Monday, December 18, 2017

2017 : The Year of Audio Books

I could rightfully refer to 2017 by a lot of different names--not all very complimentary. But for my purposes here I will dub it the Year of the Audio Books. I recently became a huge fan of listening to audio books. They saved my sanity as I did way more than usual driving alone and then spent hours alone. I like to have something on in the background as I work and I discovered that audio books have become the perfect companion. Listening to audio books also gave me the opportunity to read books that I missed when they came out or that have been on my list for years. I've starred a few of the books that were my favorite.

***** I missed reading Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng when it came out but I didn't miss all the rave reviews and so I immediately added it to my to-read list. It was great on audio. The narrator captured the pain and anguish the family felt when their beloved daughter goes missing. It's a meaningful novel about how little we often understand about the people we love the most.

It's on all the lists of "Books You Should Read" and so when it was offered as an Audible Daily Deal, I bought it and listened to Brave New World. I'm glad I finally became acquainted with the story but I must admit it wasn't necessarily my favorite.

Ever since Devil in the White City, I'm going to get my hands on and read everything Erik Larson writes. I read a horribly boring book about Lusitania a few years ago and I was anxious to get a better take on the tragedy. Erik Larson delivered with  Dead Wake. He focuses on the events and people on Lusiania but also the history and psychology of the German men in the UBoat.

I was never going to read Go Set A Watchman after following all the controversy surrounding it's publication. However, I very much enjoyed Reese Witherspoon's narration and found myself appreciating a different view of Scout and the others in Maycomb, Alabama.

***** I listened to The Lake House by Kate Morton while I did the final cleaning of my former house. Rand was at work. The kids were in school. The house was essentially empty and The Lake House kept me company. Kate Morton's atmospheric and long mysteries are some of my favorites and I was delighted to find that I enjoyed listening to them as much.

***** Lisa See is another favorite author and I was enraptured from the very first paragraph of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. I very much enjoyed learning more about the Akha in the remote Yunnan village. The novel is thrilling and sentimental as a mother and daughter search for each other across continents and cultures.

Almost two years ago, I bought a physical copy of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow but Rand wanted to read it with me. After reading the first chapter aloud on a road trip, I bought the audio version. We listened to six hours on that trip and then we put it aside. We never had time for both of us to listen. Finally this year, I finished it by myself and filled Rand in on the highlights. My kids and I are huge fans of the musical and the kids wanted to know what parts were "true" and what was made up. I could finally answer all their questions.

Faithful Jane Eyre enthusiasts might not love the liberties Curtis Sittenfeld takes with the beloved classic Pride and Prejudice but I rather enjoyed her modern adaptation. Filled with spunky characters, humorous entanglements and some surprises, Eligible was an enjoyable update.

The coolest thing about Girl is Disguise is that it is based on a true story of the first lady Pinkerton detective. Sometimes, it seems more like a biography than a story but I really enjoyed learning more about the fascinating life of Kate Warne from author Greer Macallister.

***** I love Kate Morton mysteries. They lend themselves well to audio too and even though they're long, they're just so good. I listened to The Secret Keeper this summer while on a long road trip with just me and my kids. I just couldn't do a "kid" book and stay awake as the sole driver. My fourteen year old daughter loved it. It's clean enough that I didn't really have to worry the kids would be exposed to anything.

Amy. Amy. Amy. I'm a fan of Amy Tan. But The Valley of Amazement missed it big. Maybe it was that the audio made it even more stark, but the sex details were way too much.

***** The Stand was my first real experience with Stephen King's books (I've seen several of the movies based on his books). The audio version was 48 hours long. I was completely entertained and freaked out by the entire novel. King is brilliant.

I was totally immersed in the characters of Kavalier and Clay and their foray into comic books. The character development is fabulous. It kind of got slow for awhile in the middle and I may have fallen asleep a time or two, but overall I really liked this book.

***** The narrator's accent added so much to the bleak Icelandic atmosphere and desolation of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. I really loved this melancholy and thoughtful novel.

***** Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng tells the stories behind the windows in the boring suburban neighborhood. The family appears perfect but their individual lives are a mess of lies and troubles. I've definitely become a fan of Celeste Ng's storytelling.

***** I've had the book on my shelf for a few years and had every intention of reading it. Now, that the movie is coming out, I wanted to read Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express even more. Of course, my copy is in a box in storage. So I listened to one of the many audio versions of the famous mystery. It was really entertaining and Dan Stevens was a wonderful narrator.

I've had a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon on my shelf for so many years. Now, it's packed away in a box. So when it was the Audible Daily Deal, I bought it. The narration was wonderful and I really enjoyed this story of an autistic boy and the mystery surrounding the dead dog. Christopher is an unforgettable literary character.

I knew A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara was going to be depressing but I had no idea just how depressing it really was. It's over 32 hours of depressing. But I couldn't stop listening. Couldn't stop hoping that somehow his life would get better.

***** 11/22/63 by Stephen King was absolutely fascinating. I'm a sucker for a good time travel story. Overall, I enjoyed the audio version. However, the narrator is so bad at accents and especially bad at voicing women. About half way through the audio, I bought a physical copy of the book. I ended up finishing with audio but I might read the ending again.

***** It's possible that I loved My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier as much as love Rebecca. Atmospheric and mysterious, the narration is fabulous. The main character is so dumb sometimes but you can't help cheering for him.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Winner of the Anne of Green Gables Giveaway

The Winner of the Anne of Green Gables giveaway is...

Wendy Daniels

Congratulations! Please contact me by Monday, December 11th with your information.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Paris for One - Book Review

Nell has been so anxious for her weekend to Paris with her boyfriend Pete. She's never been to Paris before. She even gave up her annual girls weekend for this mini-vacation. When her boyfriend fails to show up she can either cancel her plans or go ahead by herself. Can she handle being alone in the City of Love? Maybe she'll surprise herself with her own tenacity and maybe she'll fall in love.

Paris for One is a new novella from beloved author Jojo Moyes. Included in the edition are a number of short stories focusing on relationships. In Paris for One the reader is introduced to Nell, a cautious yet optimistic character that quickly warms the heart. In typical Moyes fashion, Nell is quirky and lovable. Her story is a bit predictable but like those Hallmark movies we all like to watch at Christmas time, it's also soothing and cozy. Overall, I enjoyed reading of Nell's adventures in the city and being brave on her own.

The collection of stories offer momentary glimpses into relationships after the "happily ever after" when lovers become parents and partners. Bills get in the way. The monotony of life gets in the way. A flirtation. Age. Exhaustion. Is there still hope for the old married couple to rediscover love? Moyes explores this question and others in her collection of short stories. I rarely read short stories since I've been out of school but I appreciated these concise and thoughtful stories where one decision can make a big difference.

Paris for One and Other Stories is a feel good read and sometimes we need that. We crave that. As winter sets in and the dark nights call us to our beds early, Paris for One is perfect. Cuddle under your favorite blanket; grab a warm drink and enjoy this lovely collection.

Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes is published by Penguin Books and released in October 2017.

**Watch for the newest novel from Jojo Moyes Still Me featuring beloved Louisa Clark from Me Before You and After You. Coming out it in January 2018!**

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

Mother's Milk & One Hundred Birds Taught Me To Fly - Book Review

Being frequently alone and recovering from multiples surgeries have given me the gift of time. Time to be reflective. Time to be introspective. Time to think about things. Political. Spiritual. Personal. At the same time, I was blessed to have two small but thoughtful books to discover and relish. To love. To need.

Rachel Hunt Steenblik researched Heavenly Mother full-time for the BYU Studies article "A Mother There: A Survey of Historical Teachings About Mother in Heaven". Using that research, she turned much of what she discovered and learned into tender and thoughtful poetry. Mother's Milk is a collection of her poetry, inspiring and lovely. I first read it months ago when I bought her book as an ebook. I read it quickly. Devouring her words in the middle of a sleepless night. In the morning I read some of my favorites to Rand. They are poems filled with love--filled with the love for and of a Heavenly Mother. I recently bought myself a physical copy of the book. It needed to be on my shelf. Off my shelf. On my nightstand. In my hands.  In my children's hands.

The Bearer

The Mother carried
our souls
I asked Her,
Were they heavy?

What the Mother Taught Me

Creation is 
more than
It is snow, birds, 
trees, moon,
and song.

Ashley Mae Hoiland not only illustrated Mother's Milk but she recently published her own book of essays, poetry and art. I've read One Hundred Birds Taught Me To Fly very slowly, savoring the gracious and beautiful introspections as Hoiland's faith grows and she is filled with love and understanding. I've marked passages. I've woken a snoring Rand to read him sections that especially resonate. Hoiland is an artist and a poet. Part memoir, part poetry, One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly is an important book. For those who are doubting. For those whose faith is strong. For those who want to love more deeply and better see God in the details of our lives and surroundings.

"I am looking to love better, and I believe there is a mother's heart eager to teach me."

Mother's Milk by Rachel Hunt Steenblik and illustrated by Ashley Mae Hoiland is published by BCC Press and released in July 2017.

One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly by Ashley Mae Hoiland is published by Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and released in November 2016. 

**I received a complimentary copy of One Hundred Birds Taught Me to Fly. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Anne of Green Gables - Book Review and Giveaway

I've always been a reader. The book that defined my childhood reading was Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery and the other books in the Anne series. I loved them. I read them over and over. I still have my original set, even though in 9th grade my dog ate the first chapter of the first novel. Since then, I have purchased additional copies of Anne of Green Gables. I've encouraged my children to enjoy Anne's story of resilience, intelligence and love. I was fortunate to marry a man who also loved Anne and is always willing to read another chapter to the kids each night or watch the marathon movies inspired by the novel.

If it's time for you to update your own Anne collection or if you're simply new to this masterpiece classic which still resonates with all, be sure to see the newest edition of Anne of Green Gables from Penguin Classics. Featuring a foreword by J. Courtney Sullivan and beautiful cover art from Siobhan Gallagher, this edition of Anne of Green Gables is absolutely lovely. There's definitely someone on your Christmas list (maybe even you) that needs this book under the tree on Christmas morning.


Enter to win your own copy of Anne of Green Gables by leaving a comment on this post. The post will be open to entries until Sunday, December 3rd at 11:59 pm MST. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on Monday, December 4th. US only.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery is published in this new addition by Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition and released November 14, 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book and the giveaway is sponsored by Penguin Classics. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Last Ballad : Book Review

Ella May worked the night shift at American Mill No. 2 and then came home to a small shack to take care of her four surviving children. It's a miracle that the four children haven't also succumbed to illness and exposure and starvation like her little Willie. She can never forgive herself for losing Willie.

As a single mother and a hard worker, Ella May is looking for something better or at least fair compensation and treatment for her efforts. She is drawn to the fliers announcing the union organizing rally in the next town and hitches a ride for the meeting. Inspired by the words of the union leaders and her own suffering, Ella May turns her anguish into song becomes a very public face to the movement. Only it's a movement with many powerful and dangerous enemies.

Ever since I read Wiley Cash's debut novel A Land More Kind Than Home, I have been a fan of his work. I'm drawn to Southern literature and his work encompasses much of the hardship and misfortune of the common working man/woman. The Last Ballad draws upon the true story of Ella May, a union fighter and single mother who simply wanted a better life for her children.

Cash does not shy away from the hard topics of alcoholism, violence, racism, privilege and poverty as well as the bitter battles between the mill owners and the unions. I found the novel very intriguing. Ella May is inspiring and noble in her cause as she joins with other union leaders from the North. Introducing a number of other characters to the story provides depth and richness to the overall picture. However, the ending is rather abrupt and I didn't feel like all of the characters and their stories were wrapped up satisfactorily.

Overall, Cash delivers again. The Last Ballad is a powerful novel paying homage to an American hero Ella May.

The Last Ballad is published by William Morrow and released in October 2017.

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lucky Boy : Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lies Jane Austen Told Me : Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Friend Request - Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

Love and Other Consolation Prizes : Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

When We Were Worthy

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

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

From the cover :

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

My thoughts :

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Almost Sisters - Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Almost Sisters is also a summer selection.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Some Books I Really Liked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo - Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Light We Lost - Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Heirs - Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

No Man's Land - Book Review

From the cover :

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

My thoughts :

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

An Unseen Angel - Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean - Book Review

From the cover :

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

My thoughts :

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Time to Read

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

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

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

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

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

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