1st Line/1st Paragraph: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae

 October 1, 2019

1st Line/1st Paragraph: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

I’m linking up this week with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter/First Paragraph of the book you are currently reading.

First Paragraph

I’m pleased to share a passage from The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland. This is an ARC and will be available for purchase on October 29, 2019. Have you read this author’s previous book, The Lost For Words Bookshop? (find my review of that here)

From Amazon:

“For fans of Josie Silver’s One Day in December, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a wholly original, charismatic, and uplifting novel that no reader will soon forget.

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live. She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that—just in time—saved her life. Now, finally, she can be a normal twenty-eight-year-old. She can climb a mountain. Dance. Wait in line all day for tickets to Wimbledon.

But first, she has to put one foot in front of the other. So far, things are as bloody complicated as ever. Her relationship with her mother is at a breaking point and she wants to find her father. Then there’s Lennox, whom Ailsa loved and lost. Will she ever find love again?

Her new heart is a bold heart. She just needs to learn to listen to it. From the hospital to her childhood home, on social media and IRL, Ailsa will embark on a journey about what it means to be, and feel, alive. How do we learn to be brave, to accept defeat, to dare to dream?

From Stephanie Butland, author of The Lost for Words Bookshop, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae will warm you from the inside out.”

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
by Stephanie Butland

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, organ donation

1st Line/1st Paragraph From Chapter One:

It’s 3 a.m. here in cardio-thoracic.
All I can do for now is doze, and think, and doze again. My heart is getting weaker, my body bluer. People I haven’t seen for a while are starting to drop in. We all pretend we’re not getting ready to say goodbue. It seems easiest. But my mother cries when she thinks I’m sleeping, so maybe here, now, is the time to admit that I might really be on the way out.
I should be grateful. A baby born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome a few years before I was would have died within days. I’ve had twenty-eight years and I’ve managed to do quite a bit of living in them. (Also, I’ve had WAY more operations than you every day folk. I totally win on that.) OK, so I still live at home and I’ve never had a job and I’m blue around the edges because there’s never quite enough oxygen in my system. But…
Actually, but nothing. If you’re here tonight for the usual BlueHeart cheerfulness-in-the-teeth-of-disaster, you need to find another blogger.

Within the first few pages, we find out that Ailsa receives her heart transplant, names her new heart Apple, and begins to spend her days figuring out how to live now that she’s not facing certain, early death. Ailsa is a blogger, and the story appears to be written in memoir style. Paging through the book, I notice that the format includes first-person blog entries and emails, articles, and narrative passages written in third-person.

I’m eager to dive into this after enjoying The Lost For Words Bookshop by the same author. Here is my review of Lost For Words.


Do you enjoy issue-centered books?

Is The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae on your TBR?

Sharing is Caring

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:

***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

September Reading Wrap Up

September 30, 2019

September Reading Wrap Up

\September Reading Wrap Up

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

September was a mixed result reading month. Three DNFs had me spinning my wheels and took time away from the number of books I wanted to read. I read a total of six books, and I am happy to report that one of those was a five-star read. Find all my September reads listed below in order of Star Rating. Keep in mind that I normally recommend five- and four-star reads on the blog; three-star reads receive mixed reviews from me for various reasons; and two-star reads are books that were not for me (this month brought me one of these). One star reads are usually shelved as DNF.

My favorite read of the month is The Dearly Beloved; in fact, it will likely be my best read of the year.

Did we read any of the same books?

Titles are Amazon affiliate links and my available reviews are linked.

 The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

5+ Stars. Thought-provoking and memorable complicated family drama. My full review here.

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

5 Stars. Page-turning historical fiction. My full review here.

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

4.5 Stars. A harrowing, heartfelt, and inspirational WW11 tale of survival, courage, loss, hope, and faith. Goodreads review here.

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

4.5 Stars. For fans of Hum if You Don’t Know the Words. My full review here.


Honest Reviews

September 29, 2019

Do I Write Honest Reviews?

Writing Honest Reviews

My TL:DR answer to “Do I Write Honest Reviews” is Yes, you can trust that my reviews are honest.

Here’s the explanation:

Several book review bloggers have written posts on this topic, and I want to join this discussion so that my response will be an official statement on this blog.

“What raises this question?”

I notice two circumstances that can cause followers to ask the question:
1. You occasionally receive free books … can you really express an honest opinion when the book is free?
2. It seems suspicious that book reviews on this blog almost always earn four or five stars … can you honestly give every book four or five stars?

“Do you wonder if my reviews are honest?”

When I first started my blog over two years ago, I determined that my purpose for the blog is to offer readers my best recommendations for great reads. Therefore, week after week, followers will see almost all four and five-star reviews on this blog. This does not mean that I give every book I read four or five stars. It means that on the blog I select the best of what I read for review posts. If you follow me on Goodreads, you can see ALL the books I read and notice that I give a wide range of star ratings. There are many books I review on Goodreads that never make it to the blog. I read an average of ten to twelve books a month. I publish approximately four or five reviews per month, so only about 50% of what I read receives a blog post.

One reason I choose not to publish blog reviews of lower-rated books is because of the power of an image. Let me explain….. if you see the cover of a book on my blog, that image stays with you more than what I’ve said about the book. My fear is that when you are in Costco or Barnes and Noble, you will see a book cover and remember seeing that same cover on my blog and not remember that the book wasn’t to my taste and that I didn’t highly recommend it. You’ll buy the book because you think “I saw that on Carol’s blog” and then if you don’t like it, you will wonder why it was on my blog and not trust me again! I realize that some book bloggers review everything they read on their blog and leave it up to followers to take responsibility to find the gems. Because that doesn’t fit with my original vision for the blog, it may appear that I’m giving everything I read four or five stars and this leads some followers to question whether or not they trust me to give an honest review (because not every book is a four or five-star read).

One reason I hesitate to publish a monthly wrap up where I list every book I read in that month is that I fear you will see the cover and think I’m recommending it. For my monthly wrap up posts, I try to be very clear about my star ratings and hope that followers are paying attention!

Always keep in mind that no two readers ever read the same book and that you may have a very different opinion about the book! The four and five star reads I recommend here may be a one star read for you. I think over time that book review bloggers attract followers with similar tastes!

Also, I need to state here that I read every book that I review and recommend. I always hesitate to publish my TBR or other posts that contain covers of books I haven’t read. If I review a book, you can be certain that I’ve read it.

“If I receive a FREE ARC, am I required to give a good review?”

I do receive free books from time to time and that is always clearly stated before I begin my review. Even though I have received the book for free, I strive to be honest in my review. Because I care about authors and their work, I try to state any disappointments in the read as kindly as possible. I vet books as carefully as possible and I don’t accept certain genres so that I’m not caught in an uncomfortable position. So far, I have contacted an author only once and explained why I couldn’t review her book on my blog (the content was not what my followers expect me to recommend). If I can’t give a free book a four or five-star rating, I review it on Goodreads where I feel more comfortable giving two and three stars. If it happens that I will likely give the book a one-star rating, I will contact the publisher or author to let them know I will not be reviewing the book. You can be assured that if you see a free book reviewed on my blog or Goodreads, that my opinion is an honest one. I am not afraid to share honest opinions.

In addition, I want to emphasize that I have never experienced pressure from a publisher or an author for a certain star rating or a positive review. When I receive free books, it’s with the understanding that I will give an honest opinion.

My Five Star Rating Scale

5 stars (excellent) twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

  • given sparingly to the very best books, exceptional in every way, beautifully written, an important high impact book (lots of substance), unputdownable, ponder it for days and weeks after finishing, always a highly recommended must-read, important themes, a ddefinite WOW factor that gives me a “book hangover”

4 stars (great) twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

  • very enjoyable on many levels, important themes, frequently recommended, has a lot of substance, WOW factor

3 stars (ok) twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

  • an ok or meh read, mixed feelings about the writing (premise might be good, but execution lacking in some areas), still might be recommendable for some reasons, no WOW factor

2 stars (meh) twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

  • not recommendable, underwhelmed, unremarkable, finished but didn’t enjoy,  might be rated highly by others but not the right book for me

1 star (avoid) twinkle-twinkle-little-star

  • usually a DNF (did not finish), lacking in several important elements, skipped/skimmed large sections, I won’t be recommending it

I would love to hear your thoughts or questions!

Happy Reading Everyone!

Cilka’s Journey: A Review

September 27, 2019

 Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

Cilka's Journey Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, Holocaust, Jewish

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Thanks #netgalley #stmartinspress for the free e copy of #cilkasjourney by Heather Morris in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Cilka’s Journey is a companion read (or spin-off) of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and can be read as a stand-alone. Cilka was sent to Auschwitz when she was sixteen years old and because of her beauty, she was singled out to sleep with the Commandant. This assured her survival, but when she was liberated from Auschwitz, the Russians charged her with sleeping with the enemy and collaborating with them. Cilka tried explaining that she was forced into that impossible situation at sixteen and she certainly didn’t collaborate with them. Nevertheless, she was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor and sent to Siberia. Above all else, Cilka is a survivor and at the camp, she gains the attention of a female doctor who takes Cilka under her wing and teaches her nursing skills. Even though conditions are brutal, Cilka finds a way to survive and even discovers that there is room in her damaged and broken heart for love.

My Thoughts:


Fall 2019 TBR

September 24, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books on My Fall 2019 TBR

Fall 2019 TBR

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books on My Fall 2019 TBR.

With all the books that are on my radar on a given day, it’s nice to pick out a few for an official TBR. Ten still leaves room for library holds that come in, occasional ARCs, or some mood reading.

One question you may ask is “Are these fall reads?” Many readers have differing opinions of what comprises a fall read: some want spooky, scary, creepy, or thrilling. It’s my opinion that any book you read in fall is a fall read. I don’t usually read thrillers or scary, spooky books because they give me nightmares. For my fall reads, I look for the types of books I look for all year: memorable, thought-provoking, and unputdownable.

This will help explain my fall reading:

it's fall y'all

After careful consideration, the following are the reads that are on my fall 2019 reading radar. I had about twenty on the list when I started, so it took some work to pare this down to ten!

Keep in mind that I’m not yet recommending the books on this list…..check back often though because I will provide updates and links to reviews as I read them. In no particular order, here is my Fall 2019 TBR list.

*Titles are Amazon affiliate links.


Hello Fall Reading!

September 23, 2019

Welcome Fall Reading!


What kinds of books are you looking forward to reading this fall?

In today’s post, I’ll explain why I’m an outlier when it comes to fall reading.

fall reading meme

While others are looking for spooky, thrilling, chilling, or haunted reads, I’m clinging to the same types of reads that I’ve read all year. I’m not really a seasonal reader, and I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to venture into the typical fall reads.

I like cozy but not chilling.

I hope that you find the reads you’re looking for this fall! If you’re looking for thrilling, chilling, or spooky, you’re not likely to find recommendations here. I’ll be continuing to offer the same types of reviews I’ve been writing all year!

Spooky, chilling, thrilling, and creepy gives me nightmares!

Happy Fall Y’all!



Do you have a favorite type of fall read?

Happy Fall 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

“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:

 Tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/24), I’ll post my fall TBR. 

Sharing is Caring

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:

***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.


Seven Best Reads of Summer

September 20, 2019

Seven Best Reads of Summer

7 Best Reads of Summer

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Since summer is a prime reading season for most of us, I thought it would be fun to reflect on favorite reads of the summer before planning our Fall TBRs.

The following are my favorite books read from April 21-September 20, 2019. Titles are affiliate Amazon links, and full blog reviews are also linked. 

The first THREE are my top reads! 

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

***also my favorite of the year (so far)
Full review here.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

***favorite read of the year runner up!
Full review here.

Ask Again Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Full review here.


The Dearly Beloved [Book Review]

September 19, 2019

A thoughtful story of faith and doubt, hope and disappointment, friendship and marriage, career and family….

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

The Dearly Beloved Review

Genre/Categories/Setting: Literary Fiction, Faith, Marriage and Family, 1960s Manhattan

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Four very different individuals (two couples) navigate relationships, marriage, children, faith, career, ministry, crisis, joy, friendship, forgiveness, uncertainty, understanding, and heartbreak. The couples meet in the 1960s when the men, Charles and James, accept positions as co-pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The relationship between the couples is strained because the wives are polar opposites: Lily is a loner and an atheist and Nan values connection and is a devout Christian. In this tender character-driven story that covers decades of life, we also learn the backstory of each individual.

My Thoughts:


With the Fire on High: A Review

September 17, 2019

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High Review.png

Genre/Categories: Contemporary YA Fiction, Cooking, Multi-Generational Family, Coming of Age

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Emoni Santiago is a responsible, creative, and determined teenage mother. In addition to caring for her young daughter, living with and helping to support her grandmother, and navigating her classes as a high school senior, Emoni is well known for her extraordinary cooking skills. For her, cooking is an artistic adventure. A new culinary arts class is offered at her school along with a class trip to Spain. Given all her responsibilities and financial situation, can she possibly risk everything to follow her dreams?

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:


Happy Friday! #ThePositivityWave

September 13, 2019

Hello and Happy Friday!

I’m joining with Meggy @ Chocolate’n’Waffles to spread some positivity among all the doom and gloom on social media and in the news. Please feel free to join in with your own Happy Friday post and link to Meggy. Thanks to Nicki at The Secret Library Book Blog and Jonetta at The Blue Mood Cafe for the inspiration!
#positivity #gratitude


Gratitude and Positivity are FREE and make every day BETTER!

Today, September 13, 2019,
is National Positive Thinking Day!

Yes, there literally is a day for everything it seems!

So, I’m encouraging you today (and this weekend) to do something to spread the positivity wave! Buy someone a coffee, send an encouraging note or a thank you, phone or text your best friend, smile at a stranger, extend a compliment…. SHARE THE POSITIVITY!

Here is a set of positive quotes to celebrate National Positive Thinking Day!

QOTD: What are you feeling Positive about today? 

What do you do to maintain a positive attitude?