Friday, May 27, 2016

Kick Kennedy : The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter - Book Review

Kick Kennedy was her father's favorite. Vivacious and funny, she had already dazzled her brothers' friends in America, when she moved with her father on his assignment as ambassador in England. Unlike any girl they had met, Kick soon wowed the London set of "The Cousinhood" and found herself quickly included in all their fun and romances.

Enchanting and ambitious, Kick led a life of luxury and wealth but was after influence and power. Following her life from her love affair with England and its men, through the war and finally her tragic death, Kick Kennedy by Barbara Leaming was a quick and enjoyable read.

I haven't read biographies on the Kennedy clan in the past. My sole information has come from People Magazine that I occasionally read in my mother-in-law's bathroom. (Seriously, it's a choice between People and the Ensign and I get the Ensign at home.) Anyway, the biography on Kick sounded intriguing and I wasn't terribly disappointed.

The book doesn't share much about the Kennedy family. It starts telling Kick's story at about the time she is spreading her wings and looking for her own identity (unless she needs her father's help and then she's totally willing to go running to him). More than Kick's personal story, I enjoyed reading about those years leading up to World War II and the influences the politics and war had on the young gentry classes.

Leaming is a good writer. Her prose flows easily and and before I knew it, I'd read a hundred pages. After reading it, I'm not any more interested in the Kennedy's but I found her Kick's story very entertaining.

Kick Kennedy : The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter by Barbara Leaming was published by Thomas Dunne Books and released in April 2016.

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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Railwayman's Wife - Book Review

The Railwayman's Wife
By Ashely Hay

From the cover :

In 1948, in the strange, silent aftermath of war, in a town overlooking the vast, blue ocean, Anikka Lachlan has all she ever wanted—until a random act transforms her into another postwar widow, destined to raise her daughter on her own. Awash in grief, she looks for answers in the pages of her favorite books and tries to learn the most difficult lesson of all: how to go on living.

A local poet, Roy McKinnon, experiences a different type of loss. How could his most powerful work come out of the brutal chaos of war, and why is he now struggling to regain his words and his purpose in peacetime? His childhood friend Dr. Frank Draper also seeks to reclaim his pre-war life but is haunted by his failure to help those who needed him most—the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps.

Then one day, on the mantle of her sitting room, Ani finds a poem. She knows neither where it came from, nor who its author is. But she has her suspicions. An unexpected and poignant love triangle emerges, between Ani, the poem, and the poet—whoever he may be.

My thoughts :

Sometimes I have the hardest time writing a reviews when I really really love a book. I can't think of the write words lovely enough to describe it. Here's the simple list--beautiful, melancholy, haunting--to describe The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay. Focusing on the inner turmoil of the characters who are trying to get back to living post-World War II, the novel is more introspective than plot driven. I found the language lovely and heartbreaking. 

I was touched particularly by Anikka's struggle to heal following the accidental death of her husband. As well meaning people approach her to share her loss and emotion, they tell her stories of her husband and she is shocked to find that she didn't know every little bit of his life. The idea of two people sharing their lives together and yet still maintaining their individuality was thought-provoking.

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay is a thoughtful novel concentrated on the characters and their process of grieving and healing. It is poignant and rich with emotion and sentiment.

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay is published by Atria Books and released in April 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Railwayman's Wife. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Christ-Centered Home - Book Review

Early in our marriage, Rand and I lived in New Hampshire. We made our home in a humble little townhouse with dated wallpaper and filled with hand-me-down furniture and the beginnings of our book collection. In just the first few months that we lived there, several people--from the TV repairman to the Kirby salesperson to our next-door neighbor--commented on the special spirit in our home. We were surprised and the two of us regularly discussed what it was that people were feeling when they came into our home. We hoped that we had successfully created a mostly Christ-Centered Home and it became our goal for our future home.

Add five children with their own fiery personalities and demands and a busier schedule and sometimes it seems that regular family home evenings, scripture study and prayer are not enough to keep our home constantly centered on Jesus Christ.

In her new book Emily Belle Freeman The Christ-Centered Home, she has divided it into reasonable monthly plans with a lesson focused on the scriptures and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. She includes ideas for devotionals and discussions to have with your family. With chapters on everything from gratitude to service, Freeman focuses on the principles we know but helps make them approachable and accomplishable.

I like that while using lessons from the life of our Savior, Freeman makes a proactive book that asks the reader to search their own life and turn their focus to creating a home they would feel comfortable inviting Jesus Christ to enter. I especially appreciate that this book involves the entire family in the process. There are even included recipes to keep your family at the table long enough for a meaningful conversation.

The Christ-Centered Home : Inviting Jesus In by Emily Belle Freeman is published by Shadow Mountain and released in April 2016. 

**I received a complimentary copy of The Christ-Centered Home. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Enchanted Islands - Book Review

Frances Conway and her husband Ainslie move to the desert island of the Galapagos during the 1940s. They gave up their relatively comfortable life in San Francisco to live in a ramshackle hut and grow their own sustenance. In Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend tells the story of Frances Conway beginning with her childhood in Duluth, Minnesota as Frances Frankowski at the turn of the century. The novel follows her adventures that eventually lead to her drastic move with her husband to the famous islands. Though Frances and her husband were real people and they did live on the islands, Amend tells a fictionalized version of the events.

Though I expected the novel to spend more time with the Conways on the Galapagos Islands--they didn't actually arrive there until page 154--I actually really enjoyed the early part of Frances's history. Amend crafts a beautiful story of friendship, betrayal and a desire for acceptance and love. The writing flows so smoothly, that I was able to easily get lost within the story and the characters. Frances was a vulnerable character with the odds against her, yet she continuously shows her grit and self-preservation.

Enchanted Islands is an unusual tale of intrigue, love and relationships. Secondary to that, is Frances and Ainslie's time on the island. The islands are fascinating and the idea of living a quiet existence bent mostly toward daily subsistence is at times appealing. By moving to the islands, Frances is denying herself certain comforts and luxuries but found a peace and amount of joy there to fully sustain her. Similarly, Frances's personal relationships mirror the lessons of the islands.

Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend was quickly devoured as I enjoyed reading more about the Frances. As formed by Amend, she was an engaging and inspiring character.

Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend is published by Nan A. Talese and released on May 24, 2016.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Yoga of Max's Discontent - Book Review


Max has a great job in New York City. A job that he has worked hard to get. Crawling his way out of the projects and into an Ivy League School. But following the death of his mother, Max can't get rid of this feeling inside that he is missing the meaning of life. Leaving his job and home, he heads to India to find a guru who will help him find peace and fulfillment.

Max's initial story is captivating and I was immediately intrigued by his struggle to find meaning in his existence and curious about where this path would lead. Bajaj writes well and brings the readers along in Max's journey in The Yoga of Max's Discontent. Max's experiences in India are interesting. I liked reading more about the landscape and the people. Then, Max started doing yoga and starving and then I got bored. I'm not going to discount the spiritual fulfillment some get from yoga and solitude and torturing their bodies in caves in the Himalayas. Go ahead. Knock yourself out. I don't get it. 

There is some foul language and some random and unnecessary sex scenes.

The Yoga of Max's Discontent by Karan Bajaj is published by Riverbed Books and released on May 3, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Yoga of Max's Discontent. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Carving Out Some Reading Time

Over the last few weeks I've been in an interesting reading place. I haven't had much time to read as I've been running to different events in my roles as mom, wife Primary leader, PTA mom, photographer and friend. In the midst of all the crazy, I was lucky enough to take some time for myself and go to BYU Women's Conference with some good friends. It was relaxing and wonderful, inspiring and brilliant but didn't allow me much time to read.

I've been reading Valiant Ambition : George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick. It's absolutely fascinating and as usual Philbrick writes well but I can only read a few chapters before I fall completely asleep and it doesn't lend itself well to being read in quick snippets while I wait in the car to pick up Neal after tennis or in dentist appointments. I tried and I found myself reading the same page over and over after I was repeatedly interrupted. I needed something enjoyable to read that I could squeeze into those short available moments.

I first picked up Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase. Compared with Daphne du Maurier, I was anxious to get my hands on this gothic, psychological thriller. Black Rabbit Hall has been a magical getaway for Amber and her family for years. Their estate is weathered but filled with love. Tragedy strikes when Amber's mother is suddenly killed in an accident. Her father isn't the same and Black Rabbit Hall becomes a place of grief and suffering for the young family struggling.

Years later, Lorna is drawn to Black Rabbit Hall. She has brief glimpses of spending times there with her mother when she was a child. Now that Lorna is engaged, she'd like to have her wedding there. As she explores the dilapidated estate she uncovers it's secrets and mysteries.

With solid writing that captures that strong emotions of both Amber and Lorna, Black Rabbit Hall kept me entertained and entranced. It had that dark, eerie feeling without being scary. Though the setting is important to the novel, the characters and their relationships with each other are central to the developing story. I appreciated that and the exploration of their mourning and grief for the loss of loved ones and how they interacted with those still alive.

Black Rabbit Hall was thrilling and absolutely readable. I didn't want to put it down.

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase was published by Putnam and released in February 2016. 

I read Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner in just two days. Though I've heard of Weiner for years and follow her on Twitter, this is the first time I've read one of her novels. It's a delightfully quick and enjoyable read with realistic characters and a fateful plot full of coincidences and chance meetings.

Rachel is just a little girl, recovering from heart surgery when she meets Andy in the hospital emergency room. He's alone and her comforting story helps him get through his fear of being injured and separated from his mother. Rachel can't forget him.

Throughout the years, though their lives take very different paths, Rachel and Andy find each other and their relationship grows. They are soul mates. Meant to be together.

I especially liked the characters in Who Do You Love. Sometimes I rather disliked them. Weiner allows them to grow and explore and become adults. Occasionally, they make mistakes and rather bad choices. In other words, they are pretty realistic people.

Some may say that the coincidences are unbelievable and unrealistic, but if you buy into the idea of soul mates (even just in the context of this novel and don't we regularly suspend our normal beliefs to enjoy stories) than it would make sense that the world would conspire to regularly put them together.

Who Do You Love is not a style of book that I regularly read. It was enlightening to read it and find it rather enjoyable. While it is essentially a romance and has more sex scenes than I'm really comfortable with, Weiner does more than just write a love story. She explores people--what inspires their choices, good and bad.

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner is published by Washington Square Press and the paperback edition released on April 5, 2016. It's also one of the Spring Book Club Selections for SheReads.

I'm so glad I've been able to squeeze in some fun and entertaining books to keep me reading while I continue to work through the history from Philbrick. At some point my life will get less busy and I'll have more time to read, right? Not likely.

**I received complimentary copies of both books. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Assistants - Book Review

For six years, Tina Fontana has worked as an executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the wealthy head of a media empire. Though she's fabulous at her job and enjoys the perks, she's frustrated that her career hasn't advanced to where she had once envisioned and her massive student loan debt is still weighing on her soul. When an accounting error delivers a check just big enough to pay off her loans, Tina knows it's wrong but can't resist the lure of being debt free. In a moment of weakness, she cashes the check and pays off her loans. The feeling of relief from being free of her debts is quickly overshadowed by the feeling of guilt. Tina plays by the rules. Until now. And someone else knows what she's done. As other assistants in the company approach Tina about help in paying off their loans, Tina gets sucked into a black hole that seems inescapable.

A witty and fun contemporary Robin Hood story, The Assistants by Camille Perri tackles the idea of wealth distribution. She touches on feelings and sentiments shared by many who struggle financially while being surrounded by those who have an overwhelming amount of wealth. While it's a touchy topic and politically divisive, the novel keeps the subject light and humorous and Tina Fontana is a fabulous character--completely torn by the crushing guilt of breaking the law and the desire to help others.

Perri is a great writer. I enjoyed the nutty cast of characters and the inner struggle that Tina faces. There's never a dull moment and the story is completely believable. The Assistants brings up a lot of interesting topics and I can imagine a lively debate at book club.

The Assistants by Camille Perri is published by Putnam and released on May 3, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Assistants. My opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Everyone Brave is Forgiven - Book Review

I enjoyed Little Bee and Gold by Chris Cleave so I was excited to see a new book from his this spring.  Everyone Brave is Forgiven is his newest book and I was immediately enamored with this World War II novel. How can one possibly write something fresh and new about this time period? I've read many novels centered on World War II and I love several. So many different people suffered through the war and everyone had their own story, so I suppose the opportunities are limitless. Cleave writes a new story in Everyone Brave is Forgiven by focusing on an unlikely heroine and the early days of the war in London and on Malta.

Mary North is a young, wealthy idealist ready for adventure on the eve of World War II. As soon as war is declared, she signs up and is assigned to teach at a local school in London. Though she is initially disappointed by the assignment, she discovers a love for the children and for teaching. When the children are all evacuated from the city, Mary is left with a classroom of children who for one reason or another just don't "fit" in the country.

As Mary navigates through love and danger and friendship, she is often foolish and sometimes self-serving. She's naive and regularly makes destructive choices, yet she's a character that gets under the reader's skin and one sincerely hopes for her survival and success. I enjoyed her quick humor and clever wit as she banters with her best friend and with Tom, the administrator of the schools. It is disheartening to watch the dreams of the young shattered by the brutality of war. Cleave wrote a very poignant and beautiful novel that I found meaningful and emotionally stirring.

I found myself reading large sections of this book each night, unwilling to stop. I was compelled to read more of Mary, her friend Hilda, Tom, and his friend Alistair. I was especially interested in learning more about the Siege of Malta. Previously, I was not familiar with this event in World War II. Cleave writes with dignity and power and shows both the brutality and the compassion of man; the desire to at once cease to exist and simultaneously survive.

I've read some great books this year that I really enjoyed but Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave is definitely at the top of my list.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave is published by Simon and Schuster and released on May 3, 2016.

Monday, April 18, 2016

All The Winters After - Book Review

Kache hasn't been home to Alaska since his parents and brother died in a tragic plane accident twenty years ago. All these years he's been carrying around the grief and burden of losing his family but now his grandmother is dying and his aunt Snag has asked to come home.  Kache expects to find the old homestead in rubble and decay since it has stood empty all this time.

Kache and Snag didn't know that the homestead has actually been cared for by Nadia, a young woman hiding out from her clan of Old Believers. Used to a life of solitude, Nadia hasn't left the homestead for nearly ten years. She's kept up the place and left it essentially the same as it was the day Kache's family died.

Kache, Snag and Nadia must all face their personal fears and guilt and find a way to heal their hearts and move on with their lives.

I love a book set in Alaska. There just seems to be an extra bit of magic and wonder, danger and fear when a story takes place in the majestic and rugged beauty of Alaska. So, I was expecting a lot when I picked up All the Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson. Though the novel took a different direction from what I was initially expecting, I did enjoy reading more about the characters and their experiences and adventures in Alaska. Part of the fun of the Alaska setting is that certain plots really only work there. I appreciated the addition of the Old Believers, a Russian religious sect that immigrated to Oregon and then Alaska. I have never heard of them before so I found it rather interesting. The characters were unique enough to be interesting. Aunt Snag was so likable in her vulnerability and sensitivity hidden behind her facade of strength. The strengths of the novel are  definitely characterization and setting.

The plot line gets hijacked by romance for too long and it starts to drag in the middle. There was foreshadowing of a thriller but the climax and ending were abrupt and lacked the intensity I was hoping for. Overall, All the Winters After was a fairly good read that started out strong but lost momentum for the conclusion. I enjoyed reading more about Alaska.

All The Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson was published by Sourcebooks Landmark in
February 2016.

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Imagination Movers are coming to Utah!

Satuday, April 16th at 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm

Eccles Center for the Performing Arts
1750 Kearns Blvd.
Park City , UT 84060

I'm giving away a Family Four Pack of Tickets to the Imagination Movers event in Utah. Check out my Instagram account to enter.

The Imagination Movers story is the ultimate example of the power of imagination. In 2003, four New Orleans friends – Rich Collins, Scott Durbin, Dave Poche and Scott “Smitty” Smith – had an idea. They thought kids wanted and deserved music that spoke to them, not down to them. So, they started gathering after their kids’ bedtimes to write songs and brainstorm ideas about a children’s television show. Two years later, they had become the latest sensation of their musical city, attracting parents and children alike with an eclectic pop sensibility and lyrical turns about healthy snacks and playing catch and conquering childhood fears of bedtime. Lines to the Movers’ shows stretched for blocks.When the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina, the far-reaching disaster turned the Movers’ world upside down, but it didn’t put an end to their dream. Even while band members salvaged their belongings from flooded homes – and Smith reported to his day job as a fire fighter and first responder – they never stopped living according to the Movers’ motto: “Reach high, think big, work hard, have fun!”

This motto has served the band well. Not even the Imagination Movers themselves could have fully imagined their breakthrough success. The Movers partnered with Disney in 2007 and filmed 75 episodes of their Emmy Award-winning series over three seasons. The show aired in more than 55 countries and they’ve sold half a million CDs and DVDs to date. 

Critical acclaim for the Movers includes nods from Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times, which reported the Movers are “prized by many parents for non-condescending lyrics and music that evokes the Beastie Boys or Red Hot Chili Peppers.” Parenting magazine praised the band’s “dash of rebellion” and songs that are “fresh and treacle-free.” National television appearances include The View, Live with Regis & Kelly, and Good Morning America. The Movers are currently developing an animated series “Super Movers” in partnership with Toronto-based 9 Story Media Group. 

The Movers' ninth release, “Licensed to Move” debuted in early 2015. The CD is bundled with a DVD that contains a live concert performance as well as music videos.

The Movers are known as a high-energy, interactive live music act. Over the last decade they have entertained more than a million fans in North America, Europe and Asia. Their “In a Big Warehouse” tour attracted 150,000 fans and was one of Pollstar magazine’s top 100 tours of 2011 (one of only two family acts on the list). According to thousands of fan reviews on, Imagination Movers ranks as the No. 1 rated major touring act for families. 

Over the past several the Movers have rocked packed houses in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Guam, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates. They are playing select North American cities in 2016.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Gates of Evangeline - Book Review

The dreams! Not long after the untimely and sudden death of her little boy, Charlie started having very intense dreams of children and future events. She's a bit freaked out when the events in her dreams come true. When she dreams of a little boy in a bayou, she decides to accept the writing job in Louisiana. She's been hired to write a book about a thirty year old unsolved mystery of a kidnapped little boy. Perhaps with her dreams she can finally bring closure to the case.

The Deveau family is one of Louisana's most prestigious families so when the little boy went missing, it became a world famous case. To conduct research, Charlie moves onto the Deveau estate of Evangeline and meets the eccentric members of the family. As she uncovers the secrets and mysteries of the Deveaus she might even find friendship and love and healing from her own grief.

I was almost immediately captivated by the writing and story of The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young. The plantation in Louisiana was a great setting for the otherworldliness of Charlie's dreams and the intrigue that surrounded all the characters. Thrilling and at times romantic, The Gates of Evangeline kept me reading late into the night. I loved the Gothic style and the ghostly nature of Charlie's dreams.

Before reading The Gates of Evangeline, which is a She Reads Book Club choice, I had heard a lot of praise and I wasn't at all disappointed. It was a quick, thoroughly enjoyable read, perfect for solving any book slumps.

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young is published by Putnam and released in September 2015.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Gates of Evangeline through the She Reads Book Club. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Forever and Forever - Book Review

The love shared by Henry Longfellow for his wife Fanny Appleton is legendary. We all know the story of her tragic death and the pain he experienced at her loss. We know how his grief  inspired him to pen the poem that eventually became the beloved Christmas hymn "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Because I knew and loved this story, I had to pick up and read Forever and Forever by Josi S. Kilpack. I rarely read romance novels of any variety and if I do, it's generally because someone picked it for my local book club. However, perhaps because of the historical nature of Forever and Forever since it is based on real historical figures that I admire, I enjoyed the novel.

Henry Longfellow was still grieving the death of his first wife, when he first met the eighteen year old Fanny Appleton during their tours of Europe. Henry admired her intellect and her interest in literature. He couldn't get enough of the girl. Fanny was less sure of her new suitor. He was a bit awkward; older and certainly not of the same social class. Their courtship is long and unusual and I really enjoyed reading about how the two finally came together in a mutually loving and committed relationship that would transcend time.

This is the first time I've read a novel by Kilpack and I was impressed by how she paid homage to these inspiring people. Well researched, she is faithful to their story and legacy. I appreciate that she included chapter notes at the end of the book. I must admit that I found some sections and dialogue lengthy and unnecessary to the advancement of the story.  Overall, I enjoyed the novel. I liked the characterization and how Kilpack successfully shows the maturing and growth of her characters. Forever and Forever is definitely a novel I would recommend, especially to those who appreciate an enduring and realistic love story.

Forever and Forever by Josi S. Kilpack is published by Shadow Mountain and released on April 5, 2016.

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

Friday, April 1, 2016

Eleanor - Book Review

A horrible car accident kills Esmerelda but her identical twin sister Eleanor and her mother survive to bear the unbearable loss. Shattered by grief, Eleanor's mother turns to the drink and descends into a world that neither Eleanor nor her father cannot penetrate. Alone and responsible, Eleanor is forced to grow up quickly as she attempts to hold her family together.

One day, Eleanor walks through a door and simply disappears. She finds herself in a new world. She comes too later locked in her school in the middle of the night. Over and over, she leaves her reality and eventually meets someone who will help her heal her family.

The first eighty pages of the novel Eleanor by Jason Gurley read like a family saga. The writing is lovely and I could literally feel the weight of the depression and grief experienced by the characters. Hurley successfully creates characters that the reader cares about as they suffer.

As Eleanor moved into the more supernatural sections, I was initially frustrated and contemplated giving up on the novel. It's not my typical read so I started skimming but the writing enraptured me and soon I was completely captivated by the story telling and fantastical world Gurley builds. I also had to go back and read some of the sections that I had skimmed through.

Eleanor by Jason Gurley really is a beautiful story of healing and peace. I loved the characters and hoped for a good resolution. I actually ended up enjoying the phenomenal aspects of the plot line. I'm glad that I picked it up and took a chance on something different.

Eleanor by Jason Gurley is published by Crown and released in January 2016.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Day in the Life - March 22, 2016

I wanted to participate with Trish from Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity on her annual "A Day in the Life" blogger hop again this year. I chose to write about yesterday which was a bit unusual but as I've been looking at my life lately is emblematic of the craziness I keep getting myself involved in.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My parents and my two and three year old nieces spent the night at my house. I have forgotten how often toddlers wake up during the night. I spent a restless night listening to them and worrying that they were too cold.

5:37 am : My mom woke me up because I forgot to put out towels.

6:15 am : The alarm goes off. I nudge Randy to get up and wake Neil up to get ready for school. My parents leave for their doctor appointments in Salt Lake.

6:30 am : My alarm goes off again. I get up and start making breakfast for Neil. He requests Ritz crackers with peanut butter and his usual glass of chocolate milk.

6:51 am : After constant coaxing to get moving; to load his back packs; eat his breakfast; brush his teeth; Neil leaves for school. It's raining like crazy. Good thing he just runs next door to catch a ride to the high school from his friend. I wake up the other kids and tell them to start getting dressed.

7:10 am : I do Lilly and Molly's hair.

7:25 am : Breakfast for everyone, including my nieces who woke up when the other kids went downstairs.

7:40 am : We pray and Amberley leaves to catch her bus to the junior high.

7:45 am : Thomas, Lilly and Molly leave to walk to school. Normally I would shut the door with a great sigh of relief and probably climb back into bed but my nieces are here. I help them get a banana. While the eat, I unload the dishwasher and load it again.

8:00 am : I turn Inside Out on for the girls and hurry upstairs to take a shower. Can I take a shower with two toddlers in the house? I get dressed and do my makeup and hair.

8:45 am : I get my nieces dressed and do their hair. They are very adorable. My mom calls to suggest that instead of driving the girls to Salt Lake to meet them (it's snowing and windy in Salt Lake) that they will meet me farther south and closer to my house. That means I get to hang out with the girls longer. We finish watching the movie.

10:00 am : I load the little girls in my car and am thankful to have the built-in car seats that haven't been used in quite awhile. As we drive over the mountain into the valley, the rain changes to snow. The wind is wild.

10:15 am : I meet my parents in the Walmart parking lot. They get the girls and prepare to drive back to Vernal. I go home.

10:30 am : I get a text that Neil's afternoon tennis match has been rescheduled due to weather and I am so happy.

10:35 am : I get home. My house is cold. I climb into my warm bed intending to read Code Name Verity. I fall asleep.

1:00 pm : I wake up. It was a lovely nap. Rand and I have a Greek salad for lunch.

1:30 pm : I actually read Code Name Verity. It's the pick for book club this month.

2:00 pm : My friend calls. It startles me because she never actually calls. We are marathon texters. She's had an emergency with her daughter and can't get back to town (did I mention that we live in the middle of no where) in time to pick up her son for his dentist appointment. I drive to the school and check him out. We drive over to meet his mom in the grocery store parking lot.

2:30 pm : I get home. Thomas, Lilly and Molly have just gotten home from school. We work on homework and sign field trip permission forms.

4:00 pm : I go get dressed and fix my hair and makeup which is a disaster after my long nap.

4:50 pm : My friend picks me up. We drop off her kids at her mom's house before heading to the junior high to prepare for the caucus meeting.

5:00 pm : Our precinct will meet in the library. We have to rearrange the tables and the chairs to accommodate the crowd we are expecting. We prepare the registration tables. My good friend is the precinct secretary and I have attending trainings with her to help with registration and vote counting.

6:00 pm : People start arriving. We are constantly busy with registration. We quickly exceed our expected numbers of people attending.

7:00 pm : Our caucus meeting starts on time but people are still arriving.

7:30 pm : I help count the votes for the election of Precinct Chair. I am nominated as a State Delegate so I can't help count that vote. I wander the hall because it is so crowded and hot in the library I am wondering what in the world possessed me to wear a sweater. I visit with friends.

8:20 pm : The vote is announced and I am an alternative State Delegate. I am nominated as a County Delegate and win my vote of acclamation because only six people have been nominated for the six positions. Three of my good friends are also elected as County Delegates.

9:00 pm : With record attendance at least double what we have seen in other exciting election cycles, our precinct caucus wraps up.

9:15 pm : I am disappointed in the Presidential Preference vote count. It is expected but I find the result frustrating.

9:30 pm : We clean up from the precinct and go over the registration forms. Send the counts and tallies to the state.

11:00 pm : I get home from the caucus meeting. I didn't eat dinner and am starving. I have a bowlful of cottage cheese and tomatoes. Rand and I vent over our political frustrations.

11:30 pm : I start a batch of laundry.

12:00 am : I'm still on Twitter checking the results of the Utah caucuses and regretting getting political online.

1:00 am : I put the laundry in the dryer. Take out my contacts and brush my teeth. It's time for bed.

Be sure to check out the blog hop on Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity to see how a day in the life looks for a variety of other bloggers. And see what my day looked like last year *here*.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Jane Steele - Book Review

The summer I turned fifteen my family packed all our camping gear onto our horses and into our backpacks and hiked in three miles from the truck to camp at Dry Fork Twins in the High Uintah Mountains. It was our yearly tradition but that year I carried a heavy copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte in my backpack. Over the week, we hiked all over the mountain, fished in the lakes and streams and played countless hours of card games. And every afternoon when it rained, I sought shelter in my tent and fell in love with Jane Eyre. (Incidentally, I also packed in my entire Caboodle case full of make up because a horoscope said I would meet the love of my life that week. I didn't even see a single Boy Scout on that camping trip.)

The last time I read Jane Eyre was a few years ago and I fell in love yet again with the Gothic romance between the simple governess and the grisly Mr. Rochester.  Additionally, I am also a huge fan of Lyndsay Faye's novels. Her character Timothy Wilde in The Gods of Gotham series is my second favorite lawman following close after Raylan Givens. So, when I heard that Lyndsay Faye had written an imaginative adaptation of Jane Eyre with a more gutsy heroine and a morbid theme, I was so excited to get my hands on a copy.

Jane Steele is also a fan of the novel Jane Eyre. She's an orphan living with an unkind aunt and a leering teen aged cousin. When he attempts to sexually assault her, she kills him. While her life parallels the life of Jane Eyre in many ways, Jane Steele becomes a different kind of woman who leaves those that torment her or her loved ones dead.

Though perhaps a heavy-handed farcical take on the beloved classic, I loved Jane Steele. It was fun. It was dark and morbid. Jane Steele was a heroine that I could cheer for. Her early years were a closer parallel though she simply takes matters into her own hands when she comes across horrible people. I found this so much fun. Once she meets Mr. Thornton and the story turns towards love, it loses some of that earlier fun. However, I was still completely engaged in Jane Steele's story.

Including the history of the Sikh Wars was fascinating. It did take away from Jane's story but I enjoyed reading more about it. I liked Faye's writing with the classic style. I was thoroughly entertained and amused by this charming novel. Jane Steele is just so much fun.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is published by Putnam and released on March 22, 2016. 

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Winners of Sisters of Heart and Snow

The winners of a paperback copy of Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway are...

Jessica M

Congratulations! Please contact me by March 25th with your information to claim your prize.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sisters of Heart and Snow Paperback Release Give-Away

In celebration of the paperback release of Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway, I am partnering with the publishers to give away three copies.

I read and reviewed it *here* last year.

"Margaret Dilloway captures the reader's full attention in her newest novel Sisters of Heart and Snow. Though the story of Tomoe is by far the more interesting--stunning and emotional in scope; I also became immersed in rooting for Rachel and Drew. Their childhoods were not easy and because of that they struggle in adulthood. Dilloway writes dramatic, dynamic characters that are likable. She allows them to make mistakes and be less than perfect.  It is easy to empathize with them. Their sister relationship and difficulties are believable as they push each other away and then pull together--simultaneously wounding and strengthening each other." --from my review

Entering to win a copy of this dramatic and entertaining novel is simple. Leave a comment on this post. The contest will be open to entries until Friday, March 18th at 11:59pm MST. The three winners will be chosen randomly and announced on Saturday, March 19th. Open to residents of the US only.

Monday, March 14, 2016

America's First Daughter - Book Review

Once upon a time, I regularly read biographies and histories. I spent weeks devouring every detail of the historic figures' lives and sharing with Randy anything I thought especially interesting or unknown to him (as a history major he seems to know everything). As much as I enjoyed learning more history and about the interesting people, it's been a few years since I found a work to capture my attention. America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie is written as a novel but uses so much research to tell the story of Thomas Jefferson's daughter Martha Patsy Jefferson Randolph.

I haven't spent so much time reading a single book for years. It took me almost two full weeks to read America's First Daughter yet I enjoyed every minute. Beginning with Patsy's childhood as the Jefferson family prepared to flee their home as the British army closed in, the novel takes the reader through the exciting history surrounding the Revolutionary War; Jefferson's time as ambassador in France; his continued time in politics and his retirement told through the eyes of his beloved and trusted daughter. I loved having the opportunity to visit these historic events through the domestic perspective of a woman and his family.

The novel focuses on Patsy and so it is her personality that shines through so clearly. She is a strong and yet conflicted character dealing with such troubling issues and nothing about her life is in any way boring. With the exception of Patsy's husband, most of the other characters are not as richly developed. Using letters and other research, Dray and Kamoie share family details that enrich the understanding of that period of time. There was often so much turmoil. I read the novel while my husband watched the election debates next to me. Listening to the circus that the election has become this year, I found it interesting to read more about the drama and dirty politics that occurred in the election of 1800. So little has changed. Except that we don't fight duels anymore. Perhaps that's just what this election is missing.

Part of me wished that it had been written as a biography so my brain would know just what was supported by research and what was assumptions filling in the gaps. However, there was value to it being a novel. It allowed the authors to delve into the ideas of Jefferson's personal life--though it could be seen as apologetic, it offered sympathy and understanding to a confusing and horrific issue.

The time I spent reading America's First Daughter was valuable and enjoyable. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book this much. I'm definitely inspired to find another biography soon.

America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie was published by William Morrow and released on March 1, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of America's First Daughter. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Winner of Me Before You Give-away

The winner of a copy of Me Before You and After You by Jojo Moyes is...


Congratulations! I know you'll love these fantastic novels. Please contact me within a week with you information to claim your prize.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Flight of Dreams - Book Review

Everyone knows about the explosion of the Hindenburg. We've seen the old newsreel footage. If you have young sons, you may have watched it multiple times. But what I never realized was just how many people were on board the Hindenburg the night that it was engulfed in flames within seconds. I didn't know that the Hindenburg was a flying hotel, carrying passengers across the Atlantic. I certainly didn't know a thing about those passengers.

In Flight of Dreams, Ariel Lawhon takes a historic tragedy and gives faces and stories to the people aboard that fateful day. Emilie Imhoff was famously the only female crew member. Torn between her own plans and her developing feelings for the navigator, Emilie spends the trips assisting passengers and trying to make important personal decisions, while becoming tangled in the plots of the passengers.

There are others aboard with their own agendas, including a mysterious American who always manages to be in the parts of the ship where he isn't allowed and a sullen Colonel who was especially worried about leaving his wife behind and seems rather distracted.

Set in those tumultuous years before World War II, Flight of Dreams captures all the elements of unrest and nervousness that many felt as the Nazis and Hitler rose to power in Germany. Displaying swastikas of the regime, the Hindenburg was representative of that power. Lawhon gives emotion to those feelings by letting her passengers, many who had their own run-ins and concern with the Nazis, shape their own decisions. She captures the emotions of the time and allows the people aboard the zeppelin to become living, passionate characters.

Lawhon's research is immaculate and blends seamlessly with the fictional story she tells within the blanks of the mysterious events leading up to the explosion. Her story is a constant page turner. Though the reader knows what tragedy is coming, it is no less explosive and heart rending. Perhaps it is more so as Lawhon tells of the deaths and escapes and pandemonium of characters that now mean something to the reader. I watched the newsreel footage again after finishing the book and it was a much more emotional experience.

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon is an amazing story that fully presents the history and the people of the Hindenburg in an unforgettable, riveting novel.

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon was published by Doubleday and released on February 23, 2016.

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

Me Before You Trailer & Book Give-away

My friends and I already know exactly where we will be June 3, 2016--in the theater watching the movie adaptation of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

The official movie trailer was recently released and I'm even more excited than before--though I need some more time to emotionally prepare myself. I'm already reaching for the tissues. Don't you just love the casting? 

To celebrate, I'm partnering with the publisher to give away a copy of both Me Before You and After You by Jojo Moyes.

Entering to win is absolutely simple. Leave a comment on this post before Friday, February 26, 2016, 11:59pm MST. Open to US residents only. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on Saturday, February 27th.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What Lies Between Us - Book Review

I loved Naomi Munaweera's first novel Island of a Thousand Mirrors. It was one of my very favorite novels in 2014. So, when I saw that she'd written another novel, I was thrilled to be able to read it. What Lies Between Us takes the reader back to Sri Lanka, where a young girl grows up surrounded by the tenuous love of her parents. Her relationship with her mother is at times loving caresses and tenderness but often her mother withdraws and is distant and emotionally unavailable. At the same time, the girl loves her homeland--the lush surroundings and dear friends. However, under it all, she hides a terrible secret that is threatening to destroy her entire family. When disaster sends them to America, she must now try to fit in within a completely different society and culture.

In What Lies Between Us, Munaweera again delights with stunningly beautiful language and haunting imagery. I was enraptured as she wove her tale of familial love and its power for complete destruction. The narrator is a sensitive character who endures so much and has a way of observing and describing situations that shows her keen insight.

Munaweera exposes parts of human nature that we wish to hide and wish they weren't true. It is at times uncomfortable and yet so very valuable to recognize and understand. She never lets the reader off the hook and doesn't shy away from painful topics. She writes a novel that will make you feel and think and maybe even squirm. What Lies Between Us is an unforgettable novel.

What Lies Between Us by Naomi Munaweera is published by St. Martin's Press and released on February 16, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of What Lies Between Us. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Things We Keep - Book Review

Anna is not yet forty years old when she is diagnosed with the same early-onset Alzheimer's disease that killed her mother years ago. As her memories and cognitive abilities deteriorate, Anna and her twin brother decide it is best if she is checked in to an assisted-living center. The one they finally choose, Rosalind House, is a high-end place with very few residents that just happen to include another "young" patient--Luke who also has a degenerative brain disease. Anna and Luke begin a relationship that makes their time happier but worries their respective families.

Because of unfortunate family circumstances, Eve is desperate for a job. She practically begs for the cook job at Rosalind House. She is just being introduced to the residents when Anna begs Eve to help her. As Eve gets to know Anna, she is able to come to understand just how she can help.

I really enjoyed Sally Hepworth's novel The Secrets of Midwives last year. Hepworth is a skilled writer and spins a good story. I was happy to have the opportunity to read her newest novel The Things We Keep. Novels about early on-set Alzheimer's disease have been popular lately. I haven't read Still Alice yet but I have read We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas and The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman. Throw in other novels dealing with other degenerative diseases or life changing accidents like Five Days Left and Me Before You, and it feels like a subject that I've read a lot about in the past few years.

I wanted The Things We Keep to bring a new perspective and in many ways it did. I appreciated the author's tone and story. Without giving anything away, this tale brought a new angle to the discussion and it was refreshing. It challenges perceptions and preconceived notions about disease, life and death.

The problem with this particular novel, for me, was that there were too many things going on. It was ambitious. The characters started out strong but as the story went along, the ending felt rushed and incomplete. Clearly, as Anna's brain deteriorated it would be difficult for her to continue narrating her own story but the reader is suddenly pulled in to side plots/tangents with lesser characters. I became less and less interested. The level of emotion one expects from a story like this was lacking.

Though there were issues, The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth tells an interesting story and adds a new dimension to the discussion. For every person that suffers from this disease, there is a different story.

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth is published by St. Martin's Press and released on January 19, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Things We Keep. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

The Opposite of Everyone - Book Review

Paula is a tough divorce attorney who is thrown off her game when she receives a note from her estranged mother. Her mother is dying and does not want Paula to come to her. Yet as overwhelming panic and anxiety threaten Paula's career, she discovers some of her mother's darkest secrets and the desire to change her own life.

Raised by a story-telling mother who mixed Hindu mythology with her own Southern stories, Paula is raised in a nomadic life as her mother moves from boy friend to boy friend. Angry and hurt, Paula made a choice that changed her mother forever and deeply damaged their relationship. Paula has been trying to pay her mother back ever since.

I adored Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson and was so thrilled to be able to read her newest novel. I didn't realize until I was finished reading The Opposite of Everyone that Paula is the same Paula who was friends with Will in Someone Else's Love Story. It's a stand-alone novel but it was still fun to finally make the connection.

Written in Joshilyn's special flavor of story-telling, I was immediately intrigued by tough-talking, relationship-fearing, gritty Paula. Her back story of life with her free-spirited mom and her years in foster care, helped me to better understand her character. Joshilyn successfully combine emotional and meaningful stories with dynamic and rich characters to completely entrance the reader. Is it possible that Joshilyn creates the very best male protagonists in her tales?

Reading of Paula's emotional journey through redemption and "karma" was a complete joy. Fans of her previous novel will not be disappointed by The Opposite of Everyone.

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson was published by William Morrow and released on February 16, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Opposite of Everyone. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.**

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Two of Us - Book Review

Rand and I met; went on our first date; met each other's families and got engaged to be married within two weeks, so I was anxious to read the story of Fisher and Ivy. After just 18 frenzied days of romance, they know there is something different about this particular relationship. Like the cover of the books says: "Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most it what happens next..." The Two of Us by Andy Jones is the story of what happens next to Fisher and Ivy.

The Two of Us is a darling read with lovable characters. I got a ebook copy and though I don't prefer to read on a device, it is the perfect kind of book for reading under the covers, during the Super Bowl or on the dark, car ride home (I wasn't driving). It's cute and funny and at times rather poignant.

Fisher, as narrator, is an honest and open character who shares his deepest concerns and worries about his new relationship. The Two of Us begins where most love stories end. How will these two different people make this relationship work in the face of trials and roadblocks? I admired Fisher's determination to make it work and his sincere love for Ivy that kept him focused on his ultimate goal. He's witty and occasionally self-deprecating and endearingly loyal in his occasionally fumbling attempts to create a family.

Just so you know, there is a fair amount of swearing. There are no actual sex scenes but the topic comes up regularly. Occasionally, I wanted to be like Fisher's dad and give him a scolding.

The Two of Us by Andy Jones is well written. It made me chuckle. It almost made me cry. It's sweet and tender. I wanted to read it all in one big gulp.

The Two of Us by Andy Jones is published by Washington Square Press and released on February 9, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Two of Us. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Monday, February 8, 2016

In Another Life - Book Review

After the tragic death of her husband and problems in her career as a historian, Lia Carrer goes home to Languedoc in the South of France to heal. However, it isn't long before Lia's best friend is trying to set her up with the lonely and kind widower from a nearby vineyard and a local photographer is persuading her to help him with a book about Languedoc.

In the meantime, Lia's real passion is finding supporting evidence for her theory that in 1208 the Archdeacon Castelnau was assassinated as an excuse to start the crusade against the heretical Cathers. As Lia's researches the events from hundreds of years ago, she begins to discover that the three men in her life: the widower, the photographer and the priest all have their own secrets and know much more than they're telling.

Among other ideas that the Catholic church did not condone, the Cathers believed in reincarnation. Playing on this element of their faith, Julie Christine Johnson spins a tail of murder, intrigue and romance in In Another Life. Reminding me of last year's The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack, the idea that someone can live another life is a fun idea to explore in fiction. Johnson does it relatively well in her debut novel.

It took several chapters for me to fall into an easy reading grove. I had to go back and reread several sections because the back and forth between present and past was initially confusing. However, it begins to make more sense and I was finally able to keep characters straight and plot lines from tangling. Honestly, the entire book is a tangled web of past lives and loves.

As with any fantasy novel, one must suspend reality. I don't read in this genre very often and I prefer believable explanations even for the unbelievable. Make me want to believe. In Another Life had trouble pulling it all together in the end. I was completely entertained and caught up in the story but there were some holes in her reincarnation explanations.

I was definitely most interested in the historical aspect of the Cathers and the intrigue that may have led to their demise. Presenting a fascinating theory, Johnson only skims the surface of that history and left me wanting more.

In Another Life is fun and ambitious and I liked it much more than I expected in the first few chapters. It is mystical and intriguing and captivating.

In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson is published by Sourcebooks Landmark and released on February 2, 2016.

Buy :

Amazon         Barnes and Noble 

Connect with Julie Christine Johnson :

Facebook     Twitter      Website       Goodreads

**I received a complimentary copy of In Another Life. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Thursday, February 4, 2016

No Ordinary Life - Book Review

Faye's husband has been gone for months. The kids are holding out hope that he'll come back but Faye knows better. Running out of money, Faye moves her three kids to live with her mom in Los Angeles.

Adorably cute and witty, four year old Molly is filmed dancing at a mall and immediately becomes a YouTube sensation. Launched into fame, Molly's career is set to take off. Faye feels the nagging thought that it's not the right direction for her family, but how can she resist the money and the excitement surrounding her daughter's potential stardom.

Caught up in the world of Hollywood and backstage drama, Faye's family and life is spiraling out of control. Who knew that when she signed that lucrative deal, she'd have the reins of her family's future taken out of her hands. Can she get them back and save her family?

It took a few chapters to get into No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn but once the story is going, it moves along at a breakneck pace and takes the reader along for a wild and fun ride. Who hasn't dreamed of fame and stardom at some point in life? Or at least admired and become intrigued by a celebrity? Redfearn takes the reader behind the scenes of Hollywood and shows the allure and excitement as well as the dangers and drama of being a child star. Is it fair to take away a child's childhood?

But more than just an expose, No Ordinary Life tells an engrossing tale of a family caught in an undertow. Just like I sometimes can't look away when the grisly and messy details of a celebrity's life become tabloid fodder, I couldn't put down Redfearn's newest novel. The adult characters were completely believable people who often made horrible decisions that disgusted and appalled me but I couldn't help cheering for them or at least watching their destruction.

No Ordinary Life is a thrilling novel that examines the price of fame and who can and should actually handle it.

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn is published by Grand Central and released on February 2, 2016. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Platinum Doll - Book Review

Jean Harlow, the famous actress from the early days of talking pictures, was born Harlean Carpenter in the dull Midwest. As a girl she accompanied her mother to Hollywood on her mother's failed attempt at stardom. Now, seventeen years old and beautiful, Harlean has run off with her rich and handsome young husband. Madly in love, together they're enjoying the glamorous life of Hollywood, California.

Encouraged by friends and pushed by a dare, Harlean takes a chance at an acting career. With her sparkling personality and stunning blond hair, the actress Jean impresses the right people and catapults her right into acclaim and stardom.

But fame and success will come at a price.

Platinum Doll by Anne Girard introduces a cast of characters that graced the silver screen in the early, glamorous days of Hollywood. I spent so much time Googling the actors and actresses that I didn't immediately recognize and even watched old clips of Jean Harlow on YouTube. (Her earliest roll with Laurel and Hardy is a fun one to watch). I was actually surprised that the novel inspired so much interest in a subject that I've rarely cared about before. Jean Harlow really was a fascinating woman who gained so much success so quickly.

I liked that the novel focuses on her early life with her husband and her experiences starting out in Hollywood. Jean is manipulated and used by so many people around her. Her flamboyant and controlling mother is quite the character and adds a lot of drama to the story. Her experiences in early Hollywood were interesting and it was fun to peek behind the scenes of the classic movies.

However, as intrigued as I was with the story of Jean, I found myself skimming through chapter after chapter. The story moves slowly and gets bogged down in scenes and long conversations that don't successfully advance the plot or the emotion. Even in the dramatic scenes between Jean and her husband, the intensity of passion is lacking. Huge sections could have been cut right out.

Though there are issues with the writing, I did overall enjoy learning more about Jean Harlow in Platinum Doll by Anne Girard.

Platinum Doll by Anne Girard is published by MIRA and released on January 26, 2016.

Buy :

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**I received a complimentary copy of Platinum Doll. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.**

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Swans of Fifth Avenue - Book Review

From the cover :

Of all the glamorous stars of New York high society, none blazes brighter than Babe Paley. Her flawless face regularly graces the pages of Vogue, and she is celebrated and adored for her ineffable style and exquisite taste, especially among her friends—the alluring socialite Swans Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. By all appearances, Babe has it all: money, beauty, glamour, jewels, influential friends, a prestigious husband, and gorgeous homes. But beneath this elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman—a woman desperately longing for true love and connection.

Enter Truman Capote. This diminutive golden-haired genius with a larger-than-life personality explodes onto the scene, setting Babe and her circle of Swans aflutter. Through Babe, Truman gains an unlikely entrĂ©e into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite, along with unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle. Sure of the loyalty of the man she calls “True Heart,” Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake. But once a storyteller, always a storyteller—even when the stories aren’t his to tell.

Truman’s fame is at its peak when such notable celebrities as Frank and Mia Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Rose Kennedy converge on his glittering Black and White Ball. But all too soon, he’ll ignite a literary scandal whose repercussions echo through the years. The Swans of Fifth Avenue will seduce and startle readers as it opens the door onto one of America’s most sumptuous eras.

My thoughts :

Melanie Benjamin excels at bringing lesser known stories from history back to life (I loved The Aviator's Wife). Imagining the unusual relationships between Truman Capote, devious and charming, and his beautiful alluring "Swans", Benjamin plunges her readers right into the shallow glamorous world of New York high society in The Swans of Fifth Avenue. Everyone is out for themselves in this world and they tell themselves and each other lies to cover their own insecurities and infidelities. Yet, Baby Paley feels like she has finally made a true and lasting connection with Capote. They love each other in a truly honorable and complete way and will always be faithful to each other. Of course.

I was completely captivated and entranced by Benjamin's treatment of these people, their story and scandal. It's not a world I've ever paid much attention to and yet I was immediately intrigued. I interrupted my reading regularly to google the characters on my phone so that I could see their pictures and their gorgeous clothes and the stunning lifestyles in Benjamin's novel. I found and read about Truman's Black and White Ball in Vanity Fair online. It was fun to see the pictures and it added to my enjoyment of the story. However, Benjamin recreated the scenes and the clothes and the people so well that I didn't really need the pictures. When the pictures are added, they so perfectly fit the scenes already described by Benjamin that I felt surely she had been there. At the very least, her research is impeccable. 

These flamboyant people led lives of excess and grandeur and were loathsome, yet I couldn't look away. And in the midst of all the distasteful scandals, Benjamin paints the picture of Baby Paley, always classy, vulnerable and sympathetic. I cared about her--really cared, even while pitying her in her fortune. Benjamin doesn't just tell the story and the scandal and the fallout. She writes about people and she inspires the reader to respond with powerful emotions whether disgust or empathy.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue is a book to devour and to talk about. Intrigued by Truman Capote, I ordered a copy of In Cold Blood. I shared all the sordid details with my husband. It would make a great novel for book clubs because at it's heart it is a book about relationships with people and how we hurt and abuse those we love for our own personal gain. It's a human story with a human heart.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin is published by Delacorte Press and released on January 26, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Swans of Fifth Avenue. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.