The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee


I have completely and totally fallen in love.   Darien Gee has such an exquisite way with words.  I feel as if I am living in Avalon and that the characters in this novel are my friends and neighbors.  Wishful thinking!  I savored this book from page 1.  I didn’t want it to end.  My dream is to live in a town like Avalon.

This is a beautiful story of betrayal and learning to to trust again; friendship and strained relationships, and the love and loyalty of family, friends and neighbors.  The connections that the residents of this town have with one another get them through the worst and best of times.  Life isn’t always easy and the tribulations that the characters in this novel go through really hit home.  However, there is a light at the end of that dark tunnel, especially if you have people to lean on.

Darien Gee’s previous novel, Friendship Bread, was also amazing and the characters have returned in this story.  I love the theme of scrap-booking in this story.  It is not an overpowering instruction novel but it does inspire you to re-evaluate how you look at life.  This book includes recipes, scrap-booking tips and book club meeting suggestions.

I give this book 5 crowns and wish I could give it more.  5_crowns

Darien Gee is one of my favorite authors and I can’t wait for you to read this book and fall in  love with Avalon with me.

Must Love Shoes 2 by: Julie Graver


Julie has done it again! She has taken her own life and the life of some of the women that she knows or has met, and made this book just as good, if not better than the first!  It is a face-paced book if you want it to be but it can also be one of those books that you can savor and read a story at a time.  It is a way to bond with Julie, even though you never met her.

Julie has a way to make you think about your own life situations and maybe let you look at them from a different perspective.  She makes you laugh and allows you to cry with her and at your own life.  She is an inspiration to women who are struggling to find themselves again and to those that have already “found” themselves, to keep looking and to be your best self.

I highly recommend this book for book clubs and individuals alike.  Just like Julie’s first book, your group will have so much to talk about.  It is nice to be able to sit with your girls and just chat about life.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to talk about books and their story lines, but this book allows the conversation to flow in a way that you can talk about family and everyday living.

Julie is also an inspiration because she has raised her children, took care of her household, continued on with her education, has experienced life’s mishaps and has told the tale to women everywhere.  We, as women, have a unique ability to work and take care of things, all the while wearing a killer pair of shoes!

I give this book 5 crowns for book clubs.  5_crowns

I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie and will share it with you now.

Q:  In the second installment of Must Love Shoes, you talk about going back to school to get your Master’s Degree. Congrats.   What advice would you give to women who are looking to return to school while juggling their families and careers?

A:  First, continue to keep your priorities in check!  When you are going to school, juggling family and career, something has to go!  Since most women don’t want it to be their family (since they invested in bringing them into the world) or their career (since they like to eat and have a roof over their head), I suggest cleaning. Given the choice between getting an “A” on my paper and cleaning the house, I chose the “A.”

I know some “personal coaches” and other advisors will tell you to learn to delegate but seriously….. my husband and I had been married almost 30 years and were in our 50’s when I went back to school for my Master’s Degree.  The “delegation” ship had sailed.  There is something playful and sexy about having to go on a search and rescue mission to find clean underwear in the growing heap of laundry on the bedroom floor.  And writing “I love you” in the dust on the TV screen lets your family know you’re still thinking of them.  Seriously, the biggest advice I can give our readers is have a good sense of humor, keep things in perspective, and know that the craziness is only temporary.

Q:  In this book, you laugh at the embarrassing moments that happened to you. Is that something you learned to do recently or were you always able to be relaxed enough to laugh at yourself?

A:  It was an acquired skill. I was very introverted and awkward as a young girl. As I wrote in the book, I was constantly teased about my shocking head of red hair and would go to great lengths to blend in. So drawing attention to myself when I did something stupid or embarrassing was not something I wanted to do. As I aged, I learned that it helped me get through many difficult situations, and I also learned that humor also helped to put others at ease.

Many of the events I wrote about in the two books were not funny to me while they were happening. In most cases, the humor revealed itself to me later, after the red face lessened and I could step back and see the situation as an outsider might see it. Then it became FUNNY!

Much of the humor I see in my life now is a result of finally feeling comfortable in my own skin and being grounded enough to see the absurdity of how seriously I (and others) take things, especially related to stressful situations. My laughter comes when I say to myself “……. and I’m letting THIS get to me because…..?????”

Q:  In reading the chapter “Red Hair Days” I could help but remember the story in the news about the Danish Sperm bank refusing “donations” from red haired males. Did you hear this and how did it make you feel?

I DID hear about that! The reality is that if the redheaded population diminishes even further, that will make those of us who remain even MORE special. (hmmmmm…. that might not be a bad idea!) But, it will have a significant economic impact on the sun product industry. Who is most likely the largest consumer of sunscreen? Yep! I rest my case!

Q:  I love the glass and rubber balls analogy.  Where did that come from? It is such a perfect description of life and is so encouraging.

A:  To be truthful, I can’t remember where it came from. Someone shared it with me a really long time ago. What I’m most grateful for is that the message stuck with me. I have since shared that analogy with sooooo many women because it is a visual we can all relate to.

I have gone to great lengths to make sure my “glass balls” stay intact. Saying “no” continues to be one of the hardest things for me to master because there are so many things I still want to do with my life before leaving this world. But timing is everything and there have been many times when I’ve thought “would I have enjoyed this moment this fully if I had rushed to do this when I was younger?”  I think not.

Repeat after me…. “Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Q:  In this book you talk about your faith a little bit. Do you think that you would be where you are today without your faith? 

A:  Absolutely not!  I was not raised in the church and so my faith journey has not taken the traditional route. But throughout my life, God placed people in my life who were believers and their lives were an inspiration to me. Although I was a “church-goer” since we began our own family, I truly accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior in 1997.  My life has not been the same since. I’ve been faced with some challenging times over the past couple of years and couldn’t have gotten through them had it not been for my faith.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) and “Let us not grow weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap.” (Galatians 6:9) are my two favorite Scriptures.

Q:  Please tell us a little more about Soles of Love in the Garden. 

A:  Soles of Love in the Garden is my attempt to make Must Love Shoes really stand for something. Last August I hosted my first charity event at my home (in the gardens.) I’m an avid gardener and feel the most peace and love surrounded by my flowers. Add to that an eclectic mix of women, great food, conversation, and candlelight and we had the most beautiful evening. Everyone was instructed to bring a pair of new children’s shoes which were donated to two local charities which serve women and children in need. The shoe distribution occurred right before the start of school so the timing couldn’t have been better.

I was so touched by the thoughtfulness and genuine excitement of the women who attended. Each selected their shoes with such care and many wanted to show what they purchased when they arrived. One of my friends, an avid runner, bought a cute pair of girl’s running shoes in hopes that it nurtured a budding athlete.

We had over 75 women attend and collected close to 100 pairs of shoes since some women purchased several pairs.  Our second annual event will hopefully net us even more shoes now that the word has gotten out.  To see some video images from last year’s event and to keep informed about upcoming events, check out the Must Love Shoes website at

Q:  Can you tell what you are working on next?

A:  I [went to] Italy the end of April for the first time and so the next book will likely be penned “Must Love Shoes Goes to Italy.”  Hopefully I will have some fun and interesting experiences to write about!  I’d love it if the next book launched in December, 2013, but we’ll see. In the meantime, life is filled with speaking opportunities, blogging, gardening, volunteering, family, friends, and of course…… shoes!

An update from Julie on 1/13/2013:  Since this interview we had a 2nd garden party charity event which brought together 120 women and collected over 500 pairs of shoes…in just the second year. I’m so very proud. Plus, the third book will not be out until 2014.


The Truth About Style Stacy London

Image   I read this book without really knowing what it was about.  I know that Stacy London has impeccable taste and I enjoy watching her on TLC’s What Not to Wear.  She has a sense of humor that I find refreshing.  So, I picked up this book just to see what she had to say.  Little did I know that readers would get an honest story about her life and struggles as well as stories about 9 other women.  The journeys that all 10 women have experienced were so inspiring to me.  I was delightfully surprised at the “style” of this book (pun intended). 

Don’t get me wrong, fashion was discussed but it was so down to earth that I devoured this book as if it were a novel by one of my favorite authors.  Believe it or not, I think this would make an amazing read for book club groups.  What fun it would be to meet and talk fashion and life experiences that have affected our sense of style.  Want to go out of the box at your next meeting?  Why not have a fashion show of sorts and help each other with honest opinions!!??  I give this book 5 crowns for book clubs.

5 Crowns

I absolutely recommend that you pick up this book as soon as possible.  My only wish with this book is that Stacy London would come and teach me how to dress….I know I could really use the help!