Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cover Crush...Before the Rain Falls


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.


Another gorgeous vintage cover. A well dressed woman looks toward the Statue of Liberty silhouetted in the distance. Is she arriving in America or leaving? Where is she from? Where is she going? 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, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cover Crush...It Happens all the Time


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.


The red dress behind the torn cover is eye-catching. But, why? Why is the paper torn? It would appear to be ripped apart out of anger. The dress was worn by a woman, so what happened to her? Did she tear up a picture of her dress? Was she attacked or assaulted? How does this dress relate to the 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, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Ella's Ice Cream Summer...Review

About the book:
Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons…make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer is a heart-warming and hilarious romance that will scoop you off your feet and prove it’s never too late for a fresh start. The ideal holiday read for fans of Lucy Diamond, Abby Clements and Debbie Johnson.

After losing her job and being forced to sell her home by her ex-husband, Ella leaves everything behind for the seaside town of Appledore. Her beloved aunt has died and left her part of the family ice-cream business. Ella is determined to fix up the ice cream van and deliver cold treats all summer.

Along the way she discovers who she really is as well as uncovers family secrets that shock and amaze her, but ultimately lead her to new beginnings.

Ella's relationship with her mother is at once tender and laugh-out-loud funny. It was incredibly easy to picture their interactions.

And while the story is light, I didn't find it completely predictable. Instead, it was a heart-warming look at family relationships and what truly makes a person happy.

There is mild sexual content.

Sue Watson stories are just fun reads. I've had this one waiting around on my Kindle for far too long and it was a perfect, fun read for summer.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for the chance to review this book. You can learn more about Sue Watson here.

Read 6/17

* * *
3/5 Stars

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cover Crush...Practicing Normal


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.


A key in a lock. A partially opened door. Who lives here? It looks like someone is just entering a house. Why? Who are they? 

I love the colors: the bold red and black against the blurred white and black of the background. Just stunning.

I have this book in my TBR and I look forward to finding out who lives in this house.

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 PagesindieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Friday, June 30, 2017

5 Books I Want to Read...History of Food

I keep a wish list on Goodreads called "want to read". Currently, it's up to 2800. 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.

Who doesn't love food? And if you love cooking, who doesn't love histories of food and cooking and how the way we eat has changed over the years? Ok, maybe you don't, but I find it fascinating and I have quite a few culinary history books on my list.

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

A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe

From the author of the acclaimed 97 Orchard and her husband, a culinary historian, an in-depth exploration of the greatest food crisis the nation has ever faced—the Great Depression—and how it transformed America’s culinary culture.

The decade-long Great Depression, a period of shifts in the country’s political and social landscape, forever changed the way America eats. Before 1929, America’s relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse the economy, in both urban and rural America, left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished—shattering long-held assumptions about the limitlessness of the national larder.

In 1933, as women struggled to feed their families, President Roosevelt reversed longstanding biases toward government sponsored “food charity.” For the first time in American history, the federal government assumed, for a while, responsibility for feeding its citizens. The effects were widespread. Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, “home economists” who had long fought to bring science into the kitchen rose to national stature. Tapping into America’s longstanding ambivalence toward culinary enjoyment, they imposed their vision of a sturdy, utilitarian cuisine on the American dinner table.

Through the Bureau of Home Economics, these women led a sweeping campaign to instill dietary recommendations, the forerunners of today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. At the same time, rising food conglomerates introduced packaged and processed foods that gave rise to a new American cuisine based on speed and convenience. This movement toward a homogenized national cuisine sparked a revival of American regional cooking. In the ensuing decades, this tension between local traditions and culinary science have defined our national cuisine—a battle that continues today.

A Square Meal examines the impact of economic contraction and environmental disaster on how Americans ate then—and the lessons and insights those experiences may hold for us today.

Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to the Present (European Perspectives) by Jean-Louis Flandrin, Massimo Montanari and Albert Sonnenfeld

At what point in history did people start serving meals at regular hours? Would we still be eating communally today if the Black Plague hadn't forced diners to eat at a safe distance from each other? What's the real story behind the origin of pasta? These are just a few of the tantalizing questions that are answered in this fascinating history of food from prehistoric times to the present. This comprehensive work explores the culinary evolution of cultures ranging from Mesopotamia to modern America, and explores every aspect of food history, from the dietary rules of the ancient Hebrews to the contributions of Arab cookery. Written by leading world authorities, this volume gives a unique perspective on the social and cultural mores of humankind through the ages, offering cooks, culinary scholars, and food lovers a banquet of information on which to feast.

Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson and Annabel Lee (Illustrator)

Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Knives—perhaps our most important gastronomic tool—predate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention. Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen—mortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators. Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog. Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture. The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.

An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

Throughout history, food has acted as a catalyst of social change, political organization, geopolitical competition, industrial development, military conflict, and economic expansion. An Edible History of Humanity is a pithy, entertaining account of how a series of changes—caused, enabled, or influenced by food—has helped to shape and transform societies around the world.

The first civilizations were built on barley and wheat in the Near East, millet and rice in Asia, and corn and potatoes in the Americas. Why farming created a strictly ordered social hierarchy in contrast to the loose egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers is, as Tom Standage reveals, as interesting as the details of the complex cultures that emerged, eventually interconnected by commerce. Trade in exotic spices in particular spawned the age of exploration and the colonization of the New World.

Food's influence over the course of history has been just as prevalent in modern times. In the late eighteenth century, Britain's solution to food shortages was to industrialize and import food rather than grow it. Food helped to determine the outcome of wars: Napoleon's rise and fall was intimately connected with his ability to feed his vast armies. In the twentieth century, Communist leaders employed food as an ideological weapon, resulting in the death by starvation of millions in the Soviet Union and China. And today the foods we choose in the supermarket connect us to global debates about trade, development, the environment, and the adoption of new technologies.

Encompassing many fields, from genetics and archaeology to anthropology and economics—and invoking food as a special form of technology—An Edible History of Humanity is a fully satisfying discourse on the sweep of human history.

Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York by Robin Shulma

New York is not a city for growing and manufacturing food. It’s a money and real estate city, with less naked earth and industry than high-rise glass and concrete. Yet in this intimate, visceral, and beautifully written book, Robin Shulman introduces the people of New York City - both past and present - who do grow vegetables, butcher meat, fish local waters, cut and refine sugar, keep bees for honey, brew beer, and make wine. In the most heavily built urban environment in the country, she shows an organic city full of intrepid and eccentric people who want to make things grow. What’s more, Shulman artfully places today’s urban food production in the context of hundreds of years of history, and traces how we got to where we are.

In these pages meet Willie Morgan, a Harlem man who first grew his own vegetables in a vacant lot as a front for his gambling racket. And David Selig, a beekeeper in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn who found his bees making a mysteriously red honey. Get to know Yolene Joseph, who fishes crabs out of the waters off Coney Island to make curried stews for her family. Meet the creators of the sickly sweet Manischewitz wine, whose brand grew out of Prohibition; and Jacob Ruppert, who owned a beer empire on the Upper East Side, as well as the New York Yankees.

Eat the City is about how the ability of cities to feed people has changed over time. Yet it is also, in a sense, the story of the things we long for in cities today: closer human connections, a tangible link to more basic processes, a way to shape more rounded lives, a sense of something pure.

Of course, hundreds of years ago, most food and drink consumed by New Yorkers was grown and produced within what are now the five boroughs. Yet people rarely realize that long after New York became a dense urban agglomeration, innovators, traditionalists, migrants and immigrants continued to insist on producing their own food. This book shows the perils and benefits—and the ironies and humor—when city people involve themselves in making what they eat.

Food, of course, is about hunger. We eat what we miss and what we want to become, the foods of our childhoods and the symbols of the lives we hope to lead. With wit and insight, Eat the City shows how in places like New York, people have always found ways to use their collective hunger to build their own kind of city.

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

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, June 29, 2017

Cover Crush...The Promise Kitchen


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'm hungry. Just sayin'. So that is probably why this cover caught my attention. What a gorgeous cake. I love to bake. I don't do much baking now because The Doctor is following a ketogenic diet and that means low to no carbs. So, my baking consists of brownies for The Artist. But, the cover? I love the pink and tans. Why is this woman holding a cake? Who is it for? What is the promise kitchen? 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, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Weekend Reflections 6/24

Looking outside...it's sunny with blue skies. Currently 76 with a projected high of 90. 

Listening...to the fish tank, the fan, the sprinklers hitting the window.

Loving...blue sky and white clouds.

Thinking...that I need to get moving.

In my kitchen...Not sure yet about dinner. At the moment, it's Crio Bru. It's always Crio Bru.

Wearing...denim skirt, purple shirt.

Reading...I had three reviews post this week, but my reading has been slow.

Today...The Doctor is driving with my sister to pick up her children who have been with their father this month. We love it when the kiddos are back home.

I have some errands to run.

The Artist is biking the Hiawatha Trail next week and we need to get his gear ready.

Quoting...“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” ― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Feeling...Tired. I'm tired to begin with, but any heat just takes it out of me. I'm doomed in August...

Planning...going over our house maintenance "To-Do" list. It seems to be never ending, but we're slowly checking off things.


Gratitude...for air conditioners, fans and the fact that I don't live in Arizona or Las Vegas.


From my world... 




Seriously. 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 23, 2017

With You Always...Review

About the book:
When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She's had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children's Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn't want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City's wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother's shadow and is determined to win his father's challenge. He doesn't plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

The stories behind The Orphan Train have always fascinated me. That people were so desperate that they sent their children away to be adopted by other people. Those stories did not always have happy endings. What I didn't know was that during the financial crisis of the 1850s, the Children's Aid Society also sent out women: usually seamstresses and trade girls to work on the new frontier. Their stories also didn't always have happy endings.

Here we learn about Elise Neumann who must leave New York for a job in Illinois to provide for her younger siblings after their mother dies. Elise crosses paths with Thornton Quincy, the son of one of New York's wealthiest men. Thornton and his brother are in a competition to see who can establish a successsful town first and inherit their father's business.

Jody Hedlund has a way of showcasing, not only the human spirit, but the strength of women and this is just one reason I adore her writing. Elise is feisty and soon realizes that the opportunities promised in New York are far from ideal. I loved how she stood up to Thornton and convinced him to work alongside his employees so that he might now how the working class feel. And Thornton finally standing up to his brother and father was awesome.

The story is tinged with sadness and heartbreak and while not a cliffhanger, we are left with uncertainty about Elise's family and I am grateful that this is the first of a series so that we might know what happens to everyone.

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

Read 5/17

* * * *
4/5 Stars

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 CourtFlashlight CommentaryA Bookaholic SwedeLayered 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