The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and Educated by Tara Westover [Book Reviews] #throwbackthursday

August 6, 2020

Compelling Characters in The Great Alone (fiction) by Kristin Hannah and Educated (nonfiction) by Tara Westover
#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 reviews of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and Educated by Tara Westover, a focus on compelling characters…

a collage of Educated and The Great Alone covers

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Two compelling characters…

Introduction:

Today I’m highlighting two compelling characters: Leni from The Great Alone (fiction) and Tara from Educated: A Memoir (nonfiction). Leni and Tara share some similar struggles and challenges. The two stories reminded me at times of The Glass Castle (charismatic yet unpredictable fathers, unstable homes, neglect, poverty) and Hillbilly Elegy (chaotic family life, nurturing grandparents)….a fascinating book club discussion could be centered around discussing the connections between these books and characters.

Continue here for my review of the Great Alone and Educated

QOTD: Have you read The Great Alone or Educated or are they on your TBR?

July 2020 Reading Wrap Up

July 31, 2020

July 2020 Reading Wrap Up

July Reading Wrap Up (a collage of covers)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

What Was Your Favorite July Read?

From a numerical standpoint, July was the best reading month I’ve had in a while. I read 15 books (17 if I count the last two I squeaked in at month’s end after I had already written this post…I’ll count them for August). I ended up with two five-star reads (4.5 rounded up) and three four-star reads, nine three-star reads, and one two-star read. I did not have a DNF although I admit to skim-reading my two-star read.

Reading in July looked a bit different for me in that I read quite a few light women’s fiction selections. For some reason, my Pandemic brain craved lighter reads, and then I inadvertently read #4 in a series and I always read series in order, so I needed to go back and read books 1-3! #bookproblems

My favorite fiction read of the month is a tie between The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai and The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel for their page-turning storylines and inspirational characters.

Find all my July 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.

Did we read any of the same books?

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

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Titles are Amazon links and available reviews are linked.


The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

4.5 Stars (rounded to 5). Historical Fiction, Multigenerational Family Drama. Vietnamese. My full review of The Mountains Sing.


The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

4.5 Stars (Rounded to 5). Historical Fiction. WW11. Engaging and page-turning. My full review of The Book of Lost Names.


Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

4 Stars. (ARC: Pub Date: 11/24/2020) Historical Fiction/Women’s Fiction/Adventure mashup. Quite a unique read! Review coming soon.


Wish by Barbara O’Connor

4 Stars. (Middle Grade) Heartwarming. Finding a home. Not reviewed.

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Reblog: Summer’s One #MustReadBook 2020 #toptentuesday

July 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday (meme)

Today I’m linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: Freebie. For this week’s top ten list I’m reblogging a recent post in which twelve bloggers recommend their ONE recommendation for the summer. I know this is more than ten, but I think you’ll enjoy the bonus picks! I hope you find a great read!

(Originally published, July 17, 2020)

Find Your One “Must Read” Book of Summer 2020!

Are you pondering what book to choose for your vacation or staycation?

Are you in limbo trying to decide what ONE great book to read this summer?

Do you ever wish someone would just TELL you what book to read?

Are you looking for a list of trusted book review bloggers?

Do you spend more time thinking about which book to pack for your vacation than packing the clothes? (oh…just me?)

If you only have time to read ONE more book before summer’s end, what would you choose?

beach reads cartoon

I love the social distancing!

This is the time of year when readers look for “beach reads.” This term is puzzling to me because I think any book you read at the beach or the pool is a beach or pool read (similar to any body at the beach is a beach body!). Furthermore, “beach read” means different things to different readers: some want easy reading/light/fluffy, some want escapist, some want romcom, some want thrillers/suspense/mystery, while others are looking for heavier or longer reads that they might have more time for in the summer. During the summer, I look for the same types of reads I look for all year long: something substantial, engaging, memorable, unputdownable, and thought-provoking. What is your ideal beach or pool read?

Reviewers Recommend:

Some things bring joy to a blogger’s heart and this post is definitely at the top of the list!

I am thrilled to publish this post today! I contacted twelve experienced reviewers from a variety of geographical locations to ask them what they would recommend as their ONE “Not-to-be-Missed” Summer 2020 Recommendation. Today, I’m exceptionally excited to introduce you to twelve bloggers who chose ONE recommendation for YOU (listed in alphabetical order by blogger’s first name). Please take a look at their recommendation, check out their blog, and give them a follow!

I think you’ll enjoy the following “recent releases” recommendations that include some diversity and represent a mix of genres that will appeal to a variety of tastes (from nonfiction to historical fiction to books about literary characters to anti-racism to contemporary fiction to chick-lit to romcom to self-help to literary fiction to romance to science fiction to fantasy to “own voices”).

We hope at least one matches YOUR reading taste!

i love books

***Titles are Amazon affiliate links and full review links have been included.

(more…)

Summer’s One #MustReadBook 2020

July 17, 2020

Find Your One “Must Read” Book of Summer 2020!

Are you pondering what book to choose for your vacation or staycation?

Are you in limbo trying to decide what ONE great book to read this summer?

Do you ever wish someone would just TELL you what book to read?

Are you looking for a list of trusted book review bloggers?

Do you spend more time thinking about which book to pack for your vacation than packing the clothes? (oh…just me?)

If you only have time to read ONE more book before summer’s end, what would you choose?

beach reads cartoon

I love the social distancing!

This is the time of year when readers look for “beach reads.” This term is puzzling to me because I think any book you read at the beach or the pool is a beach or pool read (similar to any body at the beach is a beach body!). Furthermore, “beach read” means different things to different readers: some want easy reading/light/fluffy, some want escapist, some want romcom, some want thrillers/suspense/mystery, while others are looking for heavier or longer reads that they might have more time for in the summer. During the summer, I look for the same types of reads I look for all year long: something substantial, engaging, memorable, unputdownable, and thought-provoking. What is your ideal beach or pool read?

Reviewers Recommend:

Some things bring joy to a blogger’s heart and this post is definitely at the top of the list!

I am thrilled to publish this post today! I contacted twelve experienced reviewers from a variety of geographical locations to ask them what they would recommend as their ONE “Not-to-be-Missed” Summer 2020 Recommendation. Today, I’m exceptionally excited to introduce you to twelve bloggers who chose ONE recommendation for YOU (listed in alphabetical order by blogger’s first name). Please take a look at their recommendation, check out their blog, and give them a follow!

I think you’ll enjoy the following “recent releases” recommendations that include some diversity and represent a mix of genres that will appeal to a variety of tastes (from nonfiction to historical fiction to books about literary characters to anti-racism to contemporary fiction to chick-lit to romcom to self-help to literary fiction to romance to science fiction to fantasy to “own voices”).

We hope at least one matches YOUR reading taste!

i love books

***Titles are Amazon affiliate links and full review links have been included.

(more…)

#TopTenTuesday: 10 Books That Make Me Smile

July 14, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books That Make Me Smile

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: Books That Make Me Smile.

If you’ve clicked over from That Artsy Reader Girl, Welcome! Please look around and enjoy your stay.

Today’s prompt is “Books That Make Me Smile” and I hope that I’ve chosen books that will make you smile, also. I interpret “make me smile” to mean that they make me “happy I read that,” not funny books that make me laugh out loud.

Because I read a great deal of histfic, I do not have an overabundance of “uplit” books that fall into this category. I hope you enjoy the titles I’ve picked out for this week’s prompt. Let me know if we share any favorites or if you have an “uplit” title I can add to my list.

 *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


No.1 Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith

Kind, gracious, and wise Mma Precious Ramotswe and a cast of quirky supporting characters and the culture of Botswana bring many smiles to my face. A recent favorite is The House of Unexpected Sisters and I look forward to a new installment this fall, How to Raise an Elephant. Each installment is like visiting with old friends. If you are looking for easy-reading, gentle, comfort reads with likable characters and uplifting themes, this might be a good option.


The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abi Waxman

Smart, snappy, and humorous writing with a likable and quirky character will bring a smile to your face. (skip Ch 5 if you are would rather not read crude humor)


Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman (cover)

Things My Son Needs to Know About the World by Fredrik Backman

If you have children in your life, Backman’s essays on parenthood will bring a smile to your face.


The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy (cover) Image: pen and ink sketch of a horse, a boy, a mole, and a fox

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Delightful illustrations and poignant, thoughtful reflections on life (reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh) will bring a smile to your face.


This Won't End Well (cover) ....a young woman peeking through some bushes

This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagán

Some snappy writing, a quirky character, and an enemies to lovers trope will bring a smile to your face.

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6 in 6 [2020]

July 11, 2020

6 in 6 [2020]

6 best in 6 months (image: a collage of 6 book covers)

The Six in Six is a meme created by Jo at The Book Jotter At the end of June (or in my case, mid-July!) we are halfway through the year,  so the idea is to share the books we have read in those first 6 months.

In the true spirit of the meme, we are asked to share 6 books in 6 categories. Because of the time factor, we can create a post with whatever combination works for us as long as it involves 6 books. Nicki @ The Secret Library Book Blog inspired me to participate in this meme.

For this 6 in 6 post, I will begin by listing the 6 best books I’ve read so far this year. Then I will add 6 additional categories but each category will have only one selection (not 6).

a cartoonish number 6

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#TopTenTuesday: Most Read Authors

July 7, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Most-Read Authors

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: Most-Read Authors.

If you’ve clicked over from That Artsy Reader Girl, Welcome! Please look around and enjoy your stay.

Who is your most read author? It was interesting to crunch the numbers to see which authors made the top of my list. This list reflects reading from recent years and does not reflect my childhood reading. Also, this list is not representative of my favorite authors. Some of my newly discovered favorite authors have only written one or two books.

 *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Listed in order of the number of books read (not in order of favorite author). I have more than ten authors in this post because #bookproblems



 

Alexander McCall Smith: 22 Books Read

I love Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (series of 20). I adore the kind and gracious Mma Precious Ramotswe and the cast of quirky supporting characters, and I appreciate the setting and culture of Botswana. A recent favorite is The House of Unexpected Sisters and I look forward to a new installment this fall, How to Raise an Elephant. I’ve tried his Scotland series and I read My Italian Bulldozer, but I prefer the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series to anything else. Each installment is like visiting with old friends. If you are looking for easy-reading, gentle, comfort reads with likable characters and uplifting themes, this might be a good option. They definitely fall in the category of “uplit.”



 

Louise Penny: 15 Books Read

The best part of this gentle mystery series for me is the character of Chief Inspector Armond Gamache. The setting of Three Pines is an additional draw. One of my favorites of the series is Glass Houses and I’m looking forward to a new installment in September, All the Devils Are Here.



 

Fredrik Backman: 8 Books Read

If Backman had written 100 books, I would have read them all! They are all different so it’s difficult to choose a favorite. Thus I’m listing all eight! At the moment, he is my favorite author (and will be at the top of this list when he writes more books). I devoted an entire post to Backman here.

Beartown, Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, Deal of a Lifetime, Things My Son Needs to Know About the World, and Us Against You have been reviewed on the blog. I’m eagerly waiting for number nine due out in September, Anxious People.



A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Neissner (cover) White test on a blue background vordered on three corners with marigolds

Susan Meissner: 5 Books

Susan Meissner writes engaging historical fiction, and my favorite is A Fall of Marigolds.



 

Mitch Albom: 5 Books Read

Do you love Mitch Albom, too? I regret that I’m not yet a Mitch Albom completist. Are you? My favorites are Tuesdays With Morrie, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, and Finding Chika.

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#6Degrees of Separation: From What I Loved to Learning to See

July 4, 2020

Happy Birthday U.S.A.!

giphy

 #6Degrees of Separation: From What I Loved by Siri Hustved to Learning to See by Elise Hooper

#6Degrees of Separation (a collage of covers in this post)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

ART!

#6Degrees of Separation: from What I Loved by Siri Hustved to Learning to See by Elise Hooper.

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. I’ve seen this meme around for a while and Davida’s posts at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog inspired me to give it a try this year! Making connections between books is challenging, creative, and fun!

Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are:

  • Link the books together in any way you like.
  • Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
  • Share these rules in your post.
  • Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
  • Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
  • Share your post on Twitter using the #6Degrees hash tag.
  • Be nice! Visit and comment on other posts and/or retweet other #6Degrees posts.

Play Along?

This month’s prompt starts with What I Loved by Siri Hustved and is a book I have not read. I notice in the summary that an extraordinary painting is discovered, so my chain will be built around an art theme.

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (cover) Image: a girl in a red spaghetti stap dress sits with her back to the camera and rests her left hand on the side of her dark short hairAmazon Summary: “What I Loved begins in New York in 1975, when art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a SoHo gallery. He buys the work; tracks down the artist, Bill Wechsler; and the two men embark on a life-long friendship. Leo’s story, which spans twenty-five years, follows the growing involvement between his family and Bill’s–an intricate constellation of attachments that includes the two men, their wives, Erica and Violet, and their sons, Matthew and Mark.

The families live in the same New York apartment building, rent a house together in the summers and keep up a lively exchange of ideas about life and art, but the bonds between them are tested, first by sudden tragedy, and then by monstrous duplicity that slowly comes to the surface. A beautifully written novel that combines the intimacy of a family saga with the suspense of a thriller, What I Loved is a deeply moving story about art, love, loss, and betrayal.”

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (cover) Image a solitary house stands on a windswept prairieFirst Degree. From the summary of What I Loved, I notice that an extraordinary piece of art is discovered. This reminds me of A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting, Christina’s World..

Goodreads Summary: “A stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

“Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.”

Christina's World painting by Andrew Wyeth (Image:) a young woman drags herself across a prairie toward a solitary house on a hill

Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century. My Goodreads review of A Piece of the World.

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (cover)Second Degree: Another story involving art is Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain. Here, the story involves an imagined mural.

My Summary: “Secrets, prejudice, and making peace with the past …. Two young women living several decades apart are focused on the same mural….one is creating the mural in 1940 and the other is restoring the same mural in 2018. In alternate viewpoints and dual timelines, we hear both stories, the mystery of what happened to the original artist is uncovered, and connections between the two are revealed.” My review of Big Lies in a Small Town.

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (cover) Image: 17th cuntury portrait of a girl looking over her shoulder at the camera wearing a blue and gold head covering and a pearl earringThird Degree: The next book to involve art is is Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. The subject of the painting (as depicted on the cover) by the Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, is anonymous.

Amazon Summary: Tracy Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly-imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer’s most celebrated paintings.

History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . . . even as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil.” (***I gave this one 3.5 stars but didn’t write a review except to note that is is “an enjoyable and interesting character-driven story”).

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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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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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