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Friday, October 27, 2017

5 Books I Want to Read: 1950s

I keep a wish list on Goodreads called "want to read". Currently, it's up to 2878. 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.

The 1950s is an era that has always fascinated me. The post WW2 prosperity and growth. My parents graduated from high school in the 50s. I watched television shows like Happy Days when I was a teenager and movies like Back to the Future. My dad taught me how to Jitterbug before I went to my first dance. I loved the full skirts and sweater look. So it's probably not surprising that several books with a 50s setting popped up in my wish list as I was looking through it this month.

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Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan

1951. Brighton. With the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (Secret Service, retired) thinks her skills are no longer required. After her lover's death she retires to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when the case of Romana Laszlo - a pregnant Hungarian refugee - comes in, Mirabelle soon discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from insurance clerk Vesta Churchill, they follow a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns and corpses that only they can unravel.

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt. For on San Piedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries - memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched. Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense - one that leaves us shaken and changed.

The Summer the Wind Whispered My Name by Don Locke

In 1959, eight-year-old Davy Connors leads an idyllic life in his small Midwestern neighborhood. But when a black family moves in to the all-white community, an undercurrent of racism is exposed.

As the issue draws battle lines between friends and family, Davy finds his sympathy for the new family challenged by his father’s bigotry. Can the fragmented community overcome its prejudices and experience true change and healing?

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín's sixth novel, Brooklyn, is set in Brooklyn and Ireland in the early 1950s, when one young woman crosses the ocean to make a new life for herself. Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

Saturday's Child by Ruth Hamilton

Behind closed doors everyone has a secret...

It was 1950. Magsy O’Gara, her husband killed in the war, plodded through her daily routine as a hospital cleaner, dedicating all her spare time to Beth, her genius daughter. Pursued by men who admired her great beauty, she was determined to remain a widow. Nothing was to divert her from her gruelling schedule. Her goal was simple: Beth would become a doctor.

Beth, however, wanted a normal life – a brother, a sister, a stepfather who might make her wonderful mother happy. So Beth was delighted when a personable man began to court Magsy.

Across, the road at number 1, Nellie Hulme, trapped in a world of silence, watched the other two Saturday girls. Deaf since infancy, Nellie had a secret so huge that it amused her. What would folk have thought had they known her true position in life? And why did she ‘hear’ in her dreams?

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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, October 26, 2017

#CoverCrush: A Secret History of Witches


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 adore this cover. I use essential oils and I love pretty vials and jars. These are striking. Are those potions? Ingredients for spells? Who are these witches? What is the history?

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 PagesA Literary VacationOf Quills and Vellum.

Friday, October 20, 2017

10 Years Blogging!

I started this blog on October 19, 2007. That's 10 years ago, yesterday. My very first post was a review of Persuasion. In fact, most of those first reviews were of books I'd already read.

I did not get into this for the reviewing or the books. I started this book blog because I couldn't remember books that I'd read. Once I discovered Goodreads, that changed, but by then, I'd gotten used to blogging and reviewing and free books. I fell into the reviewing part of blogging by accident. I discovered other book blogs and I began participating in reading challenges. I found weekly recurring posts like Sunday Salon, Booking Through Thursday, What's on Your Nightstand.

I will forever be grateful to those people who hosted challenges and weekly memes. Because of them, I met other bookish people and I learned that publishers and authors will send you books to review. That was so cool!


I think the first actual book I read that came from an author was in June of 2008.

At first, I accepted nearly every book I was offered, because it was a novelty and I wanted to get more exposure as a reviewer. I quickly learned what genres I preferred and what I did and didn't like in reading.

I started tracking my book stats in 2009. My high was 163 books read in 2010. Holy book alert Batman! Obviously that was a lot, even for a "professional" reader. Not that I'd classify myself that way. My reading dropped after that with my all-time low being 2016. I read a whopping 18 books last year. We'll see how I end 2017.

2017 = 11
2016 = 18
2015 = 39 (1 DNF)
2014 = 74 (2 DNF)
2013 = 76 (3 DNF)
2012 = 113 (2 DNF)
2011 = 160 (5 DNF)
2010 = 163 (11 DNF)
2009 = 128 (3 DNF)

I think I got burned out. I've decided that I hate reading for deadlines, so I stopped accepting books with scheduled tours. I have also become more discerning and only accept/request books that truly interest me.


Before reviewing, I didn't pay much attention to new releases or specific authors. I just found books in the library or at used bookstores that interested me and I read them. Blogging put more books on my radar and as social media came into play, that put authors on my radar. Social media has given reviewers a fantastic opportunity to interact more with each other, with publishers and with authors. And, I'm happy to say that, for the most part, readers on social media tend to be nicer than the general public. Oh, you get your occasional troll and I've discovered authors I won't reread because of their thin skin and volatile opinions. But, I have met some amazing people and formed friendships I cherish. Acquaintances and friendships I never would have found, if not for blogging.

Now?

I finally joined Twitter in 2014 and created a 2 Kids and Tired Facebook page last year. I've become more adept at social media, and I'm not as concerned about blog stats as I used to be.


Today I do a few weekly and monthly posts with a group of bloggers who have become cherished friends. I do some recurring posts on my own. I have started talking about things other than books. My Weekend Reflections posts are more personal as are some of my Пятница Ponderings posts. I still love to write and I appreciate the outlet blogging has given me to do that, even if it more sporadic than steady these days.

After resisting for several years, I acquired a tablet and the Kindle App. I prefer print books, but I adore the convenience of ebooks. The Doctor is allowed to say, "I told you so".


I don't have as many DNF books because I think I'm more discerning in what I choose to read now. I tend to stay within certain genres, but I'm not above branching out if a book really catches my eye or I trust the recommendations.

I've seen the good and bad of the Internets over the last 10 years and how people behave when they have some anonymity behind a keyboard. Blogging has brought me stress, but also a great deal of joy. I've discovered so many new books and authors and I have made some fantastic friends.

For however long you've been here with me, I thank you. For reading. For commenting. For befriending. For sharing.

Here's to another 10!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

#CoverCrush: The Perfect Recipe for Love and Friendship


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 a sucker for stories that center around food and cooking. How can you resist a cover like this one? Seriously? I want to pick it up just to see if there are recipes included. I love it when fiction writers include the recipes mentioned in the book.

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 PagesA Literary VacationOf Quills & Vellum.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

#CoverCrush: The Book Worm


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 have no idea what this book is about. I don't know if it's historical fiction or a thriller. And honestly, I don't care. I just love it because of the cover. My friend Magdalena shared it several months ago on Facebook and I instantly fell in love with it. Who is this woman? She is in Russia, but is she Russian? Is she visiting? Obviously the story revolves around books, but why? How? 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, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Weekend Reflections 10/7

Looking outside...it's sunny and cool. 

Listening...to the sounds of home.

Loving...the ability to travel. But, it was sobering to be in Las Vegas this week. As we flew into the airport, we could see the broken window of the Mandalay Bay hotel. As we drove down past the hotel on Friday, there was still a strong police and FBI presence. The row of crosses, the memorials and tributes. It was very sobering.

Thinking...that I don't love Las Vegas. Sorry, but it's true. I love people who live in Las Vegas, but that city has a weird vibe. 

However, the wedding and reception we traveled there for were so awesome. Three years ago, two young women walked into our lives as LDS missionaries. And immediately became the daughters we never had. We tried to adopt them, but they have parents. So we adopted-by-love. We have stayed in touch and surprised one at her wedding last year and yesterday witnessed the wedding of the second. 

It was such a fun occasion. Both the bride and groom are big comic fans and they incorporated their love of comics and fandoms into their wedding reception. Best reception I've ever been to, including my own.

Loved sharing the day with people I love. Lots of laughter, love and fun.

In my kitchen...Crio Bru right now, because I haven't had any for two days.

Wearing...denim skirt, green and tan shirt, barefeet.

Reading...working on The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard. Posted a review for The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman on Friday. 

Today...we flew home from Las Vegas. We flew down Thursday evening for a wedding yesterday. It was an awesome trip.

Quoting..."I would rather spend one lifetime with you than spend all of the ages of this world alone." -- Arwen to Aragorn , Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings

Feeling...tired after two nights of not much sleep on hotel beds, happy to have been part of a wonderful wedding and grateful for friends who are like family.

Planning...looking toward the week.

Gratitude...for my husband, who is great traveling companion. Grateful to our boys, who are old enough to be left alone and who are responsible. They get along, they can fend for themselves and I came home to a clean house. They're awesome.

From my world... 


I thought the detail on a random Las Vegas overpass was pretty.

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Life She Was Given... #BookReview

About the book:
From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets--beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn't allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She's never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it's for Lilly's own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time--and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents' estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers' Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus's biggest attraction...until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly's fate and her family's shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly's stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

Born with what some would call an anomaly or defect, Lilly is locked in an attic until her mother sells her to a circus sideshow. In the 1930s, those who were deemed different or deformed were often considered monsters. Many were ashamed that their child was different or not normal. PT Barnum was the first, I believe, to gather together these societal misfits and put them on display. For some, the circus life was all they knew and for others it was a horrific ordeal. Lilly's experiences in the circus aren't easy to read and abuse was rampant, but she found a life and love there as well. She tried to make the most of the life she was given as long as she was able to.

Julia's life mirrors Lilly's in some ways and as she discovers more about who the mysterious young girl in the photos is, she learns about her own strengths and who she is.

Some books are easy to read, enjoyed and then forgotten. Other books are difficult and you have to muddle your way through them and force yourself to continue. And then there are books that tug at your heartstrings and make you think and ponder as you continue reading what should simply be defined as plot and characters, but what is really a study of life and human behavior.

While mostly Lilly's story, the movement between both women's experiences strengthens their bond and enriches the novel. At times heart-wrenching, this is not always an easy story to read, but it is compelling and begs the reader to continue.

The story isn't inherently happy, but there are moments of hope and the title is appropriate for both Lilly and Julia. There is a mildly graphic instance of animal abuse that is central to a plot in the story.

Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Ellen Marie Wiseman on her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Read 10/17

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4/5 Stars

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Night Shift...Spotlight

About the book:
A stunning black and white illustration book with simple text,follows a young girl who is haunted by dragons. These are not just your average fire-breathing dragons, either. These dragons represent the depression the young girl battles using her ‘night skills’: skills that give her both the ability to survive inside her own darkness and the knowledge that nothing - not even long, dark nights filled with monsters - will last forever.

Author and illustrator of over 80 picture books and the winner of two Kate Greenaway Awards, Debi Gliori, brings the struggle of fighting depression to life by drawing from her own personal war with the illness in Night Shift. She pens a brave and powerful book that’s perfect for both young and old dragon fighters, and any reader who needs an uninhibited reminder that they’re not alone.

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About the author:
Debi Gliori is well known for both her picture books and her novels for children and has been shortlisted for all the major prizes, including the Kate Greenaway Award (twice) and the Scottish Arts Council Award. Debi was the Shetland Islands' first Children's Writer-in Residence. She has written and illustrated No Matter What, The Trouble With Dragons, Stormy Weather, The Scariest Thing of All, What's the Time, Mr Wolf?, Dragon Loves Penguin and, most recently, Alfie in the Bath and Alfie in the Garden as well as the popular Pure Dead fiction series for older readers.

Gliori says the book is for “... anyone who needs it, anyone who thinks they might be going into a depressive episode, anyone who is in the middle of one, anyone who is watching someone they love go through it and is desperately trying to understand what they are going through, anyone who has come out on the other side, really anyone who is interested in understanding what the illness is.” Gliori hopes that by sharing her own experience she can help others to find that subtle shift that will show the way out.

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October 5 is National Depression Screening Day. This year, the focus is on the importance of seeking help. Depression is a common and treatable mood disorder, and spreading awareness about the different ways those dealing with it can get help could save lives. Please join us this National Depression Screening Day and help us spread the word to increase awareness of mental health. You can take an anonymous screening here.

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Thanks to Pamela Crossan of Wunderkind PR for the opportunity to spotlight this book. You can learn more about Deb Gliori on her website and connect with her on Twitter.

#CoverCrush: Without Benefits


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 bouquet of red roses, left on a table. Petals are falling and they look rather forlorn. Who brought them? To whom were they given? How does the title figure with an abandoned bouquet of roses? What is this 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 Swede, Layered Pages, indieBRAG, A Literary Vacation, Of Quills and Vellum.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Books I Have Forgotten

Each month I revisit some of my past reviews. One of the reasons I started this book blog was to remember what books I have read. My memory isn't the greatest anymore and I found that I would read a book and then not remember if I liked it or what it was even about.

Maybe one of these will prompt you to seek out an older, but amazing book. Or, if you've read one of these and your review was different, please share!

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The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri
2/5 Stars
5/2012

"I enjoyed The Lace Makers of Glenmara and so I was excited to read Heather's next book. Unfortunately, it just wasn't something that grabbed me. The setting had promise, but I kept feeling as if something was missing. I also struggled with the narration style and never really connected with the characters. I couldn't stand Nora's daughter Ella. She wasn't just a rude pre-teen, she was horrible. This was just one story that tried too hard to be something special and didn't live up to its potential. My review is one of many and is in the minority, as usual. You will see other, more positive reviews on the tour shown below. "

I don't remember anything about this.

In the Bag by Kate Klise
4/20121
3/5 Stars

"I liked the characters well enough. The chapters alternate characters and part of the narration is told through email. Very contemporary. The story is light, but entertaining. An interesting premise. Funny. Mild profanity. Not one I'd necessarily re-read. Perfect for a beach read. "

I have no memory of this one either.
Where the Trail Ends by Melanie Dobson
4/5 Stars
10/2012

"Melanie Dobson has created a terrific story set against a familiar backdrop. The story is realistic and thrilling and the characters are likeable. Although billed as a romance, we don't see the hero and heroine together until nearer the end of the story, which actually worked. The story became, instead of a sappy romance, a tribute to the strong men and women who braved the Oregon Trail. Completely enjoyable and easily recommended."

Apparently I enjoyed it. Quite a bit.

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What about you? What are some of the books you've read in previous years?