My Dear Hamilton

April 27, 2018

open book graphic

My Dear Hamilton
by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

my dear hamilton 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, U.S. History, Revolutionary War, Founders, Biographical

***Linking up today with Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over from there, welcome! Enjoy your stay and look around!

Summary:

A general’s daughter, Elizabeth Schuyler meets and marries Alexander Hamilton amid the union’s fight for independence and the uncertainties of war. Eliza and Alexander find themselves establishing their life together at the same time as they are at the center of our nation’s founding. Authors Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to imagine Eliza’s story as a patriot, loving wife, political partner, loyal friend, supportive sister, and devoted mother of eight. Amazon Rating (April Early Reviews): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Meet Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton:

If you’ve seen Hamilton the Musical or read Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton or if you’re a fan of historical fiction and the American Revolution, trust me, My Dear Hamilton needs to be your next read! Currently, it occupies first place in the “best book I’ve read in 2018” category. 5+ stars

As modern women, it’s amazing to immerse ourselves into the stories and lives of strong and independent women living at a time when a woman’s well-being, success, and status were subject to a husband’s or father’s control, permission, and blessing. As Eliza Hamilton looked to her mentor, Martha Washington, it’s inspiring to hear about her influence and achievements despite the constraints.

Supportive and Faithful

Feisty and adventuresome by nature, Eliza is expected to be a quiet and supportive wife. Although she struggles with the quiet part (sometimes using it to her advantage), she is certainly supportive and loyal and holds dearly to her father’s military motto of “semper fidelis” meaning ‘always faithful’ in Latin. Throughout her life, this motto is one of her most highly held values.

“Silence is often the only weapon available to ladies. And I wield mine expertly.”
~Eliza Hamilton

Intelligent and Independent

As an intelligent woman and independent thinker, Eliza is revealed as a participant with Hamilton in personal debate on difficult issues, as his sounding board, and as a collaborator and writing partner. She holds definite views on slavery and earnestly strives to reconcile her personal ideals with the realities of the world in which she lives.

Determined Restorer

Alexander is a complicated and complex man, and Eliza and Alexander have a complicated relationship. Forgiveness is a major and poignant theme in the story as Eliza struggles to comprehend and forgive her husband’s betrayals. Authors Dray and Kamoie provide vivid details of Hamilton’s traumatic childhood experiences and imagine well constructed, dramatic, and tender dialogue between Eliza and Alexander that allows readers to truly understand the motivations that might drive some of his actions and also to fully appreciate and comprehend the source and sincerity of Eliza’s forgiveness.

“But the measure of a man, of a life, of a union of man and wife or even country is not in the falling. It’s in the rising back up again to repair what’s broken, to put right what’s wrong. Your father and I did that. We always did that. He never stopped trying until the day he died. And neither will I.”
Eliza Hamilton

Partners

Eliza is Hamilton’s most valued and treasured partner as she’s able to help him strategize, think, and write. She is strong enough to calm him, challenge him, and help him reason out the best actions and plans. She becomes his only personal confidant whom he learns to trust.

Compassionate

We also see that Eliza is a compassionate person. Most compelling is the compassion she shows to her husband after agonizing about his betrayal, eventually deciding that all the good outweighs the bad and that he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Her compassion extends to those in need, and even though she is the mother of several children, she takes in a young child whose parents have died and raises this child as her own. In addition, she invests a great deal of time establishing and supporting orphanages.

As I stared at this man who’d once been an abandoned child, I became even more certain of my decision to take Fanny into our household. “All children need love, and we are blessed to have more than enough to spare.”

My husband had a gift for government, but I had a gift for charity. A talent for it, if there be such a thing. I’d already helped to found a society to care for widows, an orphanage to shelter children, and a school to provide guidance and learning….. “Then what is this school? What is your orphanage? These things seek to expand the promise of America. To give opportunity to all as free citizens.”
~Eliza Hamilton

Hostess

Eliza is a gifted hostess with a warm sense of hospitality. Not only does she host political meetings for her husband, but everyone who comes to her door is welcomed, cared for, treated to baked goods, and entertained regardless of their points of view.

Advocate

Eliza is committed to preserving Hamilton’s legacy and spends decades creating a record of her husband’s contributions to the Founding. It seems fitting that a woman who is devoted to telling her husband’s story and recording his achievements should also have her story told because it’s truly their story and legacy. Dray and Kamoie are committed to sharing Eliza’s story of heartache, hardship, endurance, determination, and devotion so that we can appreciate and recognize her vital participation with Hamilton to establish the ideals and structures upon which our country was founded.

Recommended

This is one time I wish I could award more than 5 stars to a story. Not only has Eliza earned a spot in my reading as April’s most memorable character, she is likely one of the year’s most memorable characters.

Highly recommended for fans of America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, and Hamilton the Musical. Also, this is a valuable read for all fans of well-researched and well written historical fiction about ordinary women doing extraordinary things in the most difficult circumstances. Add this title to your favorite reads about the Founding, and to your collection of stories featuring strong, independent women. It makes history come alive! It’s a perfect companion read with Chernow’s.

I’d love to hear in comments or link up a post about your favorite and most memorable characters from your April reading.

My Rating: 5+ stars

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my dear hamilton

Buy Here

Meet the Authors,
Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. She lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

MORE ways to connect with Stephanie:
* Website: StephanieDray.com
* Facebook: facebook.com/stephaniedrayauthor

 

Laura Kamoie

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction. She is the author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER and MY DEAR HAMILTON, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowing her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters. http://www.LauraKamoie.com




Link Up

Please join the Link Up by submitting a blog post about the most compelling character from your April reading or leave a comment.

 



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

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting a few suggestions for Mother’s Day gifts.



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!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading and who you thought was the most memorable character from your April reading! You are welcome to link up or leave a comment.

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Author Spotlight

April 21, 2018

authors spotlight

Do you like to attend author events? Or is an author event something you’ve always wanted to do?

This weekend I was thrilled to attend a Historical Fiction Author Brunch sponsored by a local library where (l to r) Michelle Gable (A Paris Apartment & The Summer I Met Jack), Susan Meissner (As Bright As Heaven), and Laura Kamoie (America’s First Daughter & My Dear Hamilton) were panelists.

author panel

It was a delightful morning surrounded by bookish peeps, delightful bookish conversation, and delicious food. I eagerly looked forward to this event because I had read two of the three authors’ works.

 

 

Highlights

Research

Interesting discussion among the panelists included how much all three enjoy the research part of writing historical fiction (sometimes more than the writing!), and they also mentioned the perils and the pleasures. Perils included going down rabbit trails and accumulating too much information or not enough. For example, as they approach reading a book as part of their research, they realize it’s common to take away only one small fact or detail from the entire book that they’ve read. All three of them emphasized that the research process is extremely pleasurable for them. I’ve always appreciated the quantity of research that goes into writing histfic. Now I won’t feel sorry for them!

Authors & Their Work

 It’s wonderful to hear authors speak of their work, and here are a few highlights. In addition, I’ll indicate which of their works I’ve read along with my review or Amazon summary and star rating.

Author: Laura Kamoie

A unique fact about Laura Kamoie’s most recent books is that she wrote them in partnership with Stephanie Dray. Co-authorship is a strategy their editor advised against; however, it has worked well for them. In fact, their editor reports that he can’t tell which one has written which section. Laura is a historian (previously taught history at the Naval Academy) and spoke extensively about the amount of research she conducts for her writing. She indicates that she and Stephanie had so much information for My Dear Hamilton that their editor made them cut thousands of words (and it’s still 652 pages!). Laura spoke earnestly about her passion for writing stories about women in history whose contributions have been overlooked. She is not surprised that when she researches men that there are thousands of primary source documents available; whereas for women there might be only 200 available. I appreciate hearing stories about independent and strong women and will continue to be interested in her work.

American’s First Daughter (Full Review Here)    

America's First Daughter

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

My Dear Hamilton (I’m in the process of reading this…review coming soon)

my dear hamilton

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars



Author: Susan Meissner

As Bright As Heaven is the only Meissner book I have read. I’d like to read her back list some day. Whereas Laura Kamoie focuses on writing biographical historical fiction, Susan likes to create fictional characters and families and keep the historical focus on the location, time period, and events. She greatly enjoys creating imaginary people and families. One interesting fact about As Bright As Heaven is that she structured it in a similar way as The Poisonwood Bible (one of her favorite books) in that the story is told from a mother’s and her girls’ perspectives. She reports that she read Poisonwood Bible several times in preparation for writing a book like As Bright as Heaven (the only way they are similar is in the structure).

As Bright As Heaven (Full Review Here)

As Bright as Heaven

My Rating: 4 Stars   twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star
(I always debate between 4 & 5 stars….this could easily be a 5 star read for me because I keep thinking about this story and recommending it!)



Author: Michelle Gable

I haven’t read any of Michelle’s work. A Paris Apartment received mixed reviews and I’m still on the fence about it. I’ll probably read it now that I’ve met the author. Look at the reviews to see what you think! One interesting fact that Michelle shared with us is that she wrote it (every word!) entirely with pencil using a pad of paper sitting behind the screen at her children’s softball games. Multitasking at its finest! She wrote The Summer I Met Jack the same way and its release date is 5/29/2018.

A Paris Apartment (not yet read or reviewed)

a paris apartment

Amazon Rating: 4.0 Stars

The Summer I Met Jack (release date: 5/29/2018)

the summer I met jack



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

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Come back Friday when I’ll be highlighting my favorite, most compelling character from my April reading and offering a Link Up opportunity.



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!

I’d love to hear about authors you’ve met or would like to meet!

I was excited to hear that Fredrik Backman is doing an author event at the Barnes & Noble (in Huntington Beach for SoCal peeps), but was discouraged that attendees have to get there by 9:00 a.m. to get a wrist band which will give them a place in line for the evening event. No thanks! I’d much rather buy a ticket on line than to spend all day trying to get one. But if you’re in SoCal and want to see him, the information is on the Huntington Beach Barnes and Noble website. He’s also at different locations in the U.S. as part of a book tour. I imagine they’ll be quite popular events!

Rash: A Memoir

April 20, 2018

Rash: A Memoir
by Lisa Kusel

Rash 2

Genre/categories: memoir, Indonesia, travel, expat

Summary:

In the midst of living a comfortable life in California, Lisa Kusel encourages her husband to consider a teaching position at an international school in Bali. In six weeks, the family makes a “rash” and radical move to “paradise.” Looking for happiness and inspiration for writing, all Lisa finds in Bali are challenges that threaten her peace of mind, her marriage, her husband’s professional happiness, and her daughter’s safety. Throughout her candid, engaging, and well-told memoir, Lisa explores the difficulties of relocation and assimilation into a different culture and the pursuit of happiness. Adding to the pressure, Lisa’s husband’s position as a teacher in a start up international school is not all that had been promised. Will Lisa find happiness? Amazon (early reviews) 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

“Eat, Love, Pray” gone wrong…

The grass is always greener…

No matter where you go, there you are…

Privilege….

Memoirs always intrigue me! Thank you to Lisa Kusel for sending me her memoir in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

How many times have we each thought how much happier we’d be if only…. If only I had a different house….. If only I could lose 10 pounds….. If only I could take a vacation this year…… If only I could win the lottery…..  If only…..

This was Lisa’s frame of mind as she contemplated a move to Bali:

“I would reinvest myself. I would find contentment. I would be present. Victor and I would fall in love all over again. Bali would make that happen. Bali. How tropical and flowery that sounded. Yes, if we moved to Bali, all would be light and golden and I’d……..

I think if I moved to Bali, I’d learn how to stop searching for something new all the time and be grateful for what I have.”

Although I have enough life experience to predict where this memoir would likely lead, I was pleasantly surprised by the conversational, casual, chatty, and witty writing style. Lisa has an incredible ability to tell an engaging story filled with humorous details and vivid descriptions. Reading it felt like meeting her for coffee and hearing the story in person. On a few occasions, I laughed out loud. My only difficulty with the narrative was her use of profanity. I realize that this is a personal preference and that other readers may be fine with it; however, I prefer to experience a more limited use of profanity in my reading.

Readers who have expat experiences or have visited Bali (not the resorts) may find this memoir especially interesting as Lisa provides a great deal of cultural details and observations in her honest and reflective narrative.

While Lisa’s husband and five-year-old daughter take cultural adjustments in stride and try to make the best of a difficult and new situation, Lisa dwells in unhappiness. She fears that they might have made a “rash” decision to relocate to Bali but also worries that her daughter might develop a “rash” indicating dengue fever. Lisa’s excessive and persistent unhappiness and her inability to assimilate lead to tension in her marriage and a less than positive reputation among the locals and the school staff. Readers can appreciate her predicament based on her idea that moving to Bali would make her a happier person. Many of us realize that circumstances cannot provide real happiness because it’s an inner state of being. Can one choose to be happy in a difficult cultural environment and in a less than ideal living situation?

I appreciate the author’s honest reflections and her struggle toward rediscovering happiness:

“When had I stopped being just happy? …..  I’d been moody. Too quick to anger and accusation. I was often a dark presence, hovering over Victor’s life like a bitch balloon; a Pigpen cloud of ugliness following me around. Sometimes, I remembered, no one, not even me, wanted to be with me……I no longer knew how to appreciate all that was good and beautiful in my life. I was stuck. Could that be why I was so desperate to move to Bali?”

Have you, too, chased happiness? I think the theme of happiness is one to which most us can relate. In my younger years, as a mom with littles, struggling along trying to make ends meet on my husband’s meager salary, I remember thinking one Sunday that if only we had money to go to a fast food place for tacos after church (as many of my friends did) that I’d be happy. It seemed like that would be the secret to my happiness and a well-lived life. I wasn’t asking to win the lottery–just a few cheap tacos. I was sure that the happiness quotient of my life would greatly increase when we could drive through and get tacos after church instead of going home to make lunch. I clearly remember feeling cheated and miserably sorry for myself.

In addition to a theme of happiness, there is also the theme of cultural differences and privilege. As the author describes the Bali culture in great detail, readers can imagine themselves living in that environment. Lisa has a difficult time accepting the lack of air conditioning and flushing toilets, windowless huts, inadequate medical care, spotty electricity and internet, etc that she is privileged to have access to in the U.S. I follow the blog of a missionary in Haiti and she often writes about her happiness and contentment factor and cultural assimilation as she reflects on safety concerns and what her family may be missing by not living in the U.S. Her family proactively works on creating experiences within the Haiti culture that will meet the needs of their growing family. I admire expats who experience a few rough years of adjustment in the beginning and can create a lifestyle of contentment and happiness despite very difficult circumstances. Lisa reminds us of the challenge.

“I must stop looking to others for happiness. It’s right here, always available for the taking, and I have to stop blaming Victor and the rest of the planet’s inhabitants for any and all that goes wrong. There was only this one moment. This now. And I needed to embrace it.”

In the memoir, Lisa comes to an intellectual grasp of happiness; however, she falls short of showing the reader what that looks like in her life when she returns to the U.S. I wonder today if she is truly happy. Is she able to put into practice the insights she gained? Can happiness be learned through disciplined practice or will it always elude us?

Rash: A Memoir is recommended for readers who appreciate candid, reflective writing exploring themes of happiness and cultural differences, for expats (especially those who have lived or traveled in Bali), and for readers who love engaging memoirs.  ***Language***

My Rating: 4 Stars

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rash

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Lisa Kusel

lisa kuselLisa was born in New Jersey two miles from where Thomas Alva Edison first recorded sound. She went to college and studied biology and theater arts. She went to graduate school and studied environmental anthropology. After years of writing copy for non-profits, selling surplus cosmetics in Russia, and living off rich married men, she accepted an editorial position at that little-known Open Office competitor, Microsoft. There she created MATTER, the company’s first online magazine read by the 34 people who were patient enough to wait the twelve minutes it took the GIFs to download through their 56K modems.

She got married. Left Microsoft. Went to Africa. Moved back to California. She wrote two books: “Other Fish in the Sea” and “Hat Trick.” Wrote another one after that about WWII–not yet published. Then she moved to Bali to save her wounded marriage, and wrote a memoir about her time there. It’s called “Rash,” and it’s a funny poignant tale about a woman who mistakenly believes that running away to paradise is the only way to find true happiness.

She presently lives in Vermont, where she is writing her first young adult novel. Follow her writing at http://www.lisakusel.com. Feel free to drop her a line at lisakusel<@>gmail.com because she loves to hear other people’s stories.



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

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Extra:
The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

room on rue Amelie

“Cruelty is the weapon of the ignorant.”

If you’re looking for an easy reading WW11 histfic selection, you might enjoy “The Room on Rue Amelie, a story of people who see injustice and have the courage to stand up and fight against it. For me, it was mediocre compared with other reads in the same genre. Although the dialogue could have been better written and the events better developed, the topic of rescuing downed English pilots over war town France was interesting and seemed to be well researched. I felt that the insta love story lines (2 of them!) were definite weak points of the story (insta love is more common in the YA genre and is usually stereotypical). Even though I would rate the writing 2.5 and skimmed several sections, I’ve rounded this to 3 stars for a compelling topic. Overall, it’s an enjoyable read.

My Rating: 3 stars

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Buy Here



Links I Love:

Modern Mrs Darcy: 15 Literary Novels That Will Have You Compulsively Turning The Pages
(How many have you read? Even though this genre is made up, it’s my favorite: great unputdownable literature!  I’ve read 6 on the list [some I liked better than others: e.g Homegoing, The Mothers, and Little Fires were my favorites; I DNF Americanah]. I would add News of the World to this list!)

The Novel Endeavor: A Gift Giving Round-Up For Book Lovers



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting my favorite, most compelling character from my April reading and offering a Link Up opportunity.



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!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

What are your reflections on finding happiness? Do you think it’s found within or can it be chased?

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Highly Rated WW1 and WW11 Reads

April 17, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Highly Rated WW1 and WW11 Reads

*Linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday: Free Choice (check out her post for the top 10 books her mom loves!) and Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over from either of those posts, Welcome! Please look around and enjoy your stay.

I read a lot of histfic and one of my favorite sub genres is WW1 and WW11 histfic. Listed below are 10 of my highest rated and favorite histfic reads (1 is nonfiction) that have also received high star ratings on Goodreads. In addition, I included some honorable mention because there are more than 10 reads that are memorable to me for various reasons. Not all titles are reviewed because I read them before writing publishing this blog (in which case I’ve provided the Amazon link).

Listed in order of their Goodreads star rating.

 

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

WW11

 Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 4

Goodreads: 4.56



From Sand and AshFrom Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

WW11

Full Review Here

My Rating: 5 (a recent favorite!)

Goodreads: 4.41



we were the lucky onesWe Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

WW11

 Full Review Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.41



UnbrokenUnbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

WW11 (nonfiction)

Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.39



Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

WW11 (YA)

 Brief Review Here (scroll down page)

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.36



Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

 WW11 (YA)

 Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.36



Lilac GirlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

WW11

Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.3



last christmas in parisLast Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor

WW1

Full Review Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.18



The Baker's SecretThe Baker’s Secret by Stephen P Kiernan

WW11

Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 4

Goodreads: 4.04



Orphan's TaleThe Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

WW11

Brief Review Here (scroll down page)

My Rating: 4

Goodreads: 4.01



Honorable Mention
(other favorites that might have been in my top 10 on a different day):

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner (WW1 time period)

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (post WW11 with flashbacks/memories of war)

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (WW11 time period)



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

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



A Link I Love:

10 Ways To Woo a Reluctant Reader



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!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

What are your favorite WW11 hisfic or nonfiction reads?

Have you read any of these titles? Which are your favorites?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sand and Ash

April 13, 2018

From Sand and Ash
by Amy Harmon

From Sand and Ash 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, Romance, Jewish, WW11, Spiritual

*Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit/April and Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over, Welcome! 

Summary:

From Sand and Ash is engaging historical fiction with generous servings of romance, faith, determination, hope, loyalty, inter-faith relationship struggles, and a violin….A thoughtful story of love, survival, life, death, faith, and sacrifice.

In 1943, Italy’s Jewish population is in imminent danger from the forces of hatred and prejudice. Raised like brother and sister, Eva and Angelo enjoy childhood best friend closeness which later blooms into a romance. Although they are devoted to each other, Eva, an accomplished violinist, is Jewish and Angelo chooses to follow a calling to become a Catholic priest. As the Gestapo arrests Jewish residents of Florence, Angelo convinces Eva to follow him to Rome to hide in a convent under his watchful eye while he serves nearby at the Vatican. Eva discovers that the Catholic Church is hiding hundreds of Jews and facilitating their escape when possible. Angelo has made a promise to Eva’s family and feels a duty to keep her safe, which is complicated by romantic feelings. This page turning story follows Eva and Angelo as they face trials, take risks, and make agonizing choices.  Amazon Rating (April): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Faith: Unputdownable, From Sand and Ash is a unique and beautifully written story. For me, the most engaging part of the story is the focus on the inter-faith aspect of their relationship. As they navigate their romantic feelings, they also extensively debate the nature of God, the methods and habits of prayer, and the personal importance of his/her individual faith. I found the honest and relevant spiritual content in the book refreshing and realistic. I appreciate knowing about the Catholic Church’s role in saving Jews in Italy and exploring Eva’s and Angelo’s personal crises of faith. Their dialogue and subsequent understanding and acceptance of the other’s faith was thoughtfully written, and this aspect of the story pushed it beyond 4 stars for me.

Romance: Some reviewers have cited a frustration with an over abundance of romance for a histfic selection; however, there is a great deal more to the story than the romance. Typical of histfic, readers find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under incredibly difficult circumstances. Romance is a part of Eva’s and Angelo’s story and deepens the inner conflict and becomes one of many challenges in the midst of overwhelming and impossible circumstances. I view the romance as an integral part of their life experience, and I do not see it distracting or detracting from the story. But be cautioned: there is romance!

Resistance: Both Eva and Angelo chose to resist in small and large ways. Their fear took a back seat to their need to DO something. A recurring and powerful theme in the story is that they could not NOT act.

Resistance’s Companions are Fear and Hope:

“Fear is strange. It settles on chests and seeps through skin, through layers of tissue, muscle, and bone and collects in a soul-sized black home, sucking the joy out of life, the pleasures, the beauty. But not the hope. Somehow hope is the only thing resilient to the fear, and it is that hope that makes the next breath possible, the next step, the next tiny act of rebellion, even if that rebellion is simply staying alive.”

Heartbreaking: Despite warnings, the trusting Italian Jewish people couldn’t believe that the situation could or would escalate. Their desire to believe in good and reject the concept of evil was heartbreaking and sobering. It causes me to wonder at what point my family would take a threat seriously and take action to escape.

The Writing: Throughout the story there is an abundance of beautiful prose and creative writing, with a great deal of attention paid to character development and the advancement of plot. The story reads easily and is told fluidly and it found me busy turning pages quickly! *Reading tip: my husband reports that the audio is excellent!

Themes and Rating: Of course, if you follow my reviews you know that themes are incredibly important for me in determining a final star rating. I’ve already mentioned several important themes such as survival, hatred, loyalty, hope, resistance, fear, determination, resiliency, and faith. In addition, any story and/or characters that I’m still thinking about days and weeks later will likely earn 5 stars from me.

Recommended: Highly recommended for readers of histfic who love a captivating and inspirational story filled with faith discussions and unforgettable characters that causes readers to become personally engaged. You will deeply care about Eva and Angelo.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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From Sand and Ash

Buy Here

Meet the Author,
Amy Harmon

Amy HarmonAmy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Her books have been published in eighteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Utah.
Amy Harmon has written thirteen novels, including the USA Today Bestsellers, The Smallest Part, Making Faces, and Running Barefoot, and the #1 Amazon bestselling historical, From Sand and Ash. Her novel, A Different Blue, is a New York Times Bestseller. Her USA Today bestselling fantasy, The Bird and the Sword, was a Goodreads Best Book of 2016 finalist. For updates on upcoming book releases, author posts and more, join Amy at http://www.authoramyharmon.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

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Extra:
White Rose, Black Forest
by Eoin Dempsey

white rose black forest

What actions would you take to resist an evil regime?

I always find histic interesting because of the different perspectives that each story provides and for the knowledge I gain. In this story, we experience WW11 from the perspective of a German girl (who is a resistor at one time associated with the White Rose resistance organization). As she spends time at her family’s isolated cabin in the Black Forest struggling through some personal losses, she discovers an injured soldier and proceeds to provide urgent medical attention and to determine his true identify. It takes a while to decide if they can completely trust each other. He needs her help, and the end of the story finds them making a desperate escape attempt. While the last part of the book is tension filled and fast paced, the first half is a slow build up…unfortunately the author breaks up the narrative by including long passages that read like history lessons. The story could have included better written character development and dialogue, but overall this is an interesting, engaging, page turner.  My Rating: 3.5 Stars (Amazon Rating: 4.6 Stars)

Favorite Theme: resistance

Favorite Quote:
“It required supernatural strength not to do the Gestapo’s bidding. That was the genius of their system–it took fortitude of an almost unimaginable scale to do the right thing.”

Recommended for hisfic fans who enjoy fast paced thrillers and quick reads.

Buy Here



A Link I Love:

10 Ways To Woo a Reluctant Reader



Looking Ahead:

I plan to read and review The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel
(and check it off my Spring TBR).

room on rue Amelie

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



Bummed

This meme fits my current mood!

bah humbug

I am a little distraught to realize (am I late to this party?!) that the movie release date for Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is for the U.K. only. Evidently, the U.S. is getting it via Netflix. (date to be determined) This is disappointing news because I have been looking forward to seeing this on the big screen! I wonder if I can buy it from the UK on DVD or stream it from somewhere before it’s available on Netflix??? Another alternative is to fly to London!?!?!

As a fan of the book. how do you feel?



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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!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

What are your favorite WW11 hisfic reads?

Eden

April 6, 2018

Eden
by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

Eden 2

Genre/categories: Fiction, Family Life, Family Saga

*linking up with Words on Wednesday

 

Summary:

Generations of Becca Meister’s family have traditionally spent memorable summers at the family’s estate affectionately known as “Eden” in Long Harbor, Rhode Island (fictionalized setting). This year as the family gathers for the 4th of July holiday, Becca (the family’s 70 year old matriarch) plans to admit to the family that she can no longer afford the upkeep on the estate because her late husband mismanaged their retirement funds. Suddenly, the family is faced with the reality that this might be their last summer at Eden. Because of other personal events happening in Becca’s life, she also concludes that this is the time she must reveal a family secret. In addition to the present day timeline, the story introduces readers to Becca’s childhood and family, we learn the history of Eden (including the hurricane of ’38), and readers come to appreciate what Eden means to the family.

Amazon Rating (April): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Historical fiction: Although this book isn’t categorized as historical fiction, there are historical elements that some readers may find fascinating.  For instance, life in the 1920s (particularly for women), the stock market crash, the hurricane along the east coast in 1938, lifestyle of the east coast elite and their summer resorts, and the experiences of women in one family over eight decades.

Family saga: I love a multigenerational family saga! Readers follow this family for eight decades and experience their joys, sorrows, challenges, achievements, trials, hopes, dreams, relationships, values, and connectedness (or disconnects)…..in other words, this is a normal family much like our own. Readers will find a myriad of opportunities to relate. In particular, I liked how getting to know the grandparents helped explain Becca’s actions and decisions. I found the focus on mother/daughter relationships throughout the story especially interesting.

Child birth and adoption:  The story’s most fascinating and interesting themes for me were the unwed girls and their unplanned pregnancies story lines. Over the course of eighty years, the author includes stories of three unwed girls: one in the early 1900s, one in the mid 1900s, and one in present day. It was fascinating to trace how each of their pregnancies were handled in the time periods. Early in the century, an unwed girl’s unplanned pregnancy was generally hidden (even from the baby’s father), and the girl was whisked away to deliver the baby and place him/her for adoption. Upon returning home to resume her normal life, no mention was made of the baby and the girl was expected to live with the secret for her entire life. To disclose the situation would have caused the family and the girl a great deal of shame. In the middle of the century, an unwed girl experiencing an unplanned pregnancy was strongly encouraged to marry the father quickly even if  the couple hadn’t planned on a marriage. This attempt to “legitimatize” the baby often resulted in making two mistakes as the marriage arrangements were often made out of necessity and coercion and not out of thoughtful commitments and promises. Finally, unwed girls facing unplanned pregnancies at the end of the century experience having many options and not hiding their pregnancies. While some girls opt to place the baby for adoption, others choose to marry and keep the baby, or choose not to marry and raise the child as a single parent with the help of the extended family. There is no shame and the child is welcomed with love and celebrated. This theme touched me as our family has been blessed by adoption. My aunt who was born in the ’20s was a girl that was whisked away until her baby was born and placed for adoption. My husband was placed for adoption as a baby (at a time when adoptions were not as openly discussed as they are now), and although his adoptive parents weren’t forthcoming with him about the adoption during his early childhood, he was able to meet his birth mother and his biological sister as an older adult a few years ago. When my husband was eventually told about his adoption, his parents cautioned him not to tell anyone that he was adopted…that it was their secret. This caused him to believe that there was something wrong with the process that brought him into the family. In more current times, my nephew was adopted through an open adoption process and had the opportunity to meet his birth mother as soon as he became an adult. Open adoption is probably the scariest for the adoptive mom but I think it’s probably healthiest for the first mom and for the child. I know mothers and adopted children from all three perspectives and these personal connections greatly enrich the story for me.

The title: The first concept that comes to my mind with the title Eden is a paradise….and Eden in this story is a type of paradise, but it’s also a symbol for traditions (locations or experiences) that hold families together for generations. Perhaps we all have that place in mind that evokes warm childhood memories of families gathered, feelings of being loved, and of belonging. For me, it’s visiting the family farms of my childhood in South Dakota.

Themes: If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you know that I love stories with substantial themes. A few themes that I feel would merit some discussion are themes of mother/daughter relationships and expectations, unwed girls facing pregnancies, adoption, privilege, women’s voice and power (or lack of), and family traditions.

The cover: I passed over this book time and time again on my TBR shelf because the gray toned, muted cover wasn’t calling out to me. This is obviously a subjective statement with which others may completely disagree. After reading the story, I can make guesses about why the author chose the cover; however, it wasn’t one that appealed to me. Look beyond the cover!

Lots of characters and jumping between timelines: Thankfully, the author provides a family tree at the beginning of the story because I really needed it! Readers listening on audible might want to jot down names and relationships along the reading journey. Many stories today have alternating timelines and it’s more challenging in some books than others. I felt like I worked hard throughout the story to be fully present in the timeline hops. Frequently, I found that I needed to stop and think about the characters and the situations when jumping to the alternate timeline.

Recommended? Yes! The more I reflect on this story, the richer it becomes. Recommended for readers who enjoy well told family sagas, thought provoking themes, or who might have some familiarity with Rhode Island (or summer beach resort living!).

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Eden

Buy Here

Meet the Author,
Jeanne Blasberg

jeanne blasbergAlways hunting for writerly detail, I’ve been known to stare or eavesdrop on the table next to me.  Call it research or maybe an over-developed sense of empathy; I’m fascinated by human nature.  At heart, I’m really still that only child who played for hours with imaginary friends.  Now my imaginary friends are characters on the page, flawed but honest, people worth spending time with.  My stories may echo timeless struggles, but they are spun with my own peculiar slant.

Jeanne Blasberg is a voracious observer of human nature and has kept a journal since childhood. She has been known to stare at strangers on more than one occasion to the embarrassment of her three children. (Mom, stop staring!)  After graduating from Smith College, she surprised everyone who knew her by embarking on a career in finance, making stops on Wall Street, Macy’s and Harvard Business School, where she worked alongside the preeminent professor of retail and wrote case studies and business articles on all sorts of topics on everything that has to do with…shopping.

A firm believer that you are never too old to change course or topics (in truth, she’s not a big shopper), Jeanne enrolled at Grub Street, one of the country’s great creative writing centers, where she turned her attention to memoir and later fiction, inspired by her childhood journal. Eden is her debut novel.

Now deep into her second novel, Jeanne and her husband split their time between Boston and Westerly, RI. When not writing, Jeanne can be found playing squash, skiing, or taking in the sunset over Little Narragansett Bay, and sometimes simply staring at interesting characters doing uninteresting things.

Jeanne’s writing has appeared in The Sun Literary Magazine’s Reader’s Write, Squash Magazine, Interfaith Family.comDead Darlings.comBreakingMatzo.comThe Huffington Post,  Women Writers Women’s Books, and Adoptimist.com.

jeanneblasberg.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

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead

I’m on very long library wait lists for The Force of Nature and The Music Shop….meanwhile I’m waiting for kindle prices to fall and reading other selections. Consequently, next Friday I’ll read and review From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon (a  histfic title from my Goodreads TBR shelf with an average Goodreads rating of 4.41 stars and Amazon rating of 4.7 stars).

From Sand and Ash

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?


Extra:
Reading Recommendation For Middle Grade Readers!

(And for all readers looking for a thought provoking story!)

Crenshaw

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate is a beautifully and creatively written middle grade story exploring poverty, homelessness, and imaginary friends. Because the content of this book builds compassion and the topic of homelessness might worry some readers, I’m recommending it as an excellent “read together” book.

The first reason I loved this story is because of the personal connections I made as a teacher at a Title 1 school where the student population often experienced poverty and homelessness. I could share many stories of how their personal experiences impacted my life and our classroom.

I believe this is a thoughtful story for students who are not in this situation to build empathy, but I wonder how children who are experiencing poverty and homelessness would react to the story without having someone with which to process.

In the story, the main character, Jackson, has an imaginary friend (Crenshaw, as seen on the cover) and I appreciate the author’s subtle message that the imaginary friend appears to help Jackson deal with his stress. In fact, when Jackson questions why Crenshaw is larger than he was when Jackson was little, Crenshaw explains that Jackson needs a bigger imaginary friend now that his problems are different.

I thought a great deal while reading the story about how children process stress. It is interesting that Jackson appears fine to his parents (mom thanks him for being positive and helpful), yet he experiences stress because of not knowing what is going to happen. In addition, he also feels tremendous responsibility for his sister (even giving up his plan to run away in order to take care of her).

“What bothered me most, though, is that I couldn’t fix anything. I couldn’t control anything. It was like driving a bumper car without a steering wheel. I kept getting slammed, and I just had to sit there and hold on tight. Bam! Were we going to have enough to eat tomorrow? Bam! Were we going to have enough to pay the rent? Bam! Would I go to the same school in the fall? Bam!”

This thought impacted me while reading: Children can adapt easily because they desire/need stability, togetherness, love, predictability, family….but adults sometimes don’t realize the stress the child is feeling because they “appear” to be adapting.

Crenshaw is an interesting, creative, thought provoking, and worthwhile read. I’ve heard it described that books can be a door or a mirror. This book is both: a door through which children can build compassion and a mirror for children facing similar situations.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



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!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

How has adoption touched your life?

Do you enjoy hearing about middle grade recommendations? Do you think great literature and wonderful stories can be enjoyed by all ages?