Bookish Themed Hanukkah: Fourth Candle: Foregone Conclusion #eightcandlebooktag

December 25, 2019

 Celebrating a Bookish Hanukkah With Our Jewish Friends: Fourth Candle–Foregone Conclusion


*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I’m linking up today and for the next few days with Davida at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog (information on the meme link up here) to celebrate a bookish Hanukkah with our Jewish friends.  #eightcandlebooktag  Join us! (find my first candle here, find my second candle here, third candle here)

Happy Hanukkah to my friends, followers, and book buddies who are celebrating!



1 candle

1 candle

1 candle

1 candle

Fourth Candle: Foregone Conclusion

A book that you read that you knew you’d like or dislike before you began reading.

Are you drawn to certain genres or authors? If you’ve followed my reviews for a while, you know that Fredrik Backman is an auto-buy/auto-read author for me and it’s a foregone conclusion that I will like his work. However, what about other books by lesser-known or debut authors? How can I know I will like it before I’ve read it?

The first time I heard about The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall, I knew I had to read it! The synopsis and early reviews sounded exactly like the type of book I love: an interesting premise, real-life family drama, complicated relationships, thought-provoking themes, and well written.

On the other hand, are there books I know I’ll dislike before I read them? The short answer is “yes” and I usually avoid reading them. I dislike dark, scary, horror, most magical realism and fantasy, paranormal, occult, witchcraft, most romcom (don’t @ me!), science fiction, time travel, unlikable characters behaving badly, and erotica. Because FOMO is real, I will give certain titles a chance (usually because of reviewers with similar tastes). Even though I might read a book from these genres, they are usually not among my favorite reads. One recent example is Recursion by Blake Crouch. I read it because of FOMO but I didn’t like it as much as others who love the science fiction genre. If there were a sequel, I wouldn’t read it, but I’m not unhappy I gave it a chance.

As I deliberately track genres and themes I like or dislike, I significantly raise the chances of my next read being satisfactory or even great.

For today’s prompt, I’m choosing to highlight a book that I knew I would like before I started reading it: The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. 

The Dearly Beloved

The following is my review of The Dearly Beloved that was published earlier on this blog:


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.


Book Characters That I’d Like as Best Friends

August 13, 2019



***Book titles are Amazon affiliate links

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday: Book Characters That I’d Like For Best Friends.

Book Characters That I’d Like For Best Friends

Oh my! This is a difficult topic! I admire so many characters!

Many characters I love are from the histfic genre, and I can’t imagine sharing their difficult lives. Also, some of the characters I’d like to be friends with are younger than I am……but maybe that’s OK because we are pretending, and I guess I can become their age if I’m their imaginary friend! So I won’t worry about those pesky details!

Here’s the list I created (tomorrow could be a different list)…..I don’t want to hurt any favorite character’s feelings by leaving them off this list…..just know that there are a hundred more! (listed in no particular order)

Inspector Gamache, Reine Marie, Myrna, Clara

I’d love to be friends with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his wife, Reine Marie (…..and Myrna the bookstore owner and Clara the artist)….. but prickly Ruth the poet kind of intimidates me!). I’d love to visit the Safe Haven of Three Pines and sit by the roaring fire in the Bistro for pastry and hot chocolate, or visit one of their homes for a comfort-food dinner and enjoy their cozy friendship.

A Better Man (Installment #15 in the Chief Inspector Gamache/Three Pines Series) by Louise Penny (counting the days until the 8/27 release!)
Genre: character-driven mystery
(My Kingdom of the Blind ReviewThe Series and Glass Houses Review)

A Better Man


I’d love to be friends with the industrious, loyal, patriotic Eliza Hamilton (wife of Alexander Hamilton). Although she had eleven children and partnered closely with her husband in writing and drafting documents and probably wouldn’t have time to chit-chat, I still think it would be inspirational to have known her.

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Genre: Historical Fiction, U.S. History and the Founding
(My Review)

my dear hamilton


I would love to have had the opportunity to befriend Cussy Mary Carter who endured racism because of a rare medical condition that caused her skin to appear blue and suffered more than her share of hardships due to poverty and isolation. Cussy is courageous, committed to literacy, always chooses kindness, and cares deeply for others (especially children). It would be a privilege to call her “friend.” (no worries, she doesn’t cuss!)

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Racism, Prejudice, Book About Books
(Review coming this Friday)

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek


I would be honored to be best friends with Precious Ramotswe. She’s a gentle spirit, gracious in her hospitality, wise, thoughtful, and kind. I could learn to drink tea!

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: Fiction, Gentle Mystery (Africa)
(a review of The House of Unexpected Sisters)

No 1 Ladies Detective Agency


I can always be friends with a competent, caring, compassionate, creative teacher! I would love to be Maggie‘s teaching partner and her best friend! We would share middle grade lit recommendations and create engaging lesson plans!

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
(my review here)

The Secret of Clouds



Favorite Literary Friendships

August 4, 2019, U.S. National Friendship Day

Favorite Literary Friendships

Favorite Literary Friendships

Happy Friendship Day

Friendship is one of my favorite themes in literature!
Here are some of my favorite literary friendships!
Do you have a favorite?

In celebration of U.S. National Friendship Day, I’m sharing a few recent favorite literary friendships. Even though friendship is a common theme and the list of possibilities is massive, I’ve selected only a few to share with you today.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

This post is inspired by Kristen at

National Friendship Day

Celebrating Friendship

Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor and Raymond in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman (my review)

man called ove

Ove and Parvenah in A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park in Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell

Beantown Girls

Fiona, Viviana, and Dottie in Beantown Girls
by Jane Healey (my review)

Lost Roses

Eliza and Sofya in Lost Roses
by Martha Hall Kelley (my review)

meet me at the museum

Anders and Tina in Meet Me at the Museum
by Anne Youngson (my review)

Paper Hearts

Zlatka and Fania in Paper Hearts
by Meg Wiviott (my review)

The Gown

Ann and Miriam in The Gown
by Jennifer Robson (my review)

The River

Wynn and Jack in The River
by Peter Heller (my review)

Book Thief

Leisel and Max in The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak


Auggie and Jack in Wonder
by R.J. Palacio (my review)

Oops! That was eleven! I tried for ten. Tomorrow I could come up with ten more! There are so many great books with friendship themes!

QOTD: Who are your favorite fictional friendships?

Happy Reading Book FRIENDS!

“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

Sharing is Caring

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***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.




The Cactus: A Review

June 14, 2019

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

The Cactus Review

Genre/Categories: Women’s Contemporary Fiction, Family Life, Friendship

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Susan Green has a perfectly controlled life until she doesn’t. Her life is carefully structured for one person: her flat is orderly and just the right size for one, her job is ideal for her analytical abilities, her cactus plants are dutifully tended, and her “relationship” is carefully defined and scheduled. Suddenly, life presents a couple of unexpected turn of events. Susan’s mother dies suddenly at the same time she finds out that she’s pregnant. Facing the added complication of an already strained relationship with her brother, Susan needs to take immediate action to bring order to her world once again. Can she adapt to these unexpected circumstances and could they bring her unexpected joy?

My Thoughts:


The Island of Sea Women: A Review

May 27, 2019

Have you experienced a patriarchal or matriarchal culture?

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Island of Sea Women Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, South Korea, Women’s Roles

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


You may have read The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, or Shanghai Girls by popular author Lisa See. In The Island of Sea Women, See imagines the story of Mi-ja and Young-sook. As the story begins, we are introduced to these two young girls living on the Korean Island of Jeju. Although the girls are best friends, they come from very different backgrounds. As the girls mature, they begin working in the sea with other women in the village as part of the diving collective (the haenyo). Even though diving is dangerous, the girls are eager to be allowed to join the women of the sea as they learn the trade and follow in the tradition of the other women in the village who are the sole providers for their families. In this matriarchal culture, the men stay home, cook, and assume primary care for the children. Women take on the responsibility for providing an income from selling the bounty of their diving expeditions. It’s women who worry about the livelihood of their families and village, assume great physical risks, and take responsibility for knowing the best locations and times/conditions to dive. The  sea women dive when they are pregnant and sometimes give birth on the boat as part of their workday if necessary. The story begins in the 1930s and continues through WW11, the Korean War, and the modern technology boom. Over the decades, circumstances put the girls’ friendship under great strain and the story encompasses their entire lives. It’s a story of a unique culture, friendship, understanding, community, and a dangerous and demanding profession.

My Thoughts:


Paper Hearts: A Review

May 21, 2019

Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott

Paper Hearts Review

Genre/Categories: WW11, Holocaust, Jewish, Young Adult, Poetry, Friendship, Survival

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


In Paper Hearts, two unforgettable girls find themselves tragically imprisoned at Auschwitz during the Holocaust and become friends. Through the bonds of friendship and a bit of defiance, Zlatka and Fania find bits of hope and a will to live. In this true story, Zlatka, along with the help of a few other girls, masterminds making a surprise birthday card for Fania. A secret project that would be a crime punishable by death if caught, each girl signed the paper hearts card with her hopes and wishes for happiness, love, and freedom. This heart is a symbol of defiance and is one of the few artifacts created in Auschwitz that has survived and can be seen today in the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre in Canada. (see an article link and image below)

My Thoughts:


Ask Again, Yes: A Review

May 17, 2019

How do you know when you’ve read a five star read?

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Ask Again Yes Review

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, Family Drama

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Beautifully written, Ask Again, Yes introduces us to two families who live next door to each other. Behind closed doors, the families deal with complicated issues. Meanwhile, two of their children, born six months apart, grow up as each other’s constant and best playmate and develop a deep friendship as they hang out after school. Just as Kate and Peter grow old enough to discover they might be attracted to each other, a tragic event happens that changes everything for the two families. One family moves away and the children’s friendship is torn apart.

The remainder of the story involves the children, who are now grown, coming to terms with what happened and figuring out what this means for their relationship, their families, and their future.

My Thoughts:


A Book You’ll Love, Mom!

May 10, 2019

Here’s a book recommendation I think you’ll love, Mom!

The Gown
by Jennifer Robson

The Gown Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Royal Wedding, 1940s England

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


The Gown is, in part, a behind-the-scenes story of the making of Princess (Queen) Elizabeth’s wedding gown. As the people of England endure a harsh winter and post-war shortages and rationing, news of a Royal wedding brightens the country’s spirit. Told from two perspectives, we hear the imagined story of two young women who work for the famous fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Although the girls are accustomed to working on exclusive gowns for high profile clients and the Royal family, the newest assignment of a wedding gown for Princess (Queen) Elizabeth brings extraordinary pressure and excitement. A third perspective (and modern timeline) follows one of their granddaughters who travels to London a half-century later to unravel her grandmother’s mysterious and secret past. There’s more to the story than the dress as the author gives us an idea of what life was like in 1940s London, and explores themes of friendship, family, and love.

Amazon Rating:  4.6 Stars


Lost Roses: A Review

February 22, 2019

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Lost Roses review

Roses Image From Canva

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW1 Era

Thanks to #netgalley #randomhouse for my free review copy of #lostroses by @marthahallkelly in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Fans of Lilac Girls will be interested in the prequel, Lost Roses, as it shares the story of Caroline Ferriday’s mother, Eliza. The story is told from three perspectives: Eliza Ferriday, a New York socialite; Sofya, a  Russian aristocrat and cousin to the Romanovs; and Varinka, a Russian peasant and fortune teller’s daughter. The story begins in 1914 when Sofya comes to the U.S. to visit her best friend, Eliza. Later when Eliza accompanies Sofya back to St. Petersburg, they find Russia on the brink of revolution. Unsettled by the conflict, Eliza escapes back to the U.S. Because her heart is with the Russian women, she creates a charity to help support women and children as they flee Russia. After some time when she hasn’t heard from Sofya, she becomes deeply concerned. Meanwhile in Russia, Sofya has hired a peasant girl, Varinka, to help with the household tasks but this decision brings additional danger. In a dramatic and tense conclusion, Eliza travels to Paris in search of Sofya while Sofya risks everything in Paris to find Varinka.


The Enchanted April and The Late Bloomers’ Club: Reviews and Comparisons

*this post contains affiliate links

January 25, 2019

I read back-to-back light women’s fiction books (chick lit) in recent days, unusual and interesting for me since chick lit isn’t my preferred genre. The Enchanted April was originally published in the 1920s, and The Late Bloomers’ Club is contemporary. As I read them, I couldn’t resist a comparison.

Girls decide to take a girls’ trip to Italy…..does this sound modern?… happened in 1920!

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

enchanted april original cover

Collector’s edition (in box)

Genre/Categories: Women’s Fiction, Classics, Romance, Italy


Set in the 1920s, two women (strangers at this point) sitting near each other in a woman’s club strike up a conversation about an advertisement they see to rent a medieval castle in Italy. Both women are lonely and are in marriages that are less than satisfactory. One of the women, Mrs. Wilkins, inspires the other and soon they are making plans to rent the castle. Each has a nest egg that she can use, and they decide to embark on this adventure without sharing their exact plans with their husbands. While making plans, they come to the conclusion that since it’s a huge castle with eight beds, that it would be a good idea to find two more women so that four of them are sharing the cost to rent the Italian castle for one month. The four lonely strangers, all miserable in their own ways, converge on the castle and each one of their lives is changed because of the almost magical experience. (more…)