Monday, November 20, 2017

Lucky Boy : Book Review

Soli dreamt of a better life in the United States. Determined to survive in spite of tragedy and suffering, she will work hard and keep her head down. She is blessed with a beautiful son she names Ignacio and she loves being a mother. When she is arrested and held in a detention center for undocumented immigrants, her son is taken from her. Broken and terrified, Soli will not give up hope of being reunited with her little son.

Kavya and Rishi want to be parents. After years of infertility and a failed IVF attempt, they decide to be foster parents. They were surprised by how much they could love the tiny Ignacio and cannot bear to let him go. His biological mother is going to be deported to Mexico. Surely, Ignacio will have a better life in America with them.

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaram is the heartbreaking tale of two women in love with one small boy. Both want the best for the child and are overwhelmed by the hole left in their hearts at the thought of being without him. This novel broke my mother-heart and left me affected and changed. Discussing sensitive and timely topics such as immigration, privilege and infertility, Lucky Boy allows the reader to feel empathy for the characters who are so richly developed, I feel sure they are living and struggling in Berkeley right now.

I had just started reading Lucky Boy in September when I ended up in the emergency room with intense pain and a high fever. The book traveled with me by ambulance to the larger hospital for surgery and then sat on my night stand. I always assumed that time in a hospital would allow for good, uninterrupted reading time but I was so out of it with pain and then medication that I didn't read at all.  Unfortunately, as I recovered Lucky Boy got pushed aside for other books and I finally got back to it last weekend. I quickly became reacquainted with the characters and found the conflict between the two mothers to be very compelling and was entirely emotional at the conclusion of the novel.

Lucky Boy is a powerful novel and Sekaram is an author to watch.

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Shekaram is published by Putnam. It released in hardcover in January 2017 and was reprinted in paperback edition in September 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy of the novel. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lies Jane Austen Told Me : Book Review

Emma Pierce has loved Jane Austen's novel for years but since she's been adult, she's come to realize that Jane was lying. Romance and men like Mr. Darcy don't really exist. So, Emma has thrown herself into her career as the marketing director for a trendy gym that is growing all over the country. To help with their expansion on the east coast, the CEO has hired a handsome, smart man named Lucas to consult with Emma. She's immediately drawn to Lucas, but there's a problem. Lucas is Emma's ex-boyfriend Blake's brother. Blake wants to get back together and even while her attraction and relationship with Lucas grows, Lucas continues to push her back toward Blake.

I don't generally read romance novels but I was looking for some light reading after several heavier novels. Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright was on my nightstand and so in two evenings I read the story. The characters are cute and Emma goes through her own typically-Jane Austen inspired bout of pride and prejudice. The novel is a quick read and I admit to skimming some sections because I could only read so much inner dialogue about how Emma just can't date Lucas because he's Blake's brother. With any romance novel, you need chemistry between the main love interests and it's there but it culminates in a rather sloppy kiss that didn't make me weak in the knees.

Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright is a quick read and for someone looking for a pure, feel-good novel, this one is just right.

Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright is published by Shadow Mountain and released November 7, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy of the book. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Friend Request - Book Review

The premise is so appealing. Louise has just received a Facebook Friend Request from a girl she knew twenty five years ago in high school--a friend that is dead. Louise's heart stops. Not only did Maria Weston die in high school but Louise has never been able to let go of the guilt she feels for the way she treated Maria.

The friend request from Maria also just happens to coincide with a class reunion. Is Louise just being paranoid or is she really being stalked? Could it really be Maria--not really dead all these years? Who else knows of Louise's guilt? Who else might be messing with her?

Friends Request is a fun thriller from debut author Marshall. It takes on social media and asks the question--do we ever really know the people we interact with from behind the screen. The happy pictures and cheerful statuses don't always tell the whole story.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall is mostly fast paced psychological thriller--it gets a little bogged down in the middle. The characters are interesting and not completely trustworthy. Like any good psychological thriller, doubt is thrown on all the characters and the reader is kept off balance. It has some dark twists and turns that I wasn't expecting with a very exciting and satisfying conclusion.

Friend Request is a quick, entertaining read that will leave you breathless and just a little nervous next time you log in to Facebook.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall is published by Grand Central Publishing and released in September 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.** 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Love and Other Consolation Prizes : Book Review

I fell in love with Jamie Ford's first novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and he quickly became a must-read author for me. So, I was super excited to receive an early copy of Love and Other Consolation Prizes to review.

Ernest Young was just a little boy when his starving mother left him in the graveyard to be collected with the other children and taken to America. Through a series of fortunate and unfortunate events, a now twelve year old Ernest Young is to be raffled off the prize holding ticket at the World's Fair in Seattle.

Years later, his journalist daughter has been digging into the 1909 World Fair and discovers this tiny tidbit. Could the boy that was raffled off so many years ago be her father? She approaches him to tell his story which she is sure will be a newspaper hit. He is reluctant only because his story intertwines so much with his sick wife's story and he wants to save her from any possible humiliation. For Ernest wasn't claimed by a family but by the Madam to the most high-class brothel. Ernest will form deep friendships with the Madam's feisty daughter Maisie and scullery maid Fahn.

I had just finished listening to the audio version of Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement that was about Chinese courtesans and I didn't love it (Sorry Amy, way too many details) so I wasn't sure I was really in the mood for more of the infernal sex trade. However, Jamie Ford handled it so much better. It was an honest and careful novel about young people caught in a tragic world they barely understand and how they were able to deal with it and eventually move past it, while finding love and hope.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes is a very beautiful and moving story told with so much passion and consideration. I just adored Ernest and his love for the two wildly beautiful and bold young women and how he would just about anything to save them.

Anyone who loved Ford's earlier novels will also love Love and Other Consolation Prizes. I promise.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford is published Ballatine Books and released on September 12, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

When We Were Worthy

She Reads announced yesterday that When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the September Book Club Selection. 

I was a little busy having surgery yesterday but I definitely wanted to add my own thoughts about this latest novel from Whalen.

From the cover :

A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.
When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.
At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

My thoughts :

The novel is set in a small town not much unlike the small town that I recently moved to. Everyone knows each other and the social scene revolves around the high school athletics. Whalen does a very good job at examining how much of ourselves we really share with each other and the secrets that we keep. 

When We Were Worthy is a smartly written and engaging. While it is a mystery, it focuses primarily on the characters. The reactions of the characters in the situation are so real that it's almost painful to read about their struggle to understand what happened and who is ultimately to blame. Can they forgive? Can they find peace? Can they survive? All of these questions are answered by Whalen in an emotional, sometimes witty, novel that kept me reading late into the night.

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is published by Lake Union Publishing and released on September 12, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy of the book though the She Reads Blog Network. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Almost Sisters - Book Review

The hardest thing about moving is leaving good friends behind. Fortunately, The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson arrived in my mailbox at the perfect time when I was the most lonely and missing my best friends.  There are a few authors whose books have become like my best friends. I can always count on them to deliver with humor, eccentric and lovable characters and plot lines that surprise and delight.  Joshilyn Jackson is one of those authors. With it's cheery, popsicle-bright cover, I couldn't wait to read The Almost Sisters and devoured it quickly. It didn't exactly help my insomnia but it did cheer me up.

Leia Birch is a famous graphic novel artist/author. She might not be mobbed by adoring fans at the grocery store but she is pretty popular at a comic book convention. Batman is thrilled to be sharing a few drinks with his favorite author and Leia is pretty thrilled to be spending the evening with Batman. A few more drinks and Batman ends up in her hotel room. It's completely out of character so  the next morning she tosses the card with his phone number in the trash.

Now, Leia is pregnant. But she doesn't have time to think about that. Her step-sister Rachel's marriage is in crisis and her grandma is sick. As her only living relative, Leia needs to head south to help her grandmother pack up the old house and prepare to move to an assisted-living facility. Her grandmother has been acting pretty weirdly and things are about the get more crazy in her hometown.

Filled with quirky characters, The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson did not disappoint. It was exactly what I have come to expect and love about her novels. While being sweet and humorous, Jackson also addresses some pretty serious topics. She makes even large problems approachable and shows that even one person can do just little things to make the world a better place.

I loved the surprise plot twists and how these characters interact with each other. Now I want to move next door and be neighbors and best friends with Leia and her grandma Birchie and Wattie and Rachel.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson is published by William Morrow and released on July 11, 2017.

The Almost Sisters is also a summer selection.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Almost Sisters. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Friday, July 7, 2017

Some Books I Really Liked

It's 100 degrees outside right now. Since the air conditioner has been broken for over a month, it's almost that hot inside the house. Between the heat and the list of things to do to get ready for Young Women Camp next week, my brain might literally be fried. At least it feels too fried to write meaningful reviews of each of these novels, though they legitimately deserve them. At the very least they definitely need a shout-out because I really liked them. A lot.

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall is a delightful novel about ten-year-old Willow Havens and her obstinate yet captivating mother Polly. Polly was recently widowed and in her fifties when Willow was born. Having an older mother who doesn't conform and is keeping secrets, Willow is constantly fearful that Polly will die. Willow is determined to uncover all these secrets before cancer can take her mother's life.

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall is published by Pamela Dorman Books and released in March 2017.

Touch by Courtney Maum is a surprisingly good novel. Sloane Jacobsen has accepted a new job that will move her from Paris back to New York City and her family. She's a respected and powerful trend forecaster and the giant tech firm Mammoth has hired her for their ground-breaking conference that will celebrate those that are voluntarily childless. Sloane is perfect for the job. She is content with the life that she's created for herself--no kids, a partner obsessed with "neo-sensuality" and a focus on her career. Or is she?

Touch by Courtney Maum is published by Putnam is and released on May 30, 2017.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It's a lot of fun. I listened to the audio book and enjoyed it immensely. Stifled is pretty loyal to the original but  her characters are definitely not in the 18th century.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is published by Random House and released in April 2017.

I also listened to the audio Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. My girls used to tease me about how many books I own by Lisa See. I definitely enjoy her novels so it wasn't a surprise that I also loved this one. Li-yan lives with her family in the remote village of Yunnan where they prize their tea leaves. An education offers Li-yan a chance to leave the ancient traditions of her Akha people.

Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See is published by Scribner and released in March 2017.

**I received complimentary copies of Touch and The Book of Polly. I purchased the audio books of Eligible and Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. No compensation was received.**

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Book Review

Evelyn Hugo is a legendary film actress and has been living in private for many years, so journalist Monique Grant is surprised and honored when she Evelyn specifically requests her for an interview and article. The audiences loved the bleach blonde bombshell on the screen and they couldn't get enough of the tabloid stories that followed her crazy love life. Seven husbands! Now years later, Evelyn has chosen to tell her real life story to Monique and has promised to let her in on the secret of the "love of her life" as long as Monique promises to write a tell-all biography following Evelyn's death.

Not too long ago, I read a fictionalized story of the life of iconic film star Jean Harlow (Platinum Doll by Anne Girard). I found her story and the glitter and glamour of Hollywood to be rather interesting and I thought that The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid would be similar. Reid's novel focuses less of Hollywood and more on romantic life of the actress which I suppose makes sense based on the title.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a quick read, as I've found Reid's other novels to be. Reid writes well and with a style that lends itself to be an ideal read for the beach, airplane or doctor's office. There are definitely times when that's exactly what I'm looking for.

I didn't love this particular novel from Reid. I didn't like Evelyn Hugo much at all and found that I just didn't care about her relationships. The first few husbands are interesting as they follow her struggle to rise to the top in Hollywood but then they become rather dull as the story unfolds. Listening to Evelyn tell her story to Monique is just that--telling. Rarely did I feel any chemistry between any of the characters. Though the twist was kind of interesting and Reid treats the topic well.

Ultimately, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo just wasn't my favorite.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is published by Atria Books and released on June 13, 2017.

Taylor Jenkins Reid lives in Los Angeles and is the acclaimed author of One True LovesMaybe in Another LifeAfter I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Her books have been named a “Best Book of Summer” by People, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, InStyle, Good Housekeeping, USA TODAYRedbookUs Weekly, ParadePopSugarBuzzfeedBustleBrit+CoGoodreads, and others.

Atria | ISBN: 9781501139239 | On sale: June 13, 2017 | 400 pages | $26.00
Atria eBook | ISBN: 9781501139246 | On sale: June 13, 2017 | 400 pages | $11.99

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Light We Lost - Book Review

Lucy and Gabe met on that fateful September 11th day in New York City. They were both seniors at Columbia and as the World Trade Centers are falling and the world is changing, they are on the roof of Gabe's building plotting their futures. Over the next thirteen years their paths with cross and intersect and diverge. Lucy can't forget him. He inspired her. He made her feel alive. He left her.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo sets out to tell the story of two people whose lives are so intertwined that they can't forget each other. It's intended to be an emotional love story compared to novels such as Me Before You and One Day. After reading the first 100 pages I was bored. I contemplated just giving up on the novel. The chemistry between Gabe and Lucy was not so amazing that I just had to see what happened. But I persisted. It might get better.

Fortunately, The Light We Lost is written well enough that I finished it quickly without the added insult of spending too much time. I never cared about the characters. I didn't believe that this love affair Lucy and Gabe had was so powerful to consume Lucy. Lucy is super annoying. She is whiny and a pushover and shortsighted. Gabe was thoughtless and self-serving. Perhaps they deserved each other.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo is published by Putnam and released May 9, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received in exchange for this review.**

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Heirs - Book Review

Eleanor and Rupert Falkes have raised five handsome, well-educated and successful sons in upper-crust Manhattan. Their family is admired and revered. When their beloved father Rupert dies, his sons and wife are still grieving his death when a claim is made against the estate. Another woman claims that her sons were fathered by Rupert and deserve an inheritance. Shocked by this revelation that may or may not be true, the sons and Eleanor struggle with their emotions and the possible disintegration of their family.

Written in thoughtful and insightful prose, The Heirs by Susan Rieger was an engaging and consuming read. The characters were humanly flawed and though I didn't really like most of the family members, I was completely intrigued by their reactions and choices in the face of their trial. I tend to gravitate towards books and movies about family relationships and The Heirs successfully explores family and how well they really know one another. Each of the five sons are very unique in their personalities and goals and it's very interesting to see how they react to the news.

The Heirs is a short novel, with taut prose that is beautiful and and packed with meaning. I devoured it quickly and found the characters, especially Eleanor and Sam, to be fascinating and memorable. Though primarily a character study, it combines the characters with a well-formed plot to execute a brilliant novel. It is definitely one of the better books that I've read this spring.

The Heirs by Susan Rieger is published by Crown and released May 23, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received in exchange for this review.**

Friday, May 12, 2017

No Man's Land - Book Review

From the cover :

"Adam Raine is a boy cursed by misfortune. His impoverished childhood in turn-of-the-century London comes to a sudden and tragic end when his mother is killed in a workers' protest march. His father, Daniel, is barely able to cope with the loss. But a job offer in the coal mining town of Scarsdale presents one last chance, so father and son head north. The relocation is hard on Adam: the local boys prove difficult to befriend, and he never quite fits in. Meanwhile tensions between the miners and their employer, Sir John Scarsdale, escalate, and finally explode with terrible consequences.
     In the aftermath, Adam's fate shifts once again, and he finds himself drawn into the opulent Scarsdale family home where he makes an enemy of Sir John's son, Brice, who subjects Adam to a succession of petty cruelties for daring to step above his station. However, Adam finds consolation in the company of Miriam, the local parson's beautiful daughter with whom he falls in love. When they become engaged and Adam wins a scholarship to Oxford, he starts to feel that his life is finally coming together—until the outbreak of war threatens to tear everything apart.
     From the slums of London to the riches of an Edwardian country house; from the hot, dark seams of a Yorkshire coal mine to the exposed terrors of the trenches in France; Adam's journey from boy to man is set against the backdrop of a society violently entering the modern world."

My thoughts :

I read No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien while I was in the middle of packing and cleaning for our move. Because of that it took me a month to read. This isn't an indication of how much I enjoyed it however. I was quite fascinated by the story of Adam Raine and felt compelled to keep reading each night even though I was exhausted.

Loosely based on his grandfather J.R.R. Tolkien's life, Simon weaves Adam's story into the history of the period. I was mesmerized as Simon's compelling words and story brought Adam's life, the history and the settings into sharp, rich detail before my eyes. It was a brutal time and Simon doesn't shy away from placing the reader right in the middle of the savageness and revolting images of trench battle in World War I or the grim realties of the miners' hazardous decent into the darkness of the mines. The novel and the writing are at their best in these moments.

The war changed people and realistically, the characters in No Man's Land are affected by the war. It was intriguing to watch as the love story between Adam and Miriam evolved from their times as youngsters to adults. They had suffered and grown and whose lives have been altered.

No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien is an invaluable look into the history and an engrossing Dickensian story of a young man's life.

No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien is published by Nan A. Talese and released on January 24, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

An Unseen Angel - Book Review

An Unseen Angel by Alissa Parker wasn't my type of book. I surprised myself by even agreeing to be on the blog tour. Of course, I knew what had happened at Sandy Hook that horrible day. What mother who sends her children off to school doesn't hold that fear in her heart? The elementary school that my children attended had our own scare last fall. Thankfully, no one was injured and the perpetrator was apprehended after a standoff with police. But I saw the fear in the eyes of my neighbors and I witnessed children who are still anxious and worried. And so I really didn't want to read the book about a tiny, innocent child being murdered in her school.

I picked up An Unseen Angel one night while I was still living at my in-law's home in limbo between moves. I was emotional and lonely and suffering from insomnia. I figured I'd give it a try. Read a few chapters--enough to hopefully put me to sleep. But I was surprised. Alissa Parker's writing is so pure and so honest and so emotional that I read the entire book that night.

This grieving mother introduces the world to her beautiful daughter who was violently taken so soon and then shares her journey along the road of healing. She offers so much faith and hope. I was genuinely moved by her story.

Alissa Parker and her family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She believes, as I do, that life continues after death and that families can be together forever--that Emilie, though no longer living on earth, is still her daughter and will always be her daughter. Those familial bonds cannot be severed even by such an evil, violent act. In her book, Alissa tells of several precious moments that allowed her to gain an even stronger testimony of this truth

Parker also writes of her efforts to make other children safer in the future and her desire and need to forgive. An Unseen Angel by Alissa Parker is heart breaking and emotional. It is also glorious and strengthening. I highly recommend it.

An Unseen Angel by Alissa Parker is published by Ensign Peak and released on April 4, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy. This review reflects my honest opinion. No compensation was received**

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean - Book Review

From the cover :

"February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French RĂ©sistance spy.
Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMSQueen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...
Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings."

My thoughts :

I don't think I read the back cover very well because I wasn't quite expecting the mystical and supernatural aspect of A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner. Last year, I read GI Brides by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi that tells the true stories of several European women who married American soldiers and emigrated to American after the war. I started reading A Bridge Across the Ocean expecting a fictionalized version of that. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoy a good ghost story.

Meissner's writing is lovely and engaging and I read the story of Annaliese and Simone very quickly. Though she is simultaneously telling the stories of several women, Meissner balances the stories and makes the transitions clear. The characters are imperfect women who have suffered so much at the hands of a brutal war and vicious people. Their hope for a better, safer, happier future is palpable within the pages and it is easy to root for them to achieve their dreams.

While far from being a spooky ghost story, A Bridge Across the Ocean does employ the other-worldly elements that set it apart from a typical historical fiction novel. It's fun and unconventional and I liked it. 

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner is published by Berkley and released on March 14, 2017. It is also a She Reads Spring 2017 Selection.

**I received a complimentary copy. This review reflects my honest opinion. No compensation was received.**

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Time to Read

It's funny how things happen sometimes. In early December I couldn't sleep. I was worried about things that I couldn't fix or change and so I turned to books to keep my mind preoccupied and distracted. I was reading like crazy. I had caught up, read and reviewed all the 2016 books that I had scheduled and so I decided it was time to enjoy my some books on my To Be Read shelves. I read a few so fast and was reading so much that I picked up Lonesome Dove.

Now, Lonesome Dove has been taunting me from my shelf for years! My grandpa only had a handful of movies on VHS--Crocodile Dundee II, Incredible Journey and a recorded from television copy of Lonesome Dove. We watched it nearly every time we visited. He loved it and I loved it. I bought a copy of the book years ago. But now seemed the perfect time to read the epic novel. I was making great time with those cowboys as they herded their cattle north when Rand got the job offer and everything stopped.

Now I was spending my precious reading time searching for and obsessing over houses for sale or rental homes or house plans or decorating ideas or couches or moving vans or storage units online. And then as a became a single parent, sometimes it was just easier to watch television (I really enjoyed the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries) at night when I was completely exhausted and still couldn't sleep. Anyway, it took weeks to read Lonesome Dove but I loved it.

Once we finally moved out of our house I was able to read more. Some of the books I will indeed review in more depth later. Many I loved.

During the month of March, I spent HOURS in the car driving the kids to and from school and then driving to Sanpete County to look at houses and sign papers and all that jazz. When the kids were with me we primarily listened to Hamilton. They have it memorized. I'm not kidding. When I was alone I listened to audio books. The Lake House is TWENTY ONE hours long! That's a lot of time in the car.

Hopefully, now that we're starting to get settled, life will get a little more normal (hahaha, oh my) and I can return to a more normal reading and reviewing schedule. Happy reading!

Life Happens

I haven't really sat down to write on this blog for so many months. To simply catch up on what's been happening lately, I'll share a quick timeline.

Mid-December 2016 : Rand is offered a new job at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. Ephraim is about two hours from our home in Eagle Mountain so we decided that our family would need to move closer to Ephraim. In the next few weeks we celebrated Christmas and the holidays and tried to get Randy ready to start a new job. He worked from home for over ten years and as all our neighbors know, his primary wardrobe was pajamas. He needed a completely new wardrobe.

January 2017 : Rand starts his new job. Because of yucky winter weather and the length of the drive, Rand rented a car (we only had one) and stayed in motels during the work week and came home each weekend.

We initially hoped to rent a home in the area. He started searching for a rental home adequate for our family and I started packing. Rand wasn't having much luck finding a rental. His brother Dennis helped me get our home ready to sell. By the end of January, the garage was loaded with boxes and the house that I loved was ready to list for sell. Our fabulous real estate agent sold it the first day.

We weren't having any luck finding a rental home and we started to considering buying a home. We found a house that needed some work but was adequate and we made an offer that they accepted. Everything seemed to be going just right. We would sell and buy on the same day and be able to move right into our home. Unfortunately, once we got the inspection back we started to be unsure about the house we had chosen to buy. We couldn't quite explain it but Rand and I both felt like we weren't supposed to buy it so we backed out and started looking again.

February 2017: We found the house hunt frustrating and unfruitful. As the date to be out of our Eagle Mountain home loomed we were getting worried. Eventually, we found a lot in Ephraim and felt good about building a home. It was an idea that we had been thinking about since we first decided to move to Sanpete County. It wouldn't be easy but we felt right about it. My brother Nick is an architect and he started working on plans based on our dreams.

Unable to find a house to rent in Sanpete, I found a house in Payson. It was small but would be just right for a few months while we built a house. It was close to the temple and the schools. It wasn't an ideal commute for Randy but it would be a place to live much closer than we were. Then, the day before we were to move out of our home in Eagle Mountain, the rental in Payson fell through. I hurried to reserve a storage unit for our stuff. Our neighbors and family came to help us move out and into the storage unit. We were officially homeless. While we were moving the last of our things into the storage unit. Rand got a call from a man from Manti, Utah. He was on a mission with his wife and heard of our plight. He had a rental home that he was willing to offer us but it wouldn't be available until April 1st. Relieved that we at least had somewhere to go eventually, the kids and I moved in with Rand's parents in Salt Lake City.

March 2017: I drove the kids from Salt Lake City to Eagle Mountain (an hour) to school for a week and a half. The older kids finished up the term at high school and junior high so they could get credit. Then, I checked them out. For the next few weeks, we spent our days doing field trips and work sheets.

I reserved a house through Airbnb in Moroni, Utah for a week so that I could check the kids into their new schools in Manti when the new term started. We stayed in the Airbnb house for a week.

The following week was Spring Break for the new school district so we returned to Salt Lake. We finally bought a second car.

April 2017: Our family came to help us load up two Uhaul trucks, my parent's horse trailer and my brother's trailer with our stuff from the storage unit to move it to Manti. I hadn't seen the inside of the rental home until we started bringing in the first load. It's an older home but completely satisfactory for our family and we are very grateful to have somewhere to live close to Rand's work and close to the kids' schools. It really couldn't be in a better location. Since then, we've tried to prepare the house and adjust to our new home. Deep sigh. I'm exhausted.

This House I Love

Previously shared on Facebook in January 2017:

We moved in to our house over ten years ago. We only had three small kids. Neal was just starting kindergarten. It was a little house but it was just right for us. We planned to stay about two years. Then, the real estate market collapsed and we stayed because we had to. And then we stayed because we loved it. 
I love that the house is situated right on a turn in the road so I can watch my kids play in two directions. 
I love that it faces just the right direction to catch the sunlight and the snow melts off my yard very first. 

I love that it's a blue house in a tan neighborhood and every little kid wants to play at the "blue house".
I love the view from the back of my house. The sunsets are incredible. 
I love that the great horned owls taught their babies to fly off my roof. I love that at night I can hear the coyotes howl. I love that I can look out my bedroom window and regularly see eagles, pronghorns and jackrabbits.
I love that my kids only have to walk a block and a half to the elementary school and they don't even have to cross a street. It's so close that I don't even feel guilty making them walk home in a blizzard. And I love the elementary school. The principal and teachers and staff care so much about each kid. And the PTA is particularly amazing. 
I love that my neighbor drives my kid to high school every morning. And they always have random things like corn starch and beef bouillon when I run out. 
I love that my dad built shelves and shelves and shelves to hold my ever-growing, really ridiculous book collection. 
I love that Rand and I completed so many home improvement projects even though he hates doing them! I love the laminate flooring in all the bedrooms. It makes cleaning up vomit so much easier. 
I love that Rand got his MBA while we lived in this house and for years supported our family from his "office" in the corner of our bedroom. And that the ravens would "dive bomb" him in the window and fly away laughing. 
I love that we added two more babies to our family while we lived in this house. While they've grown up we've also watched so many adorable neighborhood babies grow into really great kids. 
I love that we grew tomatoes and corn and peppers and beans in our backyard garden. I love that because our house is little, our yard is big!
I love that for the majority of eight years, I hosted book club in this house every first Tuesday of the month and that all the neighborhood women were welcome to come and eat and laugh and visit nearly all night.
I love that I've made the very best friends anyone could ever ask for in this neighborhood. These friends would do anything for me and have bailed me out countless times. And I love them desperately. 

This little house that I love is for sale. **The house sold quickly and easily.

Monday, April 3, 2017

It Happens All the Time - Book Review

I've been absent from this blog for the past three months because Randy has accepted a new job in a different town and we've been in the middle of trying to sell our house, pack, find a place to rent and move. I'll write more about our ridiculous adventures later but I didn't want to miss this chance to tell you about a very important book. (I don't have internet yet so I'm writing this on my phone—yikes!)

It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany is about a young woman who comes home from college, engaged and ready to start the next chapter of her life. While home Amber spends some time with her best friend from high school. Tyler has been a devoted and good friend for years. He knows all her struggles and triumphs.  He gets her. They have a history together. At the 4th of July party, they've had too much to drink and begin to kiss. Amber tries to stop him, but Tyler rapes her. Devastated and conflicted and broken, Amber must face to realities of being raped by a trusted friend.

There's so much I want to say about this book. It's a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately. Randy had been attending Title IX training and there are cases in the news and even among those we know personally. He and I have had many discussions regarding this topic.  There is a growing problem. As a mother of sons and daughters, I realize that not only must I teach my daughter about rape and trying to avoid it but I absolutely must teach my sons about consent.

One of the things that Hatvany does in her book is show that more often than not rapists are just normal guys. They often don't even think they've done anything wrong. They justify and use a plethora of excuses. This does not excuse them of their criminal and destructive actions. There are consequences that must be paid. But even better would be if men were taught and understood what rape really is. That no means no. We must teach our sons.

Hatvany explains this so much better than I can in her essay here :

Anyway, It Happens All the Time not only discusses an important topic but it is also a very readable novel with characters who are very real. Hatvany is an excellent author who focuses on character and plot while sharing a message.

It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany is published by Atria Books and released on March 28, 2017. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016 Reading in Review

Two and a half weeks ago, my husband accepted an new job and it's very exciting and a very wonderful opportunity. So, it's been a whirlwind of crazy activity in my house. The job is at a small college in a very small town almost two hours from where we currently live. It will require a move for our family. So, we've spent the last weeks trying to celebrate Christmas, get our house ready to sell and find somewhere to live (no luck). Rand starts his new job on Monday and I still can barely wrap my brain around it all. Sigh. I'm tired.

I've barely read a single page of any book in the last two weeks. I didn't recap my reading year. I didn't pick my top ten books. The only thing I've been doing with books lately is packing them since our realtor really didn't like that all the shelves are double stacked with books. And I may be going slightly crazy.

Last night I hosted book club in my house for the last time. Some friends and I started a small neighborhood book club over eight years ago. For almost six of those years, I've hosted it in my home. Every first Tuesday of the month, my friends (sometimes gets to be a large group now) gather to discuss books and talk and talk until the wee hours of morning. I've made such wonderful friendships that have been strengthened by our shared love of books. Over the years, many of my book club friends have moved away and I miss them like crazy but it still feels surreal that I'm moving now. As my friends left last night around 3:30 am, I really felt like there should have been some sappy theme song playing like in the finale of a beloved sitcom. I'm going to miss them.

2016 Reading Recap

I read 63 books. 

  • 8 ebooks
  • 2 audio books (I am so close to finishing a third. This was my first year listening to audio books just for me and not for the kids on a road trip. It was a little adjustment but I like it.)
  • 54 books for review 
  • 60 were fiction--mostly historical fiction, contemporary lit and psychological thrillers
  • 49 were written by women
  • I read 78% of the books I received for review (but didn't write reviews for 4 of them)
  • I started but did not finish 6 books (I'm in the middle of Lonesome Dove and The Underground Railroad and fully intend to finish both of them.)
  • I bought 23 books for myself and countless more for my kids. 

Favorites published in 2016 :

Favorites published prior to 2016 :