June 2020 Reading Wrap Up

June 30, 2020

June 2020 Reading Wrap Up

June Reading Wrap Up (image: a collage of book covers listed in this post)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

What Was Your Favorite June Read?

June was a mostly great reading month with one five-star (4.5) and seven four-star reads, one three-star read, and one two-star read. I did have one DNF. I read a total of ten books (52 for the year) which puts me right on pace to meet my year-end challenge of 100 books.

Find all my June 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 I may or may not have finished but they were not for me. One star reads are usually shelved as DNF or perhaps quickly scanned.

Under COVID-19 conditions, I hope that you’re all doing well and staying safe!

My favorite fiction read of the month is The Last Train to Key West for its page-turning story line and interesting characters. It feels like a vacation, escapist, or summer read.

Did we read any of the same books?

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


 The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

4.5 Stars. (ARC) Historical Fiction. Part women’s fiction, part histfic, part suspense. My Last Train to Key West review.


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet

4 Stars. Historical Fiction. Themes of passing as white, sexual identity, and family drama. Review to come.


Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

4 Stars. Historical Fiction. For fans of News of the World. My Simon the Fiddler review.


Liturgy of the Ordinary by Rish Harrison Warren

4 Stars.  Nonfiction, inspirational, Christian. Not yet reviewed.

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Blog Audit Challenge 2020: June #blogauditchallenge2020

June 29, 2020

June’s Blog Audit Challenge 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020 (picture of a woman's hands on the keyboard of a laptop)Blogging Friends,

This year I’m participating in Blog Audit Challenge 2020 hosted by Jo Linsdell. The plan is to work on making our blogs even better and setting our goals for the coming months. Each month will have its own challenge to work through. Join us!

 I hope that if you are reading this that you continue to be well and that your area is opening up for business and recreation with social distancing precautions.

 

June’s Challenge Focuses on Links:

Of the topics covered so far, I think I feel the best about my use of links to enhance my content and to attract visitors. At least, I feel more confidant in discussing links than I have previous topics! I can always improve, but I think I’m doing OK in this area.

There are two types of links:

1. Internal Links

  • The importance of using internal links is to keep visitors engaged with your content and spend more time on your site. Part of analyzing your blog data is tracking the “bounce rate,” i.e. the time visitors spend on your site. If a visitor only reads the page which caused them to land on your site, this contributes to a high “bounce rate.” If a follower or visitor looks at another page on your site (either through a link, a menu tab, or the search bar, etc., this helps to lower your “bounce rate.” Low “bounce rates” are optimal and increase your SEO! (see what I did here?!)
  • In my posts, you will usually notice internal links. When appropriate, I will link to related content (e.g. a book by the same author or a post with a similar topic) and I also include links to previous content in my ICYMI section. In my menu options, I have included pages with links to a great deal of blog content. In these monthly blog challenge posts, I am linking back to each previous month.
  • TIP: I have recently learned that SEO best practices suggests not using “see here” when creating links. SEO likes it when you use specific descriptive words. So instead of “see review here,” it would be better to write “see my review of Simon the Fiddler.” In my monthly wrap up posts, I have been writing “my full review here” (which you can see in my May Wrap Up post)….starting tomorrow, I vow to do better in creating internal links with more specific descriptive wording for my wrap up post!

2. External Links

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Simon the Fiddler [Book Review]

June 26, 2020

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles (cover) Image: a gold toned western landscape including a river

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Post-Civil War Southwest, Western

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

A diverse, scrappy, hard-working, risk-taking, and loyal group of four forms a band…and Simon pursues love.

Simon is the fiddler and leader, and other members include Doroteo (guitar player), Damon (whistle player), and Patrick (bodhran and bone player). On the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon notices a lovely Irish girl, Doris, who is an indentured servant and governess for a colonel’s daughter. Simon can’t forget Doris as his ragtag group travels Texas striving to put their lives back together at the end of the Civil War and build their reputation. He vows to find her again, rescue her from her dire situation, and propose.

an old fiddle

My Thoughts:

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Far From the Tree [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

June 25, 2020

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of Far From the Tree by Robin Benway….a compelling family story.

Are you a fan of multi-layered family drama?

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (cover) Image: black text on a background of pinkish purple explosion of leaves

Genre/Categories: YA Fiction, Social & Family Issues, Adoption, Siblings

My Summary:

“Far From the Tree is a contemporary YA fiction novel in which three biological siblings (placed for adoption or foster care as babies in separate families) find their way to each other as teenagers and discover a deeper meaning of family. The story is complicated because Grace, one of the three siblings, has just placed her own baby up for adoption. In addition, Joaquin, another of the siblings has experienced trauma growing up in the foster care system. The author tenderly explores each of their stories including the mistrust, feelings of aloneness, and individual hurts and disappointments. Far From the Tree won the 2017 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.”

Continue here for my full review of Far From the Tree

QOTD: Have you read Far From the Tree or is it on your TBR?

Top Ten Tuesday: 10+ Highly Rated and Favorite WW1 and WW11 Reads

June 23, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 10+ Highly Rated and Favorite WW1 and WW11 Reads

10+ Favorite WW1 and WW11 Reads (Image: a tall stack of books on a painted wooden blue table)

Top Ten Tuesday celebrating 10 years (image: a birthday cake with 10 candles)

*I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday’s 10th Anniversary Celebration: Update an Old Post. Today I’m updating a post that was originally published in April of 2018.

If you’ve clicked over from That Artsy Reader Girl, 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 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 publishing this blog (in which case I’ve provided the Amazon link). *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Listed in order of their Goodreads star rating (6/22/20).

The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

WW11

 Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 4 Stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.58 Stars



The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke (cover)

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

WW11

Full Review Here

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.54 Stars



The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer (cover)

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

WW11

Full Review Here

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.51 Stars



From Sand and Ash

From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

WW11

Full Review Here

My Rating: 5 Stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.38 Stars



we were the lucky ones

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

WW11

 Full Review Here

My Rating: 5 Stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.40 Stars
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Book Recommendations for Dad

June 19, 2020

Book Recs That a Dad in Your life Might Enjoy!

Text: Book Recs For Dad; Image: a father walks in the surf with a young child (backs to camera)

happy father's day

Celebrating Fathers This Weekend!

Happy Father’s Day!

 

My dad and me as a baby, my dad on a fjord in Norway, my dad and me at my graduation (masters)

My father has been in Heaven for several years now, dying on Father’s Day in 2009.

Text: Dad...Remembering you is easy, I do it every day. Missing you is the heartache that never goes away. Image: a father and young child walk hand in hand (backs to the camera)

If you are fortunate to have your dad in your life this Father’s Day, here are some great bookish ideas for Father’s Day. Titles are Amazon links (links to my reviews are included when available).

*This post contains affiliate Amazon links.

Most of the following titles come directly from my husband (Mr. Reading Ladies). Keep in mind that he was a history major and loves biographies!
First, his lifetime favorites list: 



10 Lifetime Favorites From Mr. Reading Ladies



News of the World by Paulette Jiles
(My Brief Review in this Post)

News of the World by Paulette Jiles (cover) Image: a prairie landscape under a big blue cloud filled sky

 Beartown by Fredrik Backman
(My Brief Review of Beartown in This Post)

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (cover) Image: a small town set against the mountains and kids playing hockey in the foreground

Wait Till Next Year by (Red Sox Baseball Fan) Doris Kearns Goodwin
(My Review Here)

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin (cover) Image: an old professional baseball stadium

*Regan An American Journey by Bob Spitz*

Reagan: An American Journey by Bob Spitz (cover) Image: a young Reagan leans against a fence looking ahead and to his right

Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship by Jon Meacham

Franklin and Winston by Jon Meacham (cover) Image: Franklin and Winston sit in chairs on a lawn

  John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger

John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger (cover) Image: portrait of Adams

Grant by Ron Chernow
Here’s a review of Grant by a respected reviewer.

Grant by Ron Chernow (cover) Image: portrait of Grant in uniform

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Washington by Ron Chernow (cover) Image: Washington in uniform on a white horse

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery

Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas (cover) Image: portrait of William Wilberforce

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (cover) Image: Lincoln and a group of politicians at a meeting



9 Other Favorites From Mr. Reading Ladies



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The Other Alcott [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

June 18, 2020

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper….the imagined story of May Alcott (Amy).

Are you a fan of Little Women?

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper (cover) Image: a young woman dressed in an old fashioned blue dress stands with back to the camera looking out over a city and holding a valise

Genre/Categories: historical fiction, women’s fiction, biographical, sisters

My Summary:

“If you’ve read Little Women, you are familiar with the author, Louisa May Alcott. It’s also well known that Miss Alcott’s family provided inspiration for the book and its colorful cast of characters. While many readers love spirited Jo March (the character based on the author Louisa May Alcott), Jo’s younger sister Amy March is not quite as popular with readers. In Elise Hooper’s new release and debut novel, The Other Alcott, the author reimagines the world of the Alcotts from the perspective of Louisa’s real-life younger sister, May (Amy in Little Women). Hooper’s story explores the relationship between Louisa and May which might have been fraught with jealousy, competition, and sibling rivalry.  Through Hooper’s storytelling, we follow May as she studies and travels abroad to carve out her own career as an artist in a man’s world at a time when women who wanted a career often had to forgo dreams of a family. Although the publication of Little Women substantially helps the struggling Alcott family financially, May experiences conflicting feelings about the way she was portrayed in the book through the character of Amy. Eventually, this causes May to want to distinguish her own life from the selfish, spirited, and spoiled character of Amy. So in real life, the optimistic, stylish, outgoing, and creative May pursues art in Boston and in Europe. At first, she is convicted about not working too hard (as she’s seen her sister do) because she also values happiness and enjoyment of life. This is a story of art, ambition, and of a brave, determined young woman finding her voice and establishing her identity.”

Continue here for my full review of The Other Alcott …

QOTD: Have you read The Other Alcott or is it on your TBR?

Summer 2020 TBR #toptentuesday

June 16, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books on My Summer 2020 TBR

 

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books on My Summer 2020 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 beach reads?” Many readers have differing opinions of what comprises a beach read: some want light and fluffy, some look for thrillers/suspense/mysteries, some seek out escapist reads, while others like to tackle large tomes or serious content during the summer when they have more time. It’s my opinion that any book you read at the beach is a beach read (just like any body at the beach is a beach body). For my summer reads, I look for the types of books I look for all year: memorable, thought-provoking, and unputdownable.

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. For now, these are the reads that are on my summer 2020 reading radar.

*Titles are Amazon affiliate links.

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The Last Train to Key West [Book Review]

June 12, 2020

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton (cover) Image: a young woman in a blouse and skirt stands on a Florida beach looking into the distance

Genre/Categories: Romantic Historical Fiction, Florida

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

one holiday weekend + three women in danger + a hurricane

Thanks, #netgalley #berkleypub for a complimentary e ARC of #thelasttraintokeywest for review. All opinions in this review are my own. Pub Date: June 16, 2020.

Key West is a popular destination for tourists. In the 1930s, it is also an opportunity to forget the economic depression. The three women in The Last Train to Key West have very different reasons for finding themselves in Key West on Labor Day Weekend, 1935: Elizabeth travels to Key West from New York City and is desperately searching for a WW1 veteran who is rumored to have been sent to work on the railroad; Key West native, Helen, wants to escape an abusive marriage; Mirta comes to Key West from Cuba for her honeymoon. Rounding out the weekend is an FBI agent, a kind friend, an abusive husband, a secretive groom, and the destructive 1935 Labor Day Weekend hurricane.

Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad

 

Key West, Florida

location of Key West, Florida

My Thoughts:

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The Deal of a Lifetime [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

June 11, 2020

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of a favorite adult fairy tale, The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman….poignant, thought-provoking, and reflective.

Fredrik Backman is an auto-buy author for me, and I’m a Backman completist!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman (cover) Image: a blue suitcase sits against a wall on a wooden floor, a straw hat is propped on one corner of the suitcase and a white bunny (stuffed) lies on the floor in front of the suitcase

Genre/Categories:  literary fiction, contemporary fiction, adult fairy tale, ambition, self-reflection, end of life

My Summary:

“In true Backman style, The Deal of a Lifetime is an intricately woven story (novella) of an unlovable, complex, and flawed character whom we begin to understand and care about as he faces the end of his life. Written as the last message from father to son and told like a fairy tale for adults, it’s a story of a legacy, ambition and success at all costs, fear of failure, the meaning of life, the commodity of time, an accounting of one’s life, and a father/son relationship. I hesitate to give details of the plot in this summary because I don’t want to spoil your read. Briefly, it’s the story of a successful and famous man in the mid-years of his life counting the personal cost of his achievements and striking a last deal to make things right.”

For those who collect opening lines….these are stellar!

“…I’ve killed a person. That’s not how fairy tales usually begin, I know. But I took a life. Does it make a difference if you know whose it was…..Does it make a difference if I killed a good person? A loved person? A valuable life?”  ~Backman’s opening lines

A reflective read for those who appreciate the beauty of short stories and for readers who might enjoy a thoughtful adult fairy tale about the purpose and meaning of life …..

Continue here for my full review of The Deal of a Lifetime which includes a set of discussion questions for your book club!

QOTD: Have you read The Deal of a Lifetime or is it on your TBR?