Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

#CoverCrush: The Ruins of Us

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.

While I didn't love this book, I loved the cover. Dark and mysterious, it brings thoughts of the Middle East. The green scarf is a bit of brightness against the dark of the woman's dress. She's looking down and away; is that from shame or regret? What has happened to her? What will happen to her? 

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.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Mailbox Monday 6/27

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 lists.   

I haven't done a Mailbox Monday in over a year. So, here are a few of the newest additions to my TBR stacks. All of these books have come via Netgalley.

The Cherished Quilt by Amy Clipston
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck
The Sugar Planter's Daughter by Sharon Maas

In Twenty Years by Alison Winn Scotch
The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray
Winter Sky by Chris Stewart

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell

What about you?


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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Weekend Reflections 6/25

Looking outside....it's sunny and breezy. With a high of 82. 

Listening...to silence. The Boy and the Doctor are at work and The Artist is sleeping. 

Loving...good medical care, a comfortable hospital waiting room and Cafeteria Clam Chowder. 

Thinking...that I am tired.

In my kitchen...probably take out. We will be at the hospital most of the day because my Mom had her second surgery in three weeks yesterday.

Wearing...black/white striped skirt and tan t-shirt and black cardigan.

Needing...to fold some laundry before going to the hospital.

Reading...I haven't read much of note this week. It's been a little busy!

Today...The Artist needs to mow the lawn and The Boy is working and then he will mow Grandma's lawn. He might have plans later, we need to talk about it.

Feeling...last week it was heartbreak for the tragedies in Florida. This week, it's watching the drama unfold in the UK and wondering what the Brexit decision to leave the EU actually means. The Doctor has lived in the U.S. for 22 years and is now a U.S. citizen, but his family is still in England and Wales. We have talked this weekend about what the fallout could be and how he might have voted if he was still there. It is easy to see some parallels to what is happening here in America. The world seems to be falling into chaos and it's fascinating and frightening to watch.

Planning...for the week. Schedules and obligations. Appointments and errands.

Gratitude...for great doctors and nurses who have cared for my mother with such tender kindness. I am grateful for their knowledge and their service to her. She has been in good hands and we are blessed to have such good care. I am also grateful that she is recovering well and that hopefully, this will bring back her quality of life.

From my world... 

My little alcove in the hospital waiting room yesterday. Grateful for a quiet place to wait and wifi!

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

5 Books I Want to Read...Russia

I keep a wish list on Goodreads called "want to read". Currently, it's up to 2547. 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.

This month I found several books on my list that are set in Russia. Growing up when I did, as a child of the 70s and a teenager/young adult during 80s, it was the heart of the Cold War and Russia always fascinated me. There was so much mystery surrounding it. When I was in college, I took Russian language classes and even sang in a Russian choir. I still know the old USSR National Anthem. While I don't speak it, I love the Russian language. I am still fascinated by the country and its history.


The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander

Drawing from decades of work, travel, and research in Russia, Robert Alexander re-creates the tragic, perennially fascinating story of the final days of Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov as seen through the eyes of their young kitchen boy, Leonka. Now an ancient Russian immigrant, Leonka claims to be the last living witness to the Romanovs’ brutal murders and sets down the dark secrets of his past with the imperial family. Does he hold the key to the many questions surrounding the family’s murder? Historically vivid and compelling, The Kitchen Boy is also a touching portrait of a loving family that was in many ways similar, yet so different, from any other.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

It's 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin's extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It's a long and harrowing journey and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

Hotel Moscow by Talia Carner

From the author of Jerusalem Maiden comes a mesmerizing, thought-provoking novel that tells the riveting story of an American woman--the daughter of Holocaust survivors--who travels to Russia shortly after the fall of communism, and finds herself embroiled in a perilous mafia conspiracy that could irrevocably destroy her life.

Brooke Fielding, a thirty-eight year old New York investment manager and daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors, finds her life suddenly upended in late September 1993 when her job is unexpectedly put in jeopardy. Brooke accepts an invitation to join a friend on a mission to Moscow to teach entrepreneurial skills to Russian business women, which will also give her a chance to gain expertise in the new, vast emerging Russian market. Though excited by the opportunity to save her job and be one of the first Americans to visit Russia after the fall of communism, she also wonders what awaits her in the country that persecuted her mother just a generation ago.

Inspired by the women she meets, Brooke becomes committed to helping them investigate the crime that threatens their businesses. But as the uprising of the Russian parliament against President Boris Yeltsin turns Moscow into a volatile war zone, Brooke will find that her involvement comes at a high cost. For in a city where "capitalism" is still a dirty word, where neighbors spy on neighbors and the new economy is in the hands of a few dangerous men, nothing Brooke does goes unnoticed--and a mistake in her past may now compromise her future.

A moving, poignant, and rich novel, Hotel Moscow is an eye-opening portrait of post-communist Russia and a profound exploration of faith, family, and heritage.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

One of the most talked about books of the year...Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. And while the elderly Russian woman cannot hold on to fresh memories—the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild—her distant past is preserved: vivid images that rise unbidden of her youth in war-torn Leningrad.

In the fall of 1941, the German army approached the outskirts of Leningrad, signaling the beginning of what would become a long and torturous siege. During the ensuing months, the city's inhabitants would brave starvation and the bitter cold, all while fending off the constant German onslaught. Marina, then a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum, along with other staff members, was instructed to take down the museum's priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, yet leave the frames hanging empty on the walls—a symbol of the artworks' eventual return. To hold on to sanity when the Luftwaffe's bombs began to fall, she burned to memory, brushstroke by brushstroke, these exquisite artworks: the nude figures of women, the angels, the serene Madonnas that had so shortly before gazed down upon her. She used them to furnish a "memory palace," a personal Hermitage in her mind to which she retreated to escape terror, hunger, and encroaching death. A refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more...

Seamlessly moving back and forth in time between the Soviet Union and contemporary America, The Madonnas of Leningrad is a searing portrait of war and remembrance, of the power of love, memory, and art to offer beauty, grace, and hope in the face of overwhelming despair. Gripping, touching, and heartbreaking, it marks the debut of Debra Dean, a bold new voice in American fiction

Away by Amy Bloom

Panoramic in scope, Away is the epic and intimate story of young Lillian Leyb, a dangerous innocent, an accidental heroine. When her family is destroyed in a Russian pogrom, Lillian comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land. When word comes that her daughter, Sophie, might still be alive, Lillian embarks on an odyssey that takes her from the world of the Yiddish theater on New York's Lower East Side, to Seattle's Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia. All of the qualities readers love in Amy Bloom's work--her humor and wit, her elegant and irreverent language, her unflinching understanding of passion and the human heart--come together in the embrace of this brilliant novel, which is at once heartbreaking, romantic, and completely unforgettable.


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: Layered Pages, A Bookaholic Swede, The Maiden's Court, A Literary Vacation.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

#CoverCrush: The Woman from 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 love Paris. I have such fond memories of Paris. I would love to spend time there, even live there for a time and just take in all she has to offer. The cover of this book invokes a carefree feeling, a woman walking home from the market, swinging her bag and laughing. As she stands on a corner or pauses, her feet show a bit of uncertainty: what direction will she take? Will she go directly home or will she stroll for a bit and enjoy the day? What is in store for her?

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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Time Key...Spotlight

About the book:
Stanley Becker’s wife and daughter had been dead for six years, as was the reason that he so desperately wished to end his life, but on the night that a stranger left him with an odd pocket watch he was introduced into a world he could only have imagined in stories.

He now has a way to travel through time.

But traveling isn’t as simple as it seems, and Stanley soon finds that despite his wish to change past events, there are other dangers awaiting him. Having left Stanley with the pocket watch, along with a mysterious child, the stranger from that fateful night had only triggered the first chain of events that would force our reluctant protagonist to discover the fragility of his own reality as he fights for his life and attempts to write his own future.


About the author:
Melanie Bateman is a freelance illustrator whose passion for nature and pretty pictures will sometimes translate into written stories. When she isn’t daydreaming, she enjoys being a mom. The Time Key is her first novel.


Thanks to the author and Cedar Fort for the opportunity to spotlight this book. You can learn more about Melanie on her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can purchase your own copy here.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Perfumer's Secret...Review

About the book:
The quest for a stolen perfume formula awakens passion, rivalry and family secrets in the fragrant flower fields of the South of France...

Perfumer Zoe Flore travels to Grasse, perfume capital of the world, to collect a formula: her inheritance from the family she never knew existed. The scent matches the one worn by her mother, who passed away when Zoe was a teenager. Zoe, competing to create a new fragrance for a prestigious designer, believes this scent could win the contract—and lead her to the reason her mother fled Grasse for New York City.

Before Zoe can discover the truth, the formula is stolen. And she’s not the only one looking for it. So is Loulou, her rebellious teenage cousin; Philippe, her alluring competitor for the fragrance contract; and a third person who never wanted the formula to slip into the public in the first place.

The pursuit transforms into a journey of self-discovery as each struggles to understand the complexities of love, the force of pride and the meaning of family.

I will be honest and state that this novel took me far longer to finish than it should have. I kept putting it down and picking it up. I don't know if it didn't grasp my attention enough or if it was just where I am in life and what I have going on.

Zoe Flore travels to France when her aunt dies and leaves her the treasured perfume formula of the scent her mother always wore. Knowledge of the inheritance brings Zoe a family she never knew existed. A family who still resents that her mother left France and whose secrets they aren't willing to share. When the formula is stolen, Zoe discovers some answers and more questions as she searches for who took it.

I can't say I really connected with characters here. None of them experience much happiness nor do they find joy in life. Instead there is anger, betrayal and disloyalty. As Zoe attempts to recreate the formula even as she searches for it, I think she eventually finds some closure, but it's not an inherently happy story.

I loved the perfume aspects of the story. So fascinating to read about the process of creating scents, but also the rivalry that can occur between perfume families and manufacturers. This is as much a story about family as it is about perfume.

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

Read 5/16

* * *
3/5 Stars

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Weekend Reflections 6/18

Looking outside...it's sunny. Currently 72 with a high of 78. It's been like this off and on all week with intermittent rain. I have enjoyed it and I am not looking forward to hot weather next week.

Listening...to silence. The Boy and The Doctor are at work and The Artist is sleeping. He's 15, he sleeps a lot!

Loving...a pot of petunias and a green lawn and leafy trees.

Thinking...that I should get dressed, but my jammies are comfortable.

In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate right now. I made my first batch of summer jam this week. Mulberry/Raspberry. It was an experiment. Not sure how good it is, but it was nice to get back into canning. I think I'm doing Apricot-Pineapple next week.

Wearing...purple pajamas.

Hoping...that whatever is wrong with my car is covered under the warranty. 

Reading...need to finish Summer of Dreams by Elizabeth Camden. It's a novella, so it shouldn't take me too long.

Today...The Doctor is driving with my sister to pick up her children who have been with their father for three weeks. It's always a good day when the kiddos come home!

Quoting..."Where there is kindness, there is goodness and where there is goodness, there is magic." -- Cinderella

Feeling...So many things. This has been a devastating week in regards to tragedy. My heart just aches for those who lost loved ones in Florida; in the nightclub shooting and the family who lost their son to an alligator attack. My heart aches even more for those subjected to the disgusting rhetoric and cruel comments made because of politics and the anonymity of the internet. America is better than this. America should be better than this. Better than name calling and accusations. Better than hollow expressions of fake sympathy. Better than judgments. Better than taking a tragedy and trying to capitalize and gain votes.

I am so tired of generalizations that all Christians or Conservatives are hateful or all Liberals are morally evil. It's not true. Yes, we have extremes on both sides. But, I still believe that deep down, we are all good people. Sometimes we don't know how to show it and sometimes people let these little chips on their shoulders grow so large that they stagger under the weight of perceived wrongs. Differences in religious or political beliefs does not equal hate. It should not.

A week like this one isn't the time for political rhetoric and name calling. It isn't the time to make self-righteous comments on Facebook pages. It's a time to mourn with each other. It's a time to find something good to do in memory of those who lost their lives this week. Give blood. Smile at a stranger. Say a prayer to whomever you worship. Pay for the people behind you on the bridge or in the drive-thru. Light a candle. Volunteer somewhere. Be kind. Do good. 

Planning...we got The Boy registered for his fall classes, although I don't think waitlisted means he's actually taking the class. Freshmen get the dregs of what is left and what is left means waiting. Hopefully he will make it into the classes he needs. Otherwise, he will be talking to someone at school when he starts so he can get scheduling worked out! Now we're on to finding him housing. Wish us luck!

Gratitude...for my husband, who is an amazing father to our boys. And to my Dad who, with my Mom, raised four very individual daughters and who was the best father a girl could want. I miss him every day.

From the world... 

Stephen Colbert had a fantastic response to the Orlando shootings. "Love is a Verb". 

"But I do know that despair is a victory for hate. Hate wants us to be too weak to change anything. Now, these people in Orlando were apparently targeted because of who they love. And there have been outpourings of love throughout the country and around the world. Love in response to hate. Love does not despair. Love makes us strong. Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives us hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script. So, love your country. Love your family, love the families of the victims of the people of Orlando, but let us remember that love is a verb and ‘to love’ means to do something."

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

Post has been edited.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Childhood Favorites...Summer of the Monkeys

Childhood favorites. Everyone has a favorite book or author from childhood. A book that touched them or changed them. A book that perhaps initiated their love of reading and put them on the path of libraries and learning.

Books: Childhood Favorites is a monthly series focusing on beloved books from the past. 

Donald Zolan, Quiet Time.

Hands down, if I had to pick one favorite book from my childhood, it would be Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. Most people know Wilson Rawls because of Where the Red Fern Grows. And, don't get me wrong, I loved Where the Red Fern Grows, but I had no desire to reread it. I adored and devoured Summer of the Monkeys.

I don't remember where I got it, probably from my parents as a gift. It was first published in 1976 and I would have been 10 years old. I always got books in my Easter basket and in my Christmas stockings. I often received books as rewards or before we would go on a trip.

Summer of the Monkeys resonated with me in ways I still can't describe. I loved 14 year old Jay Berry and his twin sister Daisy. All Jay Berry wanted in life was a pony and a .22. Daisy was crippled and the family was saving all their money so she could have a much needed operation on her leg.

One summer, Jay Berry found some monkeys in the creek bottoms and discovered there was a reward for them, because they were escaped from a circus. So Jay Berry decided to spend his summer trying to catch these monkeys and earn the reward money.

His adventures are legendary.

I won't spoil it, but suffice it to say, the ending still makes me cry because of its beautiful poignancy. Summer of the Monkeys is a wonderful coming of age story, but more than that, it's a story about the sweet relationships of family.

In 1998, the book was made into a film and while it had a terrific cast and it stayed fairly true to the book, it in no way captured the magic that is Summer of the Monkeys. Find it. Read it.

What about you? What is one of your childhood favorites?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

#CoverCrush: The Accidental Book Club

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.

Books about books or book clubs fascinate me. I loved this cover because of the book in the forefront. It brought a feeling of hope. This new book is open, fluttering with possiblities. The teacup sitting on a stack of books in the background says that books are important, books are a part of life. I want to pick up the book on the cover and discover the story within.

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 CommentaryA Bookaholic Swede, Layered Pages.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Promised to the Crown...Review

About the book:
Bound for a new continent, and a new beginning.

In her illuminating debut novel, Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV’s call and journey to the Canadian colony.

They are known as the filles du roi, or “King’s Daughters”—young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving—poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness.

Once in Quebec, Elisabeth quickly accepts baker Gilbert Beaumont, who wants a business partner as well as a wife. Nicole, a farmer’s daughter from Rouen, marries a charming officer who promises comfort and security. Scarred by her traumatic past, Rose decides to take holy vows rather than marry. Yet no matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss—and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.

Before reading Promised to the Crown, I had no idea that young women were sent from France to Canada as prospective brides. The premise fascinated me and the story was engrossing. The novel follows three women as they leave France for Canada: Rose, Nicole and Elisabeth. Each woman has her reasons for leaving, believing that marrying a stranger is better than remaining in France.

The women bond on the voyage over and despite the different circumstances they find themselves in, their friendship and loyalty to each other sustains and encourages them.

I love books featuring strong women. I love books that feature women who advocate for and support one another. This book had that in spades. Even the nuns who sheltered the women until they found husbands were strong and protective of these girls.

I found the book to be well researched and I thought the characters were well rounded. Their individual stories weren't without trial and tribulation, but each was able to find a life for herself and each was able to overcome individual struggles. There are some secondary characters whose stories I believe will be expanded in the next book and I am thrilled to know that.

First in the Daughters of New France series, I am anxiously awaiting the next book Duty to the Crown.

Thanks to the author and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Aimie K. Runyan here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/16

* * * *
4/5 Stars