#throwbackthursday Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng [Book Review]

April 30, 2020

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
#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 Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

Little Fires Everywhere is now a movie adaptation on Hulu. Have you seen it?

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (cover) I/mage: birdseye view of a pristine upper class neighborhood

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction

My Summary:

Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio (yes, it’s a real place), strives to be a perfect planned community. In the words of the author there is a “propensity to over achieve and a deep intolerance for flaws…a utopia.” Every winding road is thoughtfully laid out, the list of house colors is a strict, guideline, trash pickup is conducted in the alleys and all trash cans are out of sight, and tradition is revered and informs the future. Generations of Elena Richardson’s family have lived in Shaker Heights, and she ensures that her family follows the rules and lives up to expectations. All through her life she has followed the rules and this is wholeheartedly embraced as her highest value. Part of her personal code of following the rules is giving back to those that are less fortunate whenever she can, and she’s the type who keeps a mental list of her good deeds. Elena especially wants to use her inherited rental property near her home to benefit others. She earnestly seeks out renters that could gain from the advantage of living in her perfect neighborhood in Shaker Heights. Mia Warren, a free-spirited artistic non-rule follower, and her teenage daughter, Pearl, are the most recent beneficiaries of Mrs. Richardson’s benevolence. Although when Mia is less than grateful for Mrs. Richardson’s offer to buy one of Mia’s photographs, Elena Richardson makes a mental note and this slight continues to bother her and becomes motivation for her future relationship with Mia:

“That’s very generous of you,” Mia’s eyes slid toward the window briefly and Mrs. Richardson felt a twinge of irritation at this lukewarm response to her philanthropy.

As the story unfolds, the two families become more involved with each other rather than simply remaining tenant and landlord. Soon the children become friends, Pearl spends her afternoons at the Richardson home, and Mia accepts a part-time position as a light house keeper and cook for the Richardson family.  Izzy Richardson, a teenage child who shares Mia’s artistic interests and temperament, and Mia develop a close relationship while Izzy learns photography skills in Mia’s darkroom. When one of Mrs. Richardson’s best friends is in the process of adopting a Chinese-American child,  the community is divided on the ethical issues and Elena Richardson and Mia Warren find themselves on opposite sides of the custody battle between the birth mother and adoptive mother. This conflict triggers Mrs. Richardson to find out about Mia’s motivations, her secrets, and her mysterious past. All of this has devastating consequences for the two families.

Are you a rule follower or a free spirit? Do you believe that following all the rules will lead to a happy and successful life?

Continue reading my review of Little Fires Everywhere….

QOTD: Have you read Little Fires Everywhere 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.

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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

 



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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

 

 

1st Line/1st Paragraphs, Tuesday Intros: The Operator by Gretchen Berg

April 14, 2020

1st Line/1st Paragraphs, Tuesday Intros

I’m linking up this week with Socrates’ Book Reviews who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter/First Paragraph (Tuesday Intros) of the book you are currently reading.

First Chapter, First Paagraph, Tuesday Intros (image: stack of books)

I’m pleased to share the first paragraph of The Operator by Gretchen Berg.

Is this on your TBR or have you read it?

Amazon Summary:

“In a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s business . . .

Nobody knows the people of Wooster, Ohio, better than switchboard operator Vivian Dalton, and she’d be the first to tell you that. She calls it intuition. Her teenage daughter, Charlotte, calls it eavesdropping.

Vivian and the other women who work at Bell on East Liberty Street connect lines and lives. They aren’t supposed to listen in on conversations, but they do, and they all have opinions on what they hear—especially Vivian. She knows that Mrs. Butler’s ungrateful daughter, Maxine, still hasn’t thanked her mother for the quilt she made, and that Ginny Frazier turned down yet another invitation to go to the A&W with Clyde Walsh.

Then, one cold December night, Vivian listens in on a call between that snob Betty Miller and someone whose voice she can’t quite place and hears something shocking. Betty Miller’s mystery friend has news that, if true, will shatter Vivian’s tidy life in Wooster, humiliating her and making her the laughingstock of the town.

Vivian may be mortified, but she isn’t going to take this lying down. She’s going to get to the bottom of that rumor—get into it, get under it, poke around in the corners. Find every last bit. Vivian wants the truth, no matter how painful it may be.

But as Vivian is about to be reminded, in a small town like Wooster, one secret usually leads to another. . . .”


The Operator by Gretchen Berg

The Operator by Gretchen Berg (cover) Image: an old fashioned rotary dial

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Genre/Categories: Women’s Historical Fiction, Light Mystery

1st Line/1st Paragraphs From Chapter One:

(more…)

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.

Summary:

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

(more…)

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.

Summary:

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.

(more…)

In Pieces: A Review

February 18, 2019  

In Pieces by Sally Field

In Pieces coverGenre/Categories: Non Fiction, Memoir, Biography, Family Relationships, Motherhood

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Summary:

Beloved actor Sally Field tells her story for the first time. Her earliest years were lived as a shy, vulnerable, insecure, and anxious little girl in social situations, and she reveals that she did not feel safe at home. In middle school she discovered acting and it became a refuge for her. As she reached her later teens and landed her first professional acting job, she felt responsible to help her mom and younger sister in financial and practical ways. Even when she married for the first time, she felt the burden of providing financially for her young family. From her early years as Gidget and The Flying Nun, Sally Field went on to captivate movie lovers with riveting and emotional performances in her portrayal of characters such as Sybil, Norma Rae, and Mary Todd Lincoln. Of course, we also loved her in Forest Gump and Mrs. Doubtfire. Most recently, she played a leading role in the TV drama series, Brothers & Sisters. Through Sally Field’s personal story, readers see her behind-the-scenes reality and also follow her unstable and codependent relationship with her mother in which she ultimately finds healing and reconciliation.

Amazon Ratings (February): 4.4 Stars

My Thoughts:

Content. Although Sally Field’s story, In Pieces, is a bit sadder and more tragic than I expected, she writes in the same authentic, transparent, upbeat, and vulnerable style we’ve come to expect from her. Sally Fields shares her behind-the-scenes experiences and her complicated family relationships. Especially poignant is the relationship with her mother and eventual reconciliation. I appreciate Sally’s struggle to understand her choices and those of others. She is determined to chase her dream and demonstrates grit in dealing with life’s disappointments and circumstances. Through her life experiences, we learn what it was like for her to follow her heart and pursue her ambition in a male dominated world. She shares the good and bad, her ups and downs, her fears and her success, her doubts and passion. Her memorable story is honest and authentic, powerful and inspiring. The story doesn’t come across as written by a celebrity (except for mentions of the movie industry)….it’s a story from someone we might sit across the table from working though difficult life issues.

Personal Connection. Stories in which readers can make personal connections become the best reading experiences! I grew up in around the same area of Southern California as Sally Field; in fact, as it turns out we lived in the same city during our childhoods. I grew up fangirling Sally, watching her first in Gidget and then The Flying Nun. I’ve admired her work in later years and cheered for her on award shows, so it was incredibly interesting to hear the behind-the-scenes stories for movies that I’ve seen (not on DVD or TV but as they were released).

Cover. I don’t often mention covers in my reviews, but I love the cover of In Pieces. Her picture reflects the vulnerable and transparent person we read about in the story.

Recommended. Sally Field’s accomplishments despite the obstacles she faced are remarkable. I love hearing how the profession of acting and the portrayal of certain characters helped her work out the emotions and desperate circumstances in her own life. She is a survivor, and it’s an engaging and well written story. I’m awarding this five stars because of the emotions I felt while reading her story and because it was engaging (read it in two days). In Pieces is recommended for readers who love memoir, for fans of Sally Field the actor, and for those who desire to read about the movie industry. ***Trigger warnings for child abuse and for attention given to women without their consent.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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In Pieces

In Pieces

Meet the Author, Sally Field

Sally Field

Sally Field is a two-time Academy Award and three-time Emmy Award winning actor who has portrayed dozens of iconic roles on both the large and small screens. In 2012, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2015 she was honored by President Obama with the National Medal of Arts. She has served on the Board of Directors of Vital Voices since 2002 and also served on the Board of The Sundance Institute from 1994 to 2010. She has three sons and five grandchildren.



Let’s Discuss!

Are you a Sally Field fan?! Which of her roles is your favorite?



Happy 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:

Come back Friday for a review of Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly.



Links

Check out The Secret Library Book Blog and her great weekly links!

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. So check back often!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! 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.



***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.

 

Review: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter

November 2, 2018

Do you love lighthouses?

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor

***Celebrating my 100th read of the year!***

The Lighthouse Keepers Daughter

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Summary:

Inspired by true events, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter shares the story of Grace Darling, an extraordinary young woman who helps her father keep the Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands off the coast of northeast England. One day in 1838 during a furious storm, Grace and her father rescue nine shipwreck survivors. Grace gains notoriety and finds herself the subject of poems, ballads, and plays. The dear friendship that develops between Grace and one of the survivors and the survivor’s brother continues to impact lives 100 years later.

In 1938 at another lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, nineteen year old Matilda is sent away from Ireland in disgrace to live with a distant relative who happens to be an assistant lighthouse keeper. As Matilda stumbles upon an old chest containing artifacts from her family history, she uncovers the story of Grace and the connections Grace has to Matilda’s great-great-grandmother. Although Matilda’s part of the story is pure fiction, the hurricane that hits the east coast of the U.S. in 1938 is historic.

Author, Hazel Gaynor, creates strong connections between two time periods and two story lines including hurricane events of 1838 and 1938, complex connections between past and present family members, and lighthouse themes between the stories.

Amazon (Early) Star Rating (November): 4.3 Stars

My Thoughts:

It’s always challenging to write a review when there’s so much to say!

Stars. First, I awarded this story all the stars because it is an engaging page turner with a complex plot, poignant themes, inspiring and well drawn characters, and the story tugs at the emotions. Any time I’m left with a bit of a reading hangover, I know it’s a 4 or 5 star read. While it’s a solid 4.5, I bumped it up to 5 on Goodreads because of the excellent writing.

Characters. One of Hazel Gaynor’s strengths is in creating and writing about strong, memorable female characters. Grace Darling is a real person and a good portion of the story explores the true events that surround her life. In the 1830s, she remarkably takes on responsibilities at the lighthouse that are usually assigned to men. In fact, she can take care of the lighthouse as well as her brother can and has more passion for the job, yet at that time in history, the assignment of lighthouse keeper is given to her brother. Grace also shows initiative in rescuing and caring for nine shipwreck survivors. Grace is a heroine and a role model for women in 1838. Her courage and determination inspired an independently minded and troubled Matilda later in the story.

Even the brave were once afraid. The sum of generations of strong, courageous women who came before her, an echo of them all lingering in her soul.

While Grace is a real person, the strong women characters we meet in 1938 are fictionalized, but they represent the work that women accomplished as lighthouse keepers. All four women characters in this story are brave and formidable as they draw strength from each other.

The inspiration Matilda is able to draw from Grace and the strong women in her family, reminds me how grateful I am for the strong generations of women in my own family. I think the spirit of courage, bravery, and determination is passed along from generation to generation. Do you have stories of strong women in your family?

Even though the connection between all the characters comes together neatly in the end, I feel it is a touch too coincidental, convenient, and easy……but still emotionally rewarding.

The Wikipedia article on Grace Darling can be found here; however, I recommend NOT reading it until after you’ve read the story to avoid spoilers.

Plot. A complex and multilayered plot, multiple perspectives, two time periods, and two locations will keep you engaged! I enjoyed how the two different time periods complimented each other in setting, family ties, facing hurricanes, and the characterizations of strong women.

Setting. If you love the sea and lighthouses, you will absolutely love the settings described in this story. Author Hazel Gaynor creates a delightful sense of place in both England and Rhode Island seaside locations. Even the detail of the collected shells connects both story lines.

Themes. Inspirational themes abound in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, and if you read my reviews you know that the presence of important themes often make or break my reading experience. I can overlook a lot in the presence of great writing and themes. In this story, poignant themes include father/daughter relationships; the lighthouse as a symbol of protection, guidance, safety, and protection; found family; strong and independent women finding their way and their voice; and family heritage.

Writing. In addition to the compelling story lines, you will enjoy excellent writing. I love a story in which I can appreciate the beautiful writing but it doesn’t interfere with the story. The writing flows as the author creates vivid images, memorable characters, and transitions between story lines. Hazel Gaynor is also the co author of the Last Christmas in Paris, one of my favorites of the year.  She has secured a place on my “auto buy” author list!

Lighthouses. Do you love lighthouses? Do you have a favorite lighthouse location? Do you have a nostalgic lighthouse story?

My personal lighthouse story: Several years ago my hubs and I traveled to York, Maine so that my hubs could meet his biological sister for the first time in his life! The Nubble Lighthouse is well loved by his sister’s family, and now it’s our favorite too! Here’s a pic my hubs and I took in front of the lighthouse marking the occasion of birth siblings reunited!

nubble lighthouse

Nubble Lighthouse, York, Maine

 

Recommended. Highly recommended for readers of historical fiction, for fans of stories with important themes, for those who savor stories of strong, independent women, and for all who are looking for an engaging and well written story.

My Star Rating: 4.5 Stars (rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads)

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lighthouse keeper's daughter

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Hazel Gaynor

Hazel GaynorHAZEL GAYNOR is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel, The Girl from the Savoy, was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. In 2017, she has published The Cottingley Secret and Last Christmas in Paris. Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and her work has been translated into several languages. Hazel lives in Ireland with her husband and two children.



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“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



Links I Love

Did you  see the results of the PBS Great American Read? Who did you vote for? I voted for Gone With the Wind (which came in at #6).

Have you seen The Hate U Give movie? Here’s the THUG trailer. 
I’ve read positive reviews with some saying it could be one of the best movies of the year.



Looking Ahead in Fiction:

I’m in the process of reading: Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zusak (The Book Thief).  It’s a slow read for me and I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish it before it’s due back to the library in three days, and in that case I’ll be reviewing Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen next week.

 

 

 

 



Looking Ahead in “Nonfiction November”

What do you have on your TBR for “Nonfiction November”?

One title that I’m considering is In Pieces by Sally Field. Beginning with The Flying Nun, Sally Field has played a lifelong prominent role in my entertainment life!

In Pieces

 

Another consideration is the new release by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Leadership: In Turbulent Times. I’m almost certain that this is what my hubs will be reading for “Nonfiction November” as Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of his “auto buy” authors!

leadership in turbulent times



My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
So far I’ve read nine out of my twelve titles (three more to go!).



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! 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

Do you have a favorite lighthouse location or lighthouse story?

What are your reading plans for November? I’m certainly looking forward to the new Louise Penny release on November 27!



***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. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

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.

 

Review: Clock Dance

September 7, 2018

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

clock dance 2

Genre/Categories: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Domestic Life

Summary:

In Clock Dance, Anne Tyler provides a compelling characterization of Willa Drake from a childhood with an unpredictable mother, to her college years and engagement, to her later years as a young widow rebuilding her life, and, finally, to her senior years which find her longing for attachment, family, and a place to belong. In this bittersweet journey, readers root for Willa as she experiences grief, renewed hope, and new direction for her life.

Amazon Rating (September): 3.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Background. Sometimes it helps to go into a read with low expectations. I had read only two of Tyler’s works before this and I was left underwhelmed. Even though Anne Tyler masterfully creates well drawn characters and is well-known for her beautiful, nuanced writing, I need a bit of a plot to keep me engaged.

Because I admire Tyler’s writing and one of my favorite literary reviewers (Modern Mrs. Darcy) recommended this book on her Summer Reading Guide, I decided to give it a try…but with low expectations.

Surprise. It was a pleasant surprise to find myself engaged with this quiet, bittersweet story of an ordinary woman’s life. I was able to relate to her on several levels and the author provided just enough plot to keep me reading.

Read Alike. In some respects this story reminds me of Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. If you’ve read both, please let me know what you think of this comparison! One difference is that, for me, the resolution is more satisfying in Clock Dance than it is in Britt-Marie.

Connections. Reading is a personal experience and the ability to make some connection with a character or a situation makes all the difference! That’s why I always encourage readers to give books a try for her- or himself. I’m glad I gave this a chance!

Recommended. Although there are mixed reviews of this book and it’s not one I recommend for everyone, it’s one that I recommend trying if you love beautiful, nuanced writing and well drawn characters. Readers who appreciate a quiet story of an ordinary woman finding her voice might appreciate this. Also recommended for fans of Britt-Marie Was Here.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars (rounded to 4 stars on Goodreads)

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clock dance

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Anne Tyler

Anne TylerAnne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of more than twenty novels. Her twentieth novel, A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2015. Her eleventh novel, BREATHING LESSONS, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“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



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read all but three on the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

This week I plan to finish Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and bring you a review next Friday.

just mercy

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! 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

Do you enjoy quiet, character driven stories? What are some that you’ve read and enjoyed? Are you a fan of Anne Tyler? Do you have favorite books by her?

Are you looking ahead to fall reading? I have quite a fall TBR list that I’m eager to share with you!



***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. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

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.

A Rec For You, Mom!

May 11, 2018

mom and me mother's day

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

Mom didn’t grow up loving to read, but she always made sure that her three girls were surrounded by library books and read to us when we were little. Mom admits that when she was in high school, she bribed her older sister to write her book reports. After graduation she went to business school in preparation for secretarial work. As a new wife and young mother, she had limited free time as most of her time was spent on labor intensive and time-consuming farm chores (in the days before our modern conveniences). Later when my father became a pastor, she spent her free evenings ironing his white shirts. Finally when her daughters were in high school and she went back to college, she began reading for her own pleasure. After she discovered the joy of reading and found herself with more free time, she was always in the middle of a book and today she reads all of my recommendations; in fact, we share an Amazon kindle account. In addition to a myriad of individual titles, we’ve read and loved the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache series and the Alexander McCall Smith #1 Ladies Detective series. Sharing books is a joy! It’s difficult for me to imagine a time in her life when she didn’t read.

I think you’ll like the title I’m recommending today, Mom!

The Way of Beauty
by Camille Di Maio

the way of beauty 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Family, Romance, New York City, Penn Station

*Linking up today with Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over from there, Welcome!

Summary:

As a child in the early 1900s in New York City, Vera Keller falls in love with a childhood friend who is nine years older than she. Through the years, they remain close. Although Angelo acts like her older brother, Vera is convinced that someday they will marry. One day she is shocked when he introduces her to his fiance, Pearl. Despite her heartbreak, Vera and Pearl become friends and Pearl introduces her to the Suffragette Movement. As Vera becomes entangled in their lives, her love for Angelo never dies. As a result of her love for Angelo and her commitment to Pearl’s cause, Vera has many challenges and difficult choices to make. The latter half of the book is told from Vera’s daughter’s perspective. Her daughter, Alice, enjoys benefits from the Suffragette Movement but also faces her own challenges in caring for her ailing father and in choosing between two men whom she loves. Early Amazon Star Rating (May): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Do you have fond memories of a certain landmark that you associate with a memorable event in your life? (For my husband and I, it’s In ‘N Out hamburger stands!) Are you old enough to have grieved the demise of certain landmarks or symbols? Have you ever remarked “Remember when…”? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may find this story especially meaningful.

Although romance plays a large role in this story, there’s so much more. Readers gain historical insight into and appreciation for New York City’s historic Penn Station and for the daring and visionary women who led the Suffragette Movement. At the center of everything, there’s a sweet and heartfelt story of family and individual determination.

In addition to poignant themes of friendship, true love, family loyalty and support, hopes and dreams, class distinctions, privilege, strong and independent women, sacrifice, perseverance, progress, and preservation of the past, you will find lovable and memorable characters and an engaging story line.

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction and multi generational stories, for those who love descriptive historical perspectives of the time period and architecture, for New Yorkers, and for readers who are looking for an engaging, captivating, unputdownable, and enjoyable read.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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I hope you enjoy this week’s recommendation, Mom!

mothers-day

candle for mom

 

the way of beauty

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Camille Di Maio

camille di maioCamille recently left an award-winning real estate career in San Antonio to become a full-time writer. Along with her husband of twenty years, she enjoys raising their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She overdoses on goodies at farmers markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries) and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. “The Memory of Us” is Camille’s debut novel and is a finalist for the Holt Medallion Award for Literary Excellence. Her second, “Before the Rain Falls” was released in May 2017. Her third, “The Way of Beauty” is available now.



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

“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



Links I Love

The Novel Endeavor: Books for Mom: A Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Love, Peace & Raspberry Cordial: Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me

A Lovely Photography Blog @ A Rosy Note

Recipes and thoughtful reflections from The Thankful Heart



In Case You Missed It…….Last Week’s Post Listing Bookish Gift Ideas For Mom



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I plan to talk about summer reading (in eager anticipation of Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2018 Summer Reading Guide to be released in a few days!). I’m also selecting something from my Spring TBR list to read (still waiting for library holds).



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! 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!

I’d love to hear about your memorable landmarks!

Also, please share what you’ve been reading lately!



Happy Mother’s Day to my followers who are celebrating! 

happy mothers day wreath

candle for mom



***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. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Eden

April 6, 2018

Eden
by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

Eden 2

Genre/categories: Fiction, Family Life, Family Saga

*linking up with Words on Wednesday

 

Summary:

Generations of Becca Meister’s family have traditionally spent memorable summers at the family’s estate affectionately known as “Eden” in Long Harbor, Rhode Island (fictionalized setting). This year as the family gathers for the 4th of July holiday, Becca (the family’s 70 year old matriarch) plans to admit to the family that she can no longer afford the upkeep on the estate because her late husband mismanaged their retirement funds. Suddenly, the family is faced with the reality that this might be their last summer at Eden. Because of other personal events happening in Becca’s life, she also concludes that this is the time she must reveal a family secret. In addition to the present day timeline, the story introduces readers to Becca’s childhood and family, we learn the history of Eden (including the hurricane of ’38), and readers come to appreciate what Eden means to the family.

Amazon Rating (April): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Historical fiction: Although this book isn’t categorized as historical fiction, there are historical elements that some readers may find fascinating.  For instance, life in the 1920s (particularly for women), the stock market crash, the hurricane along the east coast in 1938, lifestyle of the east coast elite and their summer resorts, and the experiences of women in one family over eight decades.

Family saga: I love a multigenerational family saga! Readers follow this family for eight decades and experience their joys, sorrows, challenges, achievements, trials, hopes, dreams, relationships, values, and connectedness (or disconnects)…..in other words, this is a normal family much like our own. Readers will find a myriad of opportunities to relate. In particular, I liked how getting to know the grandparents helped explain Becca’s actions and decisions. I found the focus on mother/daughter relationships throughout the story especially interesting.

Child birth and adoption:  The story’s most fascinating and interesting themes for me were the unwed girls and their unplanned pregnancies story lines. Over the course of eighty years, the author includes stories of three unwed girls: one in the early 1900s, one in the mid 1900s, and one in present day. It was fascinating to trace how each of their pregnancies were handled in the time periods. Early in the century, an unwed girl’s unplanned pregnancy was generally hidden (even from the baby’s father), and the girl was whisked away to deliver the baby and place him/her for adoption. Upon returning home to resume her normal life, no mention was made of the baby and the girl was expected to live with the secret for her entire life. To disclose the situation would have caused the family and the girl a great deal of shame. In the middle of the century, an unwed girl experiencing an unplanned pregnancy was strongly encouraged to marry the father quickly even if  the couple hadn’t planned on a marriage. This attempt to “legitimatize” the baby often resulted in making two mistakes as the marriage arrangements were often made out of necessity and coercion and not out of thoughtful commitments and promises. Finally, unwed girls facing unplanned pregnancies at the end of the century experience having many options and not hiding their pregnancies. While some girls opt to place the baby for adoption, others choose to marry and keep the baby, or choose not to marry and raise the child as a single parent with the help of the extended family. There is no shame and the child is welcomed with love and celebrated. This theme touched me as our family has been blessed by adoption. My aunt who was born in the ’20s was a girl that was whisked away until her baby was born and placed for adoption. My husband was placed for adoption as a baby (at a time when adoptions were not as openly discussed as they are now), and although his adoptive parents weren’t forthcoming with him about the adoption during his early childhood, he was able to meet his birth mother and his biological sister as an older adult a few years ago. When my husband was eventually told about his adoption, his parents cautioned him not to tell anyone that he was adopted…that it was their secret. This caused him to believe that there was something wrong with the process that brought him into the family. In more current times, my nephew was adopted through an open adoption process and had the opportunity to meet his birth mother as soon as he became an adult. Open adoption is probably the scariest for the adoptive mom but I think it’s probably healthiest for the first mom and for the child. I know mothers and adopted children from all three perspectives and these personal connections greatly enrich the story for me.

The title: The first concept that comes to my mind with the title Eden is a paradise….and Eden in this story is a type of paradise, but it’s also a symbol for traditions (locations or experiences) that hold families together for generations. Perhaps we all have that place in mind that evokes warm childhood memories of families gathered, feelings of being loved, and of belonging. For me, it’s visiting the family farms of my childhood in South Dakota.

Themes: If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you know that I love stories with substantial themes. A few themes that I feel would merit some discussion are themes of mother/daughter relationships and expectations, unwed girls facing pregnancies, adoption, privilege, women’s voice and power (or lack of), and family traditions.

The cover: I passed over this book time and time again on my TBR shelf because the gray toned, muted cover wasn’t calling out to me. This is obviously a subjective statement with which others may completely disagree. After reading the story, I can make guesses about why the author chose the cover; however, it wasn’t one that appealed to me. Look beyond the cover!

Lots of characters and jumping between timelines: Thankfully, the author provides a family tree at the beginning of the story because I really needed it! Readers listening on audible might want to jot down names and relationships along the reading journey. Many stories today have alternating timelines and it’s more challenging in some books than others. I felt like I worked hard throughout the story to be fully present in the timeline hops. Frequently, I found that I needed to stop and think about the characters and the situations when jumping to the alternate timeline.

Recommended? Yes! The more I reflect on this story, the richer it becomes. Recommended for readers who enjoy well told family sagas, thought provoking themes, or who might have some familiarity with Rhode Island (or summer beach resort living!).

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Eden

Buy Here

Meet the Author,
Jeanne Blasberg

jeanne blasbergAlways hunting for writerly detail, I’ve been known to stare or eavesdrop on the table next to me.  Call it research or maybe an over-developed sense of empathy; I’m fascinated by human nature.  At heart, I’m really still that only child who played for hours with imaginary friends.  Now my imaginary friends are characters on the page, flawed but honest, people worth spending time with.  My stories may echo timeless struggles, but they are spun with my own peculiar slant.

Jeanne Blasberg is a voracious observer of human nature and has kept a journal since childhood. She has been known to stare at strangers on more than one occasion to the embarrassment of her three children. (Mom, stop staring!)  After graduating from Smith College, she surprised everyone who knew her by embarking on a career in finance, making stops on Wall Street, Macy’s and Harvard Business School, where she worked alongside the preeminent professor of retail and wrote case studies and business articles on all sorts of topics on everything that has to do with…shopping.

A firm believer that you are never too old to change course or topics (in truth, she’s not a big shopper), Jeanne enrolled at Grub Street, one of the country’s great creative writing centers, where she turned her attention to memoir and later fiction, inspired by her childhood journal. Eden is her debut novel.

Now deep into her second novel, Jeanne and her husband split their time between Boston and Westerly, RI. When not writing, Jeanne can be found playing squash, skiing, or taking in the sunset over Little Narragansett Bay, and sometimes simply staring at interesting characters doing uninteresting things.

Jeanne’s writing has appeared in The Sun Literary Magazine’s Reader’s Write, Squash Magazine, Interfaith Family.comDead Darlings.comBreakingMatzo.comThe Huffington Post,  Women Writers Women’s Books, and Adoptimist.com.

jeanneblasberg.com



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

“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

I’m on very long library wait lists for The Force of Nature and The Music Shop….meanwhile I’m waiting for kindle prices to fall and reading other selections. Consequently, next Friday I’ll read and review From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon (a  histfic title from my Goodreads TBR shelf with an average Goodreads rating of 4.41 stars and Amazon rating of 4.7 stars).

From Sand and Ash

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?


Extra:
Reading Recommendation For Middle Grade Readers!

(And for all readers looking for a thought provoking story!)

Crenshaw

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate is a beautifully and creatively written middle grade story exploring poverty, homelessness, and imaginary friends. Because the content of this book builds compassion and the topic of homelessness might worry some readers, I’m recommending it as an excellent “read together” book.

The first reason I loved this story is because of the personal connections I made as a teacher at a Title 1 school where the student population often experienced poverty and homelessness. I could share many stories of how their personal experiences impacted my life and our classroom.

I believe this is a thoughtful story for students who are not in this situation to build empathy, but I wonder how children who are experiencing poverty and homelessness would react to the story without having someone with which to process.

In the story, the main character, Jackson, has an imaginary friend (Crenshaw, as seen on the cover) and I appreciate the author’s subtle message that the imaginary friend appears to help Jackson deal with his stress. In fact, when Jackson questions why Crenshaw is larger than he was when Jackson was little, Crenshaw explains that Jackson needs a bigger imaginary friend now that his problems are different.

I thought a great deal while reading the story about how children process stress. It is interesting that Jackson appears fine to his parents (mom thanks him for being positive and helpful), yet he experiences stress because of not knowing what is going to happen. In addition, he also feels tremendous responsibility for his sister (even giving up his plan to run away in order to take care of her).

“What bothered me most, though, is that I couldn’t fix anything. I couldn’t control anything. It was like driving a bumper car without a steering wheel. I kept getting slammed, and I just had to sit there and hold on tight. Bam! Were we going to have enough to eat tomorrow? Bam! Were we going to have enough to pay the rent? Bam! Would I go to the same school in the fall? Bam!”

This thought impacted me while reading: Children can adapt easily because they desire/need stability, togetherness, love, predictability, family….but adults sometimes don’t realize the stress the child is feeling because they “appear” to be adapting.

Crenshaw is an interesting, creative, thought provoking, and worthwhile read. I’ve heard it described that books can be a door or a mirror. This book is both: a door through which children can build compassion and a mirror for children facing similar situations.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



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!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

How has adoption touched your life?

Do you enjoy hearing about middle grade recommendations? Do you think great literature and wonderful stories can be enjoyed by all ages?