Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cover Crush...Summer by the Sea


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


I love the beach. I miss the ocean desperately. And the Outer Banks of North Carolina are one of my favorite places in the world. So, a book set there? I'm all in. Walking on the beach hand in hand with my husband is sheer heaven. Naturally, a cover like this one completely draws me in. Who are these people? What is their story?

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's Court, Flashlight Commentary, A Bookaholic Swede, Layered Pages, indieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An Extraordinary Union...Review

About the book:
As the Civil War rages between the states, a courageous pair of spies plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past...

Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South—to spy for the Union Army.

Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton's Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he’s facing his deadliest mission yet—risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia.

Two undercover agents who share a common cause—and an undeniable attraction—Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy's favor. Caught in a tightening web of wartime intrigue, and fighting a fiery and forbidden love, Malcolm and Elle must make their boldest move to preserve the Union at any cost—even if it means losing each other...

I had so much hope for An Extraordinary Union. I loved the premise: a former slave with an eidetic memory who is a spy for the union. How cool is that? That she falls in love with a white detective who is undercover as a Rebel soldier is even more enticing.

The story is fairly well paced and there is plenty of action and a glimpse into the glamour of the rich who lived well despite blockades and an ongoing war. Politics is always there no matter what.

This novel had so much potential, especially a forbidden interracial romance and we did get some great story bits here and there. Elle undercover as a mute slave in a Confederate household. Elle almost captured by slavers.

However, the story was less about the historical part and more about sex. There wasn't much to call romance. Instead, everything was tinged with sexual tension and the need to act on it that didn't add to the story or make it better.

Elle as a character is terrific. Strong and fearless. Being a free woman and willingly going undercover as a slave and being treated as such? Talk about strength. She had more going for her than Malcolm ever did.

Unfortunately, instead of telling the story of a strong woman helping the Union win the war between the states, sex became the focus. That's always a disappointment.

This is the first in a series and I am undecided on whether or not I will read any future books.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Alyssa Cole here.

Read 5/17

* *
2/5 Stars

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Bookshop on the Corner...Review

About the book:
Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion…and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home…a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending. 

Nina loves being a librarian and collecting books, but losing her job leaves her at loose ends. Needing something new and craving some adventure from her noisy London world, she heads to Scotland, purchases a large van and turns it into a bookmobile. Traveling around her new little village, she meets all sorts of people. People who crave books and knowledge and reading.

Putting her talents as a literary matchmaker to good use, Nina also finds magic in living in a small village with people who look out and care for one another.

Sometimes you just want a fun story and The Bookshop on the Corner was just that. Fun and entertaining. I'm a sucker for stories about books, especially when those stories are also filled with quirky characters and humor. The story is rather predictable, but that doesn't detract from its charm.

The original title was Little Shop of Happily Ever After which really does fit the book better and I wish it hadn't been changed.

Read 6/17

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Weekend Reflections 6/17

Looking outside...it's sunny with blue skies. Currently 61 with a projected high of 75. A perfect day.

It has been 70s and 80s all week. We had wicked thunderstorms last weekend. Like, shake-the-whole-house-thunderstorms. The Artist loved it.

Listening...to silence. Silence is nice. The Doctor is helping someone move and The Artist is still asleep.

Loving...that The Doctor is home. I am so enjoying this schedule of him being home on Saturdays and only going into the office if he chooses to.

I am however tired of thoughtless patients who just don't show up. Seriously. When you schedule an appointment with someone, anyone, show up. If you can't, then CALL THEM. If you don't, you're thoughtless and rude. I get that emergencies come up, but it's a rare occurrence that makes it so you can't call or text. And if a doctor schedules an appointment AT YOUR CONVENIENCE, be considerate and grateful and if you can't keep it, call. Don't give me the excuse of forgetting. You have a cell phone and it has a calendar feature. USE IT. 

That way you won't piss off The Doctor's wife when her husband has stayed later or gone in earlier just for you and then it was all for nothing.

To those of you who let your doctor know if you're running late or can't make an appointment. Thank you. It is much appreciated. To the rest of you? Grow up.

Thinking...that I should probably get moving.

In my kitchen...Not sure yet about dinner. At the moment, it's Crio Bru with sugar-free caramel syrup. It's replaced my normal highly sugared, high carbed regular hot chocolate.

Wearing...purple pajamas.

Reading...I wrote reviews this week! The Last Neanderthal went up yesterday and three (THREE!!!) reviews will post next week. Yay me! 

Today...I'm not sure. Mostly just being together and crossing off things on the house maintenance list. Tomorrow we're going for a drive and getting away for the day.

Quoting..."Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." -- Eleanor Roosevelt 

Feeling...Curious. I had a Simply Healed Energy session this week and loved it. I have felt more aware of my surroundings and feelings this week. The experience has left me curious about energy and chakras and I've been doing a lot of reading about those and how they work with affirmations and essential oils. It's been enlightening and fascinating. 

If you're interested in learning about energy healing, I highly recommend my healing practitioner, Melanie Newman. She is fantastic.

Planning...this next week and going over our house maintenance "To-Do" list. It seems to be never ending...


Gratitude...for relationships; for friendship and connecting with each other.

From my world... 




Follow The Psychotic Penguin on Instagram and Twitter. You never know where he'll turn up next...

What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Last Neanderthal...Review

From the author of The Bear, the enthralling story of two women separated by millennia, but linked by an epic journey that will transform them both.

40,000 years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. After a crushingly hard winter, their numbers are low, but Girl, the oldest daughter, is just coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the annual meeting place and find her a mate.

But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling of unknown origin. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter storms, Girl realizes she has one final chance to save her people, even if it means sacrificing part of herself.

In the modern day, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby comes. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of early motherhood, both stories examine the often taboo corners of women's lives.

Haunting, suspenseful, and profoundly moving, The Last Neanderthal asks us to reconsider all we think we know about what it means to be human.

I have so many thoughts. This book has stayed with me for days. Literally days. I have sat down and tried to write this review more than once and the words just escape me.

How do I explain the ways this book moved me? How do I convey the ways this book made me think and question? I don't know that I can.

The Neanderthals have always fascinated me, especially from a creation perspective. Where do they fit into our biological history? Who were they? Our knowledge of them has always been scant and speculative, as is much of archaeology, but in recent years, we are discovering more. Claire Cameron does an amazing job of bringing these fascinating people to life. She incorporates new information, such as how they looked, how they communicated, how they hunted, and how they lived.

Modern-day archaeologist Rosamund has discovered two skeletons side by side in a cave: a Neanderthal and a Homo Sapien. Her quest is to find out how they came to be deliberately buried together in the same location.

Thus, the story alternates between the past and present narratives of Girl and Rosamund.

The colorful, rich descriptions of Girl's life and her family were brilliantly portrayed. I could imagine walking where she walked and experiencing what she did. The family dynamics were fascinating: how the strongest survived, how they hunted and lived together. How mates were chosen and for what reasons. These people didn't have the vocal abilities we do and likely not the language capabilities that we have, but they communicated. They understood, and they were intelligent.

Honestly, I could have done without Rosamund's story. I get the comparison that the author wanted to make: both women becoming mothers, both women being the strong and capable, but Rosamund was an incredibly selfish and unlikeable character. Compared with Girl's complexities, Rosamund is a shallow caricature of a woman, without the strength or depth that the author desperately wanted to show. The comparison is laughable.

These Neanderthals come from a strong matriarchal society. It is the female who leads the family group. It is the female who teaches and guides and instructs. It is the female who decides with which male she will mate. Girl's mother also adopts an orphan boy. A child unlike them, with a different look and without the same strength. But compassion is stronger than differences and Runt, the Homo Sapien child, becomes part of Girl's family and, eventually, under her care.

Because of the discovery of the skeletons in the beginning, we know that Girl ends up at some point meeting an adult Homo Sapien. And I looked forward to that. I, too, wanted to know who this other person was and how they were together? Was it romantic? Was it out of necessity for them both to survive? I wanted to know how Girl ended up being the last Neanderthal.

Unfortunately, I found the ending disappointing and without the answers I sought.

I relish books about the strength of women. I love seeing them triumph in their own right and not because of a man or a romantic relationship. The Last Neanderthal is at its strongest when we're reading about Girl. Her story is tragic and harsh, but with moments of tender poignancy. For that perspective alone, even with the disappointing ending, I can wholeheartedly recommend this story.

This was my personal copy, not a book for review.

Read 5/17

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cover Crush...Last Christmas in Paris


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


I know it's June and who is thinking about Christmas in June? Well, this book is on my wish list and I just adore the cover. It's Paris! I love Paris. I've stood on that exact spot. And there is a ribbon-wrapped packet of letters! I love hand-written letters. The colors are evocative: the stark red against the muted hues. Who is this woman? Why is she in Paris? Is she arriving or leaving? What is her story?

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages, indieBRAG, Of Quills and Vellum, A Literary Vacation.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trimming the TBR

The last time I purged books from Goodreads To-Read list, I still ended up with 2855. I added some more and today, I purged a few more. Let's see how far I got.

This time around I purged a shedload of Austen-wannabe novels. I did this because with few exceptions, I haven't liked the Austen-wannabe novels I've read. The original stories stand alone just fine. And again, with the exception of Pamela Aidan's Fitzwilliam Darcy series, I haven't discovered an author who captured the characters well.


The Women of Pemberley and Pemberley Shades.


Mr. Darcy's Daughter and The Darcys & the Bingleys.


Presumption and The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy.


Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels  and The Jane Austen Handbook.

There are 6 Austen-esque novels here. There are also two books about the world of Jane Austen. I am not enamored of that world or the Regency Era, so I'm not going to read those types of books either. I probably deleted 15 more that are similar to these 8. I'm not going to read them. It's just not happening, so these are gone and I'm not adding any more to my TBR.

------------

I ended this purge with 2831 books and obviously I didn't list every single book here. I'm making progress, right?

What about you? How many books are on your TBR? Do you ever go through and clean it out?


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Cover Crush...The Man in the Lighthouse


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


Crashing waves and a dim light signaling the shoreline. The setting is dangerous and dark. Who is the man in the lighthouse? Why is he there and what is his story? I love lighthouses. They fascinate me. Who would take a job in a lighthouse? Especially remote ones? How incredible must it be to stand in a sentinel and watch a mighty storm? 

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum, indieBRAG.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cover Crush...The Hidden Thread


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


This cover is just gorgeous. I love the vintage dressmaker dummies. My mom used to have one that was adjusted to her size because she sewed most of her own dresses as well as those my sisters and I wore. 

Is the book about a seamstress? What do thread and fabric have to do with the narrative? This book is on my wish list and I look forward to discovering its secrets.

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's Court, Flashlight Commentary, A Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages, indieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Friday, May 26, 2017

5 Books I Want to Read...Charles Dickens

I keep a wish list on Goodreads called "want to read". Currently, it's up to 2752. Yeah. I also have several stacks of books tucked against walls throughout my house. Each is probably at least 3 feet high of books I haven't read yet. I periodically go through my list and purge it, but it still is not slowing down. Nor are the books that keep appearing on my Kindle. They're all still on my wish list, I just haven't gotten to them yet.

Each month I highlight 5 books I want to read. I don't set out to plan themes, but somehow patterns creep into my viewing and this month is no different. For someone with an English degree, my classics reading is woefully deficient. Charles Dickens has always been on my list and I just haven't read anything past A Christmas Carol. So, Mr. Dickens receives recognition on my Wish List this month!

----------------------------------------

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Few first novels have created as much popular excitement as The Pickwick Papers–-a comic masterpiece that catapulted its 24-year-old author to immediate fame. Readers were captivated by the adventures of the poet Snodgrass, the lover Tupman, the sportsman Winkle above all, by that quintessentially English Quixote, Mr Pickwick, his cockney Sancho Panza, Sam Weller. From the hallowed turf of Dingley Dell Cricket Club to the unholy fracas of the Eatanswill election, via the Fleet debtor’s prison, characters and incidents sprang to life from Dickens’s pen, to form an enduringly popular work of ebullient humour and literary invention.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield is the story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr Murdstone; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora and the magnificently impecunious Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations. In David Copperfield—the novel he described as his “favorite child”—Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of his most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. Originally published as a monthly serial, from 4/1849 to 11/1850.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

'Let him feel that he is one of us; once fill his mind with the idea that he has been a thief, and he's ours, - ours for his life!'

The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens's tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters — the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, in Oliver Twist Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.

This is the first critical edition to use the serial text of 1837-9, presenting Oliver Twist as it appeared to its earliest readers. It includes Dickens's 1841 introduction and 1850 preface, the original illustrations and a glossary of contemporary slang.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

'Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!'

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Dickens's magnificent novel of guilt, desire, and redemption The orphan Pip’s terrifying encounter with an escaped convict on the Kent marshes, and his mysterious summons to the house of Miss Havisham and her cold, beautiful ward Estella, form the prelude to his “great expectations.” How Pip comes into a fortune, what he does with it, and what he discovers through his secret benefactor are the ingredients of his struggle for moral redemption.

----------------------------------------

What about you? What books are on your "want to read/wish" list?

5 Books I want to Read is a monthly meme started by Stephanie at Layered Pages. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their wish lists look like, you can do that here: A Bookaholic Swede, Layered Pages, The Maiden's Court, Flashlight Commentary and A Literary Vacation.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cover Crush...The Longest Night


I will freely admit that I judge books by their covers. The cover is usually what first captures my attention when browsing Goodreads or Netgalley. Actually, in all honesty, it isn't just usually, it's pretty much all the time. The cover determines if I look at the synopsis and reviews.


So evocative. This cover brings more questions than it does answers. Who are these people? Why are they sitting by a tree? They are obviously comfortable with each other. What is he writing? Where are they? I love how the red of her dress subtly stands out among the gray and white landscape.

What about you? Any book covers capture your attention this week?

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary. If you want to check out some other terrific bloggers and what their Cover Crush posts look like, you can do that here: The Maiden's Court, Flashlight Commentary, A Bookaholic SwedeLayered PagesindieBRAG, A Literary VacationQuills and Vellum.