toran try to cover up a message on the answering machine.

 Ginnie blew out a worried breath. “We’ve got a problem, Houston.” 

“That’s my line.” Toran’s blond eyebrows scrunched with concern. “What’s wrong? And why is there cake on the floor?” 

“That’s the least of our worries.” 

Aunt Roni is still in town, and she provides the motherly figure that all of the kids are in need of since Amanda has her hands full with dealing with Tillie, Todd and her ex-husband, Jasper. If Jasper stays around, what will happen to OSS…and Todd and Amanda’s engagement?

“Most people just want to be treated like they matter. Figure out what their ‘honey’ is, and they’ll come around.” 

It’s hard on all of the members of the West family, because Jasper used to be just as much a part of the family as Jake and Todd are – adopted in through the love of Uncle Ben and Aunt Sadie. For Jake and Todd, having their “brother” back home after six long years is a bit of a shock, especially when Jasper is adamant about getting his wife and daughter back.

It all but crushes Tillie. Poor Tillie is in a tailspin nearly the entire book, and I can’t say I blame her. I think I would act quite the same if I were in her shoes. Ginnie is also left out of the mix by her father and Uncle Ben. She has always been Tillie’s protector, but this is one issue that Tillie has to come to grips with on her own.

All of the events of those nights of Tillie and Amanda’s life before Jasper left have all been told through the eyes of Tillie in each of the books. As children, we often see things a certain way, and, like with selective hearing, see and remember what we choose to, sometimes through no fault of our own. Sometimes we disremember things that happened and how they happened…and this is one of those things Tillie has to understand in order to move forward. All these years she’s believed that her father left, that he didn’t want her: he threw her away. Discovering how deep a parent’s love for their child is – and the sacrifice that one will do to keep their loved ones safe, even from oneself – is hard for young Tillie to accept.

“Being a father isn’t about bossing and intimidating your kid. It’s about teaching him how the world works.” 

Jasper isn’t the only visitor to the West farm. When things seem to have settled a bit, the former bully that Ginnie, Toran and Tillie have befriended shows up with his frightened mother – and gives Jasper and Tillie their own moment to shine and put some of the pieces of their love back together.

“Maybe people should listen to their inner twelve-year-olds – or better yet, to their daughters.” 

With all that’s happened, and Aunt Roni by the family’s side, Ginnie gets a promise from her father that renews her faith in him, her family, and will reunite her with the mother she so yearns to know better.

“Dad, Dad, Dad,” Ginnie teased, shaking her head in mock pity. “Why don’t you go back to being an ostrich and iron your tuxedo or something?” 

***** About the Author *****

Author-picture-Monique-196x300When Monique Bucheger isn’t writing, you can find her playing taxi driver to one or more of her 12 children, plotting her next novel, scrapbooking, or being the “Mamarazzi” at any number of child-oriented events. Even though she realizes there will never be enough hours in any given day, Monique tries very hard to enjoy the journey that is her life. She shares it with a terrific husband, her dozen children, sons-in-law, and adorable grandchildren, cats, and many real and imaginary friends. She is the author of the Ginnie West Adventuresseries, picture book, Popcorn, and plans to write plenty more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** About the Illustrator *****

MIKEYS-PHOTO-209x300Mikey Brooks is an author/illustrator that specializes in children’s art. His picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures, Trouble with Bernie and Bean’s Dragons. He is the illustrator of several picture books such as Popcorn by Monique Bucheger, Bongo Flo by Carolyn Quist, andLucius and the Christmas Star by Jim Long. He is the author of The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis, The Stone of Valhalla the best-selling middle-grade series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. You can find more about him and his books at: www.insidemikeysworld.com

Review: Simply West of Heaven

Ginnie-West-Adventures-Collage-of-Covers-706x1024

Simply-West-of-Heaven-cover-200x300Title: Simply West of Heaven
Author: Monique Bucheger
Publisher: True West Publishing
Release Date: January 2013
Length: 288 pages

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Twelve-year-old BFFs are matchmaking geniuses. They schemed to get Ginnie’s widowed dad to fall in love with Tillie’s divorced mom. Then Ginnie stumbled upon her late mom’s journals, making life totally awesome sauce … until her dad confiscated the journals.

Ginnie is counting on Tillie’s help to make Dad change his mind, but Tillie’s not sure the ghost of Ginnie’s mom will make a good addition to their new family tree. When a blast from the past shows up and makes Tillie go nutburgers, Ginnie is torn between helping her BFF and having her questions answered.

***** Review ******

This is the 3rd book in the Ginnie West Adventures series. You can read my reviews of the first two books here and here.

Ginnie sighed again. As much as she wanted those words to be true, she knew nobody really understood that when Dad took the journals, he ripped a gaping hole in her heart.

This installment in the Ginnie West Adventures focuses primarily on Ginnie, with some side spotlight on Tillie and Toran. With all the hoopla of Ginnie discovering their mother’s journals and Todd taking them away, Toran is a little on edge…but Ginnie is totally overboard. She yearns to know her mother through her written words, and she can’t see any reason as a good reason why Todd would take them away.

Even though Ginnie knew her mother and Miss Amanda had met a few times, it was still weird to think her mother and probably future step-mom had known each other.

That reasons shows up in the flesh on the West doorstep. It’s like seeing a ghost for many, including Uncle Ben’s children Vi and Buzz. It causes a major upset, most of all between Ginnie and her dad when he arrives home with Toran. Ginnie wants her mother back, in any form she can get her, and that knowledge causes Tillie to seriously question how she and her mother will fit in the picture of the West family…or if they still do.

Tillie’s fears are valid in her mind, because Ginnie is on that dangerous precipice of wanting the past and having to live in the present.

Dad smiled and offered Miss Amanda his arm. Trying to imagine Mama on Dad’s arm, and not being able to, tugged at Ginnie a little. She signed, torn between wanting Dad and Miss Amanda to get together and wishing Mama could be here as well.

To add fuel to the fire, Ginnie is roped into keeping a secret. She overhears a conversation late one night between Uncle Jake and her dad…and get stuck in the misery of keeping it, from Tillie and Toran. She is torn, and more than once is clustered behind closed doors with her father and Uncle Jake. She’s between a rock and a hard spot. Uncle Jake is almost to the point of raving (quite understandably) and even though Todd is his younger brother, he pushes Jake to buck up and take charge.

“And why did she have to be a girl? I don’t know anything about girls. Wests make boys. Maybe she’s not mine after all.”

Ginnie clamped her hand over her mouth, wanting to protest.

Dad spoke up. “So what’s Ginnie? Chopped liver? And Vi? Uncle Ben and I figured out how to make girls, the first time out. That excuse doesn’t wash. Next.

Go, Daddy!

Uncle Jake’s secret is like a haunting from the past, and Tillie and Ginnie are the spearheads to help him keep it together, right behind Todd, who is insistent Jake take care of his business. The girls learn about Uncle Jake’s life before Ginnie’s mom and Aunt Sadie died, and the impact both of their deaths had on Jake. The care-free, light-hearted man they know as Uncle Jake has his own moments of pain that he hides.

“You know – life’s uncertain. Eat dessert first.”

Tillie’s mouth dropped open. “For real?”

Ginnie laughed at her friend. “Of course. that’s the cool thing about Uncle Jake being in charge. Banana splits for dinner. Bananas, strawberries, and pineapple are fruit, ice cream is milk, and chocolate comes from cocoa beans. Three food groups right there.”

Uncle Jake hitched a thumb at Ginnie and grinned. “You’re my kind of girl.”

After all of these “secrets” keep being revealed and Toran is the last to know, he is quite hurt that his sister – his twin – would keep these things from him. It causes a bit of tension between the two that must be overcome when Ginnie really needs Toran’s help – for Tillie’s sake.

She froze, horrified at her next thoughts. Will that Cabot guy make D.T. not marry Mom? Does Uncle Ben know? Can Uncle Ben fix it?

Tillie does indeed go nutburgers, and needs the love and support of not only Ginnie and Toran, but the whole West family. I loved that at the first sign of a problem, her thoughts immediately went to Uncle Ben. He is the patriarch of the family, a man of strong moral character and faith in people. Tillie’s thoughts speak highly of the man Uncle Ben is and the importance he plays in the lives of the Wests.

***** About the Author *****

Author-picture-Monique-196x300When Monique Bucheger isn’t writing, you can find her playing taxi driver to one or more of her 12 children, plotting her next novel, scrapbooking, or being the “Mamarazzi” at any number of child-oriented events. Even though she realizes there will never be enough hours in any given day, Monique tries very hard to enjoy the journey that is her life. She shares it with a terrific husband, her dozen children, sons-in-law, and adorable grandchildren, cats, and many real and imaginary friends. She is the author of the Ginnie West Adventuresseries, picture book, Popcorn, and plans to write plenty more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** About the Illustrator *****

MIKEYS-PHOTO-209x300Mikey Brooks is an author/illustrator that specializes in children’s art. His picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures, Trouble with Bernie and Bean’s Dragons. He is the illustrator of several picture books such as Popcorn by Monique Bucheger, Bongo Flo by Carolyn Quist, andLucius and the Christmas Star by Jim Long. He is the author of The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis, The Stone of Valhalla the best-selling middle-grade series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. You can find more about him and his books at: www.insidemikeysworld.com

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2015

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists. For the list of past topics and future schedule, click here.

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Top Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2015

I’m moving forward with my goals and resolutions instead of looking back on the year, so these are what I’m looking to do in 2015. This past year I wanted to become more involved in the blogging community, meet more bloggers, connect and comment more. I think I’ve don that fairly well. I could have done better, but it’s a starting point.

In 2015, I want to do more and really hold myself accountable. It’s so easy falling behind on the housekeeping end of blogging and sliding into some lazy habits. I suppose it’s the procrastinator in me coming out, but I want to get it together in 2015, so I’ve decided to limit my challenges. This year I wanted to do them all. Next year I want to hone my focus to certain aspects. There are a few more than ten, but they’re all much needed!

  1. NetGalley.
    1. Y’all, when I get on NetGalley I go crazy. I have largely avoided it for over six months because of this, only looking at the books I’m auto-approved for from a small publisher and even then I’ve been very stingy about selecting from their books.
    2. That being said, my NetGalley rating is probably below 10%. That’s horrible. How did this happen?
    3. I really want to focus on reading and reviewing my NetGalley books. We are all grateful to get ARCs and advanced copies, but I’ve been too flighty and put NetGalley on the back burner. No more!
    4. I want to read at least 50 NetGalley books.
    5. I also want to increase my NetGalley rating to as near to 50% as realistically possible.
  2.  TBR.
    1. I seriously want to clear out my TBR. I know I said this last year, and I did a little bit…but I reviewed for A LOT of review tours and kind of put my planned October and November reviews at the very bottom of the list due to personal life and time.
    2. I have TWO. FULL. DOUBLE STACKED. SHELVES. I can’t stand it. It drives me crazy. I don’t know those authors, the characters, their stories. My bookcase represents books and characters that I love. Half of it is filled with these unknown strangers. I don’t really buy physical books anymore, but still there are two double stacked shelves that must be read through.
    3. I also have a bazillion ebooks on my Kindle. Like with NetGalley, I have tried to be very stingy lately with the freebies I download from various sources. I also have a handful of review requests from this year that I just didn’t get to, despite my good intentions to do so. A year late is better than never, right?
    4. I want my TBR to become manageable. It was in the beginning, and then things just got out of control.
    5. By the end of the COYER Challenge, I want to read at least 5 physical books off my shelf, and…
    6. Read at least 20 NetGalley books. 
  3. Goodreads. bookshelves
    1. I love Goodreads. I do. It’s amazing. There’s just so much I get overwhelmed…and avoid the majority of its functionality.
    2. This year I started creating bookshelves (thank you for the push, Brittany!), but I quickly lost steam with that whole project. The entire purpose is to make tracking easier, and…well, I totally dropped the ball on that. See what my shelves looked like?
    3. I want my bookshelves to have more structure and organization. I would create a shelf willy-nilly, and oftentimes wouldn’t create one at all. I don’t want 50 million shelves, but I do want to do better than that. I want my bookshelves to be a tool I can – and will – use to my advantage.
  4. Read-a-thons
    1. Moment of honesty: I love read-a-thons…but last year I didn’t have the time to participate the way I should have. I signed up for only a few, and still I don’t feel I did them justice. Real life got in the way a bit, but I also kind of let read-a-thons fall by the wayside, too.
    2. I want to participate in at least 4 read-a-thons throughout the year. Truly participate and give my very best effort.
  5. Challenges
    1. Oh, reading challenges. I signed up for everything I discovered this past year. At first it was cool and fun, and then it started to become a drag. I’d have to cross-reference so many lists and update them. I’m sure a few books fell through the cracks.
    2. I want to simplify my reading challenges, and keep them focused on helping me achieve my goals for the year. All of the genre reading goals? I don’t need those. It really didn’t mean one thing to me that I met my woman’s fiction goal – I know I read more than 20 female authors a year!
    3. I do want to read more from male authors. Female authors have dominated my reading palette, always, and I want more perspective. In fact, of the authors I reviewed in 2014, I have a solid author-blogger relationship with two of the male authors I reviewed, and a hit-miss with many of the female authors I reviewed.
  6. Blogging Community
    1. I again want to continue and up the ante this year. I want to continue to foster bloggy friend relationships and find new bloggers to add to the family. 
    2. Along with this also comes making a vigilant effort to comment and reciprocate.
    3. That being said, I want to….
    4. Participate in at least 2 Boost It Tuesdays each month.
    5. Participate in at least 3 Booknificint Thursdays each month. 
    6. Participate in all Saturday Situations each month.
    7. Visit 2-4 new blogs each week from weekly memes (TTT, WWW, FFF, Sunday Post)
    8. Visit 10 COYER reviews each week
  7. Simplify
    1. I’ve already started to do so, but in 2015 I want to simplify. I feel like I made some things more complicated and cluttered than they needed to be this past year. I want to streamline and simplify my menus so they are sleek and easy on the eyes.

Review: Trouble Blows West

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Trouble-Blows-West-cover-202x300Title: Trouble Blows West
Author: Monique Bucheger
Publisher: True West Publishing
Release Date: April 2012
Length: 234 pages

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Putting her body in motion before her brain is in gear creates a mountain of problems for 12 year-old Ginnie West. Ginnie is certain that defending her twin brother from the biggest bully in sixth grade was the right thing to do, but she soon finds out she couldn’t be more wrong.

Bullies don’t like being embarrassed by girls at school—especially when they are being abused at home. When Ginnie figures out Pierce’s awful secret, she switches gears and decides to be his ally, because he won’t let her be his friend.

***** Review ******

This is the 2nd book in the Ginnie West Adventures series. You can read my review of the first book, The Secret Sisters Club, here.

This is the second book in the Ginnie West Adventure series, and it picks up right where the first one left off. The focus of this book shifts quite drastically from the focus of the first book, which was Operation: Secret Sisters. To find out more about OSS and the first book, you can read my review here.

Ginnie’s dad, Todd, and Tillie’s mom, Amanda, are now officially dating. The girls are well on their way to uniting their families by the look of things, but there’s not a whole lot of progression about this aspect of their lives in Trouble Blows West, which was a little disappointing.

The first book contained quite a few internal struggles, and a few external character-character struggles because of the internal struggles. This book, though, focuses more on the external, and a different aspect of family life: standing up for one another and doing the right thing.

It all starts when Ginnie mouths off to a bully at school, Pierce…and then lands him on his tush. They both get suspended, but worse, Ginnie embarrasses Toran in front of the whole school. The aspect of Toran sticking up for himself – since it was his issue with Pierce, is a decidedly hard thing for Ginnie to wrap her brain around, and she doesn’t for more than half of the book. That part was a little frustrating, because her father and her just went round and round about it on a few occasions and it seemed to only worsen things for a while.

Ginnie really struggles in this book. She can’t seem to keep herself from opening her mouth at the most inopportune times, or doing something she later gets in serious trouble for…and in the process, hurting and embarrassing Toran. Eventually the two sort it out and come up with a solid plan after Pierce makes a threatening strike against Ginnie.

“Maybe he acts like a jerk because he doesn’t know how to be a friend.” Mrs. Johnson gently squeezed her hand. “The other students like you, Ginnie. If you and your friends were nice to Pierce, then other kids might be as well.”

The drive-and-ditch prank that the West twins cooked up with the Chandler brothers does not go any way according to plan. Not after what Ginnie sees. It is all she can do to run like hell back to the van before breaking down. Then things get real serious with their dad, Uncle Jake and Uncle Ben, all who have weathered that storm before with Jasper, Amanda’s husband and Tillie’s dad.

Tillie shook her head. “You can’t love someone and hurt them at the same time.” 

“Love’s an amazing quality, but it’s not always enough.” Uncle Jake hugged Tillie closer. “You know…the truth is, Jasper left because he loved you.”

 “Things were s-o-o-o much easier when you guys were three. You didn’t have a problem I couldn’t solve. Right was right, wrong was wrong, and giving you a juice box or a nap made everything better.” 

Ginnie grinned. “I could go for a chocolate malt…”

“So you think the going rate for parental guilt should be chocolate malts?” Dad teased. 

Toran smiled. “Works for me.” 

This book gives incredible insight to one of my greatest fears as a teacher: child abuse. As shown this second installment in the series, it is something that children carry with them everywhere they go and it affects them like no other. It is the forefront in how children build unhealthy and negative relationships, primarily upon threats and fear, which is exactly how Pierce behaves. The West family and friends rally around Pierce and his mother, and I loved the way that Pierce’s personality bloomed and the stark feelings he had when seeing his dad again.

I highly recommend this book to parents as a tool to use with children dealing with a bullying situation, and most definitely to counselors, because the West family and friends show Pierce and his mother how things can change and be different. For Pierce, it is a very drastic change and a struggle, just as much a struggle that Ginnie had in not popping off to him and causing bigger issues before learning his secret.

 “When you’re shy and you’ve been hurt, you do worry about getting hurt again.” 

“That seems like a waste of time…to worry about something that probably won’t happen.” 

“You are one smart girl, Ginnie West. You are absolutely right.” 

***** About the Author *****

Author-picture-Monique-196x300When Monique Bucheger isn’t writing, you can find her playing taxi driver to one or more of her 12 children, plotting her next novel, scrapbooking, or being the “Mamarazzi” at any number of child-oriented events. Even though she realizes there will never be enough hours in any given day, Monique tries very hard to enjoy the journey that is her life. She shares it with a terrific husband, her dozen children, sons-in-law, and adorable grandchildren, cats, and many real and imaginary friends. She is the author of the Ginnie West Adventuresseries, picture book, Popcorn, and plans to write plenty more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** About the Illustrator *****

MIKEYS-PHOTO-209x300Mikey Brooks is an author/illustrator that specializes in children’s art. His picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures, Trouble with Bernie and Bean’s Dragons. He is the illustrator of several picture books such as Popcorn by Monique Bucheger, Bongo Flo by Carolyn Quist, andLucius and the Christmas Star by Jim Long. He is the author of The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis, The Stone of Valhalla the best-selling middle-grade series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. You can find more about him and his books at: www.insidemikeysworld.com

Review: The Secret Sisters Club

Ginnie-West-Adventures-Collage-of-Covers-706x1024

The-Secret-Sisters-Club-cover-202x300Title: The Secret Sisters Club
Author: Monique Bucheger
Publisher: True West Publishing
Release Date: March 2012
Length: 238 pages

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

Twelve-year-old BFFs want to be sisters. Tillie’s divorced mom plus Ginnie’s widowed dad could equal a lifetime of round-the-clock girl talk. Too bad Dad vowed to never marry again. Ginnie and Tillie come up with the perfect mission to change his mind: ‘Operation Secret Sisters.’

Before long, Ginnie suspects Tillie has turned ‘Operation Secret Sisters’ into a scam called ‘Operation Steal My Dad.’ Things get more complicated when Ginnie stumbles across her dead mom’s hidden journals. Ginnie can finally get to know the mother she doesn’t remember and Dad doesn’t talk about … until Dad takes the journals away.

***** Review ******

The Ginnie West Adventure series is definitely more than I bargained for! I don’t think I would have particularly enjoyed, let alone absorbed, all of the sentiments presented in these books at the age of a middle grades or young adult reader, especially the first in the series, The Secret Sisters Club.

The Secret Sisters Club – OSS for short (Operation: Secret Sisters) – is a plan hatched up by Ginnie West and her best friend Tillie. Ginnie lives on the West place with her twin brother, Toran, father Todd (or secretly called D.T. by Tillie), Uncle Jake and the patriarch of the family, great Uncle Ben.

“I forget sometimes that you aren’t their dad.” 

Uncle Ben smiled. “Love is a wonderful thing like that. It doesn’t worry about who gave birth to who, just how much time and effort is invested in another person.” 

The West family has strong ties in many ways, and the primary one is family. When Jake and Todd’s parents died many years before, Uncle Ben and his wife Sadie took them in as their own children and raised them as such. To this day, that bond – and most definitely that line of authority and respect – still stand. I absolutely adored Uncle Ben, and that feeling continued to be built on with the second book in the series.

“What twelve year-old doesn’t want a real party?”

The kind of twelver year-old who likes being invisible so people don’t ask you questions you don’t want to answer. 

Tillie, and her mother Amanda, are like an extension of the West family, but Tillie distinctly feels the impact of not having a father…which is a guiding light behind OSS for her. She wants Todd to be her dad, which is why she calls him D.T. secretly…for Daddy Todd. Both Tillie and Amanda have felt the repercussions of an abusive relationship, and Tillie bears the scars of that more than Amanda, and it is almost juxtaposed next to Ginnie and Toran’s steady relationship with their own father.

Toran’s observations never ceased to amaze her. Toan didn’t talk much, but his brain worked constantly, watching and analyzing the world around him. 

Ginnie can’t see anything beyond the fact that she wants a sister. Toran is a great brother, more than a great brother, but she wants more than that, so she has no qualms about going along with OSS….except every once in a while, she gets a churning sensation that Tillie wants to be her sister for another reason altogether…and she never imagined what her dad marry Miss Amanda might really mean.

This is a wonderful book that shows the love and history of a family, as well as bringing up those hard-to-describe (and certainly tougher to talk about!) feelings of blending or mixing families. Ginnie has a hard time coming to terms with the reality that Miss Amanda would become her stepmom if OSS worked. She’s a young girl still struggling with coming to grips with growing up without her own mother.

Ginnie lived for these moments lately. Off her horse, she could barely recall the mom she had lost nine years before in a tragic accident. But when she rode on horseback, she could be transported temporarily to the only memory she had of her mother, the two of them riding Eternal Love when Ginnie was three. 

I completely understand Ginnie’s connection with riding her horse, Calliope, which is the offspring of her mother’s horse (Eternal Love). I really struggled after my grandmother died, only a year after losing my sister. When I would be upset or mad, I would lose myself in the pasture. Ten months later, my grandfather presented me with Red Lightning to ease the loss of my grandmother, and it was one of the best decisions and best relationships I’ve ever had. That horse knew exactly what I needed, and how to respond to me. He had to  buck the system – and me – a couple of times, but we got that straightened out. 😉 There is nothing like the bond between a girl and her horse, and it is something Ginnie very much relies on. Calliope is her go-to when she is upset.

Tillie and Ginnie are busy throughout the book orchestrating OSS and getting their parents together, which at times was cute when it worked, and worrisome when things didn’t go as planned.

“We haven’t made any plans, but a picnic is out.” 

“Why?”

“How’s a picnic going to happen?” Ginnie waved her hand. “Hand them a lunch basket and tell them to go away and not come back until they want to get married?” 

The more the novel progressed, the harder it is for Ginnie to come to terms with OSS, her dad, her mom, and Amanda. She does act quite realistically, and quite bratty as well, after finding her mother’s journals – and that comes to light to her father, who embraces this extreme interest of Ginnie’s, in his own way and in his own time…which is, of course, not at all according to any young pre-teen.

“I hate you!” Ginnie screamed. 

“I love you enough to let you!” He slammed the door shut and leaned against it. 

The way that Todd talks about his late wife, whom Ginnie is named after exactly, is the kind of love and devotion and memory that can leave you breathless.

“When I look back, I can’t believe it either. I’d never even taken chances on quiet girls, and she was a hurricane. I was completely out of my league. I needed her just as much as I needed oxygen to breathe.” 

Ginnie is usually the sibling to do the sticking up for, but on the matter of the journals, even Toran comes to her defense, and he is quite heated in his words to their father. He is not a defiant son in the least, but there’s only so far a brother can be pushed!

“He doesn’t understand. Nobody does.” 

“I do.” Toran gave her shoulder a quick squeeze. “She was my mom too.” 

Toran squared his body to Dad’s and stood tall. “I hope your reasons are really god, Dad, because you’re crushing my sister. Nobody gets to hurt her, even you.” 

I loved this first installment in the Ginnie West Adventure series. Ginnie battles several emotional conflicts throughout the novel, and her family and friends are there to help her make sense of it all, even if it’s not on her dime and on her time. We don’t always get what we want, when we want it, and that is a lesson both Ginnie and Tillie learn by the end of the book.

***** About the Author *****

Author-picture-Monique-196x300When Monique Bucheger isn’t writing, you can find her playing taxi driver to one or more of her 12 children, plotting her next novel, scrapbooking, or being the “Mamarazzi” at any number of child-oriented events. Even though she realizes there will never be enough hours in any given day, Monique tries very hard to enjoy the journey that is her life. She shares it with a terrific husband, her dozen children, sons-in-law, and adorable grandchildren, cats, and many real and imaginary friends. She is the author of the Ginnie West Adventuresseries, picture book, Popcorn, and plans to write plenty more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** About the Illustrator *****

MIKEYS-PHOTO-209x300Mikey Brooks is an author/illustrator that specializes in children’s art. His picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures, Trouble with Bernie and Bean’s Dragons. He is the illustrator of several picture books such as Popcorn by Monique Bucheger, Bongo Flo by Carolyn Quist, andLucius and the Christmas Star by Jim Long. He is the author of The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis, The Stone of Valhalla the best-selling middle-grade series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. You can find more about him and his books at: www.insidemikeysworld.com