The Book of CarolSue [Book Review]

August 24, 2020

The Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo

the Book of CarolSue by Lynne Hugo (cover) Image: an idyllic farm house surrounded by grass and trees and flowers

Genre/Categories: Women’s Contemporary Fiction, Siblings

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Thanks, #netgalley @kensingtonbooks for a complimentary e ARC of #TheBookofCarolSue  All opinions in this review are entirely my own.

CarolSue and her sister, Louisa, are in their 60s and are both widows. After CarolSue loses her husband suddenly and unexpectedly, Louisa swoops in with a master plan for CarolSue to move back to the farm and live with her. The sisters are very different people: CarolSue loves her life in Atlanta playing bridge and getting pedicures while Louisa loves canning vegetables and feeding her chickens on the farm. CarolSue has difficulty speaking up for herself and lets her sister make all the arrangements. A cast of colorful characters, an abandoned baby, a troubled reverend, and a young, desperate immigrant provide the complications.

My Thoughts:

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The Vanishing Half: [Book Review]

June 3, 2020

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (cover)

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Sisters, Complicated Family Drama, Own Voices

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

The Vignes sisters are twins. They are light-skinned black girls, identical, and inseparable. They endure a childhood trauma, are forced to leave high school early and go to work, and eventually leave home (run away) together at sixteen. From that point, everything changes. The future finds them estranged. Desiree escapes an abusive marriage and returns to her small southern hometown to live with her mom and her dark child. This is difficult because the town celebrates light-skinned blacks and Desiree’s dark-skinned daughter, Jude, faces racism within the black community. Stella decides to pass as white which means that she completely cuts ties with her past and her family. The Vanishing Half begins in the 1950s and concludes in the 1990s with the next generation (Desiree’s and Stella’s daughters).

My Thoughts:

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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?

As Bright As Heaven [Review] #flashbackfriday

April 17, 2020

Under lockdown orders due to COVID-19, I’ve thought many times of Susan Meissner’s book As Bright As Heaven which is about the 1918 Flu Pandemic. It’s amazing that what I read two years ago about a pandemic that happened one hundred years ago is relevant today!  I’ve also enjoyed The Secret Library’s Book Review Blog posts for #flashbackfriday. So even though it’s not the first Friday of the month, I’m joining Kerry @ Chat About Books to share my review of As Bright As Heaven that was first published in February of 2018. I hope I’ll be forgiven for joining the meme mid-month….I couldn’t wait until the first Friday of another month to bring your attention to this relevant read! Also….the Kindle version is $3.99 today!

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (cover)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary:

Three events coincide in this story: the Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918 for a fresh start, many men go off to fight in the Great War, and the Flu spreads in America. As Pauline Bright and her husband pursue their dream of giving their three daughters a chance at a better life in the big city of Philadelphia, the Flu Pandemic and the Great War greatly impact their lives and rearrange their priorities. Told from four perspectives (mother and the three daughters), it’s a story of survival, making difficult choices, facing challenges, and finding hope. Amazon Rating (early reviews): 4.7 Stars

Meet Two Sisters, Evelyn and Maggie Bright

Historical fiction is my favorite genre because in the stories we find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under difficult circumstances. Not too different from the inspiring stories we hear today on the news involving COVID-19 heroes. We are living the historical fiction stories of the future.

Timely…memorable…uputdownable…

In As Bright As Heaven, Evelyn (Evie) and Maggie Bright are the two older sisters and they become memorable characters with unique personalities and different strengths and weaknesses. Fifteen and twelve when the story opens, Evie is the oldest sister, smart, inquisitive, and a reader, while Maggie is feisty, opinionated, good-hearted, fearless, and determined. As their father leaves to fulfill his war-time responsibilities and the Flu begins to ravage Philadelphia and affect their family, the girls are forced to take on adult-sized responsibilities and concerns. As Evie and Maggie experience love and loss, they are also resilient, courageous in the face of challenges, and make many difficult decisions and choices. Despite dire circumstances, the sisters value family and never lose their ability to love and care for each other. While Evie embraces her role as the eldest and assumes responsibility and leadership, Maggie is a wild card who stubbornly insists on accompanying her mother on errands of mercy to the poorest and most needy population of Philadelphia to deliver food and medicine, bravely seeks to work in the family mortuary business, and one day impulsively makes a heart-wrenching discovery that leads her to make a life-changing decision that will impact all their lives. Her actions will promote great book club discussions about taking risks to do the right thing and facing the consequences.

Readers will laugh and cry with these unforgettable characters as well as learn facts about the Spanish Flu and its impact on Philadelphia.

Recommended. As Bright As Heaven is wholeheartedly recommended for readers who love reading about strong independent women, for those who love historical fiction and against-the-odds stories, for those who are looking for a value-centered and inspiring read, and for book clubs. It’s a simply written and straight-forward story despite alternating between four perspectives. Its memorable characters and tragic circumstances make this a solid and unforgettable read. As Bright As Heaven and A Fall of Marigolds are my two favorite Meissner titles!

Trigger Warnings: death from flu, dire circumstances
Content Warning: the setting is a funeral home

My Rating: 4+ Stars.

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

As Bright as Heaven

As Bright As Heaven Information Here

Meet the Author, Susan Meissner

Author, Susan Meissner (head shot, wearing a coral cardigan leaning against a wood slat wall)I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is to follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I’m happy and humbled to say that I’ve had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers’ conferences from time to time and I have a background in community journalism.

I’m also a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When I’m not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http//:susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at http://www.facebook.com/susan.meissner



QOTD:

Have you read As Bright As Heaven? Have you read another book about a pandemic? (I know it was briefly mentioned in Last Christmas in Paris.) Do you think ABAH would be too difficult to read right now in light of COVID-19 or do you think it would be interesting?



ICYMI

National Poetry Month

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Lighter Reads During Stressful Times

Ten Signs That I’m a Book Lover

Ten  Favorite Books About Books

The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover



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

 



Let’s Get Social!

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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.

© ReadingLadies.com

 

 

If You Want To Make God Laugh: A Review

September 13, 2019

If You Want To Make God Laugh
by Bianca Marais

If You Want to Make God Laugh Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, South Africa, Family Life

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

If You Want to Make God Laugh is the story of three unforgettable women living in post-Apartheid South Africa at the time of a growing AIDS epidemic and threats of civil war. Zodwa is seventeen, pregnant, poor, and lives in a squatter’s camp. Ruth and Delilah are middle-aged sisters who live on an inherited, rural farm. While Ruth is an unhappy, disillusioned, and newly divorced socialite, Delilah is a former nun and social worker who is hiding a big secret. A newborn baby will bring these characters together, and this is a story of their precarious relationships, of sibling jealousy, rivalry, and healing, and of found family.

My Thoughts:

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Searching For Sylvie Lee: A Review

August 9, 2019

Searching For Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

searching for sylvie lee review

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Asian-American Fiction, Family Life, Mystery, Sisters

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

What happened to the eldest daughter, Sylvie Lee?

That is the mystery that drives the plot of this complicated family drama.

A Chinese immigrant family, the Lees were too poor to keep their firstborn, Sylvie, and the parents sent her to the Netherlands where she was raised by her grandmother until she was nine. When Sylvie rejoined the Lee family in New York City, Amy was four years old. Sylvie helped raise Amy while their parents worked long hours to support their family.

Sylvie marries and during a recent solo trip she takes to the Netherlands to visit her dying grandmother, she disappears. Amy adores her beautiful and confident older sister and feels obligated to do everything in her power to find her. Filled with determination, she bravely sets out on her own journey to the Netherlands. While there, she discovers the truth about her family and their secrets.

Amazon Rating (August): 4.2 Stars

My Thoughts:

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The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters: A Review

June 19, 2019

Can three very different sisters living three vastly different lives come together to honor their mother’s last dying wish of traveling to India and scattering her ashes?

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Unlikely Adventures of Shergill Sisters Review

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, India

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

To honor their mother’s dying wish, three Punjabi sisters travel to India on a pilgrimage to visit sacred places that are special to Mom and to scatter her ashes. Told from the three perspectives of three very different sisters, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters explores sibling relationships, modern vs traditional roles of women, secrets, and the importance of family.

My Thoughts:

(more…)

The Library of Lost and Found: A Review

April 5, 2019

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

The Library of Lost and Found Review

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Books About Books, Family Life, Sisters

Thanks to #NetGalley #HarlequinBooks for a free e copy of #TheLibraryofLostandFound by #phaedrapatrick in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Martha Storm volunteers at the library, and she spends much of her free time selflessly helping others. In fact, she keeps meticulous lists of her projects in a Wonder Woman themed notebook (which we might call a bullet journal). Even though many people depend on her to help them out with small projects, Martha doesn’t have many friends and feels “invisible.” Her routine at the library and hours of service to others take a dramatic turn when a mysterious book arrives for her and Martha is determined to solve a family mystery that surrounds the book.

(more…)

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls: A Review

March 25, 2019

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls Review

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, African-American Literature, Mothers/Daughters, Sisters, Family Life

Summary:

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls shares the compelling and multilayered story of the three Butler sisters: Althea, Viola, and Lillian. Althea was a teenager when her mother died and the children were faced with living with their unstable and often absent father. As the oldest, Althea shouldered the burden of caring for her younger siblings. As adults, they each deal with their traumatic childhood in different ways. To the shock of the community, Althea and her husband face some serious criminal charges and years in prison. Viola and Lillian rally to care for Althea’s children. The story is told from three perspectives as we learn more about the family secrets and childhood trauma.

(more…)

February’s Most Compelling Character

February 23, 2018

February's Most Compelling Character

Meet two sisters, Evelyn and Maggie Bright

As Bright as Heaven
by Susan Meissner

As Bright as HeavenGenre: Historical Fiction

Summary:

Three events coincide in this story: the Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918 for a fresh start, many men go off to fight in the Great War, and the Spanish Flu reaches America. As Pauline Bright and her husband pursue their dream of giving their three daughters a chance at a better life in the big city of Philadelphia, the Spanish Flu and the Great War greatly impact their lives and rearrange their priorities. Told from four perspectives (mother and the three daughters), it’s a story of survival, making difficult choices, facing challenges, and finding hope. Amazon Rating (early reviews): 4.7 Stars

February’s Most Compelling Characters: Evie and Maggie Bright

For me, historical fiction is my favorite genre because in the stories we find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under difficult circumstances.

Evelyn (Evie) and Maggie Bright are the two older sisters in this story and become memorable characters with unique personalities and different strengths and weaknesses. Fifteen and twelve when the story opens, Evie is the oldest sister, smart, inquisitive, and a reader, while Maggie is feisty, opinionated, good-hearted, fearless, and determined. As their father leaves to fulfill his war-time responsibilities and the Flu begins to ravage Philadelphia and affect their family, the girls are forced to take on adult sized responsibilities and concerns. As Evie and Maggie experience love and loss, they are also resilient, courageous in the face of challenges, and make many difficult decisions and choices. Despite dire circumstances, the sisters value family and never lose their ability to love and care for each other. While Evie embraces her role as the eldest and assumes responsibility and leadership, Maggie is a wild card who stubbornly insists on accompanying her mother on errands of mercy to the poorest and most needy population of Philadelphia to deliver food and medicine, bravely seeks to work in the family mortuary business, and one day impulsively makes a heart wrenching discovery that leads her to make a life changing decision that will impact all their lives. Her actions would promote some great book club discussions about taking risks to do the right thing and facing the consequences.

Readers will laugh and cry with these unforgettable characters as well as learn facts about the Spanish Flu and its impact on Philadelphia.

Recommended. As Bright As Heaven is whole heartedly recommended for readers who love reading about strong independent women, for those who love historical fiction and against-the-odds stories, and for those who are looking for a value centered, clean read. It’s a simply written and straight-forward story despite alternating between four perspectives. There is some beautiful language sprinkled throughout, but I would not categorize it as literary fiction.  Its memorable characters  and tragic circumstances make this a solid and unforgettable read.

My Rating: 4 Stars.

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

As Bright as Heaven

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Susan Meissner

Susan MeissnerI cannot remember a time when I wasn’t driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I’m happy and humbled to say that I’ve had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers’ conferences from time to time and I’ve a background in community journalism.

I’m also a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When I’m not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http//:susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at http://www.facebook.com/susan.meissner



Link Up: February’s Most Memorable Character

Please leave a comment or link up a recent post that includes a memorable character from your February reading. To join the Link Up, enter the URL to your blog post (not your blog), your name, and email (which will remain hidden). Please link back to this post with a text link. In addition, please visit at least one other link. (*please bear with me if there are problems with the link up… I am inexperienced with link ups!)




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



Extra

Out of the DustA runner-up for most memorable character in February is fourteen year old Billie Jo from Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. A 1998 Newbery Award winner, this story of dust, poverty, tragedy, and despair is one of the saddest I’ve ever read. I think its free verse format brings some beauty to the story. Set in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and dust storm years, Billie Jo endures significant tragedy, loss, and despair. In the end, her fighting spirit, her hope in the future, and her ability to forgive are truly memorable.  This would be an excellent story to accompany a history lesson of the time period for mature middle school students and is a thoughtful and unforgettable adult read.

 



Looking Ahead:

I’m hoping to finish and review Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR).

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here

What are you reading this week?


The BUZZ

A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters on March 9! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20! 



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!

Have you read other historical selections about the Spanish Flu?
(I know it was briefly mentioned in Last Christmas in Paris.)

Please tell me about the most memorable character from your February reading!

What are you reading this week?