A Dog of Many Names by Douglas Green

⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 3 stars

Fred and Myrna Corbett live in an unpopular part of California and struggle to make ends meet. Their only real asset is their pedigree German Shepherd, Greta. So they breed her, producing puppies that bring them a respectable amount of money annually. When somebody wasn’t looking, Greta became pregnant by some other canine interloper. Rascal was the runt of that litter. She’s a skittish little pup that the owners can’t quite figure out. But their young daughter, Angela, who gave the little puppy it’s name loves her. Rascal’s behavior generally consists of a mixture of excitement and fear. She both relishes and recoils at affection. She hides under flowering bushes in the yard instead of doing normal dog things. But still Angela adores her.

Flash forward a little and the Corbetts, no longer profiting from Greta, are once again falling on hard times. The last thing they need is a dog that’s contributing to their hardship so little rascal is discarded like trash and left to fend for herself.

A Dog of Many Names is about Rascal’s attempts at survival in a sometimes harsh and cruel world. She bounces from place to place and her name changes with each new human she temporarily finds herself with. She’s confused and unsure why she keeps getting mistreated by these humans that seemed to care about her. The adversity is strengthening her and summoning her animal instincts to protect her, and she’s learning how to navigate her harsh reality.

I love animals, and I’m a sucker for a good dog story, especially one featuring a German Shepherd, so I was immediately interested in reading this book. However, I should have paid more attention to the description. I was anticipating more of a Lassie type story, but what I got was very different. Rascal’s quest for survival involved the hunting of innocent animals and violent, brutal and bloody fights with others. Not my thing. I understand the food chain and all that, but hey, everyone has their preferences for reading material.

Overall, the story wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t for me. And admittedly, I did put the book down and almost DNF’d it earlier on before the more violent scenes because my interest waned. I struggled to connect with it. But I decided to pick it back up and finish it since it was a relatively short book.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of A Dog of Many Names.

A Home for Her Daughter by Jill Weatherholt

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 Stars

Janie Edmiston and Drew Brennan haven’t seen each other since High School. They couldn’t have predicted they’d be brought together in such an odd way so many years later, but now they share a responsibility that requires them to work closely together. Even though they’d always been just friends, the chemistry between them is evident. However, both Janie and Drew have a past that keeps them from wanting to commit to a relationship. Janie knows in her heart that her young daughter, Riley, could use a stable home and family, but after enduring a mentally and physically abusive marriage, she’s not sure if she can trust any man. After a tragedy for which Drew blames himself, shattered his hopes and dreams to pieces, the thought of a new family is out of the question. How could he protect them when he couldn’t even keep his late wife and daughter safe?

This story drew me right in from the atmospheric setting to the complicated lives of the characters. I love how Jill Weatherholt incorporates adventure into her inspirational tales.  It really amps up the storyline and increases the entertainment factor. Either I was on the edge of my seat during the perilous scenes or I was imagining the beautiful surroundings during the more peaceful times. Not only was I getting an engaging emotional story, but the dappling of dramatic elements kept me fully alert while fervently turning pages. The angst appears at all the right times and propels the story forward. I was invested in the MC’s, Drew and Janie. Janie was guarded because of her insecurities brought about by her ex-husband’s abuse. Drew lived in isolation and blamed himself for the accident that claimed the lives of his wife and daughter. And yet, the two found peace and healing in each other’s presence. They only needed to realize together is where they belonged.

I loved everything about this book! The length, dialog, scenery, animals, intrigue, Janie’s sweet daughter, the main characters—EVERYTHING. There was just the right amount of conflict, emotional elements and the perfect setting to inspire me. And it also reminded me of one of my favorite movies, so that was a plus, too. I definitely recommend it.

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Daisy, stepsister to Sage and Cassidy, has got a lot going on. Her husband has left her for reasons unknown to her, and she’s trying to care for their two kids while holding down a challenging job as a nurse anesthesiologist. The last thing she needs is her perfect stepsister, Sage, invading her life. The two were never close. Although Daisy was excited about inheriting a sister when her dad married Sage’s mom when they were young, Sage and her mother were always mean to Daisy. Now Sage, beautiful and worldly, is back in California. How will Daisy keep her shaky marriage to Jordan a secret from Sage, who happens to be Jordan’s former fiancé!

Meanwhile, Cassidy, their stepsister in common (Daisy’s dad and Sage’s mom’s child) of whom Daisy is also not at all close to, has been in an accident and needs to move into the 15,000 sq. ft. family home that Daisy inherited from her biological mother upon her death, and where she currently lives with her husband, Jordan, before he moved out. Daisy’s dad wants his youngest daughter to recuperate there and Daisy isn’t happy about it. Sage and Cassidy were always the close sisters, but even they have drifted apart somewhat over the years. How will these three siblings find peace after nearly two decades of friction?

The stepsisters tells the story of Daisy, Sage and Cassidy. They’ve had issues over the years but now that they’re adults and dealing with challenging circumstances in their individual lives, they begin to realize how much they need each other.  As they draw closer together they learn of the reasons that lead to their disjointed relationships, many of which were instigated by Sage and Cassidy’s selfish, conniving mother, and they find it in their hearts to forgive one another.  A strong bond grows but is severely tested when one sister makes an almost unforgivable mistake. Will the new bond of love and friendship be short lived?

I enjoyed this book. Mainly I liked how the stepsisters found unity, friendship and love for one another.  They had to work through many of their own insecurities and reluctance to form sustainable relationships with their significant others because of incidents that occurred during their adolescent years. Toward the end of the book their growth was evident, although one sister suffered a setback. I found this book to be relatively tame for Susan Mallery and I was glad for that, too. It held my attention and felt realistic. A good listen.

NARRATORThe audiobook narrator, Tanya Eby, is good. Carla from Carla Loves to Read defined her perfectly when she said, “There are times that her voice is a bit saccharine, but for the most part, her voice, expression and emotion bring this story to life.” I couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Carla. 😉

Starting Over at Acorn Cottage by Kate Forster

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

MY REVIEW

When Clara Maxwell finds out about her boyfriend’s secret she’s devastated. Feeling hurt and betrayed she makes the rash decision to buy and move into a little country cottage, sight unseen, in the village of Merryknowe. when it turns out to be a dilapidated mess and she needs help to get the cottage in habitable condition, she recruits Henry Barnett, a widow and handyman, who lives in a converted van with his six-year-old daughter, Pansy. Henry is still clinging to the memory of his dead wife and he won’t let Pansy out of his sight, not even to start school. He’s got many issues of his own to work through.

Meanwhile, as Clara becomes familiar with village life in Merryknowe, she takes note of a young woman, Rachel Brown, who’s working in her mother’s bakery and tearooms making delicious cakes and pies. Rachel, only in her mid-twenties, always looks tired, battered and older than her years. Although Rachel is a common sight to others in the village, Clara takes an interest in finding out what’s going on in the young woman’s life. In doing so she makes friends with an elderly acquaintance, Tassi, who lives across the street from the bakery and tearooms and knows about Rachel’s situation. As Clara gets a clearer picture of Rachel’s circumstances she becomes determined to help the young woman.

While Henry works on Clara’s cottage, both begin to realize that pain and loss is a part of each of their narratives, and that with Tassi’s help they might find a way out of their own grief and fear, and into each other’s arms.

Starting Over at Acorn Cottage was an enjoyable story. The book focused on the lives of three of the characters, all of whom needed help to cope with the traumas that were ruining them. Each character had a complex situation which held my interest—I wanted to learn what would become of each one of them. The author delivered in concocting a story that kept me engaged to the very end.

My only niggle was with the ninety-year-old character, Tassi. She was very superstitious in nature and commonly spoke about the future or what different objects or animals meant. I had no interest in hearing her talk of the dead or anything else relevant to it, and I found myself feeling irritated whenever she spoke in the book. All the superstitious rhetoric became tiresome to me. While this was not a predominant element of the book, it was enough to annoy me. I wish she was just a wise old lady possessing practical wisdom that was doled out when necessary to help the other characters with their lives.

Overall, Starting Over at Acorn Cottage was a very good book that I enjoyed reading.

Thanks so much for reading. 🙂