Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep. 2) Ritual for the dead. 3) Consequence or aftermath. London, 1920. The city prepares to observe the two-year anniversary of Armistice Day with the burial of the unknown soldier. Many are still haunted by the war: Hettie, a dance instructress, lives at home with her mother and her brother, who is mute after his return from combat. One night Hettie meets a wealthy, educated man and finds herself smitten with him. But there is something distracted about him, something she cannot reach. . . . Evelyn works at the Pensions Exchange, through which thousands of men have claimed benefits from wounds or debilitating distress. Embittered by her own loss, she looks for solace in her adored brother, who has not been the same since he returned from the front. . . . Ada is beset by visions of her son on every street, convinced he is still alive. Helpless, her loving husband has withdrawn from her. Then one day a young man appears at her door, seemingly with notions to peddle, like hundreds of out-of-work veterans. But when he utters the name of her son, Ada is jolted to the core. The lives of these three women are braided together, their stories gathering tremendous power as the ties that bind them become clear, and the body of the unknown soldier moves closer and closer to its final resting place. My thoughts : Wakeby Anna Hope is a quiet book. Unassuming. Unpretentious. Unforgettable. I was surprised by how much I loved his book. Anna Hope's writing is lovely and evokes such powerful emotions from the characters whose lives of quiet desperation in the wake of World War I pricked my soul. Each individual deals with the terrors, loss and pain of the war in their own way yet by the end they each see a chance for healing and a brighter future.
Anna Hope allows the reader to feel. To see the futility of war. Her characters are neither flashy nor particularly brave. They are regular people who have lost loved ones or the dream of love. They care for men who returned damaged or not at all. But as the nation comes together to grieve and celebrate on the anniversary of the Armistice, there will be glimmers of hope and the chance for healing.
The ending is abrupt. Stopping suddenly in the middle of a scene. In the middle of a sentence. I had been warned previously so I wasn't shocked. Perhaps because it wasn't shocking to me, I actually appreciated the chance to imagine the futures of the characters. Their possibilities for love. For healing and hope. Yet my heart ached to know that many of them would live long enough to face the destruction and terror of another World War. Wake by Anna Hope was a pleasant surprise for me. A novel that touched my heart and left me breathless with it's subtle beauty and message of peace.
Wake by Anna Hope was published by Random House in February 2014.
** I received a complimentary copy of Wake in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No additional compensation was received.**
Less than twenty pages into The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon my skin prickled with goosebumps and I was intrigued by the creepiness of the characters and setting in this story of secrets, ghosts and murder.
1908 : In a little village in Vermont, Sara lives with her husband Martin and her beloved daughter Gertie in her ancestral home. She warns Martin not to spend time in the lower pastures near the woods and a rock formation known to locals as the Devil's Hand and adamantly insists that he rebury the old, bone ring he discovered in the fields. Their lives unravel quickly when Gertie goes missing and then is discovered dead at the bottom of a nearby well.
Present day : Ruthie comes home after curfew expecting to get a lecture from her mother. Instead, it becomes apparent that her mother is missing. Caring for her six year old sister, Ruthie sets out to find her mother, discovering Sara's diary in a secret crevice of the old farm house. Old rumors and legends surrounding Gertie's death and Sara's murder haunt Ruthie as she searches for her mother.
Every now and then I enjoy an especially spooky ghost story. The Winter People expertly delivered this with what I like to call "awesome creepy". It seems an odd way to describe a ghost story but there was a certain amount of truth and enough plausibility to the masterfully orchestrated plot that as I read the novel each night I had to actually remind myself that it wasn't real. Between the Vermont old farm house setting and the touch of madness in the characters, it came alive and added that extra legitimacy to the story.
I loved this novel from the very beginning but the twists and turns and eventual ending did not disappoint. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is the perfect novel to give you the shivers this winter.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon was published by Doubleday in February 2014.
**I received a complimentary copy of The Winter People in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No additional compensation was received.**
I love finding, buying and using products from local businesses so I was excited to receive a MercoBox from MercoLocal. The cute box (which Amberly turned into her Valentine box with a few heart stamps and stickers) was filled with fun and yummy products from businesses right here in Utah. What's not to love?!
Among other things, the box included delicious hand dipped chocolates (that I didn't want to share) from Hatch Family Chocolates and Crio Bru roasted cocoa beans that I fell in love with at Decadence Cafe. Since we have a house of four girls with long hair, I am super excited to try the Drain Wig.
The box also included soaps, fragrances and cosmetics from Utah businesses. I had no idea there were such interesting offerings from local companies.
Check out MercoLocal to find out more about the local Utah businesses they are trying to support and to order your next MercoBox.
to give away to one reader of Utah Mom's Life Blog.
To enter leave a comment on this post. Get two additional entries for sharing this give-away post on Facebook and/or Twitter. Leave additional comments. Each person can have up to three entries. The contest will be open to entries until Friday, February 28th at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the entries and announced on Saturday, March 1st.
Who doesn't enjoy a good retelling of an old and cherished fairy tale? Disney may be the most successful at bring the stories to life for children and there are several authors who have reinvented the stories for young adults but even adults enjoy a fairy tale now and then.
While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell is the artful retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty story. Elise overhears her great-granddaughter telling the tale of the beautiful princess asleep in the tower and she recalls her own role in the adventure. Elise, the queen's handmaiden, shares her story--the true story. The story of her service in the castle and her friendship with the queen and the cherished baby daughter.
I appreciated the twists and turns within this retelling as well as the attempts to stay true to the beloved classic. While involving less "magic", the story is filled with secrets, evil plotting and bewitching characters. Being told from the perspective of the servant was a unique divergence that lent the story a human side and I enjoyed watching Elise come of age.
Elise is only 14 years old at the beginning of her story and for the first one hundred pages, I felt like I was reading a young adult novel, not that that's bad, per se. While Elise grows up the novel grows up too. Fortunately, it grows up without being full of erotica.
Early on in the story there was some awkward foreshadowing. While it compelled the reader forward in the story it also felt amateur and was actually misleading. I was surprised by the conclusion since I thought it was heading in a different direction.
Some of the characters weren't overly developed and for me that affected the emotions at the surprising yet ultimately satisfying ending. Without giving anything away, as a reader I would have liked to have known and felt closer to some of the other characters. Considering it's length I feel like that should have been accomplished.
For adult lovers of fairy tales, While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell will hit the spot. Overall, the novel is an entertaining tale of romance, royal intrigue, and adventure.
While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell is published by Amy Einhorn/Putnam and was released on February 20, 2014.
**I received a complimentary copy of While Beauty Slept in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No additional compensation was received.**
In 1930, New York Supreme Court Justice Joseph Crater left a theater and disappeared.
In The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress, Ariel Lawhorn creates a possible answer to the mystery by telling the story through the eyes of Crater's wife, lover and maid. In the dark world of corrupt politics, flashy showgirls, and dirty mobsters the novel is a thrilling and wild tale of crime and passion.
I could not put this book down. Once I started reading it, I stopped only to sleep (because, you know, sleep). Fortunately for my kids who don't especially enjoy corn dogs, I finished the novel in less than 24 hours. As soon as I stepped on this roller coaster ride, I had no desire to get off.
Once again, the setting becomes key in this thriller. Within the novel's pages, the reader is immediately conveyed to the world of speakeasies, theaters of dancing girls and mobsters who have politicians and lawmen in their pockets. Though flashy and outrageous, I pictured the novel as a glamorous black and white film. If only they could resurrect the fashionable actresses of the Hollywood's Golden Age to play the roles.
Lawhorn keeps a frantic and intense pace throughout the novel, keeping the reader slightly off edge and startled. For the type of story, her style works perfectly. Full of twists and an unexpected shock at the end, as soon as I turned the final page I wanted to go back to the beginning and start again.
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhorn is published by Doubleday and hit the shelves on January 28, 2014. It is the SheReads book of the month. You can read what other reviewers thought of it *here*.
**I received a complimentary copy of The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
We all know the phrase, "Don't judge a book by it's cover". It's a good phrase. It's probably even true. However, I must admit it. I totally judge a book by it's cover. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. As soon as I first saw the cover for The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert, I knew that I wanted to read this book. It drew me in. If I'd seen it in a book store, I guarantee I would have picked it up. I might have even bought it without reading the back. But I did read the back and then, I knew I needed to read this book.
"On the eve of the 1898 Omaha World's Fair..."
That's all it took and I was hooked.
Ferret Skerritt is a ventriloquist hoping to make some money at the fair with his trusty and beloved doll Oscar when he falls madly in love with Cecily, the beautiful and bewitching actress in the Chamber of Horrors. She wins Ferret's heart and undying devotion as he tries desperately to win hers.
Ferret is an unusual but charming and sympathetic protagonist and Cecily is a beguiling and intriguing woman. Their love story is divine and is enhanced by the fabulous setting. The Fair sets the stage with it's smoke and mirrors, tricks and illusions, villains and heroes to create a mystical world where anything can happen. Paying homage to The Wizard of Oz, Schaffert brilliantly weaves in details that bring the story to life, simultaneously glorifying the magic and pulling back the curtain.
Filled with magic, mystery, romance, love and tragic loss, The Swan Gondola captured my heart.
The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert is published by Riverhead Books and released on February 6, 2014.
**I received a complimentary copy of The Swan Gondola in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No addition compensation was received.**
My friends and I went to see it in the theater and we giggled through the entire movie. So cute. So funny. The characters are endearing and delightful. I was a fan of the book by Shannon Hales and I really thought the movie did justice to her quirky and fun sense of humor.
If the movie didn't premier in a theater near you, now is your chance to watch the movie at home. I can't wait to watch it with Utah Dad. I think he'll appreciate the whimsy and wit in this thoroughly fun movie.
"In 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns Frances Stuart and her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and goes to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches the Sun King’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty—she has Stuart secrets to keep and her family to protect. King Louis XIV turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He sends her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and help him form an alliance with England. The Queen Mother likewise orders Frances to become her son's mistress, in the interest of luring him away from the Protestant mistress he currently keeps.
Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal, determined to keep her family from shame. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him and the two embark on a tenuous relationship. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. A startling discovery will leave her with no other choice but to break his heart, while the fate of England hangs in the balance.
In the tradition of Philippa Gregory, debut author Marci Jefferson brings to life a captivating woman whose beauty, compassion, and intellect impacted a king and a nation, in Girl on the Golden Coin." My thoughts : I really enjoy learning more about the European royal families. Girl on the Golden Coin by Marci Jefferson completely fulfilled my interest. While I have spent more time reading about King Henry VIII and the Elizabethan era, I found the study of the Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy equally fascinating. Frances Stuart is an especially intriguing character as she moves through the courts of the King of France and King of England with finesse and cunning. Marci Jefferson is an excellent new talent. She expertly captures the period while bringing Frances Stuart back to life and introducing us to a king and period not as fully explored. Frances captured my heart and I found myself fully hoping for her personal happiness. I was genuinely sad when I turned the final pages for I had become completely enraptured by the story and the lovely writing from Jefferson. Content Warning : There were a few steamy scenes that might make you blush, though I was able to skip over them without losing too much of the general story.
I am excited to be able to give away a copy of
Girl on the Golden Coin by Marci Jefferson.
To enter : leave a comment on this post. The contest will be opened to entries until Friday, February 7th at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Saturday, February 8th. Open to US residents only. **I received a complimentary copy of Girl on the Golden Coin in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
Marci Jefferson's debut novel Girl on the Golden Coin, a fascinating look at the life of Frances Stuart and the court of English king Charless II hits the shelves on February 11th and will delight all lovers of historical fiction. I was excited to be able to read an early copy of the novel and have a chance to interview the talented Marci Jefferson.
Thank you for your willingness to be interviewed today. I'm excited to celebrate the release of Girl on the Golden Coin a novel about Frances Stuart with you.
Thanks so much for having me and for helping to get the word out there about GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN!
What was it that you learned about the Stuarts that first inspired you to write Girl on the Golden Coin?
I first learned about the Royal Stuarts during a stay in London. Someone happened to point out the Banqueting House where Charles I was beheaded. I was stunned – I thought kings always ordered the beheadings! I felt compelled to study everything about the Royal Stuarts that my professors neglected to teach me in Nursing School. Frances Stuart initially stood out as a woman who embraced her personal liberty in defiance of kings.
A few years later I read THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL and became obsessed with the desire to do for the Stuarts what Philippa Gregory had done for the Tudors. I picked up my independent studies again and soon realized Frances Stuart’s independent streak matched the collective spirit of the Restoration age. Since she also happened to be the model for Britannia, I knew there was no better subject for a novel of Restoration England.
I read in your bio that you developed a love for history while you lived in Yorktown, VA. One of my favorite vacations with my husband in the early years of our marriage was to Colonial Williamsburg. I'd love to take my children. In your opinion, what is the one place in the area that a tourist must not miss?
I adore Colonial Williamsburg. I used to go there all the time since it was so close to Yorktown. They have
interactive programs to get kids excited about history, so it is fun for the whole family. Just don’t take your
kids straight there from Disney World (trust me – I made this mistake). My favorite spot in Williamsburg is the Governor’s Palace. Designed in the early 1700’s, this site exhibits perfect examples of furniture and art that characters in my novel would recognize.
Are you currently working on another project and can you divulge the subject?
Of course! Right now I’m writing a novel about Marie Mancini who, based on the alignment of the stars at her birth, was destined to disgrace her family an a most spectacular fashion, but ended up shaping the world’s most powerful monarch – Louis XIV.
Were there any other historical figures that you came across in your research that might inspire a future novel?
Marie Mancini was one of them, and I come across someone new to research all the time!
5. As a busy mother with small children when do you find time to write? Do you have a special writing place? How long did it take to write Girl on the Golden Coin?
In the beginning, the novel was strictly a nap-time endeavor. But now my kids are in school, and I only work as a nurse part-time. I’d like to say my days-off provide enough time to get it all done, but somehow I’m always up writing late into the night! I worked through the different aspects (historical research, learning how to write, editing, getting an agent, submitting to publishers) of completing GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN over about six years.
6. What was the topic of the first story that you ever wrote?
My first piece of fiction was a short story involving archaeologists hunting and falling in love with vampires amid the ruins of ancient Egypt. I wrote it when I was in eighth grade. It was terrible, which may be why I ripped it into tiny shreds and never told anyone about it until recently.
7. Do you also find time to read? If so, do you read mostly in the historical fiction genre or a variety? Also, what are some of your favorite books?
Much of my reading time is taken up by the non-fiction required by my work. So I have to carve out time to read historical fiction. I believe an author must continue to read the type of books she wants to write.
8. Do you have a favorite treat that you just cannot live without or a favorite way to relax?
White tea and 70% dark chocolate.
9. Is there anything else that you want readers to know or take away from their reading of Girl on a Golden Coin?
I hope they find much to love about Stuart England, that they will recognize its important contribution to modern democracy, and that they remember Frances Stuart as the embodiment of her age.
GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN, A NOVEL OF FRANCES STUART
February 2014 from Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Press
You probably already know how I feel about Wiley Cash and his first novel A Land More Kind Than Home. I raved about it to so many. I even forced a few to read it. If by some miracle you haven't heard my feelings about this brilliant work, you can read my review *here*. I was anxious to get my hands on a copy of Wiley Cash's newest novel This Dark Road to Mercy, which is published by William Morrow and releases on January 28, 2014.
Twelve year old Easter hasn't seen her father for years--not since he signed the paper relinquishing his parental rights. Now, her mother is dead and she and her sister Ruby are in a home for orphaned children. Even though it's been so many years, Ruby immediately recognizes the man watching her play kick ball after school. Easter overhears her returned father's plea to the woman who runs the home and her response regarding the near impossibilities of regaining custody of his daughters. When he shows up at her bedroom window one night, Easter and her sister go with him willingly. Unfortunately, Easter's father Wade has gotten involved in more than kidnapping and there are people after him that would do him or anyone who got in the way harm.
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash is a gripping, poignant novel told from the perspectives of Easter, her guardian at litem who is determined to bring her home safely and the criminal who is dangerously desperate to find Wade first. Cash expertly pulls off the various voices--amazing me with his ability to speak as a young girl and in the the next chapter open up the deranged mind of a violent and vengeful criminal.
Every single word in Cash's novel is full of meaning and purpose. There is nothing wordy or verbose. Though the climax scene felt a little rushed, Cash keeps the novel moving at a steady and thrilling pace yet never sacrificing characterization or feeling.
Set in a Gastonia, North Carolina during the 1998 home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, This Dark Road to Mercy has a different flavor from Cash's debut novel. While I didn't love it as much as A Land More Kind Than Home, the newest work is still universally appealing and emotional. With his second novel Wiley Cash establishes himself as a gifted and true story teller.
**I received a complimentary copy of The Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
World War II has just ended and decorated war hero Joe Howard Wilson, who fought in Italy with his all-black regiment, is returning home to his father in Revere, Mississippi. But Joe will never make it home and a few weeks after he was supposed to arrive on the bus, Joe's beaten body is discovered in the river not far from home.
Regina Robichard is a young, black lawyer working in the Fund's New York office with Thurgood Marshall. When the envelope comes in the mail, she is immediately taken with the picture of the young and handsome Joe Howard. Included with the picture are newspaper clippings of his death. Regina begs Marshall for a chance to go to Mississippi to seek justice for Joe Howard.
Mississippi is a new world for Regina--a world of magical magnolia forests, old plantations and mystical deer. But it's also a land where the blacks and whites mix daily yet are kept separate by Jim Crow laws and the "way it's always been". Regina will stir up the town while she tries to discover Joe Howard's killer.
The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson instantly grabs the reader's attention with the horrific story of race violence and the irony of the time--that a soldier could serve his country, survive the war and be killed by those very people he had fought for when he returned home. It stirs up anger and frustration and a myriad of other emotions as it takes the reader back to 1945 and a time where there was little if any justice for such actions.
At the same time, Revere, Mississippi is described as a magical, beautiful place with Johnson's gifted and lovely words. She creates conflicted characters that live and breathe as real human beings within her stories. They are neither all good nor all bad. They are people living in a conflicted time working and hunting together. Loving and hating. Jealousies and insecurities. Overshadowed constantly by a feeling of entitlement and superiority and a love of all for home.
While the novel's pace slowed significantly for me in the middle, the final 100 pages are filled with overwhelming tensions and the violence and emotions kept politely beneath the surface finally explodes in a dramatic conclusion.
The Secret of Magic by the talented story-teller Deborah Johnson is worth reading and remembering and talking about. The story is not likely to leave you alone even after you turn the final pages. It will leave you thinking and wanting to share it with everyone.
The Secret of Magic is published by Amy Einhorn Books and is available on January 21, 2014. **I received a complimentary copy of The Secret of Magic in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
Elspeth returns to her secluded farm, after months away working as a midwife, to find that her husband and children had been slaughtered. There had been no warning. No time to react. Her husband still lay in his bed. Hidden in the barn, her twelve-year-old son was the only one left alive but he caught a glimpse of the killers and the red scarves they wore.
With nothing left to keep them at their farm in upstate New York, Elspeth and Caleb set out to seek the killers and avenge the deaths of their family members. Elspeth will have to face her own demons and sins and Caleb will come to understand just who he really is.
Full of dark and unsavory characters, The Kept by James Scott is a thrilling and haunting story of revenge and redemption. Scott has a way of writing that lessens the initial shock of a murder at a seedy brothel or a horrific accident at the ice company yet draws the reader deep into the story until the she feels what the characters feel and sees what the characters see. Then the story becomes lovely in spite of its violence.
Each character is full of surprises that keep them fully human and keep the reader intrigued and unbalanced throughout the novel. The Kept is a marvelous journey worth taking.
The Kept by James Scott is published by Harper and released on January 7, 2014.
**I received a complimentary copy of The Kept in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
Fearing for her life from her abusive father, 15 year old Polly Kimball sets fire to her house and helps her mother and younger brother escape. Her mother leads her to the community of Shakers to find refuge. With the Shakers, Polly will come to know their unique ways while being honored as a visionist. While Polly attempts to cover her secrets, there are those who suspect Polly is more than what she claims.
Meanwhile, the fire inspector has been sent out to Polly's farm to discover the cause of the fire that destroyed the house and greedy men and women seek to claim the valuable land as their own.
The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart had a lot of potential. The situation and characters were unique and it was interesting learning more about the Shakers. When we lived in New Hampshire, we drove often through the Shaker's community nearby and loved their beautiful, simple homes and lovely farms. Even so, I knew very little about their beliefs or customs, beyond the fact that they followed the guidelines set by their prophetess Ann Lee and that they lived a celibate life.
I was immediately enthralled by Polly's story. She sought peace and safety from the world and The Shakers, who had forsaken the world, offered just what she needed. However, there was danger from within. Polly no longer was allowed to be with her younger brother Ben and she held her own secrets that would turn the other Shakers against her.
The beginning of the book starts with plenty of action and excitement. The middle starts to lag and I almost abandoned the novel around 100 pages. Polly's friend Charity seems to say the same thing over and over. I persevered and thankfully, the novel has a dramatic and satisfying conclusion.
The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart is published by Little, Brown and Company and will be available on January 14, 2014.
**I received a complimentary copy of The Visionist in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
Honor student Morgan Monetti is looking forward to graduation and the day she can head off to college. Morgan is tired of watching her best friend's new romance with Morgan's ex-boyfriend and she's embarrassed by her attempts at love with her crush. Mr. Hill, her calculus teacher, is the only person who seems to understand her frustrations. Handsome and funny, Mr. Hill is the only person she can really talk to. Surely, this is love.
Morgan's mother Dinah and Mr. Hill's wife Rain are both devastated when the relationship between Morgan and TJ Hill is discovered. Now facing a trial for exploiting a student, TJ tries to clear his name and Morgan shocks her parents by standing by the man she loves.
Readable and skillfully developed, The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle tells the story that we hear in the news all too often--that of a sexual relationship between a teacher and a student. Accurately portraying the fallout and consequences, Riggle is honest about the havoc and ruin left by these inappropriate relationships. The characters in this novel are flawed but very real in their desires and hopes.
A thoughtful discussion of responsibility and childhood, Riggle also tells a well-plotted story in her novel The Whole Golden World. After reading a few books that had inappropriate relationships between adults and children this last year, I really appreciated the way it was handled in Riggle's novel. The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle was published by William Morrow in November 2013.
**I received a complimentary copy of The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and no additional compensation was received.**
The kids have gone back to school and my house and I can take a little breath. Finally, it's quiet enough that I can sit down to write some reviews.
I mostly read books that are sent to me to read and review and I love it. But as a serious book-lover, I continue to buy or am gifted copies of other books that I want to read and my shelves are getting so full! And with all the great deals on e-books lately, my Kindle is getting full too. It's awesome, really. During the Christmas holiday, I was caught up on reviews and decided that I would read several books from my shelves.
On a cold and stormy February night in 1911, a baby is born dead. The cord is around her neck and the doctor was caught in the snow.
Ursula Todd was born on a cold February night in 1911. Though the cord was around her neck, the able doctor, who had thankfully been able to make it to make it through the storm, was able to cut the cord and the baby lived.
Over and over Ursula will be born and live and die.
Marvelously written and told, Ursula's many lives open up the possibilities of saving the world from the devastating effects of World War II. Details of life in England and Berlin during the terrible bombing raids of the war and a deep desire to prevent the war from ever happening, bring to mind the thoughts of "what if" and "if only". With such a clever and unusual theme, I so enjoyed this novel. Utah Dad and Neal and my dad and anyone else who would listen got to hear me go on and on about it.
Inventive, philosophical and entertaining, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is brilliant!
I bought the kindle version of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell while it was on sale and because I had heard so much buzz about the fun Young Adult novel.
Cath is nervous and anxious about her first year of college. She's worried about leaving her unstable father at home by himself, and her twin sister Wren is insisting on living in a different dorm. Cath, who is obsessed with Simon Snow the hero of a very popular series of fantasy books (think Harry Potter), writes fan fiction about Simon and his roommate Baz that has earned its own fan base.
Prickly and distant, Cath has no intentions of making new friends at college. But even she can't resist the attempts at friendship from her outspoken and edgy roommate Reagan and Reagan's boyfriend Levi.
The sweet romance and the college atmosphere in Fangirl took me right back to my own college creative writing course where I fell in love with the geeky-cute boy who could write funny. Man, he really was funny. Rowell has a gift for creating quirky, fun characters and ahhh-worthy romances. I pretty much adored Cath and Levi.
However, I didn't really care about the fan fiction part. Obviously, it was a central part of a book called "Fangirl" but I found some of the fiction about Simon and Baz distracting from Cath's own love story and ended up skipping much of the longer parts toward the end.
Also, just so you know, there is excessive and casual swearing.
Overall, Fangirl is a delightful, readable novel with likable characters and a sweet romance.
Everyone I knew who had read Me Before You, loved it. Raved about it. So, obviously I wanted to read it too. One of my online book friends (check out her great book blog *here*) sent me a copy this Christmas. I was so excited! I took it with me on our trip to visit my parents over the New Year holiday so I had to read it in moments when I could slip away from the crowd.
Louisa Clark loses her job as a waitress for the cafe near the castle. With the money she brought in at her job, she helped support the household that includes her parents, her sister, nephew and her disabled grandfather. Right in the middle of the recession, her paycheck was an important part of the household income and she is desperate to find a new job.
Avoiding a job at the local chicken factory, Louisa is hired to assist Will Traynor, once a highly-successful business man who loved extreme sports, now a quadriplegic following a tragic accident. Will is depressed and no longer wants to live. Louisa takes on the charge to make his life brighter and help him see that even in a wheelchair life is worth living.
Written so well, that the story and characters come alive and the words on the page simply disappear, Me Before You was nearly a perfect novel. With a developing and tragic love story, Moyes shows that not only the physically injured are crippled. Louisa, as much as Will, learn to love and to live. While I am still conflicted about the profound and thoughtful ending, I thoroughly enjoyed Me Before You.
I have had a difficult time choosing my very favorite books of 2013. There were so many to pick from and so many that I really enjoyed that narrowing it down to a reasonable list was tricky.
In no particular order (click on title to read my review of each book):
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (I finished reading it this morning and haven't had time to write a full review yet. I'm still processing my feelings about this fabulous novel. All I know is that it has earned its spot at the top of my list.)
While hanging out on Twitter I've made several friends who enjoy reading and talking about books as much as I do. Calling ourselves "Book Lovers Unite", we've formed a sort of "book lovers anonymous", encouraging each other to read more books from our ever-growing to-read-shelves. This month we had a Christmas Book Exchange. As part of the exchange, Tamara from Traveling with T (a fabulous blog for book lovers) sent me The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I was thrilled.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion has been on my book radar since I read some early positive reviews. I really wanted to squeeze it into the year.
Professor Don Tillman is a genius geneticists who has the gift to memorize the instructions for mixing cocktails and dance steps. In spite of these talents, Tillman is socially awkward. Extremely rigid in his schedule, Tillman eats the same menu every week.
Nearing forty years old, Tillman realizes that happily married men live longer. Determined to find the perfect wife and to avoid the uncomfortable scenes from his previous dating experience, Tillman creates a questionnaire. Surely, with such direct questions, Tillman will find the woman who doesn't smoke, drink or have weird issues with food.
Tillman doesn't factor in Rosie. She's all wrong for his Wife Project. But Rosie has her own project that is perfect for Tillman. She needs his help to find her real father. Tracking down the DNA of all the men who might have fathered Rosie, Tillman's life is thrown off balance by the beautiful and surprising Rosie.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is delightful fun. Professor Tillman is so likable. There's something to be said about his tight schedule. If he says he'll be there at five o'clock, he's not going to keep you waiting. You might not want to ask him if the jeans you're wearing make your butt look fat, but otherwise, his various talents add up to a rather nice catch.
While predictable, The Rosie Project is worth the fun and subtle humor. Professor Tillman is an unusual but engaging leading man. The plotting and pace are perfect for a quick, enjoyable read. It was completely refreshing and entertaining.
I had a chance to review Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye. I'd heard good things and wanted to get my hands on it but I had one problem. I hadn't yet read The Gods of Gotham, the first novel featuring the brass star from New York City, Timothy Wilde. While some reviews of the second book assured me that it could stand on it's own (and really it can), I didn't want to miss out on The Gods of Gotham. I am so glad that I chose to read the first novel because it was thrilling, dark and absolutely wonderful.
After losing his home, savings, his job as a bartender and being scarred by the tremendous fire that burned wildly in New York City in 1845, Timothy Wilde is given another opportunity by his drug addicted, politically involved brother Valentine. The New York Police Department has just been formed and Timothy pins the brass star to his lapel, determined to help and protect.
In the early nineteenth century, a polluted pond in Manhattan was filled in and middle class homes were built on top. Unfortunately, the methane gas produced from the fill and the unstable ground, sent the middle class people scrambling for a more suitable neighborhood. The area, known as Five Points, would become a slum with a diverse population and a tendency toward violence. Timothy Wilde is assigned to patrol Five Points and is only on the job for a few weeks when he runs into a small girl covered in blood. Timothy is compelled to investigate.
In a city teeming with political corruption, poverty and racial tension with an increasing population as the potato famine sends a constant stream of immigrating Irish into the streets, Timothy Wilde struggles valiantly to maintain order and fight for the forsaken child victims.
A perfect blending of mystery and historical fiction, Lyndsay Faye follows up her first masterpiece with another equally thrilling novel. Seven for a Secret, is a wholly satisfying and enjoyable novel for fans of Timothy Wilde.
Six months after solving the mystery surrounding the bloody child, Timothy is settling into his new position with the police force. With a small office, he spends his days solving mysteries and returning stolen goods. His world will become dangerous and sensational once again, when a beautiful woman rushes into his office begging for help. Her sister and son have been kidnapped.
Timothy, with the help of a few friends including members of the New York Committee of Vigilance, will be embroiled in the mystery surrounding those who kidnap free blacks to sale them as slave in the South. Once again, Faye uses the horrifying history of the free blacks who inhabit the city and live in constant fear of being kidnapped in an enlightening and thrilling tale of horror and menace.
Often, when I finish a book I thoroughly enjoy it is difficult to begin another book. I was fully grateful that upon completing The Gods of Gotham, I could pick up Seven for a Secret and remain immersed in Timothy Wilde's dark and terrible New York City. Personally, I pray that Lyndsay Faye continues writing about her hero, for I am most definitely a fan.
Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye was published by Amy Einhorn/Putnam in September 2013.
**I received a complimentary copy of Seven for a Secret in exchange for my honest review. I purchased a copy of The Gods of Gotham for myself. All opinions are my own and no additional compensation was received.**
Now that it's snowing and extra cold outside, it seems the season when cars start needing extra work. Specializing in brakes and mufflers, with 13 locations around Utah, Master Muffler Shop can perform nearly any repair on your car.
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Amberly and I have been reading Anne Frank : The Diary of a Young Girl each evening for the last few weeks. We are about half way through it and emotionally involved already in Anne's family and their situation hiding in the annex. So, when I first started reading Margot by Jillian Cantor, I wasn't sure what to think. The recently published novel Margot, supposes that Anne's older sister Margot survived the Holocaust and the war and is living a life in hiding in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Was it irreverent? Taboo? Was it even OK to write about the Franks--a real family that suffered such horrific tragedy and is beloved by so many who have read Anne's thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears? I was emotionally torn as I began to read Margot. However, as I got involved with the story and came to care for Margot, thoughtfully portrayed as plagued by grief and survivor's guilt, I appreciated Cantor's gracious and respectful style. Cantor tells a beautiful, hopeful story.
Rereading Anne's diary as an adult and from the perspective of a mother, has caused me to think about Anne's point of view and experiences in contrast with how the adults may have been dealing with their time hiding in the annex. Cantor offers a similar contrast by showing how Margot may have experienced the annex. Also offering the chance for discussion on individual perception--people living through the same events and coming away with different feelings, memories and reactions.
Overall, Margot by Jillian Cantor is a very readable and enjoyable novel. The story of Margot's emotional turmoil and journey towards love captures the reader's imagination but ultimately left me with the feeling of deep sorrow for the suffering of the Frank family and so many others.
Margot by Jillian Cantor was published by Riverhead Trade in September 2013.
**I received a complimentary copy of Margot in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.**
I love spending my days as a mom to my five brilliant, beautiful and busy kids. Once they're in bed, I love rejuvenating by reading a really great book.
Book Reviews, give-aways, stories about my kids and fun things to do around Utah--just a little of what you'll find on Utah Mom's Life.
"If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will — to your surprise — miss them profoundly."
— "Finding Joy in the Journey," Pres. Thomas S. Monson, October 2008 LDS General Conference