The Last Way Home by Liz Johnson

I finished this book in August but didn’t get to make notes and write a review before my daughter snatched it away to read for herself. She read it in a matter of days. My daughter is 24 and teaches 6th grade. She is as addicted to Liz Johnson books as I am. That should tell you a lot about these Christian romance novels. They are fantastic stories about fantastic people and places. So, now that I have retrieved it here goes…

This book is book 2 in the Prince Edward Island Shores series by Liz Johnson. The series is about the Ross brothers and their single mom who raised them after their father walked away. In the first novel I met brother Oliver and his love interest, Meg and enjoyed their beautiful story. At the end of that story Oliver’s brothers Eli and Levi were introduced. Eli left home 10 years ago and worked his way into a very successful career in the NHL. With no word to his family he walked away and didn’t look back… until now.

The second story begins with Eli returning home after being kicked out of the NHL. No one was really privy to why he had been kicked out but the only place he felt he could go was home. He returned reluctantly with a deep concern for how he would be received by his family and community.

In Eli’s absence a young woman named Violet came to live with the Ross family. She left her family after a horrible tragedy that left her feeling alone and full of guilt. She and Mrs. Ross, affectionately known as Mama Potts, created beautiful pottery in a studio/shop owned by Mrs. Ross. She became a part of the Ross family. Violet lived in a studio apartment above the shop and she worked as a pottery artist.

When Eli arrived he was surprised by the presence of this stranger named Violet. He was also not expecting the willingness of the community to embrace his return for the most part. The local hockey moms were delighted when they were able to coerce Eli into coaching their local junior hockey team. He reluctantly took the job and was able to finally talk Violet into helping him.

Many surprises lay ahead for both Eli and Violet in this PEI Shores adventure. We get to be spectators of God’s plan for each of their lives and watch Him take broken people and make their lives something remarkably beautiful.

What I thought

I really enjoyed this story. I have read the first three in the Prince Edward Island series Liz Johnson wrote and the first book in this series. If you have not read the whole series starting with the Red Door Inn then I encourage you to. Johnson has a way of building community with her stories. This story is no exception. Eli and Violet find cheerleaders in the most unusual places. I won’t give too much away but it was good to visit characters from the other novels along the way this time. Eli’s story was a great reminder that bad behavior has consequences but God is still fully in control. I loved how Eli and Violet’s relationship flourished in the midst of two broken histories. God used their backstories to bring them together and bring healing for both of them in ways that were quite unexpected. I love redemption stories and this fit the bill beautifully! It has been delightful getting to know the Ross family and I look forward to the youngest brother, Levi’s story in the next novel in the series.

I was excited to be part of this blog tour for Revell Publishing. I received the book for free but was asked only to read and give my honest opinion. It was a delightful read!

Stuff you might not know… Friday Things Post

I know people typically do this kind of thing on social media. I do have an Instagram but I just thought this would be a more fitting place to put this list. If I have done a “things about me” post I don’t remember when so I will update you here for a Friday Things post.

  1. I love gardening… even in the very frustrating desert southwest. It has been a battle and an adventure. I have found some things that grow well here over the years and some that do not. I currently have two pomegranate bushes and an olive tree that seem to really like it her. I have a wisteria plant tucked into a shaded corner that I baby the heck out of and it is still alive despite stubbornly giving me zero flowers. I will keep working on that.
  2. I was a homeschooling mom. I home-schooled all of my children until they moved into the public school in 6th grade. I have been chastised for doing both… homeschooling and allowing them to attend public school. They are, for the most part, really well balanced thoughtful children that seemed to survive both. I don’t think I would have been so willing to put them in public school when I did had their father not actually been a teacher on the campus where they attended. Are there some regrets? Maybe a few but overall they had great teachers and we prayed them through all of it. Our baby is now a college student and the other three are making their way in the world in jobs they love.
  3. I am still a “crunchy wife/mom” in many respects. I cook from scratch, grow a garden, learn new skills regularly, and still make granola, can stuff, and collect compost. I reduce, reuse, recycle and “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I can also be heard saying annoyingly old fashion things like “many hands make light work” and “a stitch in time saves nine” among a dozen other things like that. LOL
  4. My favorite sandwich is a BLT but sometimes I add avocado, too.
  5. I have way too many coffee cups but still seem to come home from vacation with at least three more and a teacup.
  6. I am an avid murder mystery fan… in books and video. I am very excited about the Magpie Murders coming on PBS. I also have a Britbox subscription… so I am never without a murder to solve.
  7. I don’t drink sodas anymore and have not for at least 5 years. I do, however, have a lovely Soda Stream and some Bubly flavors that I enjoy as a treat several times a week. No sugar involved.
  8. I own a Berkey now… I saved up a long time for that thing but don’t regret that purchase one bit. I told you I was crunchy!
  9. My current favorite hymn… that keeps landing in my pathway, is Abide With Me. It is gorgeous! This version is so lovely, too!
  10. I am now a “stay at home” wife/mom again after many years of working part time. I love it and am so glad to have come full circle. Puttering about my home at my own pace is certainly my favorite way to live.
My Wisteria among the weeds… the golden/bronze leaves are brand new growth. It has enjoyed the rainy season and cooler temps. Still praying for purple flowers but it brings me joy!
I also love roses… new ones starting to show again. It is a blessing to be able to grow roses year round in the desert.

What about you? Have you shared ten things about you? If you have feel free to drop me a note in the comments and I would love to read your list, too. Until Next Week…

~Leann

September Book Stack

I am currently on track with my reading for the year with 34 books completed and one more in progress. This is the stack I have gathered for September with 4 fiction and 4 nonfiction. I don’t guarantee I will get through the entire stack in a month but I am going to try. One of these is a review book.

  • Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico has been made into a movie so I snagged a copy and will read it before diving into the movie version. This particular copy has two of the novels in the series. It has the “goes to Paris” and “goes to New York” novels.
  • The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith – this is a nonfiction guide
  • Sugar Birds by Cheryl Grey Bostrom – this is her first novel and she has a second novel in the works for 2023.
  • Social Sanity in an Insta World edited by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra – it is a collection of essays from Christian women authors.
  • The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth Von Arnim – an end of summer read for me in the form of her personal memoir. I also have the first in the installment entitled Elizabeth and Her German Garden which will also get a read very soon.
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz – if you are a PBS fan then you know this will air in October 2022 in the Masterpiece Mystery series. I am getting a read done before I watch.
  • To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon – the final novel in the Mitford series.
  • Songs of Suffering by Joni Eareckson Tada (new from Crossway) I just received this one Monday and it is BEAUTIFUL! I will be reviewing this one for sure.

Do you have a September or Autumn TBR? Do you have any challenges you are participating in? Do you have a specific book you have been wanting to read between now and Christmas? Please feel free to share in the comments and feel free to recommend your favorite autumn books. I love finding new reads.

Happy Reading!

~Leann

Tennessee Adventures

We spent a few days in Nashville with our oldest and his family before returning from our east coast trip. They have since moved due to the crazy price hikes in rent and groceries in that area. We are glad we got one more trip there before they moved. Nashville is a very busy fast paced city but we had a few goals while we were there.

We had a birthday to celebrate so we headed to the park for a bit and then our kids took us to a local vegan/gluten free bakery, Sunflower Bakehouse. They had some amazing cupcakes. We all ordered and sat around a table celebrating our youngest grandson. If you are in the area, whether vegan/gluten free or not, this is a great place to stop and grab a treat or lunch. They have yummy coffees and teas, too.

Some of you might remember that we became debt free in January 2022 and I give glory to God for providing for us to do that but I attribute our very focused plan to Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps to keep us on track. His principles are super Biblical. We decided to go and see the Ramsey Solutions “compound” while we were there in the area. Being a Friday, Dave was not there but we got to tour the facility, shop the bookstore, and got a free coffee, cookie, and coffee mug to take with us.

We opted out of summer tourist places and museums because the last time we were there we saw a lot of that. If you have never been then, by all means, go see the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ol’ Opry and mall. They are fun places to go. We had also seen The Hermitage when we came last time, too. Go see that, too. It’s pretty awesome.

Our oldest did take some to a used and new music store in the area that was impressive and they enjoyed that while I stayed in and played with grandkids. To be super honest with you I was there for the grandbabies. LOL

A Day at the Ocean

I have seen the Gulf of Mexico and I have been to the Pacific Ocean twice but I had never been to the Atlantic Ocean before this summer. It was truly a bucket list moment… if I actually had a written bucket list. LOL I will try to keep my words brief because the photos are numerous and lovely.

I will say there were a few tears as I stood and looked out at this magnificent sight. God’s creation never ceases to overwhelm me. I also took a moment to think of all the people who came on ships to a new land full of possibilities on this shore. I am aware some came against their wills for sinister purposes and I cannot fathom the grief of being taken from families and communities and dropped in a strange land but not all came that way.

Many came seeking a new life and a new land to worship and live how they chose without oppression from controlling governments. I was contemplating my own history and family experience as I looked out over that mighty ocean. It felt a little overwhelming when I thought about all those that came from my own family across this vast body of water. I would not be here if they had not. I am deeply grateful for their bravery and adventuring spirits.

Taking a moment to just soak it all in!

I had also never seen a lighthouse up close before so this was such a thrill for me. The day was beautiful… overcast with a little drizzle of rain as we stood on the shore. I did learn that there are seven lighthouses in this North Carolina collection and if you are interested in learning more you can check out this website. We visited the Oak Island Lighthouse on Caswell Beach and we opted not to take the very expensive ride out to the island to see the Bald Head Lighthouse but we saw it from a distance. If it had just been Dan and me we probably would have done the trip out to see it. I hope to go back and see all of them sometime.

We enjoyed lunch at a little place called The Old Bridge Diner. I felt it was fitting to get fish and chips at the ocean and it was a delicious choice. You can see that meal in the photos above. If you are ever in the area this is a totally affordable and delicious place to spend for breakfast or lunch. Don’t let the line to get in hold you back… they move it quickly and the menu has something for everyone.

A hug for the man who drove the 4000 miles round trip to let me see this!

I took most of these photos but Em had her own collection I borrowed from… namely the ones with me in them. The photo at the top is really a photo of my shoes… which I kicked off the second I hit the beach and waded into the water without hesitation. I must say that the Pacific coastal waters are much colder than the Atlantic coastal waters. Also, the waves are bigger for surfing in the Pacific but not in the Atlantic. They both have their charm and I am glad I have seen both now.

What a treat!

~Leann

The Mitford Museum – Hudson, North Carolina

There are so many amazing things we got to do and see on this trip to North Carolina. In planning our trip originally I would have missed this little gem. As I was planning for what to pack I thought about a few books to take. I must admit up front that I barely read a thing on this adventure but I had the next book in the Mitford series in the stack, Come Rain or Come Shine. I chose it because it was about a wedding in North Carolina and I thought it fitting since we were going for a wedding in North Carolina. LOL

I realized upon picking that book I had not been to the Mitford website in ages to see what was happening with Jan and her writing. I did a search to find the official website and something else popped up, too.

A link for The Mitford Museum showed up and I thought, “Is this the same Mitford?” Well, folks, it is! There is now a Museum for all things Jan Karon and Mitford and it opened in October 2021. I immediately searched for where it was and when it was open and then we added it to our travel plans. It is located in her childhood home of Hudson, NC in the actual school where she attended as a little girl. It is not a huge museum but a cozy stroll through the life and works of Jan Karon that just gave me all the feels. Feel free to click on any individual photo to see it more closely…. especially that desk!

Emily and I toured the museum and my patient husband and youngest son sat and enjoyed a bit of quiet reading while they waited. They were so kind to let us go and do this. I guess it makes up for the Texas Ranger Museum I went through with Dan one time long ago. Although, don’t tell him this, I enjoyed that somewhat, too. LOL I am a museum kind of gal. If you go on the right day there is also a little coffee shop and of course, there is a gift shop open when the museum is open. You know I bought something… a little stacking pot, cup and saucer to enjoy tea as I read. It was specially designed just for sale in the Mitford Museum store.

I could not believe how much Blowing Rock reminded me of Mitford as we drove through. They happened to have a “contaminated water ban” the day we went through so we didn’t stay super long but everyone I talked to knew who Jan Karon was and about all her books. She is very famous there.

I won’t share too many surprises so that you can make a plan to go and enjoy the loveliness of it all for yourself. Hudson is a quaint little town and the drive off the main roads into the town are gorgeous. just up the road is another little town called Lenoir and we stopped for lunch there at the 1841 Cafe. It is an old hardware store that has been converted.

Girlie and Youngest indulging my photo taking craziness. They are such good sports!
I ordered a Whistle Stop BLT with fried green tomato. I also had the sweet potato fries and a really delicious creamy sriracha sauce for dipping. I do love a good diner!

Blowing Rock is a beautiful town just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. We spent some time driving on that, too, on our way back to Asheville that day. Dan has a cousin that lives in Asheville and she let us stay two nights with them so we could do some touring around.

The day we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway it was overcast and rainy but perfect for photo taking. My daughter has been putting up photos of our adventures since we got back if you want to check some of those out. You can see her Photography Instagram stuff @photos_by_emily316

Add these stops to your North Carolina itinerary if you make it there. I have some more adventures to share so stay tuned. Until next time…

Happy Travels!

~Leann