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.**