Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Whimsy Wednesday: Rules for Public Libraries

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Not Without My Father...Preview

About the book:
Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero?

Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.

After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.

As Watkins trudged America’s forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did.

About the author:
Andra Watkins lives in Charleston, South Carolina. A non-practicing CPA, she has a degree in accounting from Francis Marion University. She’s still mad at her mother for refusing to let her major in musical theater, because her mom was convinced she’d end up starring in porn films. In addition to her writing talent, Andra is an accomplished public speaker. Her acclaimed debut novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis was published by Word Hermit Press in 2014.

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book for the opportunity to preview this book. You can learn more about Andra Watkins here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Memory of Violets...Review

About the book:
“For little sister. . . . I will never stop looking for you.”

1876. Among the filth and depravity of Covent Garden’s flower markets, orphaned Irish sisters Flora and Rosie Flynn sell posies of violets and watercress to survive. It is a pitiful existence, made bearable only by each other’s presence. When they become separated, the decision of a desperate woman sets their lives on very different paths.

1912. Twenty-one-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London to become assistant housemother at one of Mr. Shaw’s Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the homes have cared for London’s orphaned and crippled flower girls, getting them off the streets. For Tilly, the appointment is a fresh start, a chance to leave her troubled past behind.

Soon after she arrives at the home, Tilly finds a notebook belonging to Flora Flynn. Hidden between the pages she finds dried flowers and a heartbreaking tale of loss and separation as Flora’s entries reveal how she never stopped looking for her lost sister. Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie—but the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.

Oh. My. Goodness. I've found my favorite book of the year and it's only February.

Florrie and Rosie Flynn do their best to survive the harsh slums of London by selling flowers in the streets. Many a night they sleep on those same streets to avoid their abusive father. Their life is wretched, deplorable and without hope, until one day they meet Mr. Albert Shaw, who has taken it upon himself to help the orphaned and crippled flower girls. Florrie looks after her little sister religiously until the day Rosie is snatched off the street. Mr. Shaw takes Florrie in and she lives and works in the flower home until her death, never ending the search for her sister.

Years later, Tilly comes to work at the flower home and finds Florrie's journal which details her life without Rosie. But where Florrie couldn't bear to live without Rosie, Tilly has left her home and doesn't want to look back. Her father is dead and her relationship with her mother and sister is difficult. After discovering Florrie's notebook, Tilly is drawn to her and vows to find out what happened to Rosie. But, as she faces Florrie's past, Tilly must also face her own.

I loved the alternating perspectives of Tilly and Florrie. The story flows well and the hardship and burden these children lived with is vividly captured here. The mystical element was soft and perfect for the story.

The novel is based on fact in that a man did, indeed, found homes for orphaned girls, many of whom were pitiful flower sellers. He gave them not only a home, but a purpose and trained them in a skill. I was unaware that such homes even existed, but then, my knowledge of flower girls in London pretty much begins and ends with Eliza Doolittle. The historical aspect here is rich and I enjoyed the notes at the end of the book.

Hazel did a fantastic job of capturing the time, the poverty and despair. This isn't an inherently happy story, but it's not miserable either. It's truly lovely. What Hazel does capture most of all, is the happiness that these girls felt as they began to believe they had value, Tilly included. A beautiful story of love and forgiveness. Now, I want to plant violets this spring.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Hazel Gaynor here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/15

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Into the Whirlwind...Review

About the book:
As owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, Mollie Knox's future looks bright until the night the legendary Great Chicago Fire destroys her beloved city. With her world crumbling around her, Mollie will do whatever it takes to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating fire.

Zack Kazmarek, an influential attorney for one of Chicago's finest department stores, is a force to be reckoned with among the city's most powerful citizens. Bold and shrewd, he's accustomed to getting exactly what he wants--until he meets Mollie Knox, the beguiling businesswoman just beyond his reach.

In the tumult as the people of Chicago race to rebuild a bigger and better city, Mollie comes face-to-face with the full force of Zack's character and influence. Zack believes this may finally be his chance to win her, but can Mollie ever accept this man and his whirlwind effect on her life, especially with her treasured company on the line?

I loved Mollie and her determination. She loves the watch company she inherited from her father and she is smart and successful. She cares about her employees, many of whom are disabled and served with her father in the Civil War.

Zack is a prickly attorney who has long harbored a secret attraction to Mollie. Working on a business deal, they find themselves in the middle of the Great Chicago Fire and Mollie loses her building. In the aftermath of the fire and as Chicago rushes to rebuild itself, Mollie and Zack find themselves both attracted to and at odds with each other. When the men who served in the war with her father show up to help her rebuild, Zack becomes jealous of Mollie's relationship with her father's colonel.

I enjoyed Zack and Mollie even as I was frustrated with their relationship and the assumptions and misunderstandings. Seriously, it's called communication. The secondary characters were terrific and I appreciated Declan and his all to real struggle with PTSD. Sophie was a little snot and it was nice to see her grow and redeem herself.

I adore the historical aspects of Elizabeth's books. They are rich and filled with glorious detail. Having never been to Chicago, its history is new to me and I enjoyed learning more about it. The elements of watch and clock making was fascinating.

Sometimes books arrive and then get stashed in my TBR pile where they can unfortunately languish. This is one that just sat patiently waiting to be picked up. I'm sorry it took so long to get to, but it was definitely worth it.

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Elizabeth Camden here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pairing Off...Review

About the book:
American figure skater Carrie Parker's Winter Games dreams were dashed when her philandering partner caused one of the greatest scandals in skating history. Blacklisted from competing in the United States, her career is over…until she receives a mysterious invitation and is paired with the most infuriating, talented—and handsome—skater she's ever met.

Russian champion Anton Belikov knows sacrifice. He gave up a normal life and any hope of a meaningful relationship to pursue his dream. And he's come close—with a silver medal already under his belt, the next stop is the gold. All he needs is a partner. While he's never forgotten the young American skater he seduced one long-ago night in Amsterdam, he never expected to be confronted with their past…never mind share the ice with her.

When what starts as a publicity stunt grows into something real, Carrie and Anton's partnership will test their loyalties to family, country and each other. With only a few months to train for the competition of a lifetime, can they master technique and their emotions, or will they lose their footing and fall victim to the heartaches of their pasts?

Figure skating is my favorite Winter Olympic sport. I won't tell you how far back I can go with skaters I remember watching, but suffice it to say, it's far. Well before the fall of communism and the Cold War, the skaters from Russia always had that mystique and allure. Even after the fall, they still had that mystique, but life was more open and less secret.

When Carrie Parker's skating partner is caught cheating with a skating judge, her world collapses and she is blacklisted from skating in the United States. Wanting nothing more than to continue her quest for Gold, she accepts an offer to partner with Russian skater Anton Belikov even though they had shared a hazy one-night stand years previously.

As Carrie and Anton work together, they find themselves attracted to each other. Carrie worries about leaving behind her family and her country behind. Anton wants to skate, not fall in love. Add in meddling publicists, a dysfunctional American family, a boisterous Russian family and a jealous former partner and you have entered the world of figure skating.

The story has some surprising depth as Carrie explores her tragic past and works to reconcile with her father. The author has also really captured the feeling of Moscow and its people and Carrie's challenges in relocating and learning a new language and culture.

I shouldn't be surprised when romance novels contain graphic sex and profanity, but I am. I always disappointed too. This one has moderately explicit non-marital and marital sex and moderate profanity that keeps it from being 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Elizabeth Harmon here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/15

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mailbox Monday 2/9

It's time for another Mailbox Monday which was created by Marcia at To Be Continued.

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week... Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish list

 I've missed posting again for the last couple of weeks, so this is another compilation. It's been fairly quiet on the mailbox front.

The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley, for review from TLC Book Tours
An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey, giveaway win from The Reading Date.

Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma, for review from Litfuse Publicity
The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase, via Netgalley, for review

What about you?


What new books did you receive?  Check out more Mailbox Monday posts here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Get Your Joy Back...Review

About the book:
An invitation and a promise for weary Christian parents of special needs kids from a parent who’s been there.

“It isn’t the long day of monitoring a child’s precarious health or being hypervigilant about her mood and mental health challenges that weighs parents down; it’s the wishing that things were different. . . Resentment, not the intense care they must provide their child, is the parents’ greatest stressor and source of pain.” —Laurie Wallin

Parents of specials needs children are exhausted. They’ve done all the research, consulted all the experts, joined support groups, gotten counseling, fought for the best life for their children. Often just caring for their children’s needs and attempting to maintain a home maxes out parents’ mental, emotional, and spiritual reserves.

Laurie Wallin knows firsthand the difficulties of this journey. With Get Your Joy Back, she steps forward to make a bold, audacious claim: in the midst of this long-term, intense task, it is still possible to have an abundant life, full of joy. The key to radically changing daily life and restoring joy to the weary is forgiveness. Wallin gives parents a lifeline to find that restoration, pulling them back to shore when they feel like they’re drowning.

This book is full of practical, biblical insights and strategies to shed the resentments that leave Christian special-needs parents themselves spiritually, emotionally, and socially drained. Wallin meets readers right where they are, sugar coating nothing, but addressing issues with honesty, humor, and–above all–hope.

As the parent of child on the autism spectrum, I can understand exhaustion. Parenting any children is exhausting, but a special needs child just adds another level of strain. Our children are all different and we are at different stages of life, health, transitions, etc. We join support groups, we talk with other parents and we pray. We just try and get through each day and by the end of it, we have rarely found time for ourselves. My son is high-functioning and I am at a different stage in my parenting as my son is now a teenager and our challenges are different than what they were when he was a toddler. But, there are challenges just the same.

There were many things I enjoyed about this book. The fact that Laurie knows from experience how hard it can be to raise a special needs child is important. She validates those feelings of frustration. She shares scriptures and the principle of forgiveness, which I did not expect to read about here. There are suggestions and lots of encouragement with topics of community, God, family, spouse and others. There are notes and great references.

Easily read in one or two sittings, this is a gem of a book and will inspire and uplift.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Laurie Wallin here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/15

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Friday, February 6, 2015

Authentic Arts Series: Venice and Artisans of Venice...Spotlight and Giveaway

I adore Venice. It's been nearly 20 years since I was there, but I have fond memories and a deep longing to return. I loved walking the streets and finding shops and stalls.

I have a couple of terrific books to spotlight for you today. Books that will make you want to visit Venice yourself.
About the books:

Authentic Arts: Venice Travel Guide

Every traveler to Venice wants to go home with a special souvenir--a carnival mask, a piece of Murano glass, a handcrafted piece of lace. But selecting which mask or which goblet to buy can be an intimidating experience. How do you know if you're buying something authentic, something made in Venice, something made in a traditional way? How do you gauge how much you should pay, and how do you know if you're being ripped off? How do you determine if you have fallen prey to one of the city's many tourist traps?

Laura Morelli, an art historian and trusted guide in the world of cultural travel and authentic shopping, leads you to the best of the city's most traditional arts: Murano glass, carnival masks, gondolas, lace, paper, and more. This indispensable guide includes practical tips for locating the most authentic goods in one of the busiest tourist destinations in the world. Packed with useful information on pricing, quality, and value, and with a comprehensive resource guide, Laura Morelli's Authentic Arts: Venice is the perfect guide for anyone wanting to bring home the unique traditions of Venice. 

Artisans of Venice is the companion to Laura Morelli's Authentic Arts: Venice, A Travel Guide to Murano Glass, Carnival Masks, Gondolas, Lace, Paper, & More. Put both books together and you'll be the most knowledgeable traveler in Venice!

Artisans of Venice: Companion to the Travel Guide

Going to Venice? Don't buy anything in Venice until you read this book!

Buyer Beware: Venice is full of tourist traps and mass-produced souvenirs passed off as authentic. Do you know how to tell the treasures from the trash?

In Venice, it's not easy to tell the treasures from the trash. This is true now more than ever before, as increasing numbers of carnival masks, glass, and other souvenirs flood into Venice, imported from overseas and passed off as authentic. There is no substitute for an educated buyer. Laura Morelli helps you locate the city's most authentic artisans--those practicing centuries-old trades of mask making, glass blowing, wood turning, silk spinning, and other traditions. Wouldn't you rather support authentic Venetian master artisans than importers looking to turn a quick profit without any connection to Venice at all?

Venice boasts some of the most accomplished master artisans in the world. Here's how you can find them.

Laura Morelli leads you beyond the souvenir shops for an immersive cultural experience that you won't find in any other guidebook. Artisans of Venice brings you inside the workshops of the most accomplished makers of Venetian fabrics, Murano glass and millefiori, carnival masks and masquerade costumes, gondolas, Burano lace, mirrors, marbleized paper, hand-carved frames, and other treasures. This book leads you to the multi-generational studios of some 75 authentic master artisans. If you're reading on your Kindle device, tablet, or smartphone, you can click directly on their street addresses for an interactive map, and link to their web sites and email addresses directly from the guide. A cross-referenced resource guide also offers listings by neighborhood.

Laura Morelli, an art historian and trusted guide in the world of cultural travel and authentic shopping, leads you to the best of Venice's most traditional arts. Laura Morelli's Authentic Arts series is the only travel guide series on the market that takes you beyond the museums and tourist traps to make you an educated buyer--maybe even a connoisseur--of Florentine leather, ceramics of the Amalfi Coast, Parisian hats, Venetian glass, the handmade quilts of Provence, and more treasures.

Bring Laura Morelli's guides to Venice with you, and you'll be sure to come home with the best of Venice in your suitcase.

About the author:

Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. Recently her art history lesson, “What’s the difference between art and craft?” was produced and distributed by TED-Ed.

Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at Northeastern University, Merrimack College, St. Joseph College, and the College of Coastal Georgia. Laura has lived in five countries, including four years in Italy and four years in France.

Laura Morelli is the author of the guidebook series that includes Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest, all published by Rizzoli / Universe. The Gondola Maker, a historical coming-of-age story about the heir to a gondola boatyard in 16th-century Venice, is her first work of fiction.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks to Italy Book Tours for the opportunity to spotlight these books.  You can learn more about Laura Morelli here. You can see other tour stops here. You can purchase your own copies here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Beyond All Dreams...Review

About the book:
Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.

Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.

From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?

Anna's work as map librarian is quiet for the most part, which suits her. But, the occasional call to sit on a congressional meeting or committee frays her nerves and I think I loved her most when she called out Luke's behavior in the middle of a committee meeting. She was strong and spirited and didn't back down from a challenge. Luke, enthralled with the charming librarian, requests her help with some research. She, in turn, requests his help in discovering the true story behind her father's shipwreck and disappearance.

Elizabeth's way with history is compelling. This look at 19th Century American government was fascinating. Politics doesn't change and decisions are still made based on who you know and what secrets you can keep. Seeing it in action, here, as Anna's attempts to find out how and if her father's ship actually disappeared at sea were thwarted time and time again, was both aggravating and riveting.

This was a novel I couldn't put down. I loved Anna and Luke. I found myself frustrated with Luke and his temper, but his history explained it and his efforts to change were appreciated. I was thrilled with the inclusion of Neville as Anna's best friend. His disability and challenges did not limit him and his character was refreshing and a welcome complement to Anna.

How do you go wrong with a book set in a library? The Library of Congress is my favorite building in Washington DC. I adored seeing this historical view of it and how it moved from rooms in the Capitol to its own gorgeous building.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Elizabeth Camden here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/15

* * * * *
5/5 Stars