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.

 

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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?

Most Compelling Characters of March

March 30, 2018

March Compelling Character

This month I’m choosing two most 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.

I’d love to hear which characters you read about this month that were the most memorable for you. I’ve provided a link up or you can leave a comment.

 

Meet Leni and Tara:

For me, memorable characters who grow and change despite the obstacles make all the difference in a good story. Both Leni and Tara are my choices for this month’s most compelling characters because they share some experiences and traits that make them memorable. Both endure emotional and physical abuse (not sexual), yet despite difficult childhoods, they each rise above their circumstances. Surprisingly, they continue to love and show devotion for their parents (this struck me in The Glass Castle, as well). Leni and Tara share a drive to pursue an education and a desire to belong. In addition, they are determined, persistent, courageous, loyal, clever, and brave. Each girl feels threatened (one by her father and the other by her brother) and fears for her safety.  While Leni receives support from her small village community, Tara receives support from one brother, a BYU counselor, and some professors. Each girl is memorable in her grit, her ability to survive,and her drive to strive for something better in her life. These memorable characters allow me to rate both stories 4 Stars and to recommend these reads to others. ***Trigger warnings***

Tara’s words after dance class: “The other girls rarely spoke to me, but I loved being there with them. I loved the sensation of conformity. Learning to dance felt like learning to belong.”

Tara’s words about her abusive brother: “Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.”

Brief Synopsis and Review of The Stories:

The Great Alone is a story about a dysfunctional family that eventually moves to the harsh wilderness of Alaska to make a fresh start. In this page turner by Kristin Hannah (author of the Nightingale), thirteen-year-old Leni watches her gentle and artistic mother struggle to live a happy and secure life with her father, a Vietnam War vet, who suffers from PTSD.  A survivalist, her father becomes more paranoid and controlling as the story progresses. ***trigger warnings for emotional and physical abuse***  Leni, struggling to stay in school and walking on egg shells around her father, is also concerned about her mother and about their general well-being as the dark winter and isolation of the Alaskan wilderness cause her father’s symptoms to worsen. The first part of the story is slower paced and devoted to establishing a sense of place, character development, and a slow build up of the problem. The last part of the story  unfolds at a rapid pace and there are attempts to escape and confrontations. Some have commented that the ending is tied together easily, quickly, and conveniently. This didn’t bother me too much because rapid emotional plot twists are Kristin Hannah’s style and part of me was eager and relieved to have closure to Leni’s story.  If you’re looking for an engaging page turner with an Alaskan wilderness setting, this is a good selection to meet that criteria. However, The Nightingale remains my favorite work by Kristin Hannah. My Rating for The Great Alone: 4 Stars. (March Amazon Rating  4.6 Stars)

Great Alone

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here

Educated is a memoir by Tara Westover.  Tara grew up as one of seven children in a Mormon family making their home in Idaho.  Both parents are devout Mormons; however, her father is an extremist, survivalist, and he isolates the family while stockpiling supplies, avoiding the government, and planning for worst case scenarios. ***Trigger Warnings*** While Tara’s soft-spoken mother makes healing herbs and ointments and practices midwifery, her charismatic father makes a living extracting and selling scrap from his junk yard. To avoid the government, the children do not have birth certificates, are not taken to the doctor, and most of them are home schooled, although according to Tara’s account, Mom’s interest for home schooling waned with the younger ones and to complicate the situation, Dad always needed help in the junk yard.  Tara wished she could go to school, and I didn’t receive the impression that her parents would have kept her from school, it’s that she suffered from not having the right clothes, feelings of not belonging, and often felt pressured to help her father in the junk yard. Over the years she experiences mental and physical abuse from one of her brothers, becomes more dissatisfied with her chaotic home life, and her desire for an education grows. With the encouragement of a brother, she decides to study independently for the ACT and apply to BYU. Thus begins her educational journey, her path of self-realization, healing, and ultimate separation from her family. Tara’s first classroom experience was at age 17. Readers will thoroughly understand and empathize with how difficult and emotional it was for her to  take these steps as she’s a loyal girl who feels a great duty to her family. Tara’s understanding of “education “ is that with it, one is able to gain one’s own perspective on life. Here is Tara’s interview with CNN. If you’re looking for a compelling memoir similar to The Glass Castle, you might enjoy this selection. My Rating for Educated: 4 Stars. (March Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars).

Educated

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



March’s Most Compelling Character Link Up

Please share your most memorable character from your March reading in the comments or link up your blog post.



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 have several books on hold at the library (I’m #27 for The Force of Nature so that will be a while) and I’m waiting for kindle prices to fall on some new releases……consequently…….next Friday I’ll read and review a book already on my shelf, Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg (and check it off my winter TBR list).

Eden

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?


Reading Podcasts I Love

Modern Mrs Darcy: What Should I Read Next

Read Aloud Revival (focus on children’s literature)

Reading Women (reviews of books written by women about women)



Extra:
Reading Recommendation For Middle Grade Girls Who Love Science!

Finding WondersFinding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins is a beautifully and creatively written middle grade story exploring the lives of 3 girls who are curious, love questions and the world around them, and are persistent in pursuing their love of science and scientific inquiries. Each woman makes important scientific contributions, and I loved reading about them and the context of their lives. I’m not sure middle grade students will read slowly enough to appreciate the beautiful prose and nuance/subtlety of language, so it might be a good “read together” book.

The author ensures that the girls exhibit some modern feminist thoughts that struck me as the author’s agenda rather than something girls in that era would usually think. However, these thoughts might provoke good conversation starters. For example: “But she hates embroidery, its worth measured by the smallness of stitches. A needle woman trains her eyes to stay cast down while hiding knots and boredom, committing herself to the circumference of a lap.”

An interesting extension read for adults might be The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe, a fictionalized biography of the first African-American woman (passing as white) to attend Vassar (same college where Maria Mitchell in Finding Wonders was a professor).

Finding Wonders is an interesting, creative, and worthwhile read. It makes me eager to read all the untold stories!  My Rating: 4 Stars

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 the most memorable character from your March reading!

How To Find Love In A Bookshop

March 16, 2018

Romantic….quaint English village….a book about books and bookish people….delightful

How to Find Love In A Bookshop
by Veronica Henry

How to find love in a bookstore

Genre/Categories: Women’s Fiction, Light Romance, Books and Reading

Summary:

Emilia returns to her idyllic Cotswold hometown fulfilling a promise to take care of her father’s independent bookstore, Nightingale Books, after his death. It’s clear that the bookshop is important to the community, and villagers who come into the shop have their own stories to tell. It’s evident that Emilia’s father was more than a bookseller to his customers; in addition to offering personal recommendations, he was a friend, confidant, and greatly admired and respected friend.  Can Emilia save Nightingale Books? Amazon Rating (March): 4.3 Stars

My Thoughts:

Frequently, in between my dense and heavy WW11 histfic reads, I need something light…like a palate cleanser and sometimes I read books because of the cover!

It’s rare that you’ll find me promoting and reviewing “chick lit.” However, this delightful, easy reading, romantic book stands out from the rest with its interesting characters, multiple perspectives, varied story lines, and charming sense of place. Although it’s predictable, it’s also the perfect feel good read. If this is the type of low stress read you’re looking for, it delivers. If you’re like me and at one time have had bookish dreams of owning an independent bookstore, it’s an added incentive to read the book as we are able to experience the struggles and joys of bookstore ownership through Emilia.  How To Find Love in a Bookshop is one of the best books about books I’ve read in a while, and it’s definitely engaging because I read it in one day. It might even land on my favs of 2018 list at year’s end.

Recommended for readers looking for a story that is light, escapist, a bit romantic, and has a happy ending. Try not to expect more.

My Rating: 4.5 Romantic Stars

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How to find love in a bookstore

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Veronica Henry

Veronica HenryAs an army child, I went to eight different schools, including the Royal School Bath, where I learnt Latin, how to make rock buns and how to take my bra off without getting undressed.  I went on to study Classics at Bristol University, followed by a bi-lingual secretarial course – a surprisingly useful combination.

I landed a job as Production Secretary on The Archers at Pebble Mill in Birmingham, where it used to take me two and a half hours to type out an Archers script on an Olivetti ET121 typewriter.  Duties ranged from recording the sound of newborn piglets to playing Peaches the barmaid in the Cat and Fiddle.  There was never a dull moment, and The Archers taught me that everyone needs an escape from everyday life.

From there, I became a script editor for Central Television, working on broadcasting legends Crossroads and Boon.  I started a family and became a freelance scriptwriter, writing hundreds of hours of television drama, including Heartbeat and Holby City.

In 2000 I got my first book deal, and am currently writing my fifteenth novel, The Forever House.

I also write lifestyle features for newspapers and magazines, including Woman and Home, Red, The Daily Mail, Woman and The Sunday Times.

I speak regularly at Literary Festivals, libraries, WIs and charity events, talking about my career and the inspiration for my novels.



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

Tuesday 3/20 I will post my Spring TBR and also review progress on my Winter TBR.

Next Friday 3/23, I’ll review We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter 
(see…I’m back to heavy reads!)

we were the lucky ones

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?


Links I Love

DefinitelyRA: Thoughts After Seeing The Wrinkle Movie.

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

If you loved The Book Thief, Markus Zusak has a new book releasing in October:
Bridge of Clay



Extras:

Before I forget, I want to mention two middle grade histfic reads that I enjoyed recently: The War That Saved My Life (2016 Newbery Honor book Winner of the 2016 Schneider Family Book Award) and its sequel The War I Finally Won…. both by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Do you ever read middle grade or YA literature? I think good stories can be appreciated and enjoyed by all ages! I never felt like I was reading a “kids” book. Recommended for older elementary and middle grade girls who might enjoy WW11 histfic.

Author Panel + Brunch

If you live in Southern California near Corona, you might be interested in an Author Brunch at the Corona Public Library on Saturday morning, April 21. Authors are Susan Meissner, Laura Kamoie, and Michelle Gable. Here’s the flyer:

histfic author brunch



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 are reading this week!

Did you see the Wrinkle in Time movie? What did you think? All the glitter though! The movie was simply OK for me. It’s been ages since I’ve read the book, but I remember it as science fiction. The movie seemed to portray tessering as magical or by the power of one’s mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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?

African-American History Month Reading Recommendations

February 2, 2018

As the calendar reveals February’s focus on African-American History Month, I’m eager to recommend some thematic reading! 

Linking up today with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit February.

The Gilded Years
by Karin Tanabe

Gilded Years

Genre: historical fiction

One title that I read a few years ago that might not be on your radar is The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe.

Summary: This story shares the important and compelling experiences of Anita Hemmings and her dream of attending an exclusive school for women, Vassar College, in the late 1890s. To accomplish this extraordinary feat and pursue her chance for a better life, Anita must pass for white. It is interesting to me how her family and community support her in the implementation of her decision and work to protect her as she lives it out. At first, Anita maintains a distance from her college peers. However, as the years pass and Anita becomes friends with her socialite roommate from a prominent family in New York, the risk of discovery grows greater. Can she maintain her assumed identify? Will she graduate?

The choice: For me, the most interesting part of the story is the tension that develops between Anita and one of her dear friends who decides to live fully as an African-American, embrace her ethnic identity and heritage, and openly fight for equal rights. Which one of the young women has chosen the best path? Both decisions are difficult in their own ways and filled with sacrifices and joys. Through their two stories, the reader is presented with two viewpoints and experiences. What would you or I have done given that choice? Which choice helped further equal treatment for African-Americans? Was Anita’s choice a set back for African Americans? Or did she have every right to think of her own life first? Did her success as a student help the African-American cause by proving that an African-American can compete equally at Vassar?

Bottom Line: Although the story is compelling and emotional, the writing could be better and was the weakest part of my reading experience. For me, a lack of beautiful writing is easily overlooked for a captivating story that addresses strong themes of hope, sacrifice, betrayal, loyalty, family, taking risks, life choices, and friendship. It’s an important, inspiring, and memorable read. It would generate an excellent book club discussion and make a great movie!

Recommended? Highly recommended for readers looking for an inspirational and  interesting read in celebration of African-American History Month, for readers who enjoy compelling stories about strong, brave, independent women, for book clubs, and for readers who enjoy diverse reads and stories written from a different perspective.

Amazon Rating (February): 4.2 Stars

My Rating: 4 stars

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Gilded Years

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Karin Tanabe

Karen TanabeKarin Tanabe is a fiction writer and former Politico reporter whose writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and The Washington Post among many other publications. Before turning to fiction, Karin worked as a journalist covering politics and celebrities. She has made frequent appearances on Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition and CNN. A graduate of Vassar College, she lives in Washington D.C.

 

 



Additional Reading Recommendations

(links will take you to further information)

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham (historical fiction, YA)

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (historical fiction)

Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom  (historical fiction)
*This is an interesting story as it also deals with the main character passing as white.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (historical fiction, family saga)

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (historical fiction)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (contemporary fiction, YA)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (contemporary fiction)

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M Draper (middle grade historical fiction selection)

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (nonfiction)

We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success by Sampson Davis  (middle grade, biography/memoir)

There are so many titles; these are a few that I’ve read and can highly recommend. Can you add to these recommendations in the comments?



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



Looking Ahead:

I’m planning a review of this next week:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI 
by David Grann

Amazon information here

I’m also continuing to read an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety by Michelle Balge. (review on 2/16)

A Way Out

Amazon information here (2/27/19 release date)

Also, I’m anticipating that I’ll start Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR) some time in the next two weeks.

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here



My TBR and the BUZZ

I’m noticing lots of buzz (great reviews) lately about two books (both Book of the Month Club selections for February): The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (author of The Nightingale). I’m adding them to the top of my TBR, so look for a review soon!

Do you belong to Book of the Month Club?

I also just heard that Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache series) will be releasing a new installment in November of this year! (no title or cover yet)
#meetmeinthreepines #threepinesgeek
available for preorder

What are you reading this week?



Links

Modern Mrs Darcy published a list of  25 Must-Read Classics for Women.
How many have you read?

I appreciated this post from The Ardent Biblio: Why It’s Important to Read Diverse Books
Please check it out.

Do you plan to reread Wrinkle in Time before the movie release on March 9?
Will you be seeing the movie?



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!

If you were an African-American, would you have made the decision to pass as white to take advantage of a path to help you pursue your dreams? If you are an African American, would you  have passed as white in the late 1890s? What do you think of individuals who made this choice?

Will you be seeking out a certain book to read during African-American History Month? Or do you have recommendations?

What are you reading this week?

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: The House of Unexpected Sisters

December 1, 2017

Before Louise Penny’s popular Inspector Gamache series set in Three Pines, there was Mma Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series set in Botswana, Africa.

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: The House of Unexpected Sisters
by Alexander McCall Smith

House of Unexpected Sisters 2

Genre/categories: women’s fiction, contemporary fiction, detective/mystery, African culture (Botswana)

Summary:

The House of Unexpected Sisters is the eighteenth installment of this charming, easy reading series. All the usual characters are present, reflecting on life, drinking tea, embracing tradition, and investigating human nature in sunny Botswana. In this newest story, Mma Ramotswe is challenged with four problems to solve: she is asked to investigate the unfair firing of a female employee, she is faced with an unwelcome visit from someone in her past, she learns about a potential risk to her assistant’s husband’s business, and she bravely meets an unexpected family member that causes her to question the integrity of her beloved father who is “late.” Loyal readers will be rewarded with a delightful read. Amazon Rating (December): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts: 

In the most soothing of ways, the story is predictable to the other stories in the series: readers grow to appreciate the beauty of Africa (Botswana is almost a character in the story); there’s always time for a cup of tea at work or a visit with your dearest friend and confidant (Mma Potokwani); and the characters are likable, quirky, and seem real. Mma Romotswe founder and owner of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, is a “traditionally built woman,” gentle, honest, inclusive, compassionate, full of common sense, thoughtful, gracious, and wise. In fact, she always chooses kindness and forgiveness as her response and never revenge. Idealistically, she believes that people are good and kind and want to enjoy themselves and take care of each other. She is a proponent of the old Botswana morality and the traditional ways (especially the old way of greeting others). The focus of her work at the Ladies’ Detective Agency is on righting small injustices.

“Both of these matters had been resolved satisfactorily, which meant in Mma Ramotswe’s view that all those concerned had been persuaded to see reason. That, she felt, was the key to the solution of any problem: you did not look for a winner who would take everything; you found a way of allowing people to save face; you found a way of healing rather than imposing.”

It seems as if Alexander McCall Smith enjoys these characters as they are consistently and warmly drawn from story to story. From the way the story is told, readers might infer that the author greatly admires and respects his main character and her philosophy of life.

Family is an important theme in this heartwarming story (and in the others). She takes care of everyone who comes into her life as family.

“Families come in different ways, she thought: sometimes they are given to you, but sometimes you find them yourself, unexpectedly, as you go through life. That is perhaps not all that well-known, but it is still true.”

Even though this is an eighteen book series, readers could easily read The House of Unexpected Sisters as a stand alone. It might be a little tedious or repetitive for readers who’ve read all the stories, but Alexander McCall Smith does an excellent job of providing all the background information a reader needs to understand the story and characters.

I’ve read all the books in the series and I think this one stands out as one of the best. If it’s been a while since you’ve read one, I’d encourage you to pick this up.

I admit that my rating of 4 stars is subjective because reading these books is like coming home to old friends. If I had read this as a stand alone and didn’t have an emotional attachment to the series or characters, I think my objective rating would be 3.5.

I recommend The House of Unexpected Sisters to those readers who are familiar with the series, for readers who love Africa, for readers who desire a quick, easy, escapist read, for readers who need a comforting read at the moment (perhaps to relieve stress or to take on vacation or to recover from a surgery), and for readers who want a “clean” read with a touch of humor for themselves or as a gift for a lady (no graphic violence, language, or sex).

I caution readers against binge reading or speed reading the series. They are best read as stand alone stories…perhaps one every few months. Even though it’s comforting to return to the homes of old friends, I think life might be boring if every evening were spent with them. The books in this series need to be read when you’re in the mood for a slow-paced, character driven story with an abundance of reflection and description. It could be classified as the coziest of the cozy mysteries genre and a true comfort read. It seems that we always feel like we can be better people after spending time with Precious Ramotswe

cup of tea

Make yourself a cup of tea, and read this for yourself and meet Mma Precious Ramotswe!

My rating: 4 Stars

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House of Unexpected Sisters

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra). More information at http://www.alexandermccallsmith.com/

 


Extra:

A Wrinkle in Time

Do you reread classics or have you read one for the first time as an adult reader?

Do you plan to reread (or read) Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle before the movie releases in March 2018?

More Information Here

Official Trailer Here


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


Looking Ahead!

Help me decide between Lincoln in the Bardo and The Bear and the Nightingale
for my next read.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read either one.

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo Information Here

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale Information Here

***12/2, edited to add that I’ve chosen The Bear and the Nightingale as my next read. (I suggested to hubs that we could buddy read Lincoln in the Bardo and after he listened a bit to the audio version, he decided that it wasn’t a good read for him.)


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 if you’ve read any of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series or if you have an opinion on what I should read next.

The Other Alcott

November 17, 2017

My favorite book to review: a woman author’s debut novel about strong, independent women! The author says that she is “drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told.”

Was Little Women one of your favorite reads as a younger reader? I think Little Women was my first “book hangover,” and I felt so accomplished reading a “long” book!

The Other Alcott
by Elise Hooper

The Other Alcott 2

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

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 characters. While many readers loved spirited Jo March (the character based on the author Louisa May Alcott), Jo’s younger sister Amy March was 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 story telling, 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 identify. Amazon Rating (November): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Like returning for the reunion of the Gilmore Girls or Full House or other beloved shows, I am drawn to the Alcott story because Little Women was one of my first positive literary experiences with a “long” book. As I indicated above, it was probably my first “book hangover.” I’m sure I’m in good company in being captivated by Jo’s  independent and feisty spirit; thus, peering into the Alcott family through reading The Other Alcott is enticing.

“At a certain point, you just have to move forward and hope for the best. You have talent. For more than just art. I envy your ability to rise along over the waves that threaten to tug the rest of us down. You’re unsinkable.”   ~Louisa to May

Although the relationship between Louisa Alcott and her sister May is highly imagined, the story is well researched and the historical details are evident in the various settings and fascinating event descriptions.

If you’re an art student or artist, you might enjoy reading about the years May spent in European art studios, competitions, and communities establishing friendships, skills, and her artistic reputation.

I appreciate important themes of determination, making difficult choices, complicated sibling relationships, feminism in the late 1800s, reconciliation, and forgiveness. In May’s words, “The bar has been set high in my family for what a woman can achieve.”

“…You have to work endlessly to make your visions a reality. Stake a claim to your ambitions. If you wait around for other people to define you, you’ll be saddled with their expectations–and that’s dangerous territory for a woman.” 

In addition, I appreciate the author’s extra information in the Afterward. Sometimes readers forget about the extensive research that is required of authors writing historical fiction.

While I rate this a solid 4 stars, there are two areas of weakness for me. One, I would have enjoyed more action to propel the story forward. And two, I would like to have felt a deeper emotional connection with the characters. These are minor concerns as I enjoyed the overall reading experience. It almost felt like reading a sequel of my beloved Little Women.

The Other Alcott is recommended for readers who appreciate themes of how women achieved careers and independence in an earlier time, sibling relationships, and ambition.  Of course, The Other Alcott is also recommended for childhood fans of Little Women. Last, I recommend this for readers who are looking for a solid, easy reading historical fiction selection, and for readers who might be looking for a “clean” read (no cautions for language or violence).

My rating: 4 Stars

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The Other Alcott

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Meet the Author, Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper

Although a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise now lives with her husband and two young daughters within stone-skipping distance of the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound. When she’s not writing, she’s in her classroom trying to make American history and literature interesting for high school students.

She’s drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told. THE OTHER ALCOTT is Elise’s first novel.

Please learn more: http://www.elisehooper.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elisehooperauthor/
Instagram: elisehooper
Twitter: @elisehooper


Extra:

Little Women

Some readers love to reread Little Women during the Christmas Season because the story begins at Christmas time. This would also be a great time of year for a first read.

If you’ve never read Little Women or would like a reread, get it FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited (Amazon Prime) or at 99 cents for Kindle.

Purchase the Kindle Version of Little Women Here for 99 cents.

 

 

 


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 enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Looking Ahead!

The Deal of a LifetimeI’m eager to read Fredrik Backman’s newest novella release, The Deal of a Lifetime.

Backman is author of Beartown,  A Man Called Ove, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and  Longer (novella), and Britt-Marie Was Here. 

I’m anticipating this will be the perfect read for Thanksgiving week. Will you “buddy read” with me?

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. We recently reached 2,000 views (and counting). Every share helps us grow.


Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear if you read the classic Little Women in your younger years. Or perhaps you read or reread it as an adult? Or maybe you haven’t yet read it and it’s on your TBR.

I’d also like to know if you are on the Backman bandwagon. If so, which of his works are your favorite?