A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety

February 16. 2018

A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety
by Michelle Balge

A Way Out

Genre/categories: nonfiction, memoir, mental health

Thank you Michelle Balge for an ARC (advance reader’s copy) of A Way Out. I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary:

Through memoir format, Michelle Balge shares her personal experiences towards conquering depression and social anxiety. It’s a story of Michelle’s perseverance,  fighting spirit, determination, hardships, courage through the ups and downs of treatment, and bravery as she strives to live a productive and fulfilling life with a mental health diagnosis. She holds nothing back (*trigger warnings) and in her own truthful words, she shares “about the hardship of living with mental illness, the road to recovery, and the spaces in-between.”

My Thoughts:

***trigger warnings*** If reading this book causes anxiety, please connect with someone to talk.

A personal memoir is extremely powerful as it helps readers build compassion and understanding and helps us all not to feel so alone in the world. There were many times in reading her story that I thought “Oh, I’ve felt that way, too!” Or thought that as a teacher, I have observed students with similar patterns.

I  deeply appreciate Michelle’s transparency and honesty in sharing her story from early childhood to present day. As she relates her story, she gives special emphasis to the signs and symptoms which are invaluable to parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, etc. Some of the symptoms she excellently articulates include speech and comprehension becoming slower, early bedtime, lack of appetite, staying in her room, risky behavior, feelings of guilt, extreme shyness, overly worried about making mistakes, etc.  Most of these are symptoms we’ve seen listed in textbooks or pamphlets; however, hearing about them in her own words as she experienced them is a powerful aspect of her story.

Of the myriad strategies she tried, a few seemed particularly helpful for her: group therapy, meditation music, an accountability partner (friend) whom she promised to contact if she felt like she might hurt herself, and becoming involved at college with a mental health awareness group for which she “won the Spirit of Brock medal for the one undergraduate student who best exemplified the spirit of Sir Isaac Brock through their courage, inspiration, leadership, innovation, and community involvement.” I was struck by the fact that being a highly sensitive person who didn’t want to hurt or disappoint others kept her from hurting herself on many occasions. This was a powerful section of the book that helped me realize the value of close family and friend relationships and connections for any person struggling with depression and anxiety.

Her personal memoir is a story I will never forget and I’m honored to have read it. I rooted for Michele through every sentence, paragraph, and page as she grew to love and value herself, tried various strategies and medications, and ultimately realized what a special gift she is. Her story brings hope for many living with depression and social anxiety.

Michele’s mantra: “Continuing to do my best is the most I can do, and the most I can do is good enough.”

An especially important section in this book is the list of strategies and resources that Michelle used and found helpful and included for others at the end. Also helpful in reading Michele’s story is hearing that she lied to a therapist in the reporting of the severity of her mental health symptoms. This puts more responsibility on concerned adults and friends to act on and trust their careful observations and provide intervention.

One Important Take Away. As a teacher, (she said stepping on her soap box) I strongly feel that we can do more for children at a young age whom we observe struggling with extreme shyness and other social anxieties. How much easier it would be on everyone to provide strategies for intervention during the formative elementary school years. During my teaching years, I stayed in close contact with our site psychologist and/or counseling intern and referred many students to a professional to address red flags that concerned me. My regret is that I could not have referred more children for mental health services….students with extreme shyness…..students who are bullied…..students who live with traumatic family dynamics…..students who are loners…..etc. I am a strong advocate for early and accessible mental health services. I see this as one of the most important and urgent needs in our public schools. A lack of mental health services is an area that I felt most frustrated with as a teacher.

Heartfelt thanks to Michelle for sharing her story with the world! Her goal in writing this is “to help people who are struggling with their own mental illnesses and show them that there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.” Her story is so important to read that I think every psychology and/or counseling student needs to have her memoir right alongside their textbooks.

Recommended. Highly recommended for individuals who might be traveling the same journey of depression and social anxiety as Michelle (her  experience and strategies might be helpful), for ALL teachers and/or professionals that work with children or young adults, for ALL counselors, counseling interns, psychology students, and psychologists, for parents who are concerned about signs and symptoms, and for ALL readers who seek to gain understanding and compassion in the field of mental health.

My Rating: 5 Brave Stars

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A Way Out

Preorder and/or Buy Here    Release Date: 2/27/18

About the Author, Michelle Balge

michelle balgeMichelle Balge is a mental health advocate, web designer, and animal lover. She has won awards thanks to her dedication to mental health, and has spoken about her experiences to students, the community, and professionals in the field. Michelle holds an Honours BA in Sociology with a Concentration in Critical Animal Studies, and will receive a Web Design Graduate Certificate in June, 2018. She was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, with a taste of city and small-town life.

For more info, visit michellebalge.com.


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Looking Ahead:

I’m continuing to read Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR).

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here

Join me next Friday (2/23) for February’s Most Memorable Character link up! 
Reviews of “As Bright as Heaven” and “Out of the Dust” coming soon!
What are you reading this week?


The BUZZ

A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters on March 9! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20! 



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

If you are a mental health professional or someone concerned about mental health, would you consider sharing my review of Michelle’s book with a colleague or friend?



Let’s Discuss!

I’m eager to hear your comments about this week’s review.

If you are a mental health professional, can you envision this being useful for your clients?

What are you reading this week?

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Romantic Reads For My Galentines

February 13, 2018

Romantic Reads For All My “Galentines”!

*Linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday: Valentine Freebie and Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit February

i love books

In recognition of Valentine’s Day, I’ve listed a few of my favorite romantic reads. Romance is not my preferred genre, so I don’t have a huge list to choose from. As I looked over my read books list, I found a few romantic titles (although not typically romantic genres) you might enjoy.
(in no particular order)

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of WW1
by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

last christmas in paris

This WW1 love story is not a Christmas book  despite the title and can be enjoyed at any time of year.  5 romantic stars.

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My full review 

Amazon link



Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford
hotel on the corner

Sweet love story beginning in Seattle, Washington and  continuing in a Japanese internment camp .  Some first loves last a life time. 4 romantic stars.

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Amazon Summary and Purchase Information



The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows
Guernsey

The island of Guernsey after WW11 is an ideal setting for an unexpected romance.  Told in epistolary format.  A favorite book that will soon be a movie which will release April 18! Will you read the book before seeing the movie? 5 romantic stars.

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Amazon Summary and Purchase Information



Our Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night

Seniors can find love too!  4 romantic stars.

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Amazon Summary and Purchase Information



Castle of Water
by Dane Hucklebridge

castle of water 2

An engaging and well written castaways love story! 5 romantic stars.

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Full Review Here

Amazon Information Here




Romance Reads High On My Spring TBR List

This is a little risky…..I normally don’t recommend books I haven’t read……but these two have moved to the top of my TBR because of the excellent reviews I’ve read from trusted reviewers. I’m eager to read and review them!

How to Find Love in a Bookstore
by Veronica Henry

How to find love in a bookstore

Wouldn’t you pick this up just because of the title and cover?!

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here

 

The Music Shop

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Amazon Summary and Purchase Information



Links I Love For More Romantic Reading Ideas

For more romantic reads please check out this great list at Peace, Love, & Raspberry Cordial: Valentine’s Book Crush: Go Weak in the Knees With 10 Swoony Reads

(Bonus: she also has a giveaway of one book and you can enter by commenting on her cute blog! I’m hoping to win The Music Shop!)

The Caffeinated Bibliophile also has a list of Christian romantic reads in her post Eight Christian Romance Books to Read for Valentine’s Day.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

(I’ll be back Friday with a regular review)

books in wagon

***both book graphics from Pinterest

Killers of the Flower Moon

February 9, 2018

true crime….cruel and incomprehensible racial injustice…greed…

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon

Genre/categories: Nonfiction, True Crime, Native American, U.S. History, Racial Injustice, Osage

Summary:

This is a true crime murder mystery involving the wealthy Osage Indian Nation of Oklahoma in the 1920s. After oil was discovered beneath the wasteland that they had been forced to live on, the Osage became extremely rich. However, one by one, members of the Osage began to die under suspicious circumstances, or as some believed to be killed off. To introduce readers to this community and the crime, the author closely follows the story of Mollie Burkhart and her family.  It was dangerous to investigate the murders because investigators could also die under mysterious circumstances. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly formed F.B.I. took up the case.  The F.B.I also experienced difficulty in the investigation until J. Edgar Hoover enlisted Tom White, a former Texas Ranger, to form an undercover team  to unravel the mystery. White’s team (which included a Native American) infiltrated the region and employed the latest modern techniques of investigation. This story tells whether or not they were able to expose one of the most monstrous and heinous crimes in American history.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER   –  NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST  –  AMAZON EDITORS’ PICK FOR THE BEST BOOK OF 2017   –  GOODREADS RUNNER UP IN BEST HISTORY/BIOGRAPHY CATEGORY FOR 2017

Amazon Rating (February): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts:

Structure: True crime isn’t my preferred genre and this book is dense with detail;  however, I found the true account compelling overall and especially as I focused on the fascinating character of Tom White, an unsung hero. The story is structured in three parts: first, we are introduced to Mollie Burkhart and readers become acquainted with her inheritance and wealth, her family, the crimes, and the principal players in the community; second, we follow the F.B.I.’s attempts in the investigation, we learn about the intrigue and corruption, and in particular we meet F.B.I. agent Tom White;  last, the story ends from a reporter’s perspective (Grann’s)  as he attempts additional research and demonstrates that the crime that White uncovered was really just the tip of the iceberg.  Least one assume that Tom White is merely a “white savior” as some reviewers have mentioned, Grann makes it clear that the combination of  widespread corruption and the powerless Osage required a white person to take on the white system.

Unforgettable Character: In particular, I enjoyed the exploration into the character of Tom White. For taking on an extremely high-profile and dangerous assignment, he was rather soft-spoken, nonviolent, fair, trustworthy, and humble. His good character is in stark contrast to the character traits of the corrupt community authorities. Bravely and courageously, he conducted a most difficult investigation, one that would greatly enhance the reputation of the F.B.I. if solved. Later in White’s career when he was the head of the prison that took in the prisoners that were convicted in the Osage murders, he shook their hands and welcomed them to the prison and insisted that they be treated fairly.  In addition, when the person who murdered his own brother was admitted to the prison, White never mentioned his presence to anyone. White wanted every prisoner to be treated equally and fairly. A humble man who didn’t seek the limelight, it is unfortunate that White was never properly recognized publicly for the important contributions he made to the Osage case.

Voice: It’s unfortunate that the white culture hasn’t listened to or heard the Osage Nation, and credit is given to David Grann for hearing their voice and telling this well researched story that documents the crimes against the Osage and includes interviews with many in the Osage community. I wish that we could have heard the story entirely from an authentic Osage voice. I think if the Osage could tell their own story, it would help move them out of a powerless position.

Reading Tip: My husband experienced reading this on audible and found the second narrator the most compelling and enjoyable of the three. He wished the entire story had been told by this second narrator. So if you purchase this through audible and are not enthralled with the first narrator, the second is much better.

Recommended. Highly recommended for readers who love the true crime genre, for readers who want to further explore the topic of racial injustice as it affects Native Americans, for those who enjoy reading about historical events, and for readers who are looking for a compelling, thought provoking read.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Killers of the Flower Moon

Buy Here

Meet the Author, David Grann

David GrannDAVID GRANN is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. His latest book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, was released in April. Based on years of research, it explores one of the most sinister crimes and racial injustices in American history.

His first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, became a #1 New York Times bestseller and has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, the book was chosen as one of the best books of 2009 by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Bloomberg, Publishers Weekly, and the Christian Science Monitor, and it also won the Indies Choice award for the best nonfiction book of that year.

The Lost City of Z has been adapted into a major motion picture, which will be released in theaters in April 2017. Produced by Brad Pitt’s production company, the film is directed by James Gray and stars Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, and Tom Holland.

Grann’s other book, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, contains many of his New Yorker stories, and was named by Men’s Journal one of the best true crime books ever written. The stories in the collection focus on everything from the mysterious death of the world’s greatest Sherlock Holmes expert to a Polish writer who might have left clues to a real murder in his postmodern novel. Another piece, “Trial by Fire,” exposed how junk science led to the execution of a likely innocent man in Texas. The story received a George Polk award for outstanding journalism and a Silver Gavel award for fostering the public’s understanding of the justice system.His stories have also been a source of material for feature films. “Old Man and the Gun”—which is in The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, and is about an aging stick-up man and prison escape artist—is slated to be directed by David Lowery and to star Robert Redford.

Over the years, Grann’s stories have appeared in The Best American Crime Writing; The Best American Sports Writing; and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He has previously written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

Before joining The New Yorker in 2003, Grann was a senior editor at The New Republic, and, from 1995 until 1996, the executive editor of the newspaper The Hill. He holds master’s degrees in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy as well as in creative writing from Boston University. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1989, he received a Thomas Watson Fellowship and did research in Mexico, where he began his career in journalism.

 



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Looking Ahead:

I’m planning a review of this ARC (advanced reader’s copy) next week:

A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety
by Michelle Balge

A Way Out

Amazon information here (2/27/19 release date)

I’m continuing to read Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR).

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here



My TBR and the BUZZ

I’m noticing lots of buzz (great reviews) lately about three books (all Book of the Month Club selections): The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (author of The Nightingale), and As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner. I’m adding them to the top of my TBR, so look for reviews soon!

Do you belong to Book of the Month Club?

I also just heard that Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache series) will be releasing a new installment in November of this year! (no title or cover yet)
#meetmeinthreepines #threepinesgeek
available for preorder

What are you reading this week?



Links

Modern Mrs Darcy published a list of  25 Must-Read Classics for Women.
How many have you read?

If you’re looking for Christian fiction, check out this post from The Caffeinated Bibliophile: Eight Christian Romance Books to Read for Valentine’s Day.

There’s still time to read or reread Wrinkle in Time before the movie release on March 9.
Will you be seeing the movie?



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

Had you ever heard of the crimes against the Osage before you read this review?

Do you keep a balance between fiction and nonfiction in your reading life? Is the balance 50-50 or do you read more of one than the other? Which do you prefer that I review?

What are you reading this week?

African-American History Month Reading Recommendations

February 2, 2018

As the calendar reveals February’s focus on African-American History Month, I’m eager to recommend some thematic reading! 

Linking up today with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit February.

The Gilded Years
by Karin Tanabe

Gilded Years

Genre: historical fiction

One title that I read a few years ago that might not be on your radar is The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe.

Summary: This story shares the important and compelling experiences of Anita Hemmings and her dream of attending an exclusive school for women, Vassar College, in the late 1890s. To accomplish this extraordinary feat and pursue her chance for a better life, Anita must pass for white. It is interesting to me how her family and community support her in the implementation of her decision and work to protect her as she lives it out. At first, Anita maintains a distance from her college peers. However, as the years pass and Anita becomes friends with her socialite roommate from a prominent family in New York, the risk of discovery grows greater. Can she maintain her assumed identify? Will she graduate?

The choice: For me, the most interesting part of the story is the tension that develops between Anita and one of her dear friends who decides to live fully as an African-American, embrace her ethnic identity and heritage, and openly fight for equal rights. Which one of the young women has chosen the best path? Both decisions are difficult in their own ways and filled with sacrifices and joys. Through their two stories, the reader is presented with two viewpoints and experiences. What would you or I have done given that choice? Which choice helped further equal treatment for African-Americans? Was Anita’s choice a set back for African Americans? Or did she have every right to think of her own life first? Did her success as a student help the African-American cause by proving that an African-American can compete equally at Vassar?

Bottom Line: Although the story is compelling and emotional, the writing could be better and was the weakest part of my reading experience. For me, a lack of beautiful writing is easily overlooked for a captivating story that addresses strong themes of hope, sacrifice, betrayal, loyalty, family, taking risks, life choices, and friendship. It’s an important, inspiring, and memorable read. It would generate an excellent book club discussion and make a great movie!

Recommended? Highly recommended for readers looking for an inspirational and  interesting read in celebration of African-American History Month, for readers who enjoy compelling stories about strong, brave, independent women, for book clubs, and for readers who enjoy diverse reads and stories written from a different perspective.

Amazon Rating (February): 4.2 Stars

My Rating: 4 stars

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Gilded Years

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Karin Tanabe

Karen TanabeKarin Tanabe is a fiction writer and former Politico reporter whose writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and The Washington Post among many other publications. Before turning to fiction, Karin worked as a journalist covering politics and celebrities. She has made frequent appearances on Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition and CNN. A graduate of Vassar College, she lives in Washington D.C.

 

 



Additional Reading Recommendations

(links will take you to further information)

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham (historical fiction, YA)

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (historical fiction)

Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom  (historical fiction)
*This is an interesting story as it also deals with the main character passing as white.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (historical fiction, family saga)

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (historical fiction)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (contemporary fiction, YA)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (contemporary fiction)

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M Draper (middle grade historical fiction selection)

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (nonfiction)

We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success by Sampson Davis  (middle grade, biography/memoir)

There are so many titles; these are a few that I’ve read and can highly recommend. Can you add to these recommendations in the comments?



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Looking Ahead:

I’m planning a review of this next week:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI 
by David Grann

Amazon information here

I’m also continuing to read an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety by Michelle Balge. (review on 2/16)

A Way Out

Amazon information here (2/27/19 release date)

Also, I’m anticipating that I’ll start Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR) some time in the next two weeks.

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here



My TBR and the BUZZ

I’m noticing lots of buzz (great reviews) lately about two books (both Book of the Month Club selections for February): The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (author of The Nightingale). I’m adding them to the top of my TBR, so look for a review soon!

Do you belong to Book of the Month Club?

I also just heard that Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache series) will be releasing a new installment in November of this year! (no title or cover yet)
#meetmeinthreepines #threepinesgeek
available for preorder

What are you reading this week?



Links

Modern Mrs Darcy published a list of  25 Must-Read Classics for Women.
How many have you read?

I appreciated this post from The Ardent Biblio: Why It’s Important to Read Diverse Books
Please check it out.

Do you plan to reread Wrinkle in Time before the movie release on March 9?
Will you be seeing the movie?



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

If you were an African-American, would you have made the decision to pass as white to take advantage of a path to help you pursue your dreams? If you are an African American, would you  have passed as white in the late 1890s? What do you think of individuals who made this choice?

Will you be seeking out a certain book to read during African-American History Month? Or do you have recommendations?

What are you reading this week?

January’s Compelling Character Link Up

January 26, 2018

January Compelling Character

Link up with me today and share a post about your favorite character from your January reading! I’m hoping there will be enough interest to make this a regular last Friday of the month feature and link up opportunity. If you do not have a blog, please share your favorite character from your January reading in the comment section!

Meet Kavita


Secret Daughter

by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter 2

Genre/categories: adoption, cultural heritage, family life, mothers/daughters, Asian American

Meet Kavita, a young, poor mother in India traveling on foot to an orphanage in Mumbai and making a heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter’s life by giving her away. Her husband, who is hoping for a son, killed the first-born daughter, and Kavita is determined to save her second daughter’s life. She makes a difficult decision and risks everything to give the only gift she can give her daughter, a chance to live.

This is a compelling story of adoption from three perspectives: Kavita, the mother who gives up her newborn daughter to an orphanage in Mumbai in hopes of saving her daughter’s life; Somer, a heartbroken, newly married physician in San Francisco who, upon hearing the news she cannot have children, decides to adopt; and Asha, Somer’s adopted daughter from Mumbai, India.

Kavita

Although there is an abundance of strong women in this story, I couldn’t stop thinking about Kavita and the hardships she faced and the bravery and determination needed to put the daring plan of saving her newborn daughter into action. She risked her life, and then was faced with living with that decision for the rest of her life, wondering if she had done the right thing. What would any of us have done in similar circumstances? Giving up her infant daughter was only one of the hardships Kavita faced in her life as she struggled to care for her family and trust her husband with their future.

Grandmother

Honorable mention for incredible and admirable women in this story goes to Asha’s gracious grandmother from India who worked tirelessly to welcome and embrace Asha, to unite the family, and to help Asha appreciate and understand her birth culture. She reminded me of the important and endearing role that grandparents can play in a family.

This engaging and heartfelt story is similar in themes to Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See and highly recommended for readers who enjoy inspirational stories of strong women, for readers whose lives have been touched by adoption and would benefit from exploring it from different perspectives, for readers who appreciate how reading about a different culture can add to our understanding of the world and build compassion for the hardships that women around the world might face, and for those who are looking for a compelling page turner. This would make an excellent book club selection for its various discussion possibilities.

Amazon Rating (January): 4.5 Stars

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Buy Here

Meet the Author, Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Shilpi GowdaShilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. In college, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage, which seeded the idea for her first novel, SECRET DAUGHTER. Shilpi holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. She has served on the Advisory Board of the Children’s Defense Fund, and is a Patron of Childhaven International, the organization for which she volunteered in India. She lives in California with her husband and children.

SECRET DAUGHTER, Shilpi’s debut novel published in 2010, has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide in over 30 countries and languages. It was a New York Times bestseller, #1 International bestseller, and the screen rights have been optioned.

THE GOLDEN SON, her second novel, is a Target Book Club Pick and #1 International bestseller, being published around the world in 2016-17. The screen rights have been optioned to Conquering Lion Pictures.

http://www.shilpigowda.com



Link Up

Link up a recent post that includes a memorable character from your January reading. To join the Link Up, enter the URL to your blog post (not your blog), your name, and email (which will remain hidden). Please link back to this post with a text link. In addition, please visit at least one other link. (*please bear with me if there are problems with the link up…it’s the first one I’ve attempted)



 Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Update:

I indicated last week that I’d be reading Library at the Edge of the World (from my 2018 TBR list). I decided not to highlight it this week because I was a bit underwhelmed with the reading experience. I’ll provide a brief review here.

Library at the Edge of the World

Readers who love a character driven story with a lovely sense of place, will likely enjoy this read. I prefer a bit more plot with my reading and I found myself becoming bored and impatient by 60% with minimal plot development. I stuck with it because the writer is talented and the characters are well developed and interesting. By the end of the book, the plot picked up a bit and I was glad I stayed with it. This might be a good read if you’re looking for a gentle read for a time when you want minimal stress in your reading material….I also think readers from Ireland or those who have spent time in Ireland might enjoy this read. I do appreciate the strong themes of a community coming together for a purpose and of a woman rebuilding her life after a divorce and finding her voice. If you read and enjoy this story, there are two more books in the series. Amazon Rating (January): 4.0 

My Rating: 3 Stars.

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In the spirit of fairness, please consider these reviews from two bloggers whom I greatly respect that enjoyed the book a great deal more than me. Check out their reviews before making your reading choice.
The Loud Library Lady’s review of Library at the Edge of the World
Top Shelf Text’s review of Library at the Edge of the World

Amazon Information Here



Looking Ahead:

My library hold (since November) has finally come in, and I’ll be dropping everything this week to buddy read (with my husband) the nonfiction selection:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

Amazon information here

I’m also reading an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety.

A Way Out

Amazon information here (2/27/19 release date)

What are you reading this week?



Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

What are your reactions to hearing about a woman who plans to give up her newborn daughter to save her life?

Do you think it’s beneficial to read books that feature different cultures and address difficult topics such as adoption?

What are you reading this week?

If you haven’t joined the link up, I’d love to hear in a comment about the most compelling character from your January reading.

Left Neglected

What is your reaction to the thought: “accommodations equal failure”?

January 19, 2018

Left Neglected
by Lisa Genova

left neglected 2

Genre/categories: fiction, women’s fiction, traumatic brain injury, family life

Summary:

In this compelling story, thirty something Sarah is a career driven, over achieving, competitive type A, and perfectionist mom of three. She and her husband live near Boston and manage a frantic and fast paced life as they each pursue careers and tend to the family’s schedule for soccer practice, piano lessons, parent/teacher conferences, and day care. As they are striving to have it all, a car crash leaves Sarah with a traumatic brain injury called “left neglect.” As the story unfolds, readers journey alongside Sarah as she fights to regain her independence and seeks to answer questions about an uncertain future. While Sarah experiences relinquishing all the control she thought she had to her once absent mother and her physical therapists, she begins to envision a life apart from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets and wonders if a happiness and peace greater than the success she has known is within her grasp.

Amazon Rating (January): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Readers may recognize Lisa Genova as the author of the best-selling book Still Alice or may have seen the movie based on the book. Genova’s degrees are in biopsychology and neuroscience and her fiction work is focused on writing characters who live with neurological diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s, autism, Huntington’s disease, ALS, and traumatic brain injury.

In addition to an unforgettable lesson in NO TEXTING OR PHONE WHILE DRIVING, readers will find an inspiring story of courage and determination in the face of a tragic and devastating traumatic brain injury.

Sarah is left with the disability of “left neglect” which means that she’s unaware of anything on her left. She even has difficulty finding her left hand (In a humorous and light-hearted moment she hints to her husband that a big brilliant diamond for her left hand might better help her to notice and find her hand!).

“The first step in my recovery is to become aware of my unawareness, to constantly and repeatedly remind myself that my brain thinks it’s paying attention to all of everything but in fact, it’s only paying attention to the right half of everything and nothing on the left.”      ~Sarah

As Sarah is able to come home, she begins to reflect about the way she and her husband had been living which up until now had meant not even taking advantage of paid vacations so that they could work more to get ahead. In a conversation with her husband, Sarah thinks:

“Pre-accident me nods, understanding the life-and-death stakes [of his job] completely. He’s doing exactly what I would’ve done. But I’m worried more about him than his job right now and can see what pre-accident me is blind to–that he and his job are, in fact, two separate things.”     ~Sarah

Given the high achieving and perfectionist competitor that Sarah’s always been in life, part of her struggle in therapy is the temptation to equate accommodations with failure. This tension is especially painful as she contemplates the dilemma of giving up skiing or skiing with accommodations.

handicap snowboarding

*photo from the NEHSA website

 

 

 

 

 

NEHSA. I appreciate information shared in the book about the New England Handicapped Sports Association (NEHSA) and the thoughts Sarah has about her experience as it relates to her disability and her therapy.

Themes: If you’ve been reading my reviews you know that the presence of substantial themes is a huge component in my final rating of a book. Important themes in this book include reconciliation, determination, courage, humor, forgiveness, finding peace, and building your best life with a visible or an invisible disability. In addition to interpreting the title on a  literal level (the disability), I began to think of the title in terms of all that had been neglected in Sarah’s life as she chases her vision of success. Perhaps there is  happiness and peace that is greater than the success one can find in competitive cooperate America.

4 or 5 stars? While I like that the author drops readers right into the action of Sarah’s busy life and readers are engaged from the beginning, I think the conclusion could have been more fully developed so that readers could experience it unfolding instead of writing it like a summary.  Perhaps the inciting incident could have been moved ahead in the story (readers understand right away how crazy her life is and some of these details were a bit tedious and could have been edited out) and more time could have been allotted to developing the conclusion. This is a minor concern and falls into the category of personal preference. The overall experience of reading the book is a solid 4 for me, and I appreciate the positive, hopeful, and uplifting closure that the author brings to Sarah’s situation. In addition, I think that reading and understanding more about disabilities is a beneficial pursuit in my reading life.

Recommended? I highly recommend this book for readers who have become acquainted with this author through reading Still Alice, who might be challenged by a thoughtful journey into living with a disability, and who enjoy stories of resiliency, bravery, courage, hope, forgiveness, and determination.

My Rating: 4 Stars
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Left Neglected

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Lisa Genova

Lisa Genova

(from Amazon)
Lisa Genova
graduated from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. Acclaimed as the Oliver Sacks of fiction and the Michael Crichton of brain science, she is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels STILL ALICE, LEFT NEGLECTED, LOVE ANTHONY, and INSIDE THE O’BRIENS.

Lisa’s writing focuses on people living with neurological diseases and disorders who tend to be ignored, feared, or misunderstood, portrayed within a narrative that is accessible to the general public. Through fiction, she is dedicated to describing with passion and accuracy the journeys of those affected by neurological diseases, thereby educating, demystifying, and inspiring support for care and scientific research. She has written about Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, autism, Huntington’s disease, and ALS.

STILL ALICE was adapted into a film starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish. Julianne Moore won the 2015 Best Actress Oscar for her role as Alice Howland.

In 2015, Lisa was named one of the U.S. Top 50 Influencers in Aging. She received The Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square in recognition of “a contemporary storyteller whose work has had a significant impact on the public dialogue,” The Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award, The Global Genes RARE Champions of Hope Award, and The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Media Award for Informing the Public about Treatment and Ongoing Research in Medical Illness.

In 2016, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bates College, The Alzheimer’s Association’s Rita Hayworth Award, and The Huntington’s Disease Society of America Community Awareness Award.

Her 2017 TED talk, “What You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer’s,” was seen by over 2.5 million viewers in its first few months.

Her fifth novel, EVERY NOTE PLAYED, is about ALS and will be published March 20, 2018.



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Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Extra:

A book that I’d recommend for our protagonist, Sarah, to read next in her journey is Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic For a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.

present over perfect



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (but it’s a slow read for me), so next week look for a review of Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (and possibly Library at the Edge of the World if I finish it).

(Amazon information in links above)

What are you reading this week?

 

 



Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Still Alice or Left Neglected?

Do you think it’s beneficial to read books that feature disability topics?

What do you think about Sarah’s concern that “accommodations equal failure”?

Have you read any of Lisa Genova’s other titles?

What are you reading this week?

This Must Be the Place

January 12, 2018

Complex, complicated, and multi layered…

This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O’Farrell

This Must Be the Place 2

Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary:

This Must Be the Place is a story of a collapsing and reawakening marriage.  Daniel, a young American professor, travels to Ireland on holiday and family business and to stabilize his life after a failed marriage and a difficult custody battle. By chance, he meets Claudette, a world-famous actress who dramatically left the public eye for a reclusive life in a rural Irish village. Daniel and Claudette fall in love and create an idyllic life in the country and have two children of their own. A secret from Daniel’s past threatens to destroy their carefully constructed and quiet, happy life. As Daniel leaves to make peace with his past and himself, he also reunites with the American son and daughter he has not seen for several years. His story is told from his own voice and other multiple voices as he wrestles with the complexities of loyalty and devotion, family, and an extraordinary love. Amazon Rating (January): 4.2 Stars

My Thoughts:

At first I was less than enthusiastic about the book and set it aside on multiple occasions. Although the writing was beautiful, the structure was complicated and jarring as the story jumped perspectives and time periods. If I wanted to continue with the book, I knew I had to focus and invest some hard reading work. Somewhere around 50%, the persistence paid off and I started enjoying my reading experience. After that switch in my attitude, I grew to admire this complex and multi layered literary fiction work.

If you’re looking for a challenging and complex read and appreciate literary fiction, you might consider this book. I think what I enjoyed the most was the fully developed character study of a complex and flawed human being who really is trying to get things right in his life. If you’re in the mood for something light and easy reading, you might want to skip this one.

As always in well-written literature, I appreciate the meaningful themes presented. In this read, you will find substantial themes that include family relationships, choices, love, regret, and courage to make changes. Daniel is certainly a flawed character; however, I appreciate his determination to do the hard work in his life of becoming sober to work toward regaining that which is most important to him.

I read this book as part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and this is how she applied one concept in the book to her personal life.

My rating: 4 stars (based on my analysis after the half way point)
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This Must be the Place

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie OFarrell

MAGGIE O’FARRELL is the author of four previous novels, including the acclaimed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which was a B&N Recommends Pick, and After You’d Gone. Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, O’Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland. She has two children.

 

 

 



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Extras: Links I Love

Are you interested in Christian Fiction? Check out The Caffeinated Bibliophile: If You Loved This, Read This book recommendations.

Are you an educator or work in an environment that promotes children’s literacy? Check out The Loud Library: Best Faculty Meeting Ever post. She is a literacy leader and I know you’ll be inspired!

For all things children’s books, check out Miss MaGee’s Reads: A Literacy Blog. She’s a third grade teacher who provides reviews for all the newest and greatest in children’s literature.



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading Left Neglected (an inspiring story of a woman living with a traumatic brain injury) by Lisa Genova (author of Still Alice). 

Left Neglected

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?



Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

What are you reading this week?

Last Christmas in Paris

January 5, 2018

War changes everything….

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of WW 1
by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Last Christmas in Paris 2

Genre/categories: historical fiction (WW 1), epistolary, war, romantic

*Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit January 

Summary:

At the beginning of WW 1 as Evie watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas, leave for the front, she (and nearly everyone) naively believes the war will be over by Christmas. To keep their spirits up, the three make plans for celebrating Christmas in Paris. The Great War, as we know from history, turned out much differently. While Thomas and Will struggle with the horrific realities of war, Evie does her part by writing to each of them. Through letters, Evie and Thomas grow fond of each other and find it easy to share their deepest hopes and fears through letters. Evie is a high-spirited, determined, and independent young woman who wants to more fully participate in the war effort. Through her interests in writing, she writes columns for a newspaper on the topic of war from a woman’s point of view. These columns become more controversial as she finds it difficult to write anything but the truth. Eventually, she travels to France to be closer to the front as she wants to contribute to the war effort in a more significant way. Will Evie and Thomas and their love survive the war? Will they ever make it to Paris to celebrate Christmas?
Amazon Rating (January):  4.6 Stars

My Thoughts:

The title is a bit misleading as the story doesn’t take place at Christmas….Christmas in Paris is mostly a symbol for hope and happier times. In addition, I think it symbolizes the tremendous loss of innocence and lost years.

Despite the heavy subject matter of WW 1, The Last Christmas in Paris is a mostly light, easy,  endearing, and romantic read. I loved it and there is a high likelihood it will end up on my favorites of 2018 list at year’s end. It reminded me a great deal of my other favorites Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. If you’ve read either one and loved it, then The Last Christmas in Paris must be added to your TBR immediately!

Themes play an important part in my enjoyment of literature. In Last Christmas in Paris there were several themes to ponder including themes of hope, tragedy, humor, friendship, and love. First, we must recognize and honor the service of the heroic young men who served in WW 1.  Through the bravery, endurance, loyalty, and determination of Lieutenant Thomas Harding, readers can imagine the sacrifice and horrors of war.  My mom said that this story reminded her of what her dad (my grandfather) told her about WW1 (he received a Purple Heart). Next, we can be inspired by independent, determined, and free-spirited Evie, an aspiring writer, and her chagrin at having been left behind. Evie represents the role of many women in WW1.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me:
I am a free human being with an independent will.” 
“One must always have an adventure in life, or the promise of it, at least.”       ~Evie

In addition to some great insights into WW1, the story includes a bit of romance as the letter writing process unfolds. Through reading their letters, I can imagine thousands of similar relationships that bloomed over the years of the Great War.

“I will reserve my shoulder for the curve of your cheek anytime. I hope I am lucky enough to feel it again.”
“Letters make one uncommonly honest, don’t you think? I’ve told you things in words that I would have been far too shy or distracted to tell you in person.”

I was also struck by the angst, tediousness, and patience of communicating solely by snail mail! From our modern perspective of instant communication, it’s amazing to be transported back to the realities of life in the early 1900s when beautiful letter writing on elegant stationery defined the times.

I loved the gentleness of this book, and I felt as close to the characters as if I had stumbled upon the letters of my great grandparents in their attic. Trust me, you need this book in your life!

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction, epistolary format, and are looking for an easy, enjoyable, engaging, charming, clean, and uplifting read. Also recommended for book clubs for its interesting themes. In fact, as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day approaches, this would make a thoughtful gift for your wife, mom or grandmother. You’re welcome.

My Rating: 5 romantic Paris Stars twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

last christmas in paris

Buy Here

Meet the Authors, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Hazel GaynorHazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A MEMORY OF VIOLETS and THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

In 2017, Hazel will release two historical novels: THE COTTINGLEY SECRET (August, William Morrow/HarperCollins) and LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS (October, William Morrow/HarperCollins).

Hazel was selected by the US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and was a WHSmith Fresh Talent selection in spring 2015. Her work has been translated into several languages and she is represented by Michelle Brower of Aevitas Creative Management, New York.

For more information, visit http://www.hazelgaynor.com

Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the international bestselling author of historical fiction, including Becoming Josephine, Rodin’s Lover, and Last Christmas in Paris, which have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Elle, France Magazine, and more, as well as received national starred reviews. Rodin’s Lover was a Goodreads Top Pick in 2015. To date, Heather’s novels have sold in multiple countries worldwide. She is also a professional freelance editor, foodie, and travel fiend. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty rabbit.

Heather is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Romance Writers of America.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Looking Ahead:

Next week I’ll review This Must be the Place
by Maggie O’Farrell

This Must be the Place

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?



Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

What are your favorite WW1 or WW2 historical fiction reads?

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors in 2017

January 2, 2018

Do you have a few favorite authors?

I’m linking up today with The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors in 2017.

Top Ten Tuesday

Throughout 2017, I discovered a handful of authors who are new to me and whose work I would read automatically without checking out the reviews first. While a couple of these authors are well published (but new on my radar), the majority are new authors as well as being new to me. I’m adding these authors to recently discovered new authors such as Fredrik Backman whose work I trust and admire.

I would happily accept an ARC from any of these authors and promote their work. (*shameless hint)

In alphabetical order:

Jane Harper

The DryEven though detective/mystery is not my usual genre, I thoroughly enjoyed The Dry. I’m eager to read the sequel that releases in February, and I anticipate that it will be equally well written and highly engaging.

The Dry Review and Amazon Information

 

 



Nadia Hashimi

Pearl That Broke its ShellEven though I read this at the beginning of 2017, The Pearl That Broke its Shell is a story that I have continued to think about all year. The author gives the reader thoughtful insight into Afghan culture for women and challenges us to think about women’s rights. I always want to support women writing about strong, independent, and courageous women, and I hope she continues to write about her culture.

The Pearl That Broke its Shell Review and Amazon Information

 



Gail Honeyman

Eleanor OliphantIn her amazing debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, this author is definitely on my watch list! I’m certainly curious about her next work and I’m hoping for a sequel!

Eleanor Oliphant Review and Amazon Information 

 

 



Elise Hooper

The Other Alcott 2

Author of The Other Alcott, her extensive research and well written debut work depicting the lives of the Alcott sisters earned this new author a lot of credibility with me. I hope she’s working on something new for readers!

The Other Alcott Review and Amazon Information

 



Dane Hucklebridge

castle of water 2

 

Author of Castle of Water, I enjoy his beautiful, engaging, and creative writing and eagerly await his next release!

Castle of Water Review and Amazon Information

 

 



Paulette Jiles

News of the World

My husband and I both enjoyed this beautifully written western historical fiction novel. Even though she has other published works, this is the first I’ve read. I’d love to choose one of her other works to read this year. If you’ve read this author, do you have a recommendation for me?

News of the World Review and Amazon Information

 



Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again is a beautiful story told in free verse and an “authentic voice.” This author has my heart and I would enthusiastically check out her new releases. (By the way, this story is perfect for older elementary readers but thoroughly appreciated by adults).

Inside Out and Back Again review in this post as well as Amazon Information

 



Jennifer Latham

dreamland burningDreamland Burning is one of my most memorable reads and most recommended historical fiction selections of the year. This author’s engaging and thoughtful writing would definitely cause me to check out her next work.

Dreamland Burning Review and Amazon Information

 

 



Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

Between Shades of Gray

Author of a couple of my favorite hisfic selections, Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray, I admire her careful research and beautiful writing.

Salt to the Sea Review and Amazon Information

Between Shades of Gray Amazon Information

 

 

 



 

 

Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give

I appreciated reading about Starr and her experiences in The Hate U Give from an “authentic voice.” I’ll look forward to more from this author because I feel it’s so important to listen well.

The Hate U Give Review and Amazon Information

 



 

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Looking Ahead:

I read a wonderful book between Christmas and New Years
and I can’t wait to review it on Friday!

last christmas in paris

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?



Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

Did you discover any new authors in 2017?

Who are your favorite authors?

What are you reading this week?

 

 

2017’s Most Memorable, Inspiring, & Unforgettable Characters

December 28, 2017

Who are the memorable, inspiring, and unforgettable characters that you still think about days, weeks, months, or years later?

Most Memorable Characters 2017

For me, one joy of reading is experiencing life through someone else’s perspective and at the same time building compassion and understanding. Similar to choosing favorite books, choosing favorite characters from the year’s reading is a daunting task! My initial list was very long, and I’ve condensed it to the most memorable of the memorable characters from my 2017 reading (in no particular order).

Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor OliphantI still think of brave, traumatized, quirky, and lonely Eleanor (and wait patiently for a sequel).

Her bravery is a beacon of hope for others. In the midst of deep personal pain, she carves out a life for herself and dares to hope for more. When confronted with the scariest prospects of all…friendship and love… she faces the fear with her same trademark courage.

In time, I think she really will be fine.

Brief Review and Amazon Information Found in This Post.



August Pullman

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

WonderAlso exemplifying the character trait of bravery is Auggie Pullman. Unlike Eleanor’s hidden internal pain, Auggie battles the discomfort of public appearances because of his facial abnormality.

Auggie’s bravery enables all children (and adults) who look different from others to face their physical challenges and live full, meaningful, and productive lives. Furthermore, his bravery teaches all of us to be accepting and KIND.

Full Review and Amazon Information Here.



Chief Inspector Armand Gamache

Glass Houses by Louise Penny
(#13 in the popular Three Pines Inspector Gamache series)

Glass HousesWhen I think of Inspector Gamache in this character driven series, I think of integrity and compassion. I’m continually impressed that in his difficult career, assignments, and pressures, he treats others with respect.

Interestingly, in a Louise Penny interview, she indicates that when she created the character of Gamache, she created a man whom she could have married. The rationale for this being she would spend years with him as a main character in the series and she wanted to create someone she would like and not tire of.  This is likely part of the cause of the series’ success is the memorable, kind, honest, thoughtful, trustworthy character of Armand Gamache.

Throughout the series, readers appreciate the exemplary character traits of a tough-minded policeman and gentleman.

Full Review and Amazon Information Here.



Emma

The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Baker's SecretThe bravery, courage, and resiliency of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the most difficult, challenging circumstances always inspires readers like myself. A likable 22-year-old heroine, Emma stealthily and quietly fights back against the Germans who’ve invaded her small Normandy village during WW 11, and she courageously provides the villagers with a bit of sustenance and a taste of hope.

Amazon Information Here.

 



Count Alexander Rostov

Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in MoscowA true gentleman, the Count is sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life in a Moscow hotel in Russia for a crime he allegedly committed against the government. Through the elegant and exquisite telling of this story, we see an example of living with grace, purpose, meaning, and a bit of wit when life hands you lemons. When life doesn’t go according to plan, how then will you live?

Amazon Information Here.

 



Rahima and Shekiba

The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Pearl That Broke its ShellTwo Afghan women (a century apart) fight for similar women’s rights as they battle powerlessness and customs that suppress women, and fight for some freedom to control their own fates. Their stories remind me of the importance of supporting women (such as Malala in her fight for education) around the world as they fight for basic human rights.

Brief Review Found in This Post and Amazon Information Here.

 



Noa and Astrid

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

Orphan's TaleNoa and Astrid are two extraordinary women in a traveling circus whose friendship drives this harrowing tale of sacrifice and survival during WW 11.

I’ll always remember them and their courage that symbolizes women throughout history who have made similar decisions and risked their lives for others.

Brief Review Found in This Post and Amazon Information Here.



(teenage memorable, inspirational, and unforgettable characters)

Lina and Joana

Between Shades of Gray (Lina) and Salt to the Sea (Joana) (by Ruta Sepetys

In these WW 11 stories that will break your heart, two teenagers face a fight for survival and are placed in positions that are difficult and/or impossible for adults to handle. Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea are both YA (high school and older) reads that are compelling for adults.

I admire the resiliency, strength, bravery, courage, and determination of these characters as they fight for survival. Stories like these always cause me to ponder what I would do in similar circumstances and to admire the human spirit.

Between Shades of Gray Amazon Information Here.

Salt to the Sea Brief Review in This Post and Amazon Information Here.



Eve

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Alice NetworkIn this page turner, Eve Gardiner joins the fight against the Germans in WW 1 when she unexpectedly is recruited to become a spy and work in the Alice Network.

Her sheer courage is breathtaking and her sacrifice is memorable.

I also enjoyed learning about the female spy system.

Full Review and Amazon Information Here.

 

 



(12-year-old memorable characters)

Rill Foss, Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud

Before We Were Yours (Rill) by Lisa Wingate and Refugee (Josef, Isabel, Mahmoud) by Alan Gratz

Several children became memorable and unforgettable characters for me this year. They each are inspirational in their fights for survival and safety and how often they are required to make adult decisions and take on adult responsibilities. Before We Were Yours is adult fiction and Refugee is Middle Grade fiction  (compelling as an adult read).

Before We Were Yours Full Review and Amazon Information Here.

Refugee Full Review and Amazon Information Here.



Honorable Mention:

There were so many memorable characters throughout 2017 that I can’t resist mentioning others (I’ve included links to my reviews and Amazon information):

Ginny in Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Starr in The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Ladies of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Li-yan in The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd in News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Nurse Ruth in Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Looking Ahead:

Because of Christmas activities and a touch of the flu, I have not yet read the book I committed to last week: Woman in Cabin 10 (which is a MUST read for me this week to meet the deadline for my IRL book club). In addition, I really, really want to review a special book that I did read while I was recovering from the flu (I needed an easy reading book), and I can’t wait to tell you about it next week! What are you reading this week?



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Let’s Discuss!

Who were your memorable, unforgettable, and inspirational characters of 2017?