Ella’s Book Nook #1

Hey, Quirky Bookworm readers! I’m so excited about Ella’s Book Nook on the blog! We have been working together the past few weeks to read and select books to review, including titles read in class. I had Ella write answers to a few questions so you get to know a little more about her.

Ella, 3rd grade

Question 1: What is your favorite subject in school? My Favorite Subject Is Science
Question 2: What is your favorite food to eat? Chicken Nuggets
Question 3: What are your favorite genres to read? Adventure Books
Question 4: What hobbies do you have? I like to play and talk to my friends
Question 5: What games do you like to play? Genshin Impact
Question 6: What is one of your favorite books? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Audiobook Review

Title: Mary Poppins
Author: P.L. Travers
Narrator: Sophie Thompson

It was okay, a bit lagging, I guess from the hand prints on the CD. (Copy was borrowed from local library.) It got annoying when it lagged, but I’m gonna be honest, it was a good audiobook. I’d give it a 5/5. I liked the story. The narrator was really good at reading the story. I COMPLETLY understood the story. DEFINITELY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK.

Parent note: I will be buying her own copy. She loved it. Sophie Thompson does an excellent job with the narration. When I had difficulty getting Ella to lay down at night, I would use this CD to get her to sleep. Her voice is very soothing.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (Ages 8-12)

It was a great book. My class had Chocolate Fever day on Friday. Wish I could do it again. We watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It’s the old version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’d give this book a 1000000000000/10. It’s so good. I wish I could read it again at my school. I will definitely read it again. My favorite part was when Violet chewed the gum and became a blueberry (a fat one). It made me laugh. I would recommend this book as well.

Parent note: Ella read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in class during quarter 1 of school, and didn’t just watch the movie. 😉

Ella is listening to…

Title: Endling #1: The Last
Author: Katherine Applegate
Ages 8-12

Endlings are a mythical doglike species that are being hunted to near extinction in the war-torn kingdom of Nedarra. Byx, the youngest member of her pack, believes it is up to her to save the Endlings.

Ella is reading…

Title: Meet Samantha (American Girl series)
Author: Susan Adler
Ages 8-10

From the publisher:

Samantha Parkington is an orphan who lives with her rich grandmother in 1904. There are many servants in Grandmary’s busy, bustling household, but there is no one for Samantha to play with. That’s why she’s so excited when Nellie moves in next door. Nellie has come to work so that she can send money back to her family in the city. Even though their lives are different, the two girls become good friends. One day Samantha discovers that Jessie, the seamstress, is leaving. No one will tell her why. So she and Nellie plan a secret midnight adventure to find out.

Title: Ramona’s World
Author: Beverly Clearly
Ages 8-12

From the publisher:

Ramona Quimby can’t wait to start fourth grade. With a new baby sister to brag about, new calluses to show off, and a new best friend to get to know, everything’s going to be great!

Or is it? When Ramona’s spelling is atrocious, her teacher, Mrs. Meacham, is firm about her needing to improve. Then a scary incident at a friend’s house leaves Ramona feeling at fault. Who knew growing up could be filled with such complicated situations?

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” L.M. Montgomery

My blog header today is one of my favorite quotes from L.M. Montgomery, writer of the famous Anne of Green Gables series. October is my anniversary month (11 years on the 1st!), and my birthday month. No, I’m not sharing my age, ha! I will say that I’m old enough to remember using the card catalog in the library, so there’s that.

If I could be anything other than a librarian, I would be a journalist. I have always had a fascination with journalism. I was senior editor of my high school yearbook and I love to write! Writing is very therapeutic to me, and also a way to connect with other people. I love to read crime blogs and posts. I will occasionally read news reports online, however, my absolute personal favorite is when reporters write memoirs or investigative journalism books. They are some of the BEST. I’ve very picky when it comes to writing at times, and these books just speak to my soul. I am providing lists from websites below of some that look amazing!

Right now, there are probably 40 books in a stack next to my bed, some I just glance through, others I read. I just read the latest one by Sally Hepworth, and I will write a blog post, once I get over the depression that was that book, SMH. One of my favorite authors crushed my high hopes.

Some of you saw my bookstack on Labor Day. I’m halfway through some of them. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr is a must! I just love her! I haven’t finished it yet, so I can’t write a fair review, but I will once I’m done. Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan is a most entertaining read that I’m making progress on. This was a Jenna Bush Hager Book Club Pick. It’s a perfect read for moms of any age. I also started Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. Oh goodness, this is going to take awhile to read. Joyce Carol Oates is one of those that writes creatively, and I have to be focused, in other words, not ready to fall asleep. I love her, I would just not count her a beach or light read. A beach read I would recommend, that I’m halfway through on as well, is The Turnout by Megan Abbott, who is an author I LOVE. Her psychological thrillers are always so sharp. This was also a Jenna Bush Hager Book Club Pick.

I’m also reading the Pulitzer Prize winner by Katharine Graham, Personal History, which is turning out to be all I expected, and more. Katharine Graham was the owner of The Washington Post for years, and so she has some good stories about all kinds of real life characters.

Eleni by Nicholas Gage. I just started this one today and it brings out all the feels. A mother sacrificed her own life during the Greek civil war in the 1940’s so her children could be saved and start a new life with their father in America. Gage was a top investigative reporter for The New York Times, and left his job in 1980 to investigate his mother’s story in Greece. If you are stuck with what to read next, and want a book based on a true story, I recommend beginning with this.

The Quirky Bookworm Recommends…

I wrote earlier about my love for books written by reporters, and even mentioned a few that I’m currently reading, so now I’m going to share a few lists I found online. I love to add books to my TBR, and lists are a great way to do that.

Penguin Random House selects their favorites. Click here for the list.

Are you a fan of Goodreads, and like book reviews from them like I do? Click here for a list of recommendations from fellow bookworms. The first on the list is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and yes, it is very well worth the read.

BookAuthority, a website that recommends top books based on leaders and celebs of our day, list some of their favorites here. Create an account to receive personalized lists to your inbox.

Celadon Books lists their recommendations. Click here.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo pt. 2

This week is my daughter’s last week of school and even though she isn’t ready for summer, I think I speak for all her teachers and myself when I say we are ready for a break. Two more half-days and she will be in 3rd grade. Crazy to believe. This past weekend we went to a Mary Poppins Tea. Mary Poppins sang and was practically perfect in every way, while Bert tried, but didn’t have the lyrics memorized, so I don’t believe this Mary Poppins had a jolly holiday with Bert. What would have been most entertaining for adults is to see how that played out behind stage afterwards.

My daughter is 8 so she is starting to get more into the preteen Disney selection (see Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo part 1), but still is young enough for the children’s books and movies if there is something that catches her interest. She loves Disney graphic novels and so if I want her to read, that’s what I choose from the library. You can also order copies from Amazon by searching “Disney Comics.” Click here for the selection.

In my previous Disney blog post, I discussed the Disney book website for teens. They do have several books to choose from for infants to adult. The website is organized by age and a search bar is available as well. Readers can also sign up to receive new Disney book alerts via e-mail. Click here to visit site.

Disney Products Our Family Loves

I love the Disney collection for newborns and toddlers. If you are looking for a perfect gift, this is a great place to start. I used to buy Ella the stuffed animals and bath toys, which was always a hit. I bought Mickey and Minnie large plush dolls and that is the two she kept after donating many of her stuffed animals. She also liked the Disney Baby series “Plush in Pouch” and kept Mickey Mouse. Click here to browse the infant and toddler Disney selection.

Mickey Mouse Plush in Pouch – Disney Babies – Small
Minnie Mouse Cuddleez Plush – Large – 23''

Ella always loved the swimwear and coverups. She has outgrown them starting this year, which makes this mama’s heart a little sad. The coverups have the option for name personalization, which is perfect for water park outings and school field trips. Disney swimwear is typically on sale. Click here for girls and click here for boys.

The Little Mermaid Cover-Up for Girls

Disney drinkware and mugs are a fun way to get your child to drink more water. Click here to purchase. Disney had a very nice set of Tsum Tsum dishes I bought when Ella was a toddler to encourage eating of healthy foods. They were her favorites. Disney now has a new collection, Disney Parks by Jerrod Maruyama, so if you splurge on anything for birthdays and holidays, this is a good choice. Click here to purchase.

Disney Parks Plate Set by Jerrod Maruyama

I love Hanna Andersson, which includes their adorable Disney collection. Note to moms: Hanna Andersson underwear is perfect for children with sensory issues. Mine did for a long time and she would only wear these. Click here to shop Hanna.

Hanna Andersson (@happyhannas) | Twitter

Kohl’s has a fabulous Disney line that includes clothing and toys for all ages. Click here to purchase.

Luca on Disney+

Luca was set to be released in theaters, but due to COVID will now be available on Disney+. I’m so looking forward to seeing this adorable movie for all ages about Luca and his best friend, Alberto, that takes place on the Italian Riviera.

Disney Story Realms

Disney has a new app out to encourage reading and Ella loves it. There is a subscription fee to access all the books and games in Disney Story Realms ($4.99monthly/$39.99 yearly). We did a trial and then subscribed. New books are added daily. App for ages 4-9. Click here for more information.

Cover art

Traveling to Disney soon? Click here for a Disney guide on visiting parks with your little ones.

Strong, Courageous Women

Good morning, readers! Happy Mother’s Day weekend! Today on the blog I am writing about strong women. I have always loved the quote, “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” I am hoping to raise my daughter to become a strong woman and I know several of you wish the same for your daughters as well. I love to read books about women that have fought hard for where they are in life and haven’t taken no as an answer because in the midst of raising a strong woman, I’m still figuring out how to fully be one myself. I’m hoping these books are an encouragement to you just as much as they are to me.

Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains: Chambers, Cassie

Title: Hill Women: Finding family and a way forward in the Appalachian Mountains
Author: Cassie Chambers
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: January 2020
Page Length: 304 pages

Cassie Chamber’s mother grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Her mother, Wilma, was the first woman in their family to leave the farm to attend college, which was always encouraged by Cassie’s grandmother. One of my favorite people in the book is her maternal Aunt Ruth. She wanted to attend college, but due to health reasons combined with needing to be on the farm, it was impossible for her to finish high school. Ruth could produce more on the farm than her brothers. She’s physically and mentally tough. Ruth worked odd jobs outside the farm in the community and took the money she saved to help send her sister to college. Cassie writes in the book that Ruth always remained strong outwardly, but wonders if she had difficulty coping internally with the fact that Wilma was able to receive an education to pursue a different job. Wilma attended Berea College, married a teacher’s assistant and they remained in Berea after graduation. I don’t want to spoil the book if you haven’t read it, however, I think the story of Ruth makes a lot of the book. Her grandmother also surprised me with how modern her thinking was for the time period by encouraging her daughters to attend school and work hard. She didn’t want them to be stuck in the mountains with lack of opportunities. She was a very smart women in that she knew not only how to manage a household, but also could take apart TVs and radios to fix them when needed. She didn’t read often because there was no time, but she listened to the radio frequently while doing household chores.

As a reader, I can tell that Cassie is still struggling about which world to belong in-the Appalachian mountains where opportunities are fewer due to location and way of life, and the Ivy League college she graduated from, that although full of possibilities, can seem intimidating when you are a second generation college student whose ancestors have primarily known life in the mountains. She writes about the close knit community she is from and that the people remain tough, hardworking and proud. She writes about attending an Ivy League college and adjusting to new social norms and how to dress for formal events. It seems that Cassie is coming to appreciate her family history more as she grows older and acknowledges how difficult it must have been for previous generations of women in her family to sacrifice their own dreams to earn a living. Cassie is an attorney who worked as woman’s advocate in the area for several years before turning to politics. She learned, as most of us do as we age, that people are afraid to leave the familiar and cross into the unknown, which means they can’t be forced to change. Leaving the mountains is leaving behind a whole way of life, family and community, that while may have its issues, is still in the realm of the familiar. Cassie decided to remain in Kentucky and currently lives in Louisville with her husband and son. She visits the Appalachian mountains often to see family. Hill Women is an encouraging read written by a strong woman about generations of strong women.

Author Interview - Cassie Chambers, author of Hill Women | BookPage
 Nathan Cornetet, Fusion Photography

From the author’s website:

Cassie Chambers grew up in Eastern Kentucky. Her earliest memories are of playing on her grandparents’ farm in Owsley County, Kentucky and exploring the campus of Berea College with her mother and father.

Cassie graduated from Yale College, the Yale School of Public Health, the London School of Economics, and Harvard Law School, where she was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a student-run law firm that represents low-income clients. Chambers then received a Skadden Fellowship to return to Kentucky to do legal work with domestic violence survivors in rural communities. In 2018, she helped pass Jeanette’s Law, which eliminated the requirement that domestic violence survivors pay an incarcerated spouse’s legal fees in order to get a divorce.

She is a lawyer and the current vice chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party. She lives in Louisville with her husband, Bryan, their dog, Brixton, and their cat, Spaghetti.
https://www.cassiechambers.com/

Further Reading:

Cassie Chambers on Hill Women and Finding Strength in Her Background
https://southernreviewofbooks.com/2021/02/04/hill-women-cassie-chambers-interview/

Cassie Chambers: Creativity, intelligence and grit in the Appalachian Mountains
https://bookpage.com/interviews/24755-cassie-chambers-biography-memoir#.YJVsrLVKgdU

Beyond Bootstraps: An Appalachian memoir that rejects the narrative of Hillbilly Elegy in favor of something more complicated
https://slate.com/culture/2020/03/cassie-chambers-hill-women-interview-hillbilly-elegy.html

Quirky Bookworm is reading:

Title: Maid: Hard work. low pay and a mother’s will to survive
Author: Stephanie Land
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication Date: January 2019
Page Length: 288 pages

I am halfway finished with Maid by Stephanie Land. I love her insight into the world of domestic housekeeping. Stephanie dated a man during the summer and became unexpectedly pregnant with her daughter. Shortly after, she and the man broke up and Stephanie found herself as a single mom with no formal education and in need of making a decent income. She writes about the brutal truth of being on government aid and the vulnerability and shame it brings. She shares the stories houses can tell about the people that live inside them based on messes left behind and objects scattered about. Stephanie had always wanted to be writer and how that dream was left behind for awhile. She, however, overcame the odds her writings are now published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and The Atlantic. Maid was on President Obama’s 2019 Summer Reading List and Amazon’s and The New York Time’s Top 100 Books of the Year. Maid is set to premiere on Netflix later this year and will star Andie MacDowell and her daughter, Margaret Qualley. Click here to purchase.

Title: All The Single Ladies: Unmarried women and the rise of an independent nation
Author: Rebecca Traister
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: October 2016
Page Length: 368 pages

I am really looking forward to reading All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister, who discovered that singlehood for women is not new and has been a growing trend for decades. Statistics show that only 20 percent of women marry by 29 in today’s society, compared to 60 percent in 1960. Traister looks at the history, economics, friendships and lifestyle of single women. Single Ladies is a New York Times Notable Book of 2016, Best Books of 2016 selection by The Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, NPR and Chicago Public Library. Rebecca lives in New York with her family and is also the award winning author of Big Girls Don’t Cry. She has been a contributor for The New Republic, Salon, The Nation, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Vogue, Glamour and Marie Claire. Click here to purchase.

Title: Memorial Drive: A daughter’s memoir
Author: Natasha Trethewey
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: July 2020

Page Length: 224 pages
Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey has been on my TBR list for a few months. I discovered the book when I was compiling a list for Black History Month. Natasha writes about tragically losing her mother at the age of 19 in this intimate memoir. She writes of grief, love and loss and also how her mother’s legacy of resilience shaped her to be the prize winning author she is today. Natasha is a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Grolier Poetry Prize, and Pushcart Prize. She teaches creative writing at Emory University. Click here to purchase.

Title: The Right Kind of Strong: Surprisingly simple habits of a spiritually strong woman
Author: Mary A. Kassian
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 2019
Page Length: 224 pages

I discovered The Right Kind of Strong at the public library over this past week. I’m always wondering what does it mean to be a strong woman according to the Bible. Does this mean I have a “I can do it all by myself with no support, thank you very much” or does it mean maybe seeking advice from wise family members and friends? How much is asking too much? Award winning author Mary A. Kassian answers these questions based on Paul’s writings in 2 Timothy to the women in the church of Ephesus. Mary writes about how to develop healthy friendships, managing our emotions, confessing our sins, controlling our minds by taking every thought captive, embracing our human weaknesses, live out what we are learning, developing confident convictions and rely on the Lord. Mary Kassian was a professor at Southern Baptist Seminary for several years, and is now a women’s speaker and award winning author of Girls Gone Wise. Click here to purchase.

Title: The Women of the Bible Speak: The wisdom of 16 women and their lessons for today
Author: Shannon Bream
Publisher: Broadside Books
Publication Date: March 2021
Page Length: 256 pages

The Women of the Bible Speak caught my attention on NetGalley a few weeks ago. I was looking for a Christian book that would speak about the lives of women and I looked up reviews, which were positive. Shannon writes about 16 women of the Bible and how their lives are able to inspire us today. The Women of the Bible Speak by Shannon Bream is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a Fox News Book selection. Shannon is currently host of Fox News @ Night and the network’s Chief Legal Correspondent. Click here to purchase.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo

Our family loves Disney and I’m willing to bet yours does too! We’ve taken Ella, my 8 year old daughter, to The Magic Kingdom for the day a few times. She loves the characters, parades, and a few of the rides. Her favorite part of the experience one year was dressing up as a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. If you haven’t done so with your little one, it’s worth it and the Disney staff work so hard to make it a special day. We aren’t going to be visiting Disney Parks this year, instead, we are bringing the magic to our house! The Quirky Bookworm invites you, dear reader, to come along as I share new Disney entertainment and products that will help bring Disney magic to your home as well.

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She’s so little! Why can’t it last?

When Will My Life Begin?

If you are a mom of a preteen/teenager, they have more than likely outgrown the Disney magic specially curated for children 6 and under. A Twisted Tale Series is here to help with that in between slump. Each book asks a question about the Disney fairytales we all know and love. For example, what if Rapunzel’s mother drank a potion from the wrong flower, or what if Meg had to become a Greek god? Authors take these classic tales and do a twist (ha!) so each story receives a more grownup ending. Click here to order a copy for the teen in your life, and you may even want a copy yourself! Would you like to browse additional Disney YA novels? Click here. Collection includes Marvel and Star Wars.

Unbirthday A Disney Twisted Tale Alice in Wonderland Review

Click here to visit the Planning for Teens, Tweens and Older Kids Disney Parks website for resources on creating an itinerary that is special for them!

My daughter will be 9 this summer so she’s turning into a preteen herself. We have movie nights where we watch favorites on Disney+. She still loves Mary Poppins and 101 Dalmatians, which reminds me that THE Emma Stone will be starring as Cruella de Vil this summer. We. can’t. wait. Our newest mother/daughter tradition is to make a trip to the Dollar Store, where I buy popcorn and candy, then we sit at home on our huge L shaped couch and watch a favorite movie. Cruella will be available in theaters or at home on your Disney+ app starting May 28, 2021.

Ella has never been on the Jungle Cruise at Disney World, but I have as a kid growing up in Orlando. This was always one of my favorite rides. Dwayne Rock and Emily Blunt star in this live action film based on the classic Disney ride. Jungle Cruise is set to debut in theaters on July 30, 2021.

Do you have teens that are into Marvel? Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour and Rachel Weisz star in Black Widow, set to debut in theaters on July 9, 2021.

Click here for more Marvel series and movie release dates!

Click here for Star Wars movies and TV upcoming release dates!

Ryan Reynolds stars in Free Guy as a bank teller who finds out that he is a character in a video game. The film is directed by Night of the Museum’s Levy.

Part of Your World: Disney Accessories for the Teen(s) In Your Life

Need cool Disney shirts for a trip or just because? Click here to browse The Family Shop and click here to follow them on FB.

Photo: The Family Store Website

What girl doesn’t love purses? Snatch one of these cute crossbody passport bags from Hot Topic for her summer vacations and outings. Click here for additional bag designs, starting at $14.90.

Loungefly Disney Mickey Mouse Sweets Passport Crossbody Bag

Calling all Disney Chefs! The Unofficial Disney Parks Cookbook by Ashley Craft is a must have for your collection! Her cookbook has received over 6,000 rave reviews on Amazon! Click here to purchase.

Box Lunch features Loungefly Disney Cats mini backpack. Click here to purchase.

Loungefly Disney Cats Yarn Allover Print Mini Backpack

Disney bracelets by Lokai are available with designs including our favorite characters- Lilo & Stitch, Mickey & Minnie, Woody & Buzz, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Click here to purchase.

Silicone beaded bracelet with Lilo and Stitch pattern

Kohls Disney Line has hundreds of products for kids, teens and adults! Click here to visit the website.

Junior teen in fall outfit
Kohls Website

Visit Vera Bradley for exclusive Disney designs and merchandise. Choose from bags, purses, wallets, blankets and more. Perfect for your teen that would like their Disney collection to look older. Click here to shop.

Disney Collection-Vera Bradley
Vera Bradley website

These are a steal at just $10 each. Cute nickel-free Mouse earrings. Click here to purchase.

PYC Pick Your Color  Nickle-Free Mouse Ear Earrings image 0

Disney has a Star Wars collection that may be a hit with your teen. Click here to shop t-shirts, swimsuits, pajamas and more!

Galactic Snackin' Grogu – Star Wars: The Mandalorian – Pre-Order

Visit Amazon to purchase Disney coloring books for your family. Many designs are for teens and adults. Click here to shop.

My daughter LOVES makeup. These ColourPop Disney collections are a perfect buy for your makeup obsessed preteen/teen! Click here to shop.

Elsa

Thank you for reading my blog today! I will have a part 2 in the Disney series later this week for the little ones in your life! Happy reading and shopping!

Spring Fever

Hello, Dear Readers!! Happy Spring! I am so glad the sun is shining and we FINALLY have warmer weather. We are now getting ready for summer vacations and arranging schedules with activities so our sweet children won’t drive us to tears by asking every five minutes, “What is there to do? What is there to eat? Can we go somewhere?” While I can’t help with summer scheduling, what I CAN help with is summer reading lists for the whole family. Oh yes, my friends, I am making my child read an hour a day this summer. It is happening. This isn’t one of those, “I will think it, but won’t actually do it.” I refuse to let her brain melt by allowing her to stare at screens 12 plus hours a day. I’ve picked out books, podcasts, audio books and the list keeps on going. I am here to help and you can always e-mail me your suggestions and/or questions @ brittanyschick23@gmail.com. I would love to hear your ideas on books for summer!

One idea is to check your local library for summer reading programs by visiting their website or calling. Librarians are there to answer your questions, so never be afraid to ask! Sometimes public libraries will have reading programs where your child is able to earn prizes based on the amount they have read over the summer. Ella and I are joining Colleyville Public Library’s reading program for adults, teens and children. Yes, all ages are eligible to earn prizes, even you Mom! The program begins May 24th. For Quirky Bookworm readers that live in my area of FW and would like to participate, click here.
Please note: Books read for the Colleyville Public Library Summer Program must be checked out at CPL. Keep copies of your library receipt to show proof when claiming a prize. You are able to participate even if you are not a resident. Register your home library card at the CPL front desk.

Need lists of books based on age for summer 2021? Visit Imagination Soup, a blog created by Melissa Taylor, a former elementary school teacher, literacy trainer and award winning writer. Book lists are arranged by age and genre.

I will also be posting kids podcasts to my FB page. I recently posted Julie Andrew’s Library and my daughter has been listening on the way to school. Download these selections wherever you listen to podcasts.

Ladies, when you get a chance, scroll down to the end of this blog post for one of my most favorite book lists to date that is just for you!!!! I’ve got new book information on some of your favorites-Riley Sager, Grady Hendrix, Megan Miranda, Mary Kubica and more!!! Yay for summer reading!!! Quirky Bookworm tip-visit your local online library catalog and if a book has not yet been released, but already ordered by the library, you can sometimes place a hold in advance. Call your local library for additional details.

Quirky Bookworm Has Been Reading…

I have been hearing about Jenny Lawson for the past several years now via friends, college students, TV, etc. and so, I was very fortunate and thankful to receive a free copy of Lawson’s most recent book release, Broken (in the best possible way), through NetGalley. Many of you may know Jenny as The Bloggess.

Title: Broken (in the best possible way)
Author: Jenny Lawson
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Length: 304 pages
I didn’t know what to expect when reading Broken. Would I like her sense of humor? Would it be too harsh? Not only was I surprised by how much I loved her, but also surprised at how much I learned about her life and her struggle with anxiety. Lawson’s anxiety is so intense that there are many times where she is unable to leave her home. She hides in bed unable to face the world around her. She writes of hosting her book signing in NYC, and unable to leave the hotel after her engagement due to being overwhelmed. She watched people go by outside the window. Lawson writes “Becoming my own friend is hard and a struggle, but it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself,” (Lawson, 2021, Broken).
I found her writing to be relatable for those that struggle with anxiety and depression, which I myself do. I know what it is like to want to hide away and not leave a room, to practically pass out before needing to speak before a large group of people and the anxiety of having to talk to a stranger on the phone. This is a must read if you struggle yourself with anxiety and/or depression, or know a loved a loved one who does. Purchase a copy here. Want to hear more about Jenny Lawson? Click here to read her blog and for additional book titles.

How May I Offend You Today?: Rants and Revelations from a Not-So-Proper Southern Lady by [Susannah B. Lewis]

Title: How May I Offend You Today: Rants and Revelations from a Not-So-Proper Southern Lady
Author: Susannah B. Lewis
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: October 2020
Length: 224 pages

Oh Susannah, you’ve done it again! I love her writing and have been following her FB page for years. She talks so openly and honestly about her life. Her writings do include Biblical passages and she is honest about her faith, but not from a judgmental, preachy way that is off putting. I started following her shortly after having Ella. I saw a funny video on FB and clicked over to her page. I really liked how she not only saw humor in everyday life and situations, but also at her ability to laugh at herself. In her most recent book release, How May I Offend You Today, she writes about how we take ourselves too seriously at times. Reading her books is like chatting with a close friend. Click here to visit Susannah Lewis’ website.

HOT AUTHORS, HOT SUMMER: QUIRKY BOOKWORM PICKS FOR SUMMER 2021

HOT, NEW THRILLERS FROM YOUR FAVORITES!

Hostage: A Locked-Room Thriller by [Clare Mackintosh]

The Hostage by Clare Mackintosh will be available June 22, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

A Slow Fire Burning: A Novel by [Paula Hawkins]

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins will be available August 31, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

Such a Quiet Place: A Novel by [Megan Miranda]

Such A Quiet Place by Megan Miranda will be available July 13, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

Local Woman Missing: A Novel by [Mary Kubica]

Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica will be available May 18, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

Not a Happy Family: A Novel by [Shari Lapena]

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena will be available July 27, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Guilt Trip: A Novel by [Sandie Jones]

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones will be available August 17, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

Survive the Night: A Novel by [Riley Sager]

Survive the Night by Riley Sager will be available June 29, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Final Girl Support Group by [Grady Hendrix]

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires) will be available July 13, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Drowning Kind by [Jennifer McMahon]

The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon is out now and is an Amazon Editor’s Choice for Best Mystery, Thriller and Suspense! Click here to purchase and read a summary.

The Therapist: A Novel by [B. A. Paris]

The Therapist by B.A. Paris will be available July 13, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

For Your Own Good by [Samantha Downing]

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing will be available July 20, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth is available now and an Amazon’s Editor Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller and Suspense! Click here to order and read a summary.

The Turnout by [Megan Abbott]

The Turnout by Megan Abbott will be available August 3, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Maidens: A Novel by [Alex Michaelides]

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (The Silent Patient) will be available June 15, 2021. Click here to pre-order and to read a summary.

Dark Roads: A Novel by [Chevy Stevens]

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens will be available August 3, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Stranger in the Mirror: A Novel by [Liv Constantine]

The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine will be available July 6, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

Malibu Rising: A Novel by [Taylor Jenkins Reid]

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid will be available June 1, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Lost Apothecary: A Novel by [Sarah Penner]

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner was named #1 Most Anticipated Book of 2021 by Oprah, Bustle, PopSugar, Betches, Sweet July, Good Housekeeping, HELLO! Magazine and Newsweek. It was a #1 Indie Next Pick and #1 Library ReadsPick. Click here to purchase and read a summary.

OUR ALL TIME FAVORITE CLASSIC BEACH AUTHORS

Where the Grass Is Green and the Girls Are Pretty: A Novel by [Lauren Weisberger]

Where the Grass is Green and the Girls Are Pretty by Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada) will be available May 18, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

That Summer: A Novel by [Jennifer Weiner]

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner will be available May 11, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Newcomer: A Novel by [Mary Kay Andrews]

The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews will be available May 4, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

Golden Girl by [Elin Hilderbrand]

Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand will be available June 1, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

Family Reunion: A Novel by [Nancy Thayer]

Family Reunion by Nancy Thayer will be available May 4, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Summer of Lost and Found (The Beach House Book 7) by [Mary Alice Monroe]

The Summer of Lost and Found (The Beach House Book 7) by Mary Alice Monroe will be available May 11, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Stepsisters: A Novel by [Susan Mallery]

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery will be available May 25, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

No Way Out: A Gripping Novel of Suspense by [Fern Michaels]

No Way Out by Fern Michaels is available now! Click here to order and read a summary.

Meant to Be: A Novel by [Jude Deveraux]

Meant to Be by Jude Deveraux is available now! Click here to order and read a summary.

The Path to Sunshine Cove: A Novel by [RaeAnne Thayne]

The Path to Sunshine Cove by RaeAnne Thayne is available now! Click here to order and read a summary.

Blush by [Jamie Brenner]

Blush by Jamie Brenner will be available June 22, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

The Break-Up Book Club by [Wendy Wax]

The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax will be available May 18, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

If you liked Where The Crawdads Sing…

The Girls in the Stilt House: A Novel by [Kelly Mustian ]

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian is available now! Click here to order and read a summary.

Learning to Speak Southern: A Novel by [Lindsey Rogers Cook]

Learning to Speak Southern by Lindsey Rogers Cook is available June 1, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

All the Little Hopes: A Novel by [Leah Weiss]

All The Little Hopes is Leah Weiss’s second novel, which debuts July 27, 2021. Click here to pre-order and read a summary.

Call Your Daughter Home: A Novel by [Deb Spera]

Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera is available now and was featured on Oprah’s Summer Reading List for 2019. Click here to order and read a summary.

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger was published in May 2020. Click here to order and read a summary.

The Quirky Bookworm Celebrates Black History Month 2021

Happy February, readers! I am so excited to share books with you today that celebrate Black History month. This week is going to be cold, especially for us Texans, so it will be a perfect time to curl up with a good book. If you would like to read additional books to celebrate Black History Month, view a list of websites at the end of this blog post. Happy reading and stay warm, dear readers!

President Barack Obama and the former First Lady, Michelle Obama, each have their own memoirs, giving an inside look at their life behind the public eye. Fans of audiobooks will be pleased to know that the memoirs are narrated by the famous authors themselves.

Title: A Promised Land
Author: Barack Obama
Publication Date: January 2020

A Promised Land is President Barack Obama’s first volume about his life and time in The White House as President of the United States. A Promised Land is an NAACP Image Award Finalist, a #1 New York Times Bestseller and named one of the Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post, Marie Claire, The Guardian and NPR. Purchase a copy here.

Title: Becoming
Author: Michelle Obama
Publication Date: November 2018

Becoming is an Oprah’s Book Club selection, an NAACP Image Award Winner and a #1 New York Times Bestseller. The Netflix documentary based on the book was nominated for an Emmy. Michelle Obama’s memoir is simply stunning.
Click here to purchase a copy. To read about her new, upcoming Netflix series, Waffles+Mochi (March 16), that encourages healthy eating for children, click here.

I have been selecting books during the past few months for college students by reading lists from Buzzfeed, PopSugar, and Publishers Weekly. I have scrolled through hundreds of blogs and various publication websites. The next book on the list is what I believe to be a treasure and a must read for any American history class.

Title: The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song
Author: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Publication Date: February 16, 2021

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. tells his personal story of the safe haven the Black Church has provided for him. Gates covers five centuries of the Black Church and its impact on the Black community, beginning with the time of slavery to present day.
Click here to visit the PBS site and to purchase a copy of the book. The Black Church documentary is hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and airs on PBS Tuesday, February 16th and Wednesday, February 17th.

I love Jenna Bush Hager’s Book Club. One of her most popular picks to date is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

Title: The Vanishing Half
Author: Brit Bennett
Publication Date: June 2020

The Vanishing Half is a novel about twin sisters who grew up a small, southern Black community. One sister stays in the same small town raising her daughter. The other sister secretly passes for white, marries and keeps her past hidden from her white husband. The story takes place from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. The Vanishing Half is a #1 New York Times Bestseller, chosen as one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of the year and named a Best Book of 2020 by TIME Magazine, Vanity Fair, People, Glamour, NPR and The Washington Post.

Click here to purchase a copy and click here to read author Brit Bennett’s Black History Month book selections for 2021. For additional Jenna Bush Hager’s Book Club selections, click here. The Vanishing Half is set to be adapted into a HBO miniseries. No release date has been announced at this point, as it is still in production.

Angie Smith has made herself a household name with her book, The Hate U Give. The author has a new book debut, Concrete Rose, which is the prequel to The Hate U Give. Her books are perfect for teens and adults.

Title: Concrete Rose
Author: Angie Thomas
Publication Date: January 2021

Maverick Carter is responsible for taking care of his mom while his dad is in prison. He follows in his dad’s footsteps by dealing for the gang, King of Lords, which is the only way he knows how to provide for his family. His life becomes more complicated when he becomes a dad at the age of 17. Purchase a copy here.

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Smith
Publication Date: February 2017

Starr is torn between two worlds-her fancy prep school and the poor neighborhood where she lives. She experiences tragedy when she witnesses her best friend, Khalil, being fatally shot by a police officer. Protests begin and everyone in Starr’s life has questions as to what really happened that night.
The Hate U Give was chosen as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a William C. Morris Award Winner, a National Book Award Longlist, a Printz Honor Book and a Goodreads Choice Awards Best of the Best. Purchase a copy here. Click here to rent the movie on Amazon Prime or watch with a Hulu subscription.

My next book selection for the blog post is a collection of essays written by some of the most popular authors for youth that address the challenges of being young and Black in America today.

Title: Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America
Editor: Ibi Zoboi
Contributors: Rita Williams-Garcia, Justina Ireland, Nic Stone, Jason Reynolds, Leah Henderson, Lamar Giles, Tracey Baptisite, Brandy Colbert, Ibi Zoboi, Liara Tamani, Tochi Onyebuchi, Kekla Magoon, Dhonielle Clayton and Varian Johnson

Title: Between the World and Me
Author Ta-Nehisi Coates
Publication Date: 2015

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is an intimate, powerful letter from a father to his teenage son about what it means to be Black in America. He writes from his own experience and others. Between the World and Me is a National Book Award Winner, named a must read by Toni Morrison, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, a National Book Critics Award Finalist and named One of the Best Books of the Decade by CNN.

Click here to purchase a copy and click here to listen to the podcast based on the book. A documentary special is available on HBO for current subscribers.

Title: The Coming Race Wars: A Cry for Justice, from Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter
Author: William Pannell
Publication Date: June 2021

The Coming Race Wars was a controversial book when it was originally published in 1993 after the Los Angeles riots. Many critics regarded William Pannell, author and Fuller Seminary theologian, as an “alarmist.” Pannell updates his 1993 publication to tie in with current events and speaks openly about his love for the church, which he believes need to take a deeper look at institutional racism and unjust systems still going on today. Click here to pre-order.

Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club has become increasingly popular the past few years. My next book is one of her selections.

Title: I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Author: Austin Channing Brown
Publication Date: May 2018

Austin Channing Brown writes about her experience as a young, Black female in America during a time when nearly all institutions claim to be diverse, but are failing. Brown found out at the tender age of 7 that her parents named her Austin so employers would think she was a white man. Her stunning and intimate memoir details her experience navigating racial divide and assisting organizations to practice genuine inclusion. I’m Still Here is a New York Times Bestseller and a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection. Click here to purchase a copy and click here to view additional selections from Reese Witherspoon.

My next book is a selection from the Book Club Queen, Oprah Winfrey. I have read so many books from her list and have never been disappointed. I can’t wait to read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, the Pulitizer-Prize winning author of Warmth and Other Suns.

Title: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent
Author: Isabel Wilkerson
Publication Date: August 2020

Wilkerson writes about the unspoken, powerful caste system that has always existed in history by linking America, India and Nazi Germany. Caste is a look at how hierarchy influences human lives and the nation today.
Caste is a #1 New York Times Bestseller, an Oprah’s Book Club selection, a #1 Nonfiction Book by TIME Magazine and chosen as One of the Best Books of the Year Award by People, NPR, The Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, Smithsonian Magazine, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Slate and several others. Click here to purchase copy and click here to read about the upcoming special on Netflix. To learn more about Caste, view the Oprah’s Book Club special on Apple TV.

I enjoy choosing fiction books for our students to encourage the love of reading. This next book is based on the true story of one of the first Black female doctors in America.

Title: Libertie
Author: Kaitlyn Greenidge
Publication Date: March 30, 2021

Libertie Sampson is born during the Reconstruction-era in America. Her mother encourages Libertie to become a practicing physician so they can run a joint practice in the future. Instead of listening to her mother, she marries and moves to Haiti, with the promise that she will be her spouse’s equal. Libertie arrives on the island only to find out that she is considered an insubordinate to her husband and the men in Haiti. Libertie is a story of one young women’s journey to find freedom for herself.
Libertie is named one of the most anticipated books of the year by: Refinery29, O Magazine, Buzzfeed, The Rumpus, Harper’s Bazaar, Publishers Lunch and more. Click here to pre-order.

Title: Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice
Author: Bryan Stevenson
Publication Date: September 2018

Lawyer and social advocate, Bryan Stevenson, writes about the wrongfully imprisoned and his fight for their freedom. Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults) is perfect for teens.

Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight For Justice (Young Adult Adaptation) is a Kirkus Review Best Book of the Year, was a feature on CBS This Morning and selected as a New York Public Library Best Book of the Year. Click here to purchase a copy. Just Mercy was adapted into a movie starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. Click here to learn more and to watch the movie via Amazon Prime. Stream for free with a HBO subscription. To visit the Equal Justice Initiative website, click here, and to view Stevenson’s TED Talk, click here.

Title: She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman
Author: Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Publication Date: November 2019

My first presentation as a student was in the 4th grade. I was assigned to research Harriet Tubman and I loved it, so when I read about She Came to Slay on a blog list, I had to order a print copy for the college students. She Came to Slay includes photos, commissioned illustrations, an expansive timeline of Harriet Tubman’s life, and details about her impact on the Underground Railroad. Critics refer to She Came to Slay as “a powerful mix of pop culture and scholarship.” Click here to purchase a copy and click here to watch an interview with the author, Erica Armstrong Dunbar, provided by the 20th annual National Book Festival, which is hosted by the Library of Congress.

Title: Somebody’s Daughter
Author: Ashley C. Ford
Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Ashley C. Ford, co-host of HBO’s Lovecraft Country Radio and a TIME 100 Talks correspondent, writes the story of her childhood in her upcoming memoir, Somebody’s Daughter. Ford would like a healthy relationship with her father, who spent most of her childhood in prison for a crime she didn’t know about as a young girl. In her memoir, Ford writes about living in poverty, the complicated relationship with her mother and a personal, traumatic life event that changed how she viewed the world around her, including the relationship with her father.
Somebody’s Daughter is named by journalists as One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2021 and is an Oprah’s Book Club selection. Ford is one of the most important voices in the Black community for her generation. Her works have appeared in The Guardian, ELLE magazine, Buzzfeed, Slate, I-D, Matter Magazine, Ladies Home Journal and several other publications. She is currently the host of PROFILE by Buzzfeed News. Click here to purchase a copy.

Title: Just As I Am: A Memoir
Author: Cicely Tyson
Publication Date: January 2021

Cicely Tyson was one of the most legendary actresses in the world. She described what her memoir meant to her:
Just As I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.” –Cicely Tyson

Ms. Tyson, you will be dearly missed.

Click here to purchase copy of her bestselling memoir.

Click the following links below for additional lists of books to read in celebration of Black History Month and, of course, year round. Happy reading!

What to read during a pandemic and a crazy election?

Hello, dear readers! It has been a long time since I’ve posted on my blog. I’ve made a few posts on my FB page, if you follow me there. Thanks to COVID, this past summer was one of the longest summers my family has ever experienced. I am relieved to say that our lives are somewhat back to normal, or should I say a new normal for living in a pandemic. My daughter is back to school and she was thrilled to go. I was at home several months with her working from home, which was an unexpected blessing. She is back to church activities twice a week and I am now back to work on campus every other week. The family member most excited about all of us being home together was our dog, Sophie. She is now completely spoiled. I took her to the groomer a few months ago and she had a separation anxiety attack because she wasn’t used to being away from all 3 of us for more than 5 minutes. I got a call from them soon after dropping her off that she was done and ready to be picked up.

I, like so many other dear readers, had a difficult time focusing on reading during the height of the pandemic. I was busy with helping my daughter do school from home and had my own anxiety from feeling trapped inside. Once I felt less trapped, I could read more with ease. I did have a difficult time writing. It felt like temporary writers block. However, the good news is that I am back and ready to share some of my favorite reads with you. I have been keeping track still on my Goodreads page.

Title: The Kitchen House
Author: Kathleen Grissom
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: February 2010
Format: Paperback
Length: 369 pages

The Kitchen House is one of my favorite novels I’ve read this year. I had this book on my shelf for several months because I was not sure I would like it, but I’m so glad I gave the book a chance. Lavinia, the main character, arrives as a young Irish orphan to work on a tobacco plantation in the kitchen house. Lavinia eventually finds herself torn between the family of the plantation and the slaves she works with.

The Kitchen House gave me, the reader, an idea of what it would have been like to be working on the plantation and the pressures faced from the master’s family. I could sense the awkwardness and strain Lavinia felt being in the two very separate worlds. She doesn’t want to abandon the slaves that raised and cared for her. Her love for the slaves on the plantation is palpable in the novel.

Kathleen Grissom does an excellent job in writing historical fiction. Fans of southern fiction will enjoy this novel. Her inspiration for her work came from the plantation her family purchased and restored in Virginia. For more information on the author, visit her website here.

Title: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: September 2013
Format: Hardcover
Length: 372 pages

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is Fredrik Backman’s second novel, after A Man Called Ove. The novel is not fast paced or full of action. Instead, it is a beautiful story of a young girl dealing with grief for the first time. Elsa feels different from her friends and is tormented by bullies at her school on a regular basis. Elsa’s grandmother is her whole word and is to Elsa, a superhero that tells her magical stories and takes her on crazy adventures. When Elsa’s grandmother dies, Elsa goes on a treasure hunt that reveals to her the true magic of her grandmother, and the power of healing and forgiveness.

Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a perfect read during this time in our country. Many of us feel grief as we are losing our old way of life and for some of us, people that we love due to COVID. Our children are experiencing grief as some of their normal childhood is lost, and I think Backman expertly depicts what that is like in the novel.

For more information about Fredrik Backman, click here.

Missing Daughter by Rick Mofina

Title: Missing Daughter
Author: Rick Mofina
Publisher: MIRA
Publication Date: 2019
Format: Paperback
Length: 512 pages

I LOVE this psychological thriller. This book stayed with me for days after reading it. The Lane’s daughter goes missing and the family does everything they can to find her. They reach out to family members and friends. Phone records are searched, every person involved in their daughter’s life is interviewed by detectives, polygraphs are given and tracking dogs are brought out to the woods behind the family’s home. Years pass with no leads and no sign of their daughter. This novel has so many twists and turns. I slowly read because I wanted to savor every word, and towards the end I had to put the book down a few times because it was so much. Missing Daughter is a must read for those that love psychological thrillers.

Five out of five bookworms. Excellent read!

About the author…

From the author’s website:

Rick Mofina is a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row, flown over Los Angeles with the LAPD and patrolled with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Arctic. He’s also reported from Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, Senegal, Egypt, the Caribbean, and Kuwait’s border with Iraq. His true-crime freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Telegraph (London, U.K.), Reader’s Digest, Penthouse, Marie Claire, The Moscow Times and The South China Morning Post, (Hong Kong). He has written more than 20 crime fiction thrillers that have been published in nearly 30 countries, including an illegal translation produced in Iran.

His work has been praised by James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Louise Penny, Tess Gerritsen, Jeffery Deaver, Sandra Brown, James Rollins, Brad Thor, Nick Stone, David Morrell, Allison Brennan, Heather Graham, Linwood Barclay, Peter Robinson, Håkan Nesser and Kay Hooper.

As a two-time winner of Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award, a four-time Thriller Award finalist and a two-time Shamus Award finalist, the Library Journal calls him, “One of the best thriller writers in the business.” 

Rick Mofina lives in Ottawa, Canada.
Read more at his website, www.rickmofina.com

Mended hearts and fun reads for spring

Happy Monday! Today on the blog I have four books written by strong women. They have faced challenges and have come out on the other side willing to share their story to help other women. I hope you find encouragement from them just as much as I did. You can check out my additional reads on my Goodreads page by clicking on the link located on my blog homepage or click here.

Title: The Beauty of Broken: My Story and Likely Yours Too
Author: Elisa Morgan
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2013
Format: Paperback
Length: 256 pages

Elisa Morgan, the previous CEO of MOPS International for 20 years, shares her personal story. Morgan writes how we have bought into the myth of the perfect family, when in reality there is no family that is perfect. She writes “We all come from a broken family because God’s family is broken. The thing is, this isn’t the tragedy we assume. Broken is right where God wants us-and right where he can powerfully reassemble us,” (p. 30). She writes about her family’s struggles with alcoholism, drug addiction, infertility ,adoption, teen pregnancy, abortion, divorce, homosexuality and death. Morgan is relate-able in her writing and I found encouragement as a mom.

Five out of five bookworms. Excellent read!

About the author…

From the author’s website:

Elisa Morgan was named by Christianity Today as one of the top fifty women influencing today’s church and culture and is one of today’s most sought-after authors, speakers, and leaders. She has authored more than twenty-five books on mothering, spiritual formation, and evangelism, including The Beauty of BrokenHello, Beauty FullShe Did What She Could: Five Words of Jesus That Will Change Your Life, the NIV Mom’s Devotional Bible. Her newest release is The Prayer Coin: Daring to Pray with Honest Abandon

Her blog, Reallyplatforms both Elisa’s voice and the voices of a myriad of women who are committed to living out their influence in real life.

For twenty years, Elisa Morgan served as CEO of MOPS International (www.mops.org). Under her leadership MOPS grew from 350 to over 4,000 groups throughout the United States and in thirty other countries, influencing over 100,000 moms every year. Elisa now serves as President Emerita.

Elisa received a BS from the University of Texas and an MDiv from Denver Seminary where she now serves on the board. As a co-host of the syndicated radio program Discover the Word Elisa offers a daily fifteen-minute real-time conversation around the written and living Word of God. She also writes regularly for the Our Daily Bread Devotional. She is married to Evan (Founder and President of christianuniversity.org) and has two grown children and two grandchildren who live near her in Denver, Colorado. Wilson and Coach, her Rottie-wannabes, take her on walks in the open space behind her house.

Connect with Elisa on Instagram (elisamorganauthor), Facebook and Twitter (@elisa_morgan).

Title: Beautifully Broken
Author: Kimberly Jones-Pothier
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication Date: 2015
Format: Paperback
Length: 136 pages

Kimberly Jones-Pothier, a pastor and speaker, shares her testimony in Beautifully Broken. God called Jones-Pothier to be a pastor from a young age. She was raised in an evangelical family that was legalistic. Women were not allowed to sing, preach, wear jewelry, or slacks. She rebelled and didn’t want to be part of religion. God allowed healing in her life that eventually allowed Jones-Pothier to fulfill her dream of becoming a pastor. She shares how the broken pieces of our life and our trauma can be used to fulfill God’s will in our life. She has experienced rejection, abandonment, and divorce. She tells her story in a way that provides the opportunity for the reader to experience her own sense of healing. I have been following her FB page and have found encouragement as a believer.

Five out of five bookworms. Excellent read!

About the author…

From the author’s website:
Kimberly Jones‐Pothier, known as Real Talk Kim, travels the world fulfilling her passion and purpose of loving people back to life. 

She is a wife, mother, pastor, entrepreneur, best-selling author, entertainer and most importantly a worshiper after God’s own heart. Pastor Kim and her husband Mark Pothier are the Senior Pastors at Limitless Church in Fayetteville, Georgia and together have four sons.

She is a human rights advocate with a passion for giving back and believes in the compassion of the Holy Spirit, delivering it to those who need it most. Pastor Kim is an advocate partner with Rock Paper Scissors Foundation, a Non-profit Organization, which exists to foster healing and give a voice to those who have been silenced from all forms of abuse and human trafficking.

Pastor Kim has been featured on The Doctor Oz Show, Oxygen’s Network Series’ Preachers of Atlanta, Your World with Creflo Dollar on BET, ABC’s Nightline, The Word Network, CNN, Praise in the Park’ Atlanta and numerous magazines and radios shows. She is truly a living and walking testimony of God’s redemption plan in action. Follow her on FB and visit her website, RealTalkKim.com

Title: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 2006
Format: Paperback
Length: 288 pages

Jeannette Walls shares her story of growing up in extreme poverty with parents that were eccentric. Her father was incredibly smart and well read on various academic subjects, but could not keep a job for long periods of time. The family was constantly moving and at times were homeless. Her mother had a degree in education and was a skilled artist, but refused to get or keep a job. She would rather spend all day working on her art. Walls and her three siblings were forced to take care of each other. Her years of growing up with an eccentric family was both a blessing and a tragedy. The Glass Castle is an amazing story of determination. Walls shares her family story in a beautiful way-not out of anger or bitterness, but of forgiveness and learning to understand what made her parents the way they were.

Five out of five bookworms. Excellent read!

About the author…

From the author’s website:
Jeannette Walls graduated from Barnard College and was a journalist in New York. Her memoir, The Glass Castle, has been a New York Times bestseller for more than six years. She is also the author of the instant New York Times bestsellers The Silver Star and Half Broke Horses, which was named one of the ten best books of 2009 by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. Walls lives in rural Virginia with her husband, the writer John Taylor.

Title: Girl Meets Change
Author: Kristen Strong
Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Company
Publication Date: 2015
Format: Paperback
Length: 224 pages

Kristen Strong writes about the stresses of expected and unexpected change in her book, Girl Meets Change. She writes about the several seasons of change that have been part of her life. The three stages of change according to Strong are acknowledgement, acceptance and adapting. Change can be a way for us to draw closer to God and allow Him to grow us an individual. Her book is filled with practical advice for women in how to deal with the changes life brings. She doesn’t preach or write in a condescending way-just as an encouragement for women that find themselves in difficult seasons life and are experiencing loneliness and heartache.

Five out of five bookworms. Excellent read!

About the author…

From the author’s website:

I’m Kristen, and I’m so happy to meet you. I’m wife to a U.S. Air Force Veteran, mama to three delightful teens, and your change mentor, belonging helper, and all around listening friend. I write to offer you fresh air encouragement for every season of your life by helping you see your specific season through the filter of God’s care and provision. I love to write stories that help you make sense of your own and help you see your season with more hope and less worry.  Visit Kristen’s website, Chasing Blue Skies.

Spring is around the corner…

Y’all, I am ready for spring. I want warmer weather and days where the sun is out longer. While the weather may not be our best friend right now, I have some authors that write lighthearted novels that will help chase away with winter blues.

Mary Kay Andrews
Robyn Carr
Dorothea Benton Frank
Jane Green
Elin Hildebrand
Debbie Macomber
Hannah McKinnon
Mary Alice Monroe
Wendy Wax

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author: Kim Michele Richardson
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: May 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 308 pages

I didn’t know much about the novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, before I began reading it. A coworker of mine mentioned it was a good read and then I read a few good reviews. I didn’t know the book was based on true events that occurred in the Appalachian mountains during the Great Depression. Eleanor Roosevelt started the Pack Horse Library Project (part of the New Deal) in the 1930’s to provide reading material to citizens living in the Appalachian mountains in Kentucky. Librarians would travel at least twice a month to deliver reading materials donated by large cities in the U.S. By 1936, librarians were delivering to at least 50,000 families and over 100 schools. The Pack Horse project ended in 1943 due to the end of the Works Progress Administration, however, in 1946 motorized bookmobiles began making the journey to deliver reading materials to remote locations.

Goodman-Paxton Photo Collection, Kentucky Digital Library

(Information found at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/horse-riding-librarians-were-great-depression-bookmobiles-180963786/ ) For additional information, click here to listen to an interview done by NPR where they ask a prior Pack Horse Librarian, Mary Ruth Dieter, questions about her experience.

Kim Michele Richardson was born and resides in Kentucky. She researched information about the Pack Horse Librarians and residents of the Appalachian mountains while writing the novel. She discovered that there was a population of residents near Ball Creek and Troublesome Creek that had blue skin. Martin Fugate, a French orphan, came to Kentucky to claim land and married a local resident. They had 7 children, 4 of whom were blue. Neither Martin nor his wife were blue, but both happened to carry the same blue-blood recessive gene. Richardson writes “Congenital methemoglobinemia is due to an enzyme deficiency, leading to higher-than-normal levels of methemoglobin in the blood-a form of hemoglobin…”(The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, p. 288). The Fugate family faced discrimination due to their skin color, which Richardson addresses in the novel as the main character, Cussy Mary Carter, is a Fugate.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a historical fiction novel that does a great job in telling the history of the Pack Horse Librarian project. Cussy Mary Carter, a Pack Horse Librarian, faces many dangers on her route-wild animals, dangerous men and unpredictable weather to name a few. She loves her job and is willing to take the risk. Her father worries about her and her future once he passes away. Cussy tells her father she is fine and can take care of herself. She doesn’t believe she will ever marry as she is a Fugate and has spent most of her life being discriminated against.

The novel can move slow at times, but overall was a really good read. I enjoyed learning about the Pack Horse Librarians and about the hardships people faced living in the Appalachian mountains. I recommend Book Woman of Troublesome Creek to readers that enjoy historical fiction.

Five out of five bookworms-Great read!

About the author…

From the Goodreads site:

Kim Michele Richardson lives in Kentucky and resides part-time in Western North Carolina. She has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, building houses, and is an advocate for the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence, partnering with the U.S. Navy globally to bring awareness and education to the prevention of domestic violence. She is the author of the bestselling memoir The Unbreakable Child, and a book critic for the New York Journal of Books. Her novels include, Liar’s Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field and The Sisters of Glass Ferry. Kim Michele currently finished her fourth novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek about the fierce and brave Kentucky Packhorse librarians. Coming Spring, 2019. Click here to visit the author’s website.

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel

Title: A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana
Author: Haven Kimmel
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: 2001
Format: Paperback
Length: 275 pages

A Girl Named Zippy is a fun memoir that I found while browsing the biography section at my local library. Haven Kimmel (born Susan Elizabeth Jarvis) writes about her memories from K-5th grade growing up in Mooreland, Indiana, a small town of 300 people. The memoir is humorous and witty as she writes about her surroundings from a young girl’s perspective. Kimmel’s mother struggles with depression and her father with alcoholism. She brings light to the family with her sense of humor and quirkiness. Kimmel’s sister, Melinda, was 10 and her brother, Daniel, was 13 when she was born. Kimmel writes in the book “My mother always cheerfully refers to me as “an afterthought,” which I consider a term of immense respect and affection, in spite of Melinda’s attempts to convince me otherwise,” (p.4). Kimmel had a big heart growing up. Her sister competed for Mooreland Fair Queen and Zippy emptied her piggy bank so Melinda would receive the most votes. Kimmel writes “The queen was decided by a process called “a-penny-a-vote,” which was modeled on democracy but confused with capitalism, and thus was successful, as processes go,” (p. 46). She spent time with her father fishing and went to church with her Mom every Sunday, even though she didn’t really want to go. She would hide her shoes and little pink Bible in an attempt to delay the process of going to church. If you loved the character Ramona Qumiby created by Beverly Clearly, you will love Zippy. A Girl Named Zippy was a #1 New York Times Bestseller and chosen as a must read by The Today Show’s book club.

five out of five bookworms
Haven Kimmel in her hometown of Mooreland, Indiana

About the author…

Haven Kimmel was born in New Castle, Indiana, and was raised in Mooreland, Indiana, the focus of her bestselling memoir, A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana .

Kimmel earned her undergraduate degree in English and creative writing from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and a graduate degree from North Carolina State University, where she studied with novelist Lee Smith. She also attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana.

She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Title: The Sound of Gravel
Author: Ruth Wariner
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: 2016
Format: Hardcover
Length: 336 pages


The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner is a memoir that truly stays with you long after you’ve finished reading the last page. Wariner grew up in Colonia LeBaron, a polygamist community in Mexico. Her grandfather founded the colony and her father, considered to be a Mormon prophet, helped with the church by recruiting members. Wariner’s father died when she was only three months old. Her mom remarried a man named Lane so he could support her children in LeBaron. Her mother was a devout Mormon and wanted all of her children to have polygamous marriages. Wariner’s stepfather was sexually and verbally abusive. He was not able to provide support for all of the children he fathered so the family grew up in poverty. Their house at LeBaron lacked modern conveniences such as running water and electricity. Wariner would shake mouse droppings off her pajamas before getting dressed. Her mother continued having children with Lane. Wariner helped with her younger siblings and when her mother passed away tragically, Wariner escaped LeBaron at the age of 15 with the assistance of another wife of Lane’s and her oldest brother. She took her three young sisters with her and raised them on her own.

Ruth Wariner’s mom and her siblings
Ruth Wariner with her sisters on her wedding day

The memoir is powerful and shows the strength Wariner had to leave the community she grew up in. She writes honestly and openly about her past. One of the most devastating parts of the memoir to me is when her mother escapes to her hometown in California and then decides to return to him when he shows up one day at the house. The kids become well adjusted to a good school across the street from their maternal grandparents, her daughter is getting assistance for medical issues and she is able to make it on her own living in a rental down the street from her parents. Wariner’s mom decides that the best decision is to stay with Lane and continue raising her kids at LeBaron.

Favorite Quote: I knew that my life would never be happy if all it amounted to was having several children by a shared husband. I couldn’t understand how love or adoration could be possible in that kind of arrangement, and I desperately wanted those. But I also knew that it wasn’t enough to want them. You had to know how to get them. Mom couldn’t teach me that because she didn’t know herself. She couldn’t show me how to be happy, only how to barely survive. ( The Sound of Gravel, p. 258)

five out of five bookworms

For more information about Colonia LeBaron and the history of polygamy, click here to visit Ruth Wariner’s site.

Click here to listen to Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love of Moxie podcast with guests Ruth Wariner and her cousin, Anna LeBaron, author of The Polygamist’s Daughter.

Ruth Wariner and her husband

About the author…

From the author’s website:
RUTH WARINER is an internationally renowned speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir THE SOUND OF GRAVEL. At the age of fifteen, Ruth escaped Colonia LeBaron, the polygamist Mormon colony where she grew up, and moved to California. She raised her three youngest sisters in California and Oregon. After earning her GED, she put herself through college and graduate school, eventually becoming a high school Spanish teacher. She remains close to her siblings and is happily married. The Sound of Gravel is her first book. www.ruthwariner.com


Coming of Age

Happy Saturday readers! I hope your weekend is going well so far. I had Friday afternoon off yesterday and spent time with my daughter. I’m now at work and thought I would catch up on my blog since it is not busy. I spent time this week going through my Goodreads to-read list. I deleted books that I know I’m never going to get around to reading and also tried to list one book per author so my list isn’t so overwhelming. You can follow me at https://www.goodreads.com/bschick

I have two books today that I am going to review and they are what I would label as coming of age. These type of books usually get mixed reviews. Some readers really enjoy them while others do not. I can understand both sides. My first book is Without Merit by Colleen Hoover and the second isFirefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. Most of you have probably heard of Firefly Lane. I have read this book twice-once as a young single woman and just recently as a married mom of a daughter.

I can tell you that I spent most of my childhood reading, which I am sure is not surprising to any of you that know me well outside of the blog. My mom would drop me off for a few hours at the local library in 4th/5th grade and I would spend hours reading. Connie, the children’s librarian, would always talk to me and recommend books that I might like to read. I don’t regret spending a lot of time reading. I think it helped me in school and helped me learn about the world around me. I remember reading the Nancy Drew series (still one of my favorites), the Ramona series, Babysitters Club, Trixie Belden mystery series, Judy Blume novels, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I was so obsessed with reading that I would take my literature textbook home and read all the stories in it. My 4th grade teacher read Harriet the Spy outloud to us in class and I asked for her copy to take home so I could read it. It’s another one of my all time favorite novels.

The library in Waxahachie, TX where I spent most of my childhood reading. The building is gorgeous.

If you are a fan of Colleen Hoover, then you may have heard of Without Merit. The ladies that I am in a FB group with recommended Hoover as an author to read. I love her writing and can’t wait to read more novels written by her.

Title: Without Merit
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: 2017
Format: Hardcover
Length: 385 pages


Merit is overwhelmed by all the emotions that come with being a teenage girl. She lives with her dad, stepmom, and two teenage siblings. The family lives in a church converted to a home with the basement being used as a separate living quarter for her biological mom that nevers leaves due to a severe anxiety disorder. She doesn’t understand the real reason behind her parent’s separation, why her brother always acts so weird and Merit has a strained relationship with her teen sister, Honor, the one child in the family that seems to always have her act together. Merit meets a guy she likes, but is unsure of starting a relationship with him. She has a breakdown due to all the emotions running through her which leads to all family secrets being revealed.

Without Merit is a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I thought Colleen Hoover did a great job of capturing what it feels like to be a teenager and not being able to process adult situations at times. Her emotions cause her reality to be skewed. The characters have quirky names which I thought added to the book. The book is a little edgy, which I like. If you are a fan of YA fiction, you will love Without Merit.

Favorite quote from the book: “Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.”

five out of five bookworms

About the author

From the author’s website:

Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of nineteen novels and novellas. Hoover’s novels fall into the New Adult and Young Adult contemporary romance categories, as well as psychological thriller. 

Colleen Hoover is published by Montlake Romance and Atria Books. Colleen also has several indie titles, including her most recent novel, Verity.

In 2015, Colleen’s novel CONFESS won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance. That was followed up in 2016 with her latest title, It Ends With Us, also winning the Choice Award for Best Romance. In 2017, her title WITHOUT MERIT won best romance.

Her novel CONFESS has been filmed as a series by Awestruck and is available on Go90.com. Katie Leclerc and Ryan Cooper star in the series.

Learn more at www.colleenhoover.com

Title: Firefly Lane
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 2008
Format: Hardcover
Length: 479 pages

I recently read Firefly Lane for the second time. The novel first captured my attention as a young adult because of the close friendship between Kate and Tully. They spent time sneaking out of their houses and riding bikes together. I had close friends that I grew up with and some of my favorite memories are of us riding bikes together. There was a creek behind the neighborhood I grew up in and I would ride my bike over it to visit a best friend. We remain close today even though our lives have taken us different places.

Kate and Tully are close friends and go through several stages of life together. Tully betrays Kate and the friendship becomes strained, but Kate is able to forgive even though she still feels a little insecure around Tully. Tully remains single and focuses on her successful career as a reporter. Kate begins her life after college working for the same news station as Tully and finds love at work. She marries and becomes a stay at home mom.

I view the novel differently as a woman in my thirties than I did as a young woman in my twenties. I appreciate the relationship between Kate and Tully so much more. Friends go through different seasons of life and the ability to remain close to each other takes work. They both show an amazing amount of forgiveness to each other and support each no matter the consequence. Both women are so strong in their own ways. Each time I have read the book, I thought Tully needed more development as a character. She came so far in the novel by escaping her difficult past and becoming successful. I thought she needed her own successful relationship with a man in the novel as well. I started the sequel, Fly Away, but haven’t finished. I’m glad that Hannah decided to further develop Tully’s character.

Favorite quote from the book: “To make real friends you have to put yourself out there. Sometimes people will let you down, but you can’t let that stop you. If you get hurt, just pick yourself up, dust off your feelings, and try again.”

five out of five bookworms

Firefly Lane is being developed as a Netflix series and will be released in 2020.

About the author

From the author’s website:

Kristin Hannah is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, Winter GardenNight Road, and Firefly Lane.

Her novel, The Nightingale, has been published in 43 languages and is currently in movie production at TriStar Pictures, which also optioned her novel, The Great Alone. Her novel, Home Front has been optioned for film by 1492 Films (produced the Oscar-nominated The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to direct.

Kristin is a former-lawyer-turned writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. Her novel, Firefly Lane, became a runaway bestseller in 2009, a touchstone novel that brought women together, and The Nightingale, in 2015 was voted a best book of the year by Amazon, Buzzfeed, iTunes, Library JournalPasteThe Wall Street Journal and The Week.  Additionally, the novel won the coveted Goodreads and People’s Choice Awards. The audiobook of The Nightingale won the Audiobook of the Year Award in the fiction category.

Learn more at www.kristinhannah.com

What I’m watching now…

Virgin River is based on the romance novel series by Robyn Carr. A nurse practitioner moves to a rural town in California to start life anew. Available to stream on Netflix.

A documentary about Navarro College cheerleaders in Corsicana, TX and their fearless coach, Monica Aldama, whose Navarro cheer squads have won Grand Nationals 5 times and 14 National Cheer Association Junior College National Championships. Available to stream on Netflix.

Safe is a British mini-series created by author Harlan Coben. A surgeon’s daughter goes missing one night in an affluent neighborhood after a teen party. What he learns about his community is shocking. Available to stream on Netflix.

A little bit of family drama mixed with a little bit of mystery

My two latest reads I have to share with you today are perfect if you are into family dramas and cozy mysteries. I’m also going to be sharing with you where I go to read about books online. I love to learn about what other people are reading.

Title: The House We Grew Up In
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: 2014
Format: Hardcover
Length: 388 pages

I have heard so much about Lisa Jewell from other readers that I decided to grab a copy of her book at Half Price. The family in this book is a little quirky, but it’s what makes for good drama. The mom is very eccentric and is hiding secrets of her past. Secrets that spill over to the next generation until all four children are carrying the burden of their mom’s past as well as their own. Jewell writes from the perspective of the mom and grown children. I don’t think this is the most popular out of Jewell’s writings, but it was enough to keep me interested to read more of her works. This read is perfect if you are into family drama with idiosyncratic characters.

Photo Credit: Jascha Gordon

About the author

From the publisher’s page:
Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found YouThe Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.
https://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Lisa-Jewell/75656043

Title: Because You’re Mine
Author: Colleen Coble
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2017
Format: Paperback
Length: 336 pages

I didn’t know Colleen Coble was a Christian writer until I was halfway into the book. I am a believer myself and will confess I don’t read much Christian fiction. I was surprised by how much I loved this book. I thought it was a worthwhile read. I loved Alanna, the main character. I wouldn’t say the book is an edge of your seat thriller, it’s more like a cozy mystery. I recommend if you love Agatha Christie, Rhys Brown, and Lillian Jackson Braun.

About the author

From the author’s website:
Best-selling romantic suspense author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 4 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Visit her website at www.colleencoble.com.

Where do I read about books?

On FB:
Women Reading Great Books It’s a private group so you will have to request to join.
The Fussy Librarian Book reviews

Anytime I find a new author, I follow their FB page to keep with new works and also to read what others are saying about them.

Online:
Book Browse book blog with reviews and find additional books that match your interests by typing in one of your favorite authors or titles.
Book Riot book blog that keeps up with the latest publishing news. I also follow their FB page.
P

Across the Pond

Hi readers! I hope your holidays were fabulous. I spent mine with family, friends, good food, received many nice gifts and of course, made time for reading. This year my goal as a reader is to actually start and FINISH a series. If you’ve been on my blog before, you know how bad I am at this. We will see how this goes. I’ve chosen the Outlander series and have completed reading the first book. New Year’s goals are usually something I break, but this year I am determined to follow several of mine through. I will let you know at the end of the year how I did.

I have to brag on my Doxie for a minute. I spend so much time playing and walking with her. She’s only six months so she doesn’t sit still enough to be a reading buddy yet. I’ve wanted a tiny dog my whole life to take care of so the fact I have one now is just bliss. How can you say no to this innocent face???? You just can’t.

I subscribed to PBS Masterpiece, Lifetime Movie Club and BritBox on Amazon Prime over the break. Here is what I have found so far that I recommend…

Sense and Sensibility by the BBC is just SO GOOD. It was my favorite series that I watched over the holidays. The acting was superb. The series stars Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, and Dan Stevens.

VERA is about a witty British detective created by author Ann Cleeves. A few seasons are available through BritBox. If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, you will love VERA.

Cranford is a Masterpiece drama about two spinster sisters and their young female houseguest living in a small England town. The series stars Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins.

The Durells in Corfu is a comedy series about a young widow who moves her family from England to the Greek island of Corfu. The series is based on memoirs written by Gerald Durrell.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. This classic is a must.

I read three books over the holidays and am going to write about two today that are popular.

Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Dell
Date: 1992
Format: Paperback
Length: 850 pages

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is a perfect read for those that love history, fantasy and romance. It is a perfect escape read. I love the characters of Claire Randall and James Fraser. It is obvious to me as a reader that Gabaldon spent hours studying Scottish history. There is so much detail in her novel. The romance scenes were beautiful without being too cheesy and overdone. I loved the bravery of Claire’s character. Picture of Outlander’s James Fraser below because it’s Monday. You’re welcome.



About the Author

From the author’s website:
Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, #1 NYT-bestselling OUTLANDER novels, described by Salon magazine as “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting ‘Scrooge McDuck’ comics.”

Dr. Gabaldon holds three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology.

http://www.dianagabaldon.com/

Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Thomas Egerton
Publication Date: 1811
Format: Hardcover

Jane Austen’s classic, Sense and Sensibility, is about two sisters who experience the perils of love-heartbreak, betrayal, and abandonment. As much heartbreak and anguish is to be found, the story ends on a happy note which is the trademark all Austen fans love.

About the Author

Jane Austen is the beloved English novelist that wrote Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. Her work is best known for satire and social commentary of 19th century England.

Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman

Happy Monday readers! We have nine days before it is Christmas Day. Nine. Have I finished holiday shopping? No. Have I started holiday shopping? That would also be a no. Sigh…We have one weekend left before the holiday so I guess you know what I will be doing. My 5 month old dachshund had surgery a few days ago and now has to wear a cone for the next week to keep the incision from getting infected. She will definitely be getting a visit from Santa.

Title: Every Secret Thing
Author: Laura Lippman
Publisher: AVON BOOKS
Publication Date: 2003
Format: Paperback
Length: 410 pages

I know I have several readers of my blog that love suspense. I highly encourage reading Laura Lippman. Every Secret Thing was my first novel that I have read of hers. If you aren’t into suspense novels that are really graphic, this one is perfect. Lippman writes a novel about two young girls that are accused of murdering an infant. After their release from juvenile detention, all secrets and lies are exposed. Lippman writes with detail and keeps the story in an organized timeline so it is easy to follow. The novel isn’t a fast paced, edge of your seat read or a psychological thriller. She is a perfect read for fans of Mary Higgins Clark. The novel was also turned into a movie featuring Diane Lane and Dakota Fanning.

About the Author

Photo Credit: Leslie Unruh

From the author’s website: Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working full-time and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. 

Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. For more information about Laura Lippman visit her website at lauralippman.net

The Prince of Tides

Is it just me or is this holiday season flying by? I have accomplished ZERO Christmas shopping, the Elf on the Shelf was four days late at our house, I still have to plan my daughter’s Christmas party for her class and decide what we are eating when my parents come over for Christmas morning. On the bright side, our carpet is going to be cleaned this Saturday, which for those of you that have seen it will understand how truly excited I am about this. Between the previous owners and our new puppy, it looks quite…ummm…decorated. Speaking of decorations, our Christmas decor is up so that is one thing I have accomplished for the holiday season.

Title: The Prince of Tides
Author: Pat Conroy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 1986
Format: Hardcover
Length: 567 pages

I finally have finished Prince of Tides. I have been wanting to read a Pat Conroy novel for years. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Prince of Tides. In some ways, I was hesitant to read it because it’s one of those books everyone talks about it, which sometimes means it won’t live up to my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by his writing. I think if I were ever to have met Pat Conroy I would have truly liked him.

Conroy had a really complicated relationship with his physically and verbally abusive Marine dad. If you have ever read about Conroy, you know this relationship is the focus of the majority of his writings. The Prince of Tides is about a dysfunctional family, the Wingos, who reside in South Carolina. The mother is what many would describe as a Southern Belle and the father is a shrimper. They have three children-two boys and a girl. The father is abusive and spends his hard earned money on ideas for business, truly believing he is an entrepreneur, which leads to poverty for the family. Viewed as outcasts by the town, the children must learn to cope with their father and everyday life. The book moves between past and present. Tom Wingo, the narrator, will be forced to make peace with his past as an adult when his sister attempts suicide. Tom visits New York City to see Savannah in the hospital in hopes of helping her and while there he develops a relationship with her counselor.

Conroy eventually heals the relationship with his father. More can be read about this relationship in Conroy’s memoir, The Death of Santini. If you read Conroy’s works, you will see that the fathers depicted in his novels are never pure saints or pure evil. They come across as real, as human, with their own scars from the past. In The Prince of Tides, Conroy writes, “If Henry Wingo had not been a violent man, I think he would have made a splendid father.” One has to wonder if that is how Conroy views his own father.

About the Author

Photo Credit: Jennifer Hitchcock

Pat Conroy (1945 – 2016) was the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs and seven novels, including The Prince of TidesThe Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. Born the eldest of seven children in a rigidly disciplined military household, he attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. He briefly became a schoolteacher (which he chronicled in his memoir The Water Is Wide) before publishing his first novel, The Boo. Conroy lived on Fripp Island, South Carolina until his death in 2016.
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6942.Pat_Conroy

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Title: The Postmistress
Author: Sarah Blake
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Format: Hardcover
Publication Date: February 1, 2011
Page Length: 371 pages

The Postmistress is a novel that allows a reader an easy escape. A journalist is assigned to cover the beginning of World War II in Europe. Her journey leads her to cross paths with citizens of Franklin, Massachusetts. There is a postal worker questioning whether she should deliver a letter to a grieving, expecting wife. The journalist, Frankie Bard, records stories of victims of war and reports via radio broadcast in the early morning hours which bothers the postmistresses conscious. The Postmistress is a beautiful novel on relationships and the choices made in them.

From the author’s website:

Sarah Blake is the author of Full Turn, a chapbook of poems, Runaway Girls, an artist book in collaboration with the artist, Robin Kahn, and three novels: Grange House; and the New York Times Bestsellers, The Postmistress, and The Guest Book. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, the poet Joshua Weiner, and their two sons.

sarahblakewrites.com

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth

Title: The Mother-In-Law
Author: Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Format: Hardcover
Publication Date: April 23, 2019
Length: 347 pages

I love Sally Hepworth’s style of writing. She writes from the daughter-in-law’s point of view and the mother-in-law’s point of view as well as other family members. The novel is a thriller in relation to the complications mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws have. Lucy desires a close relationship with a mother-in-law that keeps a distance from her. She knows she isn’t the ideal daughter-in-law according to Diana, a leader in the community who helps women in need. She doesn’t understand Diana’s behaviors and how closed off she is. Hepworth slowly reveals both sides of the story that shows both of their strengths and weaknesses. Her characters are so well developed.

From the author’s website:

Sally Hepworth is the USA Today bestselling author of six novels, most recently The Mother-In-Law (2019). Sally’s books have been labelled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s novels as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing”.

Sally’s novels are published in more than 20 territories worldwide.

​Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.

Author’s website:
https://www.sallyhepworthauthor.com/
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/sallyhepworthauthor/

YOU by Caroline Kepnes

Title: You
Author: Caroline Kepnes
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: September 30th, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 422



You by Caroline Kepnes is a witty, entertaining thriller with a character that is brilliantly creepy. A young man, Joe Goldberg, is in charge of running a NYC bookstore known for rare and used books. A beautiful young woman walks into the store one day and catches his eye. He follows her on social media, around the city and watches her every move through her apartment window. Beck, the unsuspecting victim, begins to fall in love with Joe who will do ANYTHING for her. This isn’t love, this is OBSESSION.

The story is narrated by Joe Goldberg which Kepnes did a brilliant job in creating. I was not able to put this book down. All of the main characters are dysfunctional and cause their own level of drama. The style of the book is different from any thriller I have read before.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

You is also available as a series on Netflix.

Photo Credit: Ace Photography

Caroline Kepnes is the author of You, Hidden Bodies and Providence. She lives in Los Angeles. Visit her website at http://www.carolinekepnes.com/author/

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Title: The Art of Racing in the Rain
Author: Garth Stein
Published by: Harper Collins

Publication Date: May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Length: 321 pages

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is one of my favorite books, which tells you it must be good because I am not a huge fan of dogs. I was honestly skeptical when I read this book several years ago. The only reason I read the book is because the library where I am employed has a copy and I decided one afternoon to read it after reading good reviews. The Art of Racing in the Rain is a charming novel that will bring you to tears. The point of view is told from the dog’s perspective which is what makes the book so entertaining. Since it has been several years since I’ve read the book, I’ve included a summary below from Goodreads.

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life … as only a dog could tell it.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3153910-the-art-of-racing-in-the-rain?from_search=true

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

Purchase the book here.

The movie adaptation is out in theaters now starring Milo Ventimiglia (Gilmore Girl’s and This Is Us) Amanda Seyfried, and Kevin Costner (voice of Enzo the dog).


From the author’s website:

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Seattle, Garth’s ancestry is diverse: his mother, a native of Alaska, is of Tlingit Indian and Irish descent; his father, a Brooklyn native, is the child of Jewish emigrants from Austria. Garth lives in Seattle with his wife and three sons. He got involved with “high performance driver education” in 2001, received his racing license with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and went on to win the points championship in the Northwest Region Spec Miata class in 2004. He left racing after a serious crash—while racing in the rain.

https://www.garthstein.com/

*BOOKS TO FILM 2020*
What books are being adapted into film? CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT.

What I’m Listening to Right Now…

The Dateline podcast was just released this year featuring current and classic episodes.

Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations podcast featuring selected interviews from the leaders of today.

What I’m Watching Right Now…

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star in Ozark, a Netflix series about a man who is a financial planner that is involved in a money laundering scheme gone wrong and has to move his family to make amends to a Mexican drug cartel.

Mindhunter is a Netflix series based on the true crime book, Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Serial Crime Unit, by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Two FBI agents delve into the minds of serial killers from the 1970’s and 1980’s.

AUGUST SHELF OF BOOKS…

Educated by Tara Westover

Title: Educated
Author Tara Westover
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: February 20th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 352 pages

I was not familiar with Educated by Tara Westover until I saw a coworker reading the book. I asked him what the memoir was about and he explained that it was about a young woman that was isolated from society and had never been educated. She decided to educate herself enough to pass the ACT and attend college at age 17. She eventually received a PhD in history from Cambridge. Intrigued, I decided to check the book out from the library. I was picturing a story similar to the “living off the grid” shows on TV. This was similar to that, but with a father that most likely had bipolar, was not taking medication and made poor decisions that nearly cost his children their life several times. The children were not allowed to be homeschooled by the mother or receive any medical care from doctors.

Buck’s Peak, Idaho
Photo Credit: Idaho: A Climbing Guide

Westover was born and raised in Idaho in a home that overlooked Buck’s Peak. Her mother is a midwife/herbalist and eventually became the main provider of the family. Interestingly enough, her father is very strict in traditional roles. Women are not supposed to work outside the home or receive any form of education. The couple was not raised in this strict traditional way. Both of their sets of parents allowed them to attend school and work. The father chose this life as a way to not answer to society, specifically the government. Westover did not have a birth certificate until she was 9. She does not know the day she was born, only that the year is 1986. The couple have 7 children and all helped the father in his junkyard. When not assisting their father, they assisted the mom in the home.

Tara Westover
Photo Credit: Hill & Aubrey

Westover writes a beautiful memoir where she leaves the “off the grid” lifestyle in favor of being a member of society. I listened to an interview with Westover hosted by Oprah Winfrey. She describes the book as “liberating” and I have to agree. Westover chose her own life and escaped the abuse from her past. Her older brother, named Tyler in the book, helped her escape by encouraging her to attend college. He told her all she had to do was learn enough from textbooks to receive a 27 on the ACT. After receiving a high enough score on the ACT, Westover attended Brigham Young University. She asked her college history class what the Holocaust was. Her professor thought she was trying to make a cruel joke, but she truly did not know. She was also not aware of the Civil Rights Movement. College was a struggle in the beginning not only academically, but socially as well. Several years went by until Westover was fully acclimated socially and she eventually had a steady boyfriend. She keeps in contact with three of her siblings and is estranged from the rest of her family, including her parents. Her parents believe she is a danger to the family and that she is possessed by a demon. When Westover was attending Harvard for her PhD, her parents visited. Her father attempted to do an exorcism on Westover. She writes, “I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me,” (Westover, p. 304).

Note: Educated has caused controversy among readers. Many reviewers are saying that the “off the grid” lifestyle is not unusual and are taking offense. I don’t typically read reviews of a book until after I am done reading so other’s opinions will not be a reflection of my own. The author, Tara Westover, is not, in my personal opinion, criticizing the “off the grid lifestyle.” She is speaking of her own experience in dealing with feelings of isolation in an abusive family. I don’t believe her experience would have been negative if not for the abuse and the lack of homeschooling/public education.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

Purchase the book here.

From the author’s website:

Tara Westover is an American author. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist and midwife. Taught to read by an older brother, her education was erratic and incomplete. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD in history in 2014.

Named Book of the Year by the American Booksellers Association
Winner of the 2018 Goodreads Choice Award for Memoir
Finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Award
Long listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
Finalist for the Leonard Award from the National Book Critics Circle Award
Finalist for the Autobiography Award from the National Book Critics Circle Award
Winner of the Audie Award for Autobiography/Memoir
Winner of the Audi Award for Best Female Narrator
(because Julie is fab)
Alex Award by the American Library Association
Finalist for the LA Times Book Prize
One of New York Times’s 10 Best Books of 2018
Amazon Editors’ #1 pick for the Best Book of 2018
Indigo #1 Pick for Best Book of 2018

#1 LibraryReads pick by American Librarians
Audible’s Best Memoir of the Year
Apple’s Best Memoir of the Year
Hudson Group Best Book of the Year
President Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of the Year list
Bill Gates’s Holiday Reading List

Author’s Website:

https://tarawestover.com/book

Additional readings/interviews on Tara Westover:

Interview with Ellen DeGeneres
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is635n6RNR0

Interview with Bill Gates
https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Educated

National Public Radio Interview
https://www.npr.org/2019/01/18/686527909/memoirist-retraces-her-journey-from-survivalist-childhood-to-cambridge-ph-d

Vanity Fair Interview
https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/02/tara-westover-memoir-educated-interview

Interview with Oprah Winfrey
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/tara-westover-educated/id1264843400?i=1000437295457

How to Not Get Away With Murder

Title: Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered
Author: Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 266 pages

I wish this book would have been available 10 years ago. THIS MEMOIR IS A MUST READ FOR TEENAGE AND COLLEGE WOMEN. Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered has a whole chapter on red flags to look for in relationships and not apologize for keeping yourself out of risk. “Little girls are taught to be polite, to smile pretty and sit up straight, to be nice and accommodating. And then those little girls turn into grown-ass women who’ve spent years being polite to the detriment of their own wants, needs and safety,” (Kilgariff and Hardstark, p. 29).

Kilgariff and Hardstark also discuss the cult of booze and the cult of perfection. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “But when you get older, you learn the shittiest, most ironic life lesson: “perfection” is not a guarantee for happiness,” (Kilgariff and Hardstark, p. 109). Amen, sisters.

If you have dealt with addiction, cults, wrong choices, bad relationships or have been caught in the cycle of abuse, this book is for you. Even though I haven’t experienced addiction with drugs or alcohol, I know what it’s like to sit still, look pretty and try to be perfect, but not feel good enough. Countless women have gone through this exact same experience. We need to break the cycle for our daughters, sisters and friends. We are worth more than that. YOU are worth more than that.

From the author’s website:

My Favorite Murder is the hit true crime comedy podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Since its inception in early 2016, the show has broken download records and sparked an enthusiastic, interactive “Murderino” fan base who come out in droves for their sold-out shows worldwide.

A top 10 regular on iTunes’ comedy podcast chart, My Favorite Murder has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, The Atlantic, Nylon and Rolling Stone magazine.

Aside from being avid true crime enthusiasts, Karen Kilgariff is a stand-up comedian and television writer and Georgia Hardstark is a writer and host for the Cooking Channel.

Find out more at https://www.myfavoritemurder.com/

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

Title: An Unwanted Guest
Author: Shari Lapena
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 290 pages

An Unwanted Guest is the cliche of murder mysteries. The setting is a cozy yet luxurious inn out in the middle of rural New York with no cell or internet service. The guests decide to arrive for their stay despite warnings of a huge blizzard over the weekend. The storm causes the power to go out, of course, and mayhem ensues. An Unwanted Guest reminds me of the game Clue. A little cheesy, but fun to play, or in this case, fun to read. I enjoy Shari Lapena’s thrillers, but I could also see her as an author of domestic fiction.

3 Bookworms (Good Read)

From the author’s website: Shari Lapena is the internationally bestselling author of The Couple Next DoorA Stranger in the House, and An Unwanted Guest. She was a lawyer and an English teacher before turning her hand to fiction. (Her newest book release, Someone We Know, is available starting today, July 30th.)
She lives in Toronto. Find out more at https://sharilapena.com/

Two Thriller Reads for Your Beach Bag

Late summer is here which is hard to believe. I’m in the process of trying to get my daughter ready for the new school year. We are finishing her summer reading assignment and purchasing school clothes the next few weeks. We haven’t vacationed anywhere this year, however, we have visited the community pool several times. I lay out in the sun and read or listen to podcasts while she swims. It’s perfect and we have so much fun. For those that are taking last minute vacations before the start of school, I have two thriller recommendations for your beach bag.

Adam seems like the perfect guy-handsome, smart and successful. The only problem is the other woman-his mother. She does not want Emily around and will do whatever she can to sabotage the relationship. Emily doesn’t realize what she is up against until it is too late. She is starting to believe she will never find the happiness with Adam that she deserves. The Other Woman is a perfect summer escape read with a surprise ending.

The Other Woman is Sandie Jones’ debut novel. I will definitely be reading more of her works as they are published. The novel was completely readable and I enjoyed all of the crazy characters. I could tell by her writing that she enjoys her career and that she loves to surprise her readers.

Photo Credit: Macmillan

From the author’s website:

Sandie Jones has been a freelance journalist for over 20 years, interviewing celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, Isla Fisher, Simon Cowell and Naomie Harris. Her debut novel, The Other Woman, is a psychological thriller about the destructive relationship between a woman and her partner’s mother. If Sandie wasn’t an author she’d be an interior designer as she has an unhealthy obsession with wallpaper and cushions! She lives in London, England, with her husband and three children. Follow her on Facebook.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

I have always enjoyed novels by Megan Abbott and this one doesn’t disappoint. Kit receives a highly coveted job at the Severin Lab. She would like to be on Dr. Severin’s research team that will be conducting PMDD research. Kit believes she will have no problem being selected as she works additional hours and always arrives to work before anyone else. The only problem is her high school BFF Diane. Kit and Diane share a secret that can ultimately destroy their careers. Diane is chosen by Dr. Severin to work for the lab and be on the team. The two seem close friends. Kit and Diane are now caught up in lies and deceit to keep their secret safe forever.

Abbott’s characters are always intriguing to me. She shows the dark side of humanity while at the same time revealing how everyday situations can become so complicated that it leads good people to making poor choices.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)
Photo Credit: meganabbott.com

From the author’s website:

Megan Abbott is the Edgar-winning author of the novels Die a LittleBury Me DeepThe End of EverythingDare Me and The Fever. You Will Know Me was chosen as one of Best Books of 2016 by NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston GlobeTime Out NY, the Washington PostGooglePublishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.

Her work has won or been nominated for the CWA Steel Dagger, the International Thriller Writers Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and five Edgar awards, Currently, she is a staff writer on HBO’s new David Simon show, The Deuce, and is adapting two of her novels for television and feature film.

Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan and received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She has taught at NYU, the State University of New York and the New School University. In 2013-14, she served as the John Grisham Writer in Residence at Ole Miss.

Visit Megan Abbot’s website.

Vladimir Nabokov and the Real Lolita

Title: The Real Lolita
Author: Sarah Weinman
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: September 11th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 320 pages

I have never read Lolita or any of Vladimir Nabokov’s other works. I didn’t know Lolita was based on a true story about the abduction of a young girl named Sally Horner in 1948. Around this time, Vladimir Nabokov was working on a novel that he was struggling to finish. Lolita was the novel that was almost not. Nabokov himself was a mysterious author. He didn’t want the real life inspiration he used for the novel to be traced or discussed in scholarly works. He also didn’t want his own life to be written about at length. Nabokov lived through daunting times in history including the Russian revolution and World War II. He certainly had his secrets.

Sarah Weinman bases her book, The Real Lolita, on her own research. She studied Nabokov’s works, writings, letters and diaries. She read the few biographies there on Nabokov and Lolita several times to try and make sense of what Nabokov was trying to say. I enjoy doing research on authors myself so I loved The Real Lolita. There is something fascinating about when an author uses real life stories or experiences in their work.

Weinman’s The Real Lolita focuses mostly on Sally Horner. Horner was kidnapped at the age of 11 in Camden, New Jersey, once considered to be the ideal American town. Now Camden has one of the the highest crime rates in the country. During Horner’s time, child molestation was not commonly discussed or even aware of by many people. When Horner’s mother received the call one afternoon from a man, who identified himself as a parent from Horner’s school inviting her on a family trip to the Atlantic City, she would most likely not have thought it could be a child predator intent to harm her child. The man, Frank La Salle, spied Horner in a department store a few weeks prior. He convinced her he worked with the FBI and would not tell her mom or the police about the notebook she stole from the store if she went with him. He did not take her at this time because she was surrounded by several friends that had dared her to steal the notebook. Instead, he called her mother and convinced her to bring Horner to the bus station. Horner didn’t want to get in trouble so she did as was told. Horner spent 21 months traveling with him around the country as he completely brainwashed her into staying with him. He convinced those living around them that they were father and daughter. A neighbor in Dallas, Texas was suspicious of their relationship. She convinces Horner to confess the true nature of her relationship with La Salle. The neighbor called the authorities for help and Horner was returned to her mother.

Sally Horner, age 9
Photo: Camden County Historical Society

Press releases all over the Northeast are given after Horner is found. Several years later, Horner is involved in a car crash and dies instantly. It is during this time that Vladimir Nabakov is following her story. According to Weinman, he is piecing together Lolita, which becomes a #1 bestseller on the New York Times List in 1958. Nabakov wrote several pieces that involved an adult man with a young female child, with Lolita being the most famous piece he wrote. Lolita is written as a romance novel as are his other works with a similar topic. Instead of seeing Humbert Humbert (Lolita’s captor) as the predator he is, Nabakov seems to encourage readers to have pity on him. One of the primary reasons Weinman conducted her research is to discourage readers from embracing his novel and works that are similar in content.

Weinman wonders why he focuses on this particular topic. After conducting thorough research, she finds that he had affairs with several of his college age students, but does not find any evidence that he abused children. The Real Lolita brings light to Sally Horner’s story and the truth about the cost of abuse done to children.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)
Sarah Weinman
Photo: CrimeReads

From the author’s website:

Sarah Weinman is the author of The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World, which was named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, BuzzFeed, The National PostLiterary Hub, and Vulture, and won the Arthur Ellis Award for Excellence in Crime Writing. She also edited the anthologies Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s (Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives(Penguin).

Weinman, currently a contributing editor and columnist at CrimeReads, has written for the New York TimesVanity Fair, the Washington PostTopic, New York, the New Republicthe Guardian, and Buzzfeed, among other outlets, while her fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and numerous anthologies. Weinman also writes the “Crime Lady” newsletter, covering crime fiction, true crime, and all points in between.

She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

https://www.sarahweinman.com/about/

Subscribe to the The Crime Lady newsletter Lady by Sarah Weinman
https://thecrimelady.substack.com/

Growing Up by Russell Baker

Title: Growing Up
Author: Russell Baker
Publisher: Plume
Publication Date: June 1982
Format: Paperback
Length: 278 pages

Russell Baker’s memoir, Growing Up, is a heartfelt memoir that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. Baker writes about growing up as a young boy during the Depression and his experience fighting in World War II as a Navy pilot. He was raised in poverty by a single mom for a majority of his childhood. He felt the pressure to be the “man of the family.” His family lived with aunts and uncles because that is the only way they could survive the Depression. Baker describes his relationship with his paternal grandmother, Ida Rebecca, a strong, domineering woman that raised 13 children in rural Virginia. She never accepted Baker’s mom, Lucy, and the two fought continuously over how to raise children. When Baker’s father passed away, Lucy moved her son and daughter to New Jersey to live with her extended family until their move to Baltimore. Uncle Harold and Aunt Sister, Ida Rebecca’s only daughter, lived in Baltimore as well in an apartment across the street from them. Uncle Harold was a huge influence in Baker’s life. He entertained Baker with stories about his time in the war. Lucy eventually met her second husband through Uncle Harold. Herb, Lucy’s second husband, was a good man who took care of the family. Baker was 14 when his mother remarried and he did not take to it kindly. He felt Herb was an intruder. Herb was a gentle, loving man who always had patience with Baker. He accepted Baker and ended up being a primary influence in Baker’s life. Herb purchased a home for the family in the 1940’s where his mother lived for 35 years.

Baker struggled in school and had no interest in the business world. His mother told him he would make a great writer, but he was embarrassed by his skill because he did not view writing as real work. Baker viewed writing as a skill for those that had other ways of making a living. Lucy didn’t think Baker “showed enough gumption.” She forced him into a job selling newspapers to help the family earn additional money. He didn’t think he would be good at sales. He complained to her once that the extra papers he was given weren’t selling and that people didn’t want to read the news anyways. His mother said, “For God’s sake, Russell, show a little gumption for once in your life. This is a world war. An idiot could sell newspapers today.” Another one of her favorite sayings was “The Lord helps those that help themselves.” He wasn’t able to collect money from clients that owed him for newspaper deliveries. Lucy became frustrated and collected every penny from them herself. She had no time for laziness or complaining.

Baker didn’t think he would be able to attend college due to lack of financial resources. One of his best friend’s from high school told him about scholarships. Baker tested into John Hopkins and was able to attend on scholarship tuition free. He eventually found success as a published author and journalist. His first Pulitzer Prize was for his column in the Observer. He was also a contributor for The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated, The Saturday Evening Post and McCalls.

Read more about Russell Baker here.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

Murder She Wrote

I haven’t blogged in over a month. Summer has been busy with my daughter’s schedule and I have been busy reading, of course. I read several thrillers/true crime books that I am excited to share about. If you haven’t noticed, I am a slow reader so takes me forever to finish a novel and then write a review. In between all of that is my everyday life plus I am always looking for new material to read. I have also been listening to several podcasts related to one of my favorite subjects-true crime. I’ll also catch you up on what I’ve been watching on Netflix. Don’t forget that Stranger Things premieres with new episodes on Thursday, July 4th!

Feel free to share your most recent reads in the comments and your own thoughts about the books I review!

Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: May 29th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 368 pages

I was not a huge fan of The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware so I wasn’t sure if I would like The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I ended up enjoying this mystery novel much more. Critics have called Ruth Ware this generation’s “Agatha Christie” which I can see why. Ware isn’t one of my all time favorite writers, but if I am looking for a good mystery her writing doesn’t disappoint.

Hal is a young woman who lives on her own and makes a living by being a fortune teller. She receives a letter one day that states she is the recipient of a large inheritance. Hal was not aware that she had family left. Her mother never mentioned family while she was alive and she does not know who her father is. She makes a visit to Trepassen house and soon has more questions than answers. Family secrets are here and she must figure out the mystery before her own life is at stake.

4 Bookworms (Great Read)

From the publisher:
Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children.

Find her on twitter at www.twitter.com/ruthwarewriter, on facebook at www.facebook.com/ruthwarewriter or via her website – www.ruthware.com

Title: An Anonymous Girl
Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 8th, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 375 pages

Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by Dr. Shields as a way to earn cash by answering a few questions. Farris finds herself entangled by Dr. Shields as she continues to visit and answer questions. Does Dr. Shields know more about Farris then she lets on? Farris’s guilt and paranoia continues to grow. Questions of morals and truth haunt her which leads her to realize she hasn’t truly left her past behind.

I enjoyed An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sara Pekkanen more than their debut novel together, The Wife Between Us. An Anonymous Girl is a stunning psychological thriller that will leave readers guessing until the very end and is one my favorite reads of the summer.

Five Bookworms (Excellent Read)

From the author’s website: Greer Hendricks is the #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of An Anonymous Girl and The Wife Between UsThe Wife Between Us has been optioned for film by Amblin Entertainment, with Greer and her co-author, Sarah Pekkanen, hired to write the screenplay. An Anonymous Girl has been optioned for television, with Greer and Sarah tapped to executive produce. Prior to becoming a novelist, Greer served as Vice President and Senior Editor at Simon & Schuster. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Allure, and Publishers Weekly. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children. Read more at www.greerhendricks.com

From the author’s website: Sarah Pekkanen is the author of The Ever After, The Perfect Neighbors, Things You Won’t Say, Catching Air, The Best of Us, The Opposite of Me, Skipping a Beat, and These Girls.  Sarah Pekkanen is also the co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl, both co-written with Greer Hendricks. Pekkanen is the mother of three young boys.
Her website is www.sarahpekkanen.com and please find her on Facebook Instagram and Twitter @sarahpekkanen!

Title: True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray
Author: James Renner
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: May 24th, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Length: 300 pages

I loved reading True Crime Addict. The author, James Renner, has several personal reasons as to why he is obsessed with true crime. His grandfather is a known child pedophile in their family. This leaves scars on him. Renner’s son starts having serious behavioral problems in school. Does his son carry the similar traits as his great-grandfather or is just his own paranoia? He discusses this in detail. A young girl named Amy Mihaljevic that he falls in love with as a child goes missing in his home state of Ohio. Renner himself was nearly abducted in the local park. He decides as an adult to build a career as a journalist.

Renner takes the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Test as an adult. His results are similar to that of Ted Bundy’s, but his psychologist tells him not to worry as many cops and CEOS would score the same, including Donald Trump.

After being fired by a newspaper due to worries over a lawsuit for writing a story about senator Kevin Coughlin, Renner found himself drawn to writing true crime stories again which led to his obsession with Maura Murray.

Maura Murray, a UMass student, disappeared one day in 2004 out in rural New Hampshire. Her car was wrecked and nearby neighbors called to inform the police. By the time the police arrived to the scene, Murray had gone missing. Prior to leaving, she returned her nursing scrubs and informed her professors that there was a death in the family, even though the statement was not true. She packed her belongings in boxes and left an email on top of them that states her boyfriend was cheating on her. She had credit card fraud and identity theft associated with her name. Renner discusses the possibility that she started over with a new life and the wreck was on purpose and used for distraction. He also discusses the possibility she was driving in tandem with another driver and they rescued her. Her ex-fiance, Bill Rausch, was known to be controlling and jealous. According to a mutual friend, Murray was pregnant and looking for a way to escape so she wouldn’t have to share custody with Rausch. Murray has never been found. Renner goes into detail about her case and what possibly could have happened to Murray.

4 Bookworms (Great Read)

From the author’s website: James Renner is mostly known for his true-crime journalism. As a reporter for Cleveland Scene, he uncovered new clues and suspects in the cold-case murder of Amy Mihaljevic. His work led to the successful closure of the Tina Harmon case in 2009. He spent months researching the Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus abductions when the girls were still missing and is haunted by the fact that he had Castro’s name in his notes. His true crime writing has been featured in the Best American Crime Reporting anthology. His selection was the first true crime article to use a dream sequence as a narrative device. Read more at
http://jamesrenner.com/

Follow his podcast, The Philosophy of Crime.

Title: For Better and Worse: A Novel
Author: Margot Hunt
Publisher: MIRA
Publication Date: December 11, 2018
Format: Paperback
Length: 336 pages

For Better and Worse was a fast paced read for me. Will and Natalie Clark bonded together as a couple in law school. They wondered if they could ever pull off the perfect murder. At first it was a joke between them as law students. Will never thought his wife would actually try to murder anyone until a secret came out in the community that put her young son at risk. Will must now protect his family from the community’s suspicions and police involvement.

Margot Hunt’s novel has all the ingredients for a thriller- an unhappily married couple with secrets, an innocent child put at risk and a popular, beloved leader in the community with secrets of their own. Hunt’s novel is somewhat cliche, but in a situation realistic enough that it draws the reader in. The novel is thought provoking and the reader wonders what choices they would have made in a similar situation.

4 Bookworms (Great Read)

From the author’s website: Margot Hunt is the pseudonym of a bestselling writer of twelve previous novels. Her work has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews. Best Friends forever is her first psychological thriller.  Her new book, For Better and Worse, was released in December 2018. Read more at
https://margothunt.com/

Title Green River, Running Red
Author: Ann Rule
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: September 28th, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Length: 436 pages

From the Goodreads website: In her most personal and provocative book to date, the #1 bestselling master of true crime presents “her long-awaited definitive narrative of the brutal and senseless crimes that haunted the Seattle area for decades” (Publishers Weekly). This is the extraordinary true story of the most prolific serial killer the nation had ever seen — a case involving more than forty-nine female victims, two decades of intense investigative work…and one unrelenting killer who not only attended Ann Rule’s book signings but lived less than a mile away from her home.

Ann Rule was one of the best American true crime authors. Rule started as a Seattle policewoman and has a background in psychology and criminology. Her novels go in great detail about each crime scene and the background/history of each convicted murderer. Green River, Running Red is no different. The serial murder took advantage of prostitutes and runaways-women that were highly at risk. What is amazing is that he was able to get away with the crimes for so long and lead a normal life. No one in his life suspected that he was the Green River killer. He graduated high school and worked the same job for decades. His wife was known as a nice woman in the community. The serial killer did not have many friends, but no one at the time thought it was odd. He kept to himself. Ann Rule always writes in a way that the reader can understand how someone with his profile can be overlooked and gives logical reason for why police sometimes make human errors.

4 Bookworms (Great Read)

From the author’s website: Ann Rule was regarded by many as the foremost true crime writer in America, and the author responsible for the genre as it exists today. She came to her career with a solid background in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Both her grandfather and her uncle were Michigan sheriffs, her cousin was a Prosecuting Attorney and another uncle was the Medical Examiner. Raised in that environment, she grew up wanting to work in law enforcement herself. She is a former Seattle Policewoman, former caseworker for the Washington State Department of Public Assistance, former student intern at the Oregon State Training School for Girls.  

She and William “Bill” Rule  had four children, and early in their marriage they lived in El Paso, Texas, and Youngstown, New York, before settling in the Seattle area. They raised their family in Bellevue, Washington, and Des Moines, Washington. Bill was also a writer, but he died of Melanoma at age 43 in 1975 before he could realize his dream of writing “The Great American Novel.”  (The couple divorced a few years before Bill died.) Bill Rule taught creative writing at Foster High School in Tukwila,Washington.

During the last years of her life, Ann lived in Seahurst, Washington, on the shores of Puget Sound. She was the mother of four and also a grandmother. 

Read more about the author and her works at
http://www.authorannrule.com/

Title: A Simple Favor
Author: Darcey Bell
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Format: Paperback
Length: 298 pages


A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell was an enjoyable read. I was not a fan of any of the characters. All of them are unlikeable and have selfish agendas which makes an interesting plot. Stephanie, mommy blogger, is on the search for her missing friend Emily. She asked Stephanie to pick up her son from school and hasn’t been in contact with family or friends since. Stephanie assumes she had a breakdown due to her highly demanding career in NYC. Her body is eventually found in the lake where her family retreats to each summer. The plot thickens as secrets about Emily’s past are revealed. The novel was made into a movie starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.

3 Bookworms (Good Read)

From the Goodreads website: Darcey Bell was born in 1981 and raised on a dairy farm in western Iowa. She is a preschool teacher in Chicago. A Simple Favor is her first novel.

PODCASTS I LOVE…

Crime Junkie is an amazing, addictive podcast hosted by Ashley Flowers and her friend/producer Brit. Each week they cover a crime they have researched/heard about or that a listener has suggested. RollingStone named Crime Junkie as one of the best podcasts of 2018. For more information, click here.

From the website:

My Favorite Murder is the hit true crime comedy podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Since its inception in early 2016, the show has broken download records and sparked an enthusiastic, interactive “Murderino” fan base who come out in droves for their sold-out shows worldwide.

A top 10 regular on iTunes’ comedy podcast chart, My Favorite Murder has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, The Atlantic, Nylon and Rolling Stone magazine.

Aside from being avid true crime enthusiasts, Karen Kilgariff is a stand-up comedian and television writer and Georgia Hardstark is a writer and host for the Cooking Channel.

For more information, click here.

From the website:
Debra Newell is a successful interior designer. She meets John Meehan, a handsome man who seems to check all the boxes: attentive, available, just back from a year in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders. But her family doesn’t like John, and they get entangled in an increasingly complex web of love, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times. For more information, click here.

SHOWS I WATCHED IN MONTH OF JUNE…

Bird Box is a Netflix film starring Sandra Bullock. My husband and I sat down to watch Bird Box last night as we have heard so much about it. The film has to be one of the creepiest I’ve seen in awhile. Bird Box is the idea of what would happen if a virus was spread throughout earth causing people to want to injure themselves. The virus is passed by looking into the person’s eyes that is infected. I do not want to spoil the film so I won’t reveal any more details, but it is a film worth watching.

Madeline McCann, 3 years old, disappeared on May 3rd 2007 from the Praia de Luz resort apartment in Portugal. Her parents were at the resort restaurant( about 160 feet away) checking on their children every half hour. The apartment was accessible by the resort or street. At 10pm, Kate McCann, mother of Madeline McCann, went to check on the children and noticed Madeline was missing. Netflix’s documentary goes into detail about the disappearance of Madeleine and theories of what could have happened to her.

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis

Summer is here and I’m ready for a trip to the beach. A perfect day to me is sitting by the beach reading a book. Instead of doing my own written reviews today, I’m listing my favorite long novels perfect for summer vacation. I’m also including online lists below. What are your favorite long novels? List them below in the comments.

Book lists online…

20 absorbing door stop novels for your summer reading list
https://modernmrsdarcy.com/long-novels/
Big Fat Books Worth the Effort: Goodreads List
https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/3153.Big_Fat_Books_Worth_the_Effort
26 Very Long Books Worth Your Time
https://www.vulture.com/2016/11/long-books-worth-your-time.html
50 Must-Read Books of More Than 500 Pages
https://bookriot.com/2019/02/25/must-read-big-books/

My Favorite Long Books I’ve Read So Far…

Title: American Wife
Author Curtis Sittenfeld
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Length: 555 pages

From the publisher:

On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House–and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, “almost in opposition to itself.”

A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the virtues of politeness early on from her stolid parents and small Wisconsin hometown. But a tragic accident when she was seventeen shattered her identity and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck. So more than a decade later, when she met boisterous, charismatic Charlie Blackwell, she hardly gave him a second look: She was serious and thoughtful, and he would rather crack a joke than offer a real insight; he was the wealthy son of a bastion family of the Republican party, and she was a school librarian and registered Democrat. Comfortable in her quiet and unassuming life, she felt inured to his charms. And then, much to her surprise, Alice fell for Charlie.

As Alice learns to make her way amid the clannish energy and smug confidence of the Blackwell family, navigating the strange rituals of their country club and summer estate, she remains uneasy with her newfound good fortune. And when Charlie eventually becomes President, Alice is thrust into a position she did not seek–one of power and influence, privilege and responsibility. As Charlie’s tumultuous and controversial second term in the White House wears on, Alice must face contradictions years in the making: How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectory of her own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?

In Alice Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld has created her most dynamic and complex heroine yet. American Wife is a gorgeously written novel that weaves class, wealth, race, and the exigencies of fate into a brilliant tapestry–a novel in which the unexpected becomes inevitable, and the pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare.

From the publisher:

Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the new novel Eligible, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice (due out April 2016) as well as the bestselling novels Sisterland, American Wife, Prep, and The Man of My Dreams, which have been translated into twenty-five languages. Curtis’s writing has appeared in many publications, including The Atlantic, The New York Times, Vanity Fair,Time, Slate, Glamour, and on public radio’s This American Life. A graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently lives in St. Louis, MO.

Title: Fall of Giants
Author: Ken Follett
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: September 28th, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Length: 985 pages

From the publisher:

It is 1911. The Coronation Day of King George V. The Williams, a Welsh coal-mining family is linked by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of an ambitious young aide to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and to two orphaned Russian brothers, whose plans to emigrate to America fall foul of war, conscription and revolution. In a plot of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, “Fall Of Giants” moves seamlessly from Washington to St Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty.

From the publisher:

Ken Follett is one of the world’s most successful authors. Over 165 million copies of the 31 books he has written have been sold in over 80 countries and in 33 languages. 
Born on June 5th, 1949 in Cardiff, Wales, the son of a tax inspector, Ken was educated at state schools and went on to graduate from University College, London, with an Honours degree in Philosophy – later to be made a Fellow of the College in 1995. 

He started his career as a reporter, first with his hometown newspaper the South Wales Echo and then with the London Evening News. Subsequently, he worked for a small London publishing house, Everest Books, eventually becoming Deputy Managing Director.

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Length: 415 pages

From the publisher:

One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

From the publisher:

Gillian Flynn is an American author and television critic for Entertainment Weekly. She has so far written three novels, Sharp Objects, for which she won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller; Dark Places; and her best-selling third novel Gone Girl.

Her book has received wide praise, including from authors such as Stephen King. The dark plot revolves around a serial killer in a Missouri town, and the reporter who has returned from Chicago to cover the event. Themes include dysfunctional families,violence and self-harm.

In 2007 the novel was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Writer, Crime Writers’ Association Duncan Lawrie, CWA New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers, winning in the last two categories.

Flynn, who lives in Chicago, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated at the University of Kansas, and qualified for a Master’s degree from Northwestern University.

Title: The Distant Hours
Author: Kate Morton
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: November 9th, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Length: 562 pages

From the publisher:

A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941. 

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. 

Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling. 




From the publisher:

A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton.

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace—the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century—Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.

From the publisher:

Kate Morton was born in South Australia, grew up in the mountains of south-east Queensland and now lives with her family in London and Australia. She has degrees in dramatic art and English literature, and harboured dreams of joining the Royal Shakespeare Company until she realised that it was words she loved more than performing. Kate still feels a pang of longing each time she goes to the theatre and the house lights dim.

“I fell deeply in love with books as a child and believe that reading is freedom; that to read is to live a thousand lives in one; that fiction is a magical conversation between two people – you and me – in which our minds meet across time and space. I love books that conjure a world around me, bringing their characters and settings to life, so that the real world disappears and all that matters, from beginning to end, is turning one more page.”

Kate Morton’s five novels – The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper and The Lake House – have all been New York Times bestsellers, Sunday Times bestsellers and international number 1 bestsellers; they are published in 34 languages, across 42 countries. 

Title: The Thorn Birds
Author: Colleen McCullough
Publisher: Avon Books

Publication Date: April 1977
Format: Hardcover
Length: 692 pages

From the publisher:

The Thorn Birds is a robust, romantic saga of a singular family, the Clearys. It begins in the early part of this century, when Paddy Cleary moves his wife, Fiona, and their seven children to Drogheda, the vast Australian sheep station owned by his autocratic and childless older sister; and it ends more than half a century later, when the only survivor of the third generation, the brilliant actress Justine O’Neill, sets a course of life and love halfway around the world from her roots.

The central figures in this enthralling story are the indomitable Meggie, the only Cleary daughter, and the one man she truly loves, the stunningly handsome and ambitious priest Ralph de Bricassart. Ralph’s course moves him a long way indeed, from a remote Outback parish to the halls of the Vatican; and Meggie’s except for a brief and miserable marriage elsewhere, is fixed to the Drogheda that is part of her bones – but distance does not dim their feelings though it shapes their lives.

Wonderful characters people this book; strong and gentle, Paddy, hiding a private memory; dutiful Fiona, holding back love because it once betrayed her, violent, tormented Frank, and the other hardworking Cleary sons who give the boundless lands of Drogheda the energy and devotion most men save for women; Meggie; Ralph; and Meggie’s children, Justine and Dane. And the land itself; stark, relentless in its demands, brilliant in its flowering, prey to gigantic cycles of drought and flood, rich when nature is bountiful, surreal like no other place on earth.

From the publisher:

Colleen Margaretta McCullough was an Australian author known for her novels, her most well-known being The Thorn Birds and Tim.

Raised by her mother in Wellington and then Sydney, McCullough began writing stories at age 5. She flourished at Catholic schools and earned a physiology degree from the University of New South Wales in 1963. Planning become a doctor, she found that she had a violent allergy to hospital soap and turned instead to neurophysiology – the study of the nervous system’s functions. She found jobs first in London and then at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. 

After her beloved younger brother Carl died in 1965 at age 25 while rescuing two drowning women in the waters off Crete, a shattered McCullough quit writing. She finally returned to her craft in 1974 with Tim, a critically acclaimed novel about the romance between a female executive and a younger, mentally disabled gardener. As always, the author proved her toughest critic: “Actually,” she said, “it was an icky book, saccharine sweet.” 

A year later, while on a paltry $10,000 annual salary as a Yale researcher, McCullough – just “Col” to her friends – began work on the sprawling The Thorn Birds, about the lives and loves of three generations of an Australian family. Many of its details were drawn from her mother’s family’s experience as migrant workers, and one character, Dane, was based on brother Carl. 

Though some reviews were scathing, millions of readers worldwide got caught up in her tales of doomed love and other natural calamities. The paperback rights sold for an astonishing $1.9 million. 

In all, McCullough wrote 11 novels.

Title: The Time Traveler’s Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Publisher: Zola Books
Publication Date: September 23rd, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Length: 500 pages

From the publisher:

A funny, often poignant tale of boy meets girl with a twist: what if one of them couldn’t stop slipping in and out of time? Highly original and imaginative, this debut novel raises questions about life, love, and the effects of time on relationships.

Audrey Niffenegger’s innovative debut, The Time Traveler’s Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity in his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing. 

The Time Traveler’s Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare’s marriage and their passionate love for each other as the story unfolds from both points of view. Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals—steady jobs, good friends, children of their own. All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

From the publisher:

Audrey Niffenegger (born June 13, 1963 in South Haven, Michigan) is a writer and artist. She is also a professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Columbia College Chicago. 

Niffenegger’s debut novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003), was a national bestseller. The Time Traveler’s Wife is an unconventional love story that centers on a man with a strange genetic disorder that causes him to unpredictably time-travel and his wife, an artist, who has to cope with his constant absence. 

Her Fearful Symmetry (2009), Niffenegger’s second novel, is set in London’s Highgate Cemetery where, during research for the book, Niffenegger acted as a tour guide.

Niffenegger has also published graphic and illustrated novels including: The Adventuress (2006), The Three Incestuous Sisters (2005), The Night Bookmobile (2009), and Raven Girl (2013). Raven Girl was adapted into a ballet by Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor and the Royal Opera House Ballet (London) in 2013. 

A mid-career retrospective entitled “Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger,” was presented by the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington D.C.) in 2013. An accompanying exhibition catalogue examines several themes in Niffenegger’s visual art including her explorations of life, mortality, and magic.

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Publication Date: February 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Length: 465 pages

From the publisher:

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women, mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends, view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t. 

From the publisher:

Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and creative writing, she moved to New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing for nine years. She currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and daughter. She is working on her second novel.

From the publisher:

Against the backdrop of an elegant Cornwall mansion before World War II and a vast continent-spanning canvas during the turbulent war years, this involving story tells of an extraordinary young woman’s coming of age, coming to grips with love and sadness, and in every sense of the term, coming home…

In 1935, Judith Dunbar is left behind at a British boarding school when her mother and baby sister go off to join her father in Singapore. At Saint Ursula’s, her friendship with Loveday Carey-Lewis sweeps her into the privileged, madcap world of the British aristocracy, teaching her about values, friendship, and wealth. But it will be the drama of war, as it wrenches Judith from those she cares about most, that will teach her about courage…and about love.

Teeming with marvelous, memorable characters in a novel that is a true masterpiece, Coming Home is a book to be savored, reread, and cherished forever.

Rosamunde Scott was born on 22 September 1924 in Lelant, Cornwall, England, UK, daughter of Helen and Charles Scott, a British commander. Just before her birth her father was posted in Burma, her mother remained in England. She attended St. Clare’s Polwithen and Howell’s School Llandaff before going on to Miss Kerr-Sanders’ Secretarial College. She began writing when she was seven, and published her first short story when she was 18. From 1943 through 1946, Pilcher served with the Women’s Naval Service. On 7 December 1946, she married Graham Hope Pilcher, a war hero and jute industry executive who died in March 2009. They moved to Dundee, Scotland, where she still lives today with a dog in Perthshire. They had two daughters and two sons, and fourteen grandchildren. Her son, Robin Pilcher, is also a novelist.

In 1949, her first book, a romance novel, was published by Mills & Boon, under the pseudonym Jane Fraser. She published a further ten novels under that name. In 1955, she also began writing under her married name Rosamunde Pilcher, by 1965 she her own name to all of her novels. In 1996, her novel Coming Home won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award by Romantic Novelists’ Association. She retired from writing in 2000. Two years later, she was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

On my TBR list…

Title: “…And Ladies of the Club”
Author: Helen Hooven Santmyer
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publication Date: January 1987
Format: Hardcover
Length: 1,184 pages

From the publisher:

A #1 New York Times bestseller–and an American classic–now in trade paperback…

A groundbreaking bestseller with two and a half million copies in print, “…And Ladies of the Club” centers on the members of a book club and their struggles to understand themselves, each other, and the tumultuous world they live in. A true classic, it is sure to enchant, enthrall, and intrigue readers for years to come.

Title: The Wheel of Fortune
Author: Susan Howatch
Publisher: Fawcett
Publication Date: April 1985
Format: Hardcover
Length: 1,171 pages

From the publisher:

Oxmoon, the rambling old mansion on a sprawling estate in Wales, has been for generations, the dream, the downfall, and the destiny of the wealthy Godwin family. They are entranced by tales of glittering parties where young lovers waltzed beneath the chandeliers as the orchestra played “The Blue Danube Waltz”. They are ensnared by the family legacy of madness, murder, and doomed romance — the disastrous consequences of 19th-century Gwyneth Godwin’s scandalous affair with sheep farmer Owen Bryn-Davies.



Title: Empire Falls
Author: Richard Russo
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: April 2002
Format: Paperback
Length: 483 pages

From the publisher:

Welcome to Empire Falls, a blue-collar town full of abandoned mills whose citizens surround themselves with the comforts and feuds provided by lifelong friends and neighbors and who find humor and hope in the most unlikely places, in this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Richard Russo.

Miles Roby has been slinging burgers at the Empire Grill for 20 years, a job that cost him his college education and much of his self-respect. What keeps him there? It could be his bright, sensitive daughter Tick, who needs all his help surviving the local high school. Or maybe it’s Janine, Miles’ soon-to-be ex-wife, who’s taken up with a noxiously vain health-club proprietor. Or perhaps it’s the imperious Francine Whiting, who owns everything in town–and seems to believe that “everything” includes Miles himself. In Empire Falls Richard Russo delves deep into the blue-collar heart of America in a work that overflows with hilarity, heartache, and grace.

Title: Prince of Tides
Author: Pat Conroy
Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback
Publication Date: March 2002
Format: Paperback
Length: 679 pages

From the publisher:

Pat Conroy has created a huge, brash thunderstorm of a novel, stinging with honesty and resounding with drama. Spanning forty years, this is the story of turbulent Tom Wingo, his gifted and troubled twin sister Savannah, and their struggle to triumph over the dark and tragic legacy of the extraordinary family into which they were born.

Filled with the vanishing beauty of the South Carolina low country as well as the dusty glitter of New York City, The Prince of Tides is Pat Conroy at his very best. 

Title: Roots
Author: Alex Haley
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
Publication Date: November 1st, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Length: 729 pages

From the publisher:

When he was a boy in Henning, Tennessee, Alex Haley’s grandmother used to tell him stories about their family—stories that went back to her grandparents, and their grandparents, down through the generations all the way to a man she called “the African.” She said he had lived across the ocean near what he called the “Kamby Bolongo” and had been out in the forest one day chopping wood to make a drum when he was set upon by four men, beaten, chained and dragged aboard a slave ship bound for Colonial America.

Still vividly remembering the stories after he grew up and became a writer, Haley began to search for documentation that might authenticate the narrative. It took ten years and a half a million miles of travel across three continents to find it, but finally, in an astonishing feat of genealogical detective work, he discovered not only the name of “the African”–Kunta Kinte—but the precise location of Juffure, the very village in The Gambia, West Africa, from which he was abducted in 1767 at the age of sixteen and taken on the Lord Ligonier to Maryland and sold to a Virginia planter.

Haley has talked in Juffure with his own African sixth cousins. On September 29, 1967, he stood on the dock in Annapolis where his great-great-great-great-grandfather was taken ashore on September 29, 1767. Now he has written the monumental two-century drama of Kunta Kinte and the six generations who came after him—slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lumber mill workers and Pullman porters, lawyers and architects—and one author.

But Haley has done more than recapture the history of his own family. As the first black American writer to trace his origins back to their roots, he has told the story of 25,000,000 Americans of African descent. He has rediscovered for an entire people a rich cultural heritage that slavery took away from them, along with their names and their identities. But Roots speaks, finally, not just to blacks, or to whites, but to all people and all races everywhere, for the story it tells is one of the most eloquent testimonials ever written to the indomitability of the human spirit. 



Title: The Way the Crow Flies
Author: Ann-Marie MacDonald
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: August 2004
Format: Paperback
Length: 848 pages

The optimism of the early sixties, infused with the excitement of the space race and the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of high-spirited, eight-year-old Madeleine, who welcomes her family’s posting to a quiet Air Force base near the Canadian border. Secure in the love of her beautiful mother, she is unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in a web of secrets. When a very local murder intersects with global forces, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine will be forced to learn a lesson about the ambiguity of human morality — one she will only begin to understand when she carries her quest for the truth, and the killer, into adulthood twenty years later. 

Title: Sarum
Author: Edward Rutherfurd
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: June 23rd, 1997
Format: Paperback
Length: 912 pages

From the publisher:

A masterpiece that is breathtaking in its scope, SARUM is an epic novel that traces the entire turbulent course of English history. This rich tapestry weaves a compelling saga of five families who preserve their own particular characteristics over the centuries, and offer a fascinating glimpse into the future.

Title: The Tea Rose
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2006
Format: Paperback
Length: 675 pages

From the publisher:

East London, 1888 – a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths. Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger’s son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.

But Fiona’s life is shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything-and everyone-she holds dear. Fearing her own death, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit propels her rise from a modest West Side shop-front to the top of Manhattan’s tea trade. But Fiona’s old ghosts do not rest quietly, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future. 

What Challenges You?

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day Weekend. I ate way too much (I had my cheat day yesterday) and spent my time burning off some calories at spin class this morning. This was my first spin class and it was a challenge. Challenges can be good. They keep us going. My current challenges are hot yoga, spin class and weight lifting. These are not only good for me physically, but also mentally and emotionally. I also need to get my daughter through her summer reading list for school. Send prayers. We currently are doing a tech free summer where she can’t have any mobile devices. None. She can watch TV. I find myself watching the most random videos on YouTube-makeup tutorials, hair tutorials, family videos and people playing video games. I watch everything with her except the video games. My challenge has been trying to keep up with everything she finds. What is she watching? Is it appropriate? My husband and daughter know way more about technology than me. I use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and MyFitness Pal . That is about as far as my use of technology goes. I usually read, watch TV, workout or listen to podcasts. I have a difficult time sitting still. I always feel I need to be moving unless I am reading. My husband will try to get me to binge watch TV and I make it through two episodes and I am just done. I need to be working on the house, doing errands or something other than just sitting still.

What challenges you? What keeps you going? If you struggle with depression, like myself, I encourage you to find an area of interest that challenges you or maybe even a project that needs to be done. It may also help to find a friend that will encourage you in your new journey.

List of things that challenge me:

  • Organizing the house and cleaning out closets
  • Yoga
  • Reading
  • Trying new recipes
  • Giving back to the community. We do local mission projects with our Sunday School class.
  • Raising my daughter
  • Finding books to order for our library
  • Making new friends
  • Following a budget. This can be difficult when it comes to shopping for clothes. I get a set amount each month, but I have been known to go over.
  • Scrapbooking. I love to scrapbook, but have fallen behind on this. I need to catch up.
  • Organizing a schedule/routine for our family to follow. I try to keep each week consistent, but sometimes life just happens.

Make a list of what challenges you so far. This will also help you realize how much you accomplish and that you are stronger than what you believe.

I went through a season of life a few years ago where I just found myself not on a schedule. I felt overwhelmed and was trying to do too much at once. This is very common with parents of newborns/toddlers. You just can’t do everything. I can’t volunteer for every project or attend every event. Lysa Terkeurst challenges you to set your priorities and to not be afraid to say no. Take time for you. I listed above challenges I face. Those are also priorities in my life right now. I do serve the community, but I don’t say yes to everything. Serving at VBS? I can’t. I work full time. What I can do? Serve an occasional Saturday in the community. Host meals for Sunday School a few times a year. As I read this book, I realized I was not prioritizing my schedule. Now I pick out a few things which also leaves room for personal challenges of my own that I need to accomplish. Terkeurst does an excellent job in explaining how to make the best choices based on your current family demands right now. I read The Best Yes and it helped change my life.
Purchase here.

From the author’s website:

Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the New York Times best-selling author of Uninvited,The Best Yes, Unglued, Made to Crave, and 16 other books.

Lysa was recently awarded the Champions of Faith Author Award and has been published in multiple publications such as Focus on the Family and CNN online. Additionally, she has appeared on the Today Show as one of the leading voices in the Christian community.

For more information Lysa TerKeurst and to follow her blog, click here.

Redeeming Love is one of the best reads and one that I read last year when I was facing numerous challenges. As women, we tend to be confused about love and what that looks like. Francine Rivers creates a story of fiction based on the book of Hosea in the Bible. God calls Hosea to love a prostitute. In this novel, her name is Angel. She leaves him, but God keeps calling Hosea to chase her, even though he is left brokenhearted. God loves us unconditionally and forgives. God uses Hosea’s story as an example of how he loves us. Redeeming Love is a good read for the soul that has felt abandoned, used or brokenhearted and will challenge how we love others.
Purchase here.

From the author’s website:

Francine Rivers began her literary career at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Journalism. From 1976 to 1985, she had a successful writing career in the general market and her books were awarded or nominated for numerous awards and prizes. Although raised in a religious home, Francine did not truly encounter Christ until later in life, when she was already a wife, mother of three, and an established romance novelist. Shortly after becoming a born-again Christian in 1986, Francine wrote Redeeming Love as her statement of faith.  First published by Bantam Books, and then re-released by Multnomah Publishers in the mid- 1990s, this retelling of the biblical story of Gomer and Hosea set during the time of the California Gold Rush is now considered a classic work of Christian fiction and continues to be one of the Christian Booksellers Association’s top-selling titles; it has held a spot on the Christian bestseller list for nearly a decade.

For more information about Francine Rivers, click here.

Blogs I Love

ModernMrsDarcy.com
A book and lifestyle blog that features podcasts, reading guides and Ebook deals.
TheEverygirl.com
A lifestyle blog that focuses on finances, wellness, style, traveling, shopping and living.
DailyDoseofLuxury.com
A blog focused on self-care.
GirlBoss.com
A blog on women and their careers.
EmilyMay.me
Emily is the #1 reviewer on Goodreads. She also has a good book review to share on her blog.l
SuperFoodsLife.com
A blog focused on nutrition.
Raisin-Toast.com
A blog focusing on art, home and garden.
APinchofCrazy.com
A blog that has healthy recipes for your whole family to enjoy.
ToLoveHonorandVacuum.com
A blog on marriage and family.
Unveiledwife.com
An encouragement blog and podcast for wives.
MessyMotherhood.com
A blog on motherhood from a Children’s Therapist turned SAHM.
MomentsaDay.com
A blog on personal growth for families written by a certified parent educator.
AMotherFarFromHome.com
Ideas on establishing routine and order in your home to take the chaos out of parenting written by a SAHM of 4.

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

I was a dreamer growing up as a little girl. I dreamed not only of Prince Charming, but of living in NYC working for a glamour magazine. True story. I wanted to be in a big city, surrounded by lots of people, doing what I love and raise a family. I never did make my dream of living in NYC and working for a glamour magazine. Our dreams may be far fetched, but dreaming is what makes life worth living sometimes.

I believe as adults we still dream. There are still sights to see and goals we want to accomplish. Our dreaming curbs as we grow older. Life seems to bring its fair share of disappointments and heartache. We wonder if our dreams are worth pursuing, if we still dare to dream at all. Our dreaming may change over time. We grow to adulthood, face everyday realities and want different things out of life. Doors close to some of our dreams which means that those particular dreams weren’t meant to be. I have faced my share of heartache, but deep inside is still the little girl that loves to dream.

I happened by chance to read a few books based on dreams this week which got me to thinking about dreams of mine that have become real. I’m fortunate in this life to have had several come true. I wanted to be married, as most young girls do. I am married to the love of my life. He is my ride or die. Just yesterday we were in the gym meeting with a trainer and my husband mentioned that I am his motivator for continuing to workout. It was a small moment, but a sweet one. I always wanted a daughter since I was little girl myself. She’s here and and she’s my mini-me. We go shopping, get manis, brunch, hang out, and sometimes drive each other crazy, but I wouldn’t change a second of it. I love reading and work at a job where I’m surrounded by books all day. Life is truly sweet. Did I mention that I have two of the cutest nephews? They have a million aunts who spoil them like crazy and always brag about how great they are. They make life a little sweeter.

What are some of your dreams and goals? What closed doors have you faced that changed how you dream? I believe our heartaches not only make us stronger, but guide us towards the life we were meant to live.

Title: Park Avenue Summer
Author: Renee Rosen
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 30, 3019
Format:Paperback
Length: 368 pages

Park Summer Avenue is based on real life Helen Gurley Brown, senior editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for over 30 years. She changed how single women saw their life in the 1960’s and gave them courage to pursue their dreams. Alice Weiss, the novel’s fictitious main character, lands the job of being Brown’s assistant due to connections, all though her dream job is to become a photographer. Park Avenue Summer is an encouragement to women that our thoughts and ideas matter. If you love The Devil Wears Prada, you will love this new read by Renee Rosen. Purchase here.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

From the author’s website:
Renee Rosen is the bestselling author of historical fiction. Her novels include Windy City Blues, White Collar Girl, What the Lady Wants and Dollface as well as the young adult novel, Every Crooked Pot. Her most recent novel is Park Avenue Summer (April 30, 2019 from Penguin Random House/Berkley).Renee is a native of Akron, Ohio and a graduate of The American University in Washington DC.  She now lives in Chicago where she is at work on a new novel, The Social Graces, a story about Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age. (Coming in 2020 from Penguin Random House/Berkley). Read more about Renee Rosen here.

Title: She Dreams: Live the Life You Were Created For
Author: Tiffany Bluhm
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Format: Paperback
Length: 224 pages

Tiffany Bluhm encourages women to explore their dreams and live the life they were called to. God creates in each woman’s heart desires that long to be fulfilled. How do we make those dreams a reality? What happens when our dreams are not fulfilled? Bluhm studies the life of Moses and how God called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Maybe our dreams may not look like what we originally intended, but God has a purpose for each one of us that will lead to fulfillment if we pursue after him. Purchase the book here. Purchase the Bible study guide here.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

From the author’s website:

Tiffany Bluhm, author of She Dreams and Never Alone, is a speaker, writer, and podcast co-host of Why Tho. Tiffany speaks regularly at conferences and events, and her work has been featured on outlets such as TODAY Parents, YouVersion Bible app, the Hallmark Channel, ScaryMommy.com and The Jenny McCarthy Show. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and two sons. To find out more, visit 
www.tiffanybluhm.com

Title: It’s a Love Story
Author: Lincee Ray
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Format: Paperback
Length: 208 pages

Most young women dream of love. We want the Cinderella story. We love being in love and having someone to love. Lincee Ray writes a humorous memoir of all the loves of her life, including pets, boyfriends, friends and family and all the emotions that come with it. God gave the author new dreams and a new life after a heartbreaking divorce. It’s a Love Story is an encouragement to women everywhere to never give up on love and finding your calling. Purchase here.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

From the author’s website:

I began blogging accidentally when I wrote a recap for the beloved show everyone loves to hate — The Bachelor. What began as a place for closeted fans to commune and discuss the wonder that is Our Host Chris Harrison slowly morphed into a place where I share stories about everyday life.
One day, my Bachelor recap landed on the desk of an editor at Entertainment Weekly. That sweet woman quickly deduced that I am a pop culture weirdo who probably watches all of the teenybopper shows on The CW. She was right. When I’m not watching TV for a living, you can probably find me speaking to various groups of women, including business and church groups. If all else fails, look for me in a darkened movie theater or at a live music venue. To find our more, visit
http://www.ihategreenbeans.com/

The Mother of All Posts for Grandparents and Parents

The month of May has been busy for the Schick family. My daughter graduated kindergarten, we celebrated Mother’s Day and I have a new nephew. I enjoy celebrations and new life.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I went through a season of depression. I found myself not being able to find energy to make it through the day. I was going through the motions of arriving to work, going home, spending time with family and going to bed. There was little or no joy to be found. It was hurting my family and me. I knew I needed to let go of so many fears I had lived with for so long. The fear of not being perfect. The fear of being a failure. The fear of rejection.

Satan uses our fears to hold us back and rob our joy. We can’t carry out our purpose so he wins. Fear becomes our security blanket. We find ourselves not wanting to trust God, but holding on to fear because it’s comfortable. We feel control. Can we truly experience joy, hope and peace and let go of fear? Does God care about our hurts? How can we let go and be focused on today?

In Loving Natalee, there is a section of the book I read that stays with me. Beth Holloway, Natalee’s mom, visits a church in Aruba. There are crosses lined up outside on the ground. She has the taxi wait for her and kneels before each cross praying for peace. She is crying out to God in the midst of her brokenness and pain. God is speaking to her heart. He tells her that he has Natalee. He has been with her this whole time and has not ever let her go. In the light, in the darkness he has held her. Beth experiences the feeling of peace wash over her.

I can only imagine the guilt, fear and what-if’s that was going through Beth’s mind. God met her at the lowest point and held her. In her grief, he carried her. He doesn’t meet us at our darkest point to shame, question, or judge. He speaks right to our hearts when we call out to him.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid and thought I could be perfect. I wanted to please everyone. That was illogical thinking and an impossible goal. I was not able to meet everyone’s ideal of a perfect pastor’s kid. I march to the beat of my own drummer at times. I don’t always say the right things and I’m not an eloquent speaker. God didn’t call me to be perfect. If I would have let go of my fear, I would have realized that God made me perfectly the way I am. I wore a mask to protect myself from rejection, but what I didn’t realize is that I was causing myself more pain. My security should have come from God and not from what others thought of me.

Listed below are inspirational reads I found comforting during my season of depression.



Title: Victim of Grace: When God’s Goodness Prevails
Author: Robin Jones Gunn
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication Date: April 27th, 2013
Format: Paperback
Length: 205 pages


From the publisher:
Robin Jones Gunn reveals poignant truths from her life as well as from the lives of women in the Bible as she flips the notion that we are at the mercy of circumstances. She asks, what if God has dreams for you? What if he is accomplishing those dreams in the midst of shattered hopes? When life doesn’t go as expected, it’s easy to feel like a victim. We look at the events that have gone wrong and view our lives as impaired. What if we could see our future as God sees it? Would our view radically change if we understood we are indeed victims rather than of happenstance? God, the Relentless Lover, has vigorously sought you. He has instilled dreams in your heart that are grander than you can imagine. But the route to their fulfillment often is through a path you wouldn’t seek. What if God wants to take the hopes that tug at your heart and enliven them? Are you ready to live inside the mysterious joy of being a victim of grace?
Victim of Grace is one of my all time favorite reads and was a huge help to me during my depression. I viewed myself and God’s grace differently after reading this book.
Purchase here from Amazon.



Robin Jones Gunn is the author of the beloved Christy Miller series for teens and Sisterchick novels. Find more about her here.

Title: If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil
Author: Randy Alcorn
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Publication Date: September 15th, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Length: 512 pages

From the publisher:
Every one of us will experience suffering. Many of us are experiencing it now. As we have seen in recent years, evil is real in our world, present and close to each one of us.
In such difficult times, suffering and evil beg questions about God–Why would an all-good and all-powerful God create a world full of evil and suffering? And then, how can there be a God if suffering and evil exist? 
These are ancient questions, but also modern ones as well. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and even former believers like Bart Ehrman answer the question simply: The existence of suffering and evil proves there is no God. 
In this captivating new book, best-selling author Randy Alcorn challenges the logic of disbelief, and brings a fresh, realistic, and thoroughly biblical insight to the issues these important questions raise. 
Alcorn offers insights from his conversations with men and women whose lives have been torn apart by suffering, and yet whose faith in God burns brighter than ever. He reveals the big picture of who God is and what God is doing in the world now and forever. And he equips you to share your faith more clearly and genuinely in this world of pain and fear. 

Purchase the book here.

Randy Alcorn is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 books and the founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries.

Title: So Long, Insecurity: You’ve Been A Bad Friend to Us
Author: Beth Moore
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Length: 352 pages

From the publisher:
Perhaps one of the biggest issues all women face is their own insecurity. Beth Moore, one of today’s most admired and trusted Christian writers, wants women to be free from the insecurity trap. So Long, Insecurity will strike a chord with women everywhere, as Beth speaks truth into the lives of readers, showing them how to deal with their innermost fears, rediscover their God-given dignity, and develop a whole new perspective–a stronger sense of self. Women of all ages and backgrounds will resonate with this message of security and discover truths that will free them emotionally and spiritually and lead them to a better life as they walk with God.
Read more about Beth Moore here.
Purchase book here from Amazon.

Title: Enough
Author: Sharon Jaynes
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2018″
Format: Paperback
Length: 274 pages

From the publisher:
Do the voices in your head say you’re not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough…or just not enough, period? It’s time to stop listening to lies that sabotage your confidence and embrace the truth of who God says you are.
Popular author and speaker Sharon Jaynes exposes the lies that keep you bogged down in shame, insecurity, and feelings of inadequacy. By recognizing the lies and replacing them with truth, you’ll be able to silence the voice inside that whispers you’re just not good enough, accept God’s grace and move past failures that have defined and confined you.
Your confidence and faith will grow when you trade self-defeating thoughts for God’s truth. Today is the day to embrace your incredible worth as a woman who is uniquely fashioned and spiritually empowered.

Purchase the book here.

Sharon Jaynes is a popular speaker and writer. Jaynes has been in the ministry for over 25 years.She served as the Vice President of the Proverbs 31 ministry and is the co-founder of Girlfriends in God. Learn more about Jaynes here.

Parenting…

I carry lessons I learned towards my parenting. My parenting may look different than others, but that doesn’t mean I can’t parent Ella or provide her with what she needs. The same goes for you.

Mom Confessions and Tips:

  • I don’t like to cook all the time so we usually order food, eat sandwiches or I make a plate of fruit/veggies. Occasionally I will cook spaghetti, sloppy joes, casserole, tacos and breakfast for dinner.
  • I let my child watch TV each evening and on weekend mornings so I can sleep in.
  • On the weekends she occasionally stays up until 10:00pm.
  • Sometimes I bribe her with treats/TV time so she will listen.
  • I take her to Target way too much. I think she believes it’s her second home.
  • I buy crafts at the store because she loves them, but also so I can read/watch TV without distraction. I find them $10.00 or less at Hobby Lobby, the $1.00 store and the $1.00 section at Target.
  • I do not have the gift of teaching. I take Ella to museums, free educational activities in the community and read to her. That is about as much patience as I have. God bless all of you that have the patience. You are my heroes.
  • I just started going to the gym early in the morning. Joe gets Ella ready for the day and sometimes ready for bed at night. I hear you, mom that doesn’t want go the gym because I’m not super tiny and it’s oh so intimidating. I’m right there with you. Through several medical issues (okay, and also snacking) I too have found it hard to keep down my weight, but we’ve got this. It’s not only good for physical health, but for mental and emotional health. Do the best you can do with where you are at on your journey.
  • I don’t deep clean my own home. I skip eating lunch out so I can hire a cleaning service. If you have room in your budget or a place you can cut back to hire a cleaning service, I highly recommend it, even if it’s just once a month. You will save time and sanity.
  • I buy produce that is already cut at the grocery store. I place the produce in Tupperware when I get home and keep on a shelf Ella can reach. When she asks for a snack I let her go to the fridge and grab what she wants. This also goes for snacks in the pantry.
  • I use Dr. Teal’s bubble bath. If you haven’t tried it, you should. It’s amazing. The lavender scent helps me relax and I usually have no issues going to sleep after my bath.
  • I buy all my makeup, hair products and hair tools at ULTA. You can collect points and use them for discounts on purchases. I have saved money by doing this. My favorite makeup brands at ULTA are Stila, Butter London and IT.
  • I buy all my maxi dresses on Amazon. They are usually no more than $25.00 so it saves money. If I shop in a department store, I download the app so I can use the coupons.
  • Find a foot spa in the area you live. You can get a half hour massage for $25.00 and a hour massage for $60.00. I skip my pedicure sometimes and go to a foot spa instead.
  • I keep markers/pens/crayons, construction paper and magazines stashed in the craft “bar” at our house, in my room and the playroom. When Ella says she is bored, I let her make a mess out of paper, glue, scissors and let her color as much as her heart desires.
  • Orbeez, slime and kinetic sand. Use large plastic containers. Hours of fun.
  • Have frizzy, wavy hair that drives you crazy? Ask your stylist about Keratin treatments. Mine have changed my life. My hair dries faster and I use less hair product. I don’t think I could have enough time to work out AND style my hair without losing my sanity if it weren’t for Keratin treatments. I get mine done every 6-8 weeks.
  • Best rash/eczema cream for kids I have found? Aquaphor. Best soap for sensitive skin? Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash. Ella is super picky about toothpaste. The only kind she likes is Tom’s of Maine Children’s Gel. I buy Ella’s clothes at Carter’s, Target, Belk and Nordstrom Rack. She loves to live in skirts and so I buy the scooter skirts available at Target for $8.00. Throw a t-shirt on top and it’s an easy play outfit.
  • I drive a minivan. I know. On the bright side, my 6 year old loves it and thinks IT’S THE BEST CAR EVER.

What are your parenting confessions? What are your strengths? What blessings are part of your life? What can you do to save yourself time and sanity? Listing all these things can help bring a new perspective. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t parent as well. I know this from experience. Maybe you are skilled in the area of cooking, homeschooling, or crafting. If you are, I am a little jealous. Your skills and talents make you the perfect mom for your kid(s). They allow you to make a difference in your child’s life whether you are a stay at home mom or work outside the home mom. That doesn’t mean every day or choice will be perfect, but it does mean that God chose you for your kids. He knows you have what it takes to raise them and be the primary influence over their life.

I mentioned last Monday that I was looking for parenting books to help me out on my journey. I fell into a reading slump and just couldn’t find any I would recommend. I finally found found a few enjoyed. These books served as a reminder that my kid needs me. Your kids need you. They need to see us living a life in abundance and without fear.

Title: More for Mom
Author: Kristin Funston
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019
Format: Paperback
Length: 224 pages

More for Mom is one of my favorite parenting books I have read. Kristin Funston discusses that we are already holy before God. It’s not our works that save us, including our works in parenting. We can’t be perfect. We can’t be all things to all people 24/7, including our children. Allowing grace for ourselves and others is what helps make for more joyful parenting. According to Funston, each of “us is a whole person with one whole life, and we were designed to experience the holy of this life, now on earth.” Our lives shouldn’t be compartmentalized, but instead flow all together. For example, I’m a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend and employee. All my roles work together and I should be the same no matter what role I am fulfilling at the time. People should be able to see God working through me. We have a void that only Jesus can fill. Marriage, parenting, family, friends and work can’t completely fill that void. They can’t be all things to us either because they are human so just like us they become exhausted from day to day life. Funston writes in a clear manner to moms about how God designed us for parenting and the boundaries we need to set for ourselves.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

Kristin Funston is a speaker and blogger. She’s a contributor for the Today Parenting Team, Scary Mommy, The Better Mom and The Memphis Blog. Visit her website at www.kristinfunston.com

Title: Overcoming Grandparenting Barriers
Series: Grandparenting Matters
Author: Larry Fowler
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date: April 30th, 2019
Format: Paperback
Length: 112 pages

Overcoming Grandparenting Barriers by Larry Fowler, founder of The Legacy Coalition, discusses geographical, relational and spiritual boundaries grandparents may face with their grandchildren. He addresses issues such as when the parents divorce and the grandparents are not allowed a relationship with the grandchildren, when parents will not allow the mention of Christianity and when grandchildren live far away. Fowler discussed these concerns in a practical way and the advice given was also helpful for parents as well.
The only disagreement I have with Fowler is that he mentions grandparent narcissism, which is where grandparents focus so much on themselves by taking trips and doing their own activities that they don’t babysit enough or take part enough in their grandchild’s life. I understand grandparents play a significant role in the grandchildren’s life and Ella can see her Papaw and Mimi as much as they would like. However, I think after decades of parenting, grandparents deserve to have enough “me” time as they want. Travel. Read. Join clubs. Spend days lounging around in pj’s while you watch TV all day. The beauty of no longer having children in your home is that you can do whatever you want and go wherever you want. (I say this because that is exactly what I plan on doing, just don’t tell Ella. Also, drink a margarita(s) for me while you are on vacation.)

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

Larry Fowler has served in ministry for over 40 years, with a majority of years spent working for the AWANA ministry. He founded The Legacy Coalition in 2016 as a resource for grandparents. You can find more information about him here and purchase additional books here.


Title: Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday
Author: Valerie Woerner
Publisher: Tyndale Momentum
Publication Date: April 9th, 2019
Format: Paperback
Length: 272 pages

Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday is an excellent read for moms of young ones. Woerner gives moms ideas on how to take care of themselves and their kids without losing their sanity. Her advice is practical and the book is a fast read, which is important for moms of young ones. I enjoyed the section on “Divine Interruptions.” Like Woerner, I’m an introvert with perfectionistic tendencies. If a plan gets interrupted during the day, I feel very frustrated. She writes, “If what we planned doesn’t happen, then it wasn’t God’s purpose for the time. Our frustration comes because feel we should be doing something different from what we’re doing in the moment. We struggle because what we think we’re supposed to be doing has been interrupted…if my plan gets interrupted, then it wasn’t his plan for that moment after all.” So GOOD! I really struggle with this and it’s probably where my main frustration as a parent comes in and causes most of my anxiety in life. Woerner gave very good advice on how to handle life as a mama when you are Type A like myself.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

Valerie Voerner is a blogger and founder of Val Marie Paper, a company that produces prayer journals. She is married and has two young girls.

What I Am Watching Now…

I love a good series to binge on the weekends. These are some of my favorites at the moment.

I love Christina Applegate and she’s perfect in her new dramedy, Dead to Me. Her character, Jen Harding, is looking for the person responsible for her husband’s death due to a hit and run. She meets Judy Hale (Linda Cardellini) in her grief support group and uses her to help find the person responsible for her husband’s death.
Genre: Comedy-Drama
Available on Netflix.

Schitt’s Creek stars Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy as the cast of the Rose family that loses their fortune after being defrauded by their business manager. The only option they have is to move to the tiny town of Schitt’s Creek, which the Rose family had purchased for their son one year as a joke. The cast is perfect together and makes for hilarious comedy.
Genre: Comedy
Available on Netflix and Pop TV.

Grace and Frankie stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen. Grace and Frankie move in together after their husbands sit them down to dinner one night to tell them they are in love and getting married to each other. The husbands have worked together for years as attorneys and the wives have NOTHING in common. The show revolves around the two as they adjust to being on their own after so many years and dealing with adult children.
Genre: Comedy
Available on Netflix.

The Ranch stars Ashton Kutcher, Debra Winger, Elisha Cuthbert and Sam Elliot. The show revolves around the Bennett family who owns the Iron River Ranch in Garrison Colorado. Colt Bennet (Ashton Kutcher) returns to the town after 15 years away to help his dad work the ranch and marries his high school sweetheart, Abby Phillips (Elisha Cuthbert).
Genre: Comedy
Available on Netflix.

Northern Rescue stars William Baldwin (John West), as a search and rescue commander who moves his family from Boston to Turtle Island Bay, Ontario to live with his sister-in-law after the death of his wife.
Genre: Drama
Available on Netflix.

The Crown traces Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) from her wedding in 1947 to present day. Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey.
Genre: Historical Drama
Available on Netflix.

Stranger Things is set in Hawkins, Indiana during the 1980’s and focuses on supernatural events occurring in the town due to the scientific research from the nearby Hawkins National Laboratory. The cast stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp. Season 3 will premiere on July 4, 2019.
Genre: Science Fiction
Available on Netflix.

Three suburban moms are tired of trying to make ends meet and decide to pull an unlikely heist by robbing a supermarket. Good Girls stars Mae Whitman, Christina Hendricks, Reta and Reno Wilson.
Genre: Comedy-Drama
Available on NBC and Netflix.

Greenleaf revolves around the Greenleaf family and their mega-church, full of scandal and lies. Greenleaf stars Keith David (Bishop James Greenleaf), Lynn Whitfield (First Lady Daisy Mae Greenleaf), Merle Dandridge (Pastor Grace Greenleaf and the oldest child), Desiree Ross (Sophia Greenleaf and Pastor Grace’s daughter), Lamman Rucker (Pastor Jacob Greenleaf and the only son who pastors the rival church, Triumph), Kim Hawthorne (Kerissa Greenleaf and Jacob’s wife) and Deborah Joy Winans (Charity Greenleaf, Minister of Music and the youngest child).
Genre: Drama
Available on OWN and Netflix.

Podcasts I Listen To…

Serial is an investigative journalism podcast hosted by Sarah Koening. There are currently 3 seasons with each non-fiction story lasting all season long. The first season follows the disappearance of Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee who disappeared in 1999 after school one day. 6 weeks later her ex-boyfriend and classmate, Adnan Syed is arrested for murder. He claims innocence. Season 2 follows Bowe Bergdahl, a captive of the Taliban held for five years. Soilders from his unit claim he purposely walked into enemy territory. Bergdahl is charged with being a traitor. Koening speaks to Bergdahl, who is opening up for the since the charges about his version of the story. Season 3 looks at the justice system in Cleveland and examines each court case week by week. Learn more here.

Dr. Laura Call of the Day features one phone call from her show on Sirius XM. Dr. Laura is America’s #1 Relationship Talk Radio Host. Learn more about Dr. Laura here.

Jenny McCarthy’s Celebrity Dirt Podcast features the latest news on celebrity dating, parenting, relationships and pop culture news.

On a less serious note…

So…….this blog post today was supposed to be reviews on parenting books from NetGalley. I have a 6 year old, whose one gift for Mother’s Day turned out to be a huge temper tantrum over the fact I wouldn’t give her the phone. According to her, I am stupid and she also hates this world. So clearly, I am winning at parenting. Maybe I will get lucky and she will become a soap opera star due to her drama abilities and take care of me. She went to bed early so that was my Mother’s Day gift to me.

Anyway, all the books turned out to be DNF’s (did not finish). I requested several and they were not helpful, to say the least. One book looked promising until I started actually reading it. The issue with me is that her way of parenting is so successful that none can compare! All you have to do is sacrifice everything for your children. Your needs, your wants, your life. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So simple, right? SMH. Have a career? That’s too indulgent. Are you a SAHM and spend time on a hobby you enjoy during the day? You have children that need their mother 24/7 for heaven’s sake! I could only make it halfway through the book. I understand her children are grown and she is an empty nester. I’m sure her knowledge far outweighs mine. However, she didn’t even share how she became a judgmental wonderful parent. No mention of her children ever causing scenes in public. No bad parenting decisions. She gave birth and instantly was filled with all surpassing wisdom, not like us mere mortals with our inferior offspring. UGH. Pass.

The next book looked hopeful. It promised a new style of parenting. According to the authors, this style of parenting is so outstanding that we wouldn’t believe it could work. I read about a quarter of the book and I agreed with the authors. I don’t believe it could work. For example, if Johnny refuses to take out the trash when you ask him too, we are supposed to acknowledge his feeling of irritation and then negotiate a time that would work better for him. Maybe after he is done watching TV so he’s not irritated about being interrupted. You can’t make this stuff up. That was an actual example from the book. This style of parenting encourages the parents to reach their children’s hearts and allow for mutual understanding. I came to an understanding with my parents too, but it didn’t look like the example from the book. “I’m the adult, your the child. I pay the bills which is why we have cable in the first place, you do chores as I say so you learn to be responsible” (and lets be honest, eventually leave). See? Understanding. I wrote the publisher and told them I couldn’t finish the book. I have a strong willed child so if I negotiated every chore, nothing would ever get done and there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I gave up on parenting books and decided to read a thriller. I have several in my to read list and would share them today instead of parenting books. I love thrillers as much as the next person except I haven’t been reading them much as of late. There are so many authors trying to copy Gillian Flynn. I’m just going to write it. Gillian Flynn is to the thriller genre what Oprah is to talk shows. You can’t imitate her work and claim to be the next Gillian Flynn. She is a master at her craft and has a gift that very few authors have. If you are writing “the sky turned dark” and “the door creaked” that is not classified as a thriller, Nancy Drew.

Anytime I am reading a book, I want to hear the author’s unique voice. I can tell when they are attached to their storyline and characters or when they are hoping to make a quick buck based on the popular genre of the moment. I have been in a reading slump since I’ve read Dorothea Benton Frank’s novel. She is a romance writer, but doesn’t try to imitate Danielle Steel or Nora Roberts. She writes using her own voice, her own personality and what she loves. One of her homes is located in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and that’s where her novels are set. She has knowledge and a love for her home which shows in her writing. If the author isn’t being genuine to themselves, I don’t finish reading the work no matter how popular it is.

I am still in my reading slump, but managed to find a few from NetGalley that I loved. Y’all know I love works that classify as humor so listed below are two that I recommend.

Title: Mama, Mama, Only Mama
Author: Lara Lillibridge
Publisher: SkyHorse
Publication Date: March 5th, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 208 pages

I love the author’s sense of humor and style of writing. I feel like she could be one of my BFF’s. In her humorous memoir, she shares her frustrations, fears and successes as a single mom for 6 years to two young boys whom she refers to as Big Pants and Little Pants. Recipes and parenting tips are shared. Even if you aren’t a single parent, you can still relate to some of Lillibridge’s feelings and experiences in the book.

Thank you to NetGalley for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.

From the publisher: Lara Lillibridge sings off-beat and dances off-key. She writes a lot, and sometimes even likes how it turns out.
She is the author of two memoirs, Girlish: Growing Up in a Lesbian Home, Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018) and Mama, Mama, Only Mama (Skyhorse Publishing, 2019).
Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and The American Literary Review’s Contest in Nonfiction. She also was a finalist in both Black Warrior Review’s Nonfiction Contest and DisQuiet’s Literary Prize in Creative Nonfiction.

Title: How To Be A Perfect Christian
Author: The Babylon Bee
Publisher: Multnomah
Publication Date: May 1st, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 203 pages

How to be a Perfect Christian is satire about modern day Christianity. There were so many lines I highlighted. One of my favorites was, “Whether you’re watching Christian movies in which the world lights up like a big ball of fire and only Kirk Cameron is left standing or you’re reading a bonnet ripper about Jebediah the Amish farmer casting his steely gaze at Abigail the spinster, remember to turn your mind off and let your own efforts rack up credit in heaven with the Lord. Don’t think critically about any of these things. They have been approved by cultural Christianity, so they’re undoubtedly wholesome.” I laughed so hard I had tears.

The book does make you think about how Christianity is portrayed in our culture and that is sad. I’ve grown up in the church my whole life and while I would feel comfortable in the environment, I can easily understand why many don’t. I will give a warning and say that this book may be offensive to some believers. For example, if you are offended by John Christ’s posts on social media, you will more than likely be offended by this book. However, if you love John Christ, this book is perfect for you.

Thank you to NetGalley for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.


Visit the Babylon Bee’s website.

Beach Reads

Summer is almost here! Today they are doing a beach day party at my daughter’s school. So jealous! Who doesn’t love a day at the beach? I’ve read a few beach reads that are going to be published this month and wanted to share them with you. I also have a few of my favorites listed as well.

Title: I Spy the Boy Next Door
Author: Samantha Armstrong
Publisher: Samantha Armstrong
Publication Date: May 25th, 2019
Format: Paperback
Length: 346 pages


Mallory has a huge crush on the boy next door. The only problem is that she’s homeschooled and doesn’t have a chance to really know him, until she begs her parents to let her attend public school. Troy Parker, the boy next door, is everything she hoped he would be. Troy acts distant from Mallory at times, yet at other times he is completely protective. This throws Mallory into a complete emotional spin as she is trying to figure out exactly what is going on with Troy and all of his mysterious ways. Does he love her or is he just playing with her emotions?

I Spy the Boy Next door is the typical high school drama of the good girl trying to get the bad boy. I think many teenage girls had this experience and the author creates a scenario in which the good girl does get the out of reach bad boy. He is protective, mysterious, romantic and a little rebellious, but still meets parent approval. The author writes with enough romance and suspense to keep your attention. The book is overall a very fun summer read that allows the reader to escape the real world for awhile.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

Samantha Armstrong was born and raised in New Zealand. I Spy The Boy Next Door is her third novel published. You can find out more at her website,
https://www.samantharmstrong.com/

Pre-order her novel here from Amazon.

Title: Queen Bee
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 432 pages

Queen Bee is the first Dorothea Benton Frank novel I have read. I feel like the author and I could be good friends. You can easily imagine yourself on Sullivan’s Island engaging with the characters. Her writing comes across as so real. Queen Bee is a really quirky, fun novel for summer. I look forward to reading many more novels by the author.

Centered around two sisters and the mom, or “Queen Bee” as they call her, the three ladies are enjoying life on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. Leslie moves away after she is married to a childhood sweetheart. What she doesn’t know is that he has a secret love for impersonating a woman and performing on stage. The other sister, Holly, is a homebody and beekeeper trying to overcome a painful past. The mom goes into a deep depression after Leslie leaves the island and won’t get out of bed. All three must overcome their fears so they can lead the life they want.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

Dorothea Benton Frank is the New York Times Bestselling Author of twenty novels, which are set in the South Carolina Lowcountry. She loves reading, gardening, cooking and spending time with her family.
Visit her website:
http://dotfrank.com/
Pre-order here from Amazon.

I mentioned earlier on the blog that I love romance novels written in the 80’s. Victoria Holt is an example. I’m adding her to my list of fun beach reads.

Title: The Road to Paradise Island
Author: Victoria Holt
Publisher: Fawcett
Publication Date: October 12th, 1986
Format: Hardcover
Length: 480 pages

From the publisher:
Annalice Mallory, the sheltered daughter of a family of map makers, discovers the cryptic diary of her long-dead ancestor that includes a map of a mysterious far-of island. Philip, Annalice’s brother, sets sail for the island, lured by the promise of incomparable riches to be found. But when he doesn’t return, Annalice sets out to find him — and the secrets of the diary — in a desperate journey that leads her through the worlds’ most exciting outposts . . . and finally to the tropical islands of the South Seas, where she encounters heart-stopping peril, but also the promise of love.

Victoria Holt, real name Eleanor Alice Burford, was born in 1906 in Kensington, London and passed away in 1993. Her books written under her pen name, Victoria Holt, sold more than 56 million copies. See more of her works at
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/25092.Victoria_Holt

Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: Paradise Island
Author: Judith McNaught
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: July 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Length: 709 pages

Paradise is my absolute favorite romance novel. This is one of those novels that just stays with you. The writing and characters are TOO GOOD. Matthew Farrell and Meredith Bancroft are two of my favorite characters in any fiction book I’ve read. Book hangover guaranteed.

From the publisher:
Corporate raider Matthew Farrell had come a long way from the poor, scruffy kid of Indiana’s steel mills. A long way from the country club where, feeling like an outsider, he had dared to fall in love with a beautiful blonde named Meredith Bancroft, and known a once-in-a-lifetime passion and betrayal that still haunted his memory… Now world leaders courted him, the media watched his every move, and he was ready to move in on the Bancroft empire.

A cool, poised executive in her family’s legendary department store chain, Meredith had once defied her father for the sexually magnetic, intense Matt Farrell — and their brief, ill-fated marriage was the disastrous outcome. Now, as the Bancroft firm is threatened by a hostile takeover, Meredith is forced to confront Matt. As tensions build between them, bittersweet memories rise to the surface, leaving them suspicious, restless, and uncertain. Will they be able to believe in each other — and grasp the tender miracle that is before them? 
Order the novel here from Amazon.

Judith McNaught is the New York Times bestselling author of 19 novels. She currently lives in Dallas, TX. Follow her FB page here.

Title: The Shell Seekers
Author: Rosamunde Pilcher
Publisher: Dell
Publication Date: January 2, 1989
Format: Hardcover
Length: 592 pages

One of my favorite writers is Rosamunde Pilcher. Her books are such classics. I find myself becoming easily lost in her stories. The Shell Seekers is a perfect read for summer and it may easily become one of your favorite reads.

From the publisher:

Artist’s daughter Penelope Keeling can look back on a full and varied life: a Bohemian childhood in London and Cornwall, an unhappy wartime marriage, and the one man she truly loved. She has brought up three children – and learned to accept them as they are. Yet she is far too energetic and independent to settle sweetly into pensioned-off old-age. And when she discovers that her most treasured possession, her father’s painting, The Shell Seekers, is now worth a small fortune, it is Penelope who must make the decisions that will determine whether her family can continue to survive as a family, or be split apart. 

Purchase novel here.

Rosamunde Pilcher was born on September 22, 1924 and passed on February 06, 2019. She began writing at the age of 7. On December 7th, 1946, she married her late husband, Graham Pilcher with whom she had four children.
Read more about her and her novels here.

What type of books do I collect?

I regularly make trips to Half Price and buy books on clearance or paperbacks. I love to browse the shelves to see if I can find classics or quirky books that were once popular. If you are an educator/librarian, you can get a 10 percent discount card for all purchases. You just need to show your employee ID. I also purchase books on my Kindle and download free e-books from NetGalley. I am supposed to be writing reviews for at least 80 percent of my requests, which is a goal I am working towards. If you are interested in starting a book blog or just have a Goodreads/Amazon account, you can sign up for NetGalley as well to be approved for free e-reads in exchange for reviews. Authors really do appreciate it as it is free advertising for their books. I also borrow books from the library where I work and our sister colleges. I usually have a stack of library novels next to my bed and on my desk.

I love novels that were written in the style that Fannie Flagg writes in. She is the author of the popular novel and movie, Fried Green Tomatoes. I found one a few days ago that I am looking forward to reading titled “Big Stone Gap” by Adriana Trigiani.

I collect Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts novels. So far, my daughter does not have much interest in reading. She will let me read aloud to her, but she doesn’t typically read on her own. I am assuming at some point she will want to read romance novels, as most girls do, so I’m saving those for her. I want to read Gone With the Wind and “….And Ladies of the Club” which was a popular novel when it was first published in the 1980’s. Some of my most favorite books have been published in the 80’s and I am going to make a list at some point. My parents purchased the entire Beverly Cleary books for Ella. They were my favorite series as a kid so also kind of purchased for me too! If you haven’t read Judith McNaught, you should. Her romance novels are AMAZING. I will be writing more about her books later.

I have mostly randoms on this side of the shelf. I want to finish Marilyn Monroe’s biography by Donald Spot. Saint Anything by Sara Dessen is supposed to be amazing. I’ve only read one of her works thus far. Belva Plain is another gifted writer who I highly recommend. Her works were popular in the 70’s and 80’s. Barbara Taylor Bradford and Rosamunde Pilcher were also very popular during that time. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is another classic I want to finish reading. I have a leather bound volume of all of Charles Dickens works given to me by a friend for Christmas which I treasure. I started the Ken Follett Century Trilogy, but have not finished the last book yet. I know. I’m terrible at finishing series. In my opinion, the first novel was the best. Mary Kay Andrews and Elin Hilderbrand are women’s authors whose books I consider to be modern day beach reads. I’m kind of bad at getting around to reading those, but I did finish a few that I received from NetGalley, which I will blog about later.

My closet floor. It’s terrible. Most of these were purchased at Half Price. I have a few novels by Lori Wick, a Christian author. I’m going to be honest and say that I don’t read Christian novels that often. They aren’t typically my favorite unless it’s Lori Wick or Karen Kingsbury. I also like Frank Peretti, who writes Christian thrillers. Lorna Landvik is another one my favorite authors whose books are humorous. I’m reading Patty Jane’s House of Curl and it’s a really fun read for summer. Fern Michaels and Jude Deveraux’s works are fun reads for summer as well.

What do I do with all these books after I’m done reading them? I donate them to our little free libraries located around campus.

I would LOVE to hear what you enjoy reading. Leave a note in the comments on my blog or on my FB page!

List of Memoirs

I am a fan of memoirs because so much can be learned from people’s life stories. I went through a major depression last year and read the following memoirs. I gained strength and knowledge, even if I hadn’t been through the exact experience myself that the writer lived through. For more of my favorite memoirs that I do not list here, visit my Goodreads site at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5567790-brittany

Title: Don’t Stop Believin’
Author: Olivia Newton-John
Publisher: Viking Australia
Publication Date: September 10th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 366 pages

Olivia Newton-John shares her life story for the first time in detail in her new memoir. She chronicles her journey to stardom and her personal battles. Newton-John founded the Australian retreat center, Gaia, and the ONJ Centre (Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre). She is currently battling metastatic breast cancer and discusses this in detail. She is married to John Easterling and has a daughter, Chloe, from a previous marriage to Matt Lattanzi. 
Her book is a perfect read for those that are fans of Olivia Newton John. I love Grease and it was interesting to read what happened on the set of the film.
Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: Loving Natalee: A Mother’s Testament of Hope and Faith
Author: Beth Holloway
Publisher: Harper One
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Length: 256 pages


“This is the inside story of what occurred during the most horrific and tragic event any family could ever imagine. It has to be told because I represent every parent, and Natalee represents every young. adult. No one else should ever live this nightmare. If the words that follow will help another parent, child, young adult, or travel of any age stay safer, then it will have been well worth the writing of this book.”

-Beth Holloway, Loving Natalee

Loving Natalee is a beautiful memoir written by Beth Holloway. I remember hearing about the disappearance of Natalee my freshman year of college. I was broken hearted for her and her family. Beth Holloway writes candidly about the emotions she went through after her daughter’s disappearance and how her faith sustained her. She is a strong and courageous woman who fought so hard for Natalee against a government that covered up many details related to the case.

Beth Holloway founded the Natalee Holloway Resource Center to assist families in locating their missing loved ones. She currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama and works as a speech pathologist.

Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love and Overcoming
Author: Kerri Rawson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: January 29th, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 336 pages

Kerri Rawson’s story is one of the most beautiful and life changing that I have ever read. She grew up in Wichita, Kansas with a seemingly normal childhood. Her family was active in the community and their church. Rawson was very close to her father, Dennis Radner. The memoir includes memories of vacation with him and how he shared her love of the outdoors. Rawson leaves to attend college where she meets her future husband. Her dad walks her down the aisle at the wedding. Her family seems happy and thriving with plenty of friends to support and love them.

A few years later, Rawson moves out of state for her husband’s job. She is sitting in their apartment one afternoon by herself when there is a knock on the door. The man is an agent with the FBI. He tells her that Dennis Radner, the man she knows as her loving father, is BTK, the notorious Wichita serial killer the police have been trying to track down for years.

Her maturity and grace show through this memoir. She speaks of how her faith helped her during some of the darkest days. Rawson has not visited with her father in jail. She has communicated to him through letters, but has not had any contact with him in a long time. She writes that she knows him as two different people. One is the loving father that would have done anything for his family. The other is the man with an evil past that she has no desire to communicate with. She prefers to remember him as the father she once knew.

Follow Kerri Rawson on Facebook.

Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: For Laci: A Mother’s Story of Love, Loss and Justice
Author: Sharon Rocha
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Publication Date: December 5th, 2006
Format: Paperback
Page Length: 335 pages

Sharon Rocha, mother of Laci Peterson, writes in detail about the loss of Laci and her unborn grandson, Connor, in 2002. Rocha writes truthfully about the emotions the family dealt with when there at one time beloved son-in-law, Scott Peterson, was convicted. She mentions in the memoir that she had doubts about Scott at first. He seemed too charming and too good to be true. She loved him because Laci did.

Rocha is a remarkably strong woman. She helped pass the Unborn Victims of Violence act in 2004, which makes it a crime to harm the fetus of a pregnant woman during an attack. She currently lives in California and works as a real estate agent.

Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch
Author: Alison Arngrim
Publisher: It Books
Publication Date: June 15th, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Length: 302 pages

Nellie Oleson was the character everyone loved to hate on the beloved tv show, Little House on the Prairie. What many may not know is that Alison Arngrim is the exact opposite of her character. She is funny and down to earth. Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder and the girl Nellie loved to bully, and Arngrim are best friends and stay in touch with many of the characters from the show.

Arngrim’s memoir is filled with humor and cherished moments from Little House. She also discusses the hardships she endured in her private life with her dysfunctional family and how playing her character was a form of therapy. Her brother sexually abused Arngrim for years and she was too afraid to tell anyone. She learned to be strong by playing Nellie Oleson and the cast became a second family to her.

Percival Dalton, Nellie Oleson’s husband on the tv show, passed away due to AIDS in 1986. Arngrim currently works as an AIDS activist for the organization ACT UP in honor of her friend and castmate. She also is an activist for the improvement of child protection laws and a founding board member of the National Association to Protect Children.

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch was a Goodreads Choice Nominee for Memoir and Biography in 2010.

Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Title: Where There’s Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up
Author: Elizabeth Smart
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 27th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Page Length: 288 pages

Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home at the age of 14 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was held captive by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee for nine months until she was rescued by authorities.

Her memoir, Where There’s Hope, discusses her life since the abduction and how she healed from the trauma she endured. Smart interviews those that have faced their own challenges and have overcome. She helps individuals make peace with their own past and move forward with healing.
Smart currently works as an American child safety activist
and is a contributor for ABC News. She is the founder of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation which provides resources for victims and their families. Smart is married to Matthew Gilmour and they have three children. For more information, visit elizabethsmart.com
Purchase the book here from Amazon.

Hey Moms! Grab a glass of wine and these books!

In honor of Mother’s Day this month, I’m going to be sharing my favorite books on motherhood and parenting. I don’t know about you, but I love a book that makes me feel I’m not alone on this crazy, wild, and beautiful journey of being a mother. Happy Mother’s Day to all of my fellow mommies!

Title: Cat and Nat’s Mom Truths: Embarrassing Stories and Brutally Honest Advice on the Extremely Real Struggle of Motherhood
Authors: Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer
Publisher: Harmony
Publication Date: March 12, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Length: 224 Pages


Cat and Nat, online media celebrities, dish about everything motherhood in their new book, Mom Truths. The book will make you laugh, cry and feel like you are talking to two of your best girlfriends. Cat and Nat discuss all the brutal honest truths of labor and delivery, husbands, marriage after baby, friendship and life with little ones. It’s definitely on my favorites list. Grab a copy for you and your BFF.

Click here to purchase.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

From the publisher:
CATHERINE BELKNAP and NATALIE TELFER have been friends since they were teens but grew closer with motherhood when they chose to confide in each other about the more taboo topics of parenting. It wasn’t long after that when they decided to bring the conversation online in hopes of helping other moms feel less isolated. Their rapidly exploding community of like-minded moms tune in every day to watch them rewrite the paradigm of “the perfect mom.” Cat & Nat share everything moms think, but are too afraid to talk about. Find them online at https://www.catandnat.ca or on all social channels @catandnat

  • Title: Surprised by Motherhood
  • Author: Lisa Jo-Baker
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication Date: April 1, 2014
  • Format: Paperback
  • Length: 240 Pages

I purchased Surprised by Motherhood when Ella was four and it is honestly one of the most beautiful and encouraging books on motherhood. Lisa-Jo Baker is so honest about the challenges and insecurities of motherhood. She shares her personal journey that helped mold her into the women she is today. If you are looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift for a new mom, this is it.

Click here to purchase.

From the publisher:
Lisa-Jo Baker is the author of Never Unfriended and Surprised by Motherhood, as well as the Bible Study, We Saved You a Seat. She lives just outside Washington, DC, with her husband and their three very loud kids, where she connects, encourages and champions women online and in person through her honest take on life and her ability to laugh at herself and learn out loud from her mistakes. As the community manager at the website incourage.me since 2010, Lisa-Jo has had the chance to engage hundreds of conversations with women about friendship. And she’s convinced that the shortest distance between strangers is a shared awkward story. She’d love to connect with you at her website: lisajobaker.com or on Instagram @lisajobaker

  • Title: Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children
  • Author: Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman
  • Publisher: Twelve
  • Publication Date: January 5, 2011
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Length: 352 pages

I read this book two years ago and remember it being one of my favorite books on parenting. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman discuss sibling relationships, pros and cons of private school, technology’s influence on children’s thinking, diversity and why kids from the best homes may struggle with behavior problems. The authors take what they have learned and apply it to their own children. The book has been wildly successful and I personally believe it is because the authors are encouraging, not critical of parenting styles. Bronson and Merryman provide practical advice and share what they have learned based on their experience and studies. Read additional reviews from fellow parents here.

Click here to purchase.

From the publisher:

Po Bronson has built a career both as a successful novelist and as a prominent writer of narrative nonfiction. He has published five books, and he has written for television, magazines, and newspapers, including Time, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and for National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Currently he is writing regularly for New York magazine in the United States and for The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom.

Po Bronson’s book of social documentary, What Should I Do With My Life?, was a #1 New York Times bestseller and remained in the Top 10 for nine months. He has been on Oprah, on every national morning show, and on the cover of five magazines, including Wired and Fast Company. His first novel, Bombardiers, was a #1 bestseller in the United Kingdom. His books have been translated into 18 languages. Po speaks regularly at colleges and community “town hall” events. He is a founder of The San Francisco Writer’s Grotto, a cooperative workspace for about 40 writers and filmmakers. From 1992 to 2006 he was on the Board of Directors of Consortium Book Sales & Distribution. He lives in San Francisco with his family.

From the author’s website:
NurtureShock, has become one of the most influential books about children ever published. On the New York Times bestseller list for more than six months and an Amazon Top Nonfiction 100 book for over a year, it has been translated in 20 languages.
Ashley M erryman’s mastery of the science is considered so authoritative that her work’s been cited in 185 academic journals and 503 books to date. Among the honors Merryman has received: She’s a Poynter Fellow for Journalism at Yale University and was a William J. Clinton Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Arkansas’s Clinton School of Public Service. She has received nine awards for her work including the PEN Center USA Literary Award; AAAS Award for Science Journalism; an “Audie”; and two Clarions.
Merryman has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University.
An attorney, Merryman previously served as a speechwriter and in other positions in the Clinton Administration. She lives in Los Angeles. In addition to her writing and consulting, she volunteers at a tutoring program for inner-city children, that she founded in 1999.

List of Favorite Thrillers

I love a good thriller and so I compiled a list of my favorites. A few I have read recently and the rest are from my list on Goodreads. Happy reading!

Title: The Favorite Sister
Author: Jessica Knoll
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length:375 pages

Five castmates are fighting to be the most popular on Goal Diggers, a show about women that have accrued wealth by building businesses. Tension mounts between sisters Brett and Kelly. Kelly has always been the favorite of the family leaving Brett to find her own path and become the favorite cast member. Jealousy leaves Kelly fighting to steal the spotlight, but at what cost? If you are a fan of Desperate Housewives, then you will love the latest book release by Jessica Knoll, author of Luckiest Girl Alive.

Click here to purchase.

Jessica Knoll is a New York Times Bestselling Author and currently working on the screenplay based on her novel, Luckiest Girl Alive. She lives in L.A. with her husband. Visit her website and follow her on FB.

Title: A Stranger in the House
Author: Shari Lapena
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Length: 305 pages

Tom and Karen Krupp seem like a happy and successful couple to their suburban neighbors until Karen vanishes one night in her car to the sketchier side of town. She leaves behind her cell phone and purse. The police knock on the door and tell Tom that Karen was in a car accident. Tom goes to see Karen in the hospital where he finds out that Karen has suffered a concussion and can’t remember any details about the evening or why she drove to the other side of town. She doesn’t believe anyone can be trusted, including her best friend and husband. Karen has the feeling her past is catching up to her and she may lose it all.

My Thoughts
I am a huge fan of thrillers and I absolutely loved A Stranger in the House due to its level of suspense. You begin to wonder who is lying-Tom, Karen or the nosy neighbor. The author slowly reveals all the details of what led Karen to that evening and the ending is perfect.

Click here to purchase

Shari Lapena was a lawyer and teacher before beginning her career as an author. Her novels, The Couple Next Door and a A Stranger in the House, have been bestsellers. She currently lives in Toronto.
Visit her website

Title:Pretty Girls
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date:September 29, 2015
Format: Paperback
Print Length: 548 pages
Karin Slaughter’s writing delights in this novel and it was one I could not put down. Lydia and Claire’s eldest sister, Julia, went missing twenty years ago. The two went separate ways with Lydia becoming a drug addict and Claire seeking safety with her husband, Paul. The sisters reconnect after another girl goes missing which leaves Claire convinced the disappearance is linked to Julia’s death. Claire is the main character and Slaughter does an excellent job creating her character. Claire goes from a weak, dependent woman to one of strength. I highly recommend Pretty Girls.

Click here to purchase

Karin Slaughter is the author of the Will Trent and Grant County series. Her novels, Cop Town, The Good Daughter and Pieces of Her are in development for film and television. Slaughter currently lives in Atlanta. Visit her website and follow her on Facebook.

Title: Behind Closed Doors
Author: B.A. Paris
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Length: 354 pages

A friend at church was talking about this book last Sunday, which was perfect timing since I had already started this blog. I went to my Goodreads list to see if I had read it, and I did. If you have not read novels by B.A. Paris, then you are missing out. They are that good. Jack and Grace look like the perfect couple on the outside, but inside is a completely different story. The story will make your heart race and play with your emotions so be warned.

Click here to purchase.

B.A. Paris is the author of Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown. Her next novel, The Dilemma, will be published in May 2020. She has five daughters and currently lives in France. Follow her on Facebook.

Title: A Woman in the Window
Author: A.J. Finn
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date:January 2, 2018
Format: Hardover:
Length: 449 pages

A.J. Finn’s newest novel is filled with twists and turns that make this book a fast, gripping read.
From the publisher:
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Click here to purchase.

A.J. Finn’s debut novel, A Woman in the Window, is being adapted for film and will be released on October 4, 2019. Finn currently lives in New York City. Follow him on Facebook.

Title: The Wife Between Us
Authors: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 9th, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Length: 346 pages
From the publisher:

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love. 
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing. 

Twisted and deliciously chilling, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage – and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

Read between the lies.

Click here to purchase.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are the authors of The Wife Between Us, with movie rights being purchased by Amblin Entertainment. They are also the authors of the An Anonymous Girl (published January 2019), which is being adapted for a television series. Follow their websites-Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

Title: Never Let You Go
Author: Chevy Stevens
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 14, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Length: 406 pages

I recently read Never Let You Go and I cannot recommend this thriller enough. I love Chevy Stevens. Lindsey Nash escapes an abusive relationship by fleeing with her daughter into the night. Now her ex-husband is out of prison and Lindsey has a feeling he is stalking her again. Without her knowledge, her teenage daughter makes contact with him. Soon, Lindsey is receiving notes and gifts from an anonymous sender. Her ex-husband swears he has changed. Her teenager daughter says the same. Is he telling the truth?

Click here to purchase.

Chevy Stevens is the author of Still Missing, a New York Times bestseller. She currently lives on Vancouver Island with her daughter and husband.

Title: My Husband’s Wife
Author: Jane Corry
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Length: 373 pages

This book is SO. ADDICTIVE. It has been over a year since I’ve read My Husband’s Wife, but I remember it as being a book I could not put down. I found the book at Target from their Target Club Picks selection and you can NEVER go wrong with one of their choices. Grab a Starbucks beverage and spend time browsing their book selections. You won’t be sorry.
Lily, a criminal defense attorney, and Ed, an artist, fall in love and soon their marriage deteriorates. Lily finds herself drawn to Joe, a convicted murderer that she meets during her first murder case. Lily and Ed’s next door neighbor, nine year old Carla, also has secrets as well. Ed starts to paint her when Carla spends more and more time at their house. Ed finds success with his portrait of Carla and Lily finds success with her first murder case. Twelve years later, Carla shows up on Lily and Ed’s doorstep with secrets she is ready to share, including information about the couple’s autistic son.

Click here to purchase.

Jane Corry is the author of My Sister’s Wife, Blood Sisters and the Dead Ex. Her newest novel, I Looked Away, will be available June 21, 2019. Corry spent time working as a writer in residence at a high security prison for men which helps inspire her novels today. She currently lives by the sea with her husband. Visit her website and follow her on Facebook.

Title: She’s Not There
Author: Joy Fielding
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Length: 368 pages

I love Joy Fielding and her book, She’s Not There, is one of my absolute favorites. The writing is just so good. I haven’t had a chance to catch up on her other works, but that is one of my plans for summer. This one I found on my Goodreads list as a book I finished almost two years ago. I do remember the novel as being emotionally intense and with a superb ending.

From the publisher: A lifetime ago, every year Caroline Shipley looked forward to her wedding anniversary. But then a celebratory trip to Mexico for the occasion with her husband and friends ended in the unsolved kidnapping of her infant daughter, Samantha. Now, fifteen years after that horrific time, divorced and isolated,Caroline is forced to relive the kidnapping by reporters who call every year on the anniversary of Samantha’s disappearance. However, this year when the phone rings, Caroline hears the sweet voice of a girl claiming to be her long-lost daughter. Plunged back into the world of heartbreak, suspicion and questions that led the case to run cold so many years ago, Caroline doesn’t know what or who to believe. But when she starts to figure it out, she finds the answers dangerously close to home.

Click here to purchase.

Joy Fielding is a New York Times bestselling author and has more than 24 novels published to date. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada. Visit her website and follow her on Facebook.

Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Length: 323 pages

I read The Girl on the Train nearly four years ago and I remember absolutely loving this novel as it has all the ingredients of an excellent psychological thriller. This book will keep you guessing as to who is innocent, Rachel (aka the girl on the train) or the couple she is spying on through her train window every morning and evening on the way to work. One of my all time favorites.

From the publisher: Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Click here to purchase.

Paula Hawkins is the author of The Girl on the Train and her new mystery novel, Into the Water.She currently lives in London.

Author Spotlight: Marie Benedict

I try to read books from several different genres, including non-fiction, which I will have several reviews of coming this summer. I do have favorite authors and will try to read all of their works in the order they are published. One of my favorites is historical fiction writer Marie Benedict. Her stories portray women as having played a key role in history during a time when women were not allowed fair access to education. Although her stories are fabricated to a degree, they still give the reader an idea of what women endured during that time. Click here to visit the Marie Benedict’s website.

A quirk I have when it comes to reading is that I occasionally do research on why the author wrote the book before I begin reading it. I feel like if I don’t, then I’m not connecting with the author and fully understanding why the book was written.

Title: The Other Einstein
Author: Marie Benedict
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 336

A marriage of geniuses: In a time when most twenty-year-old women were wives, or trying to be, Mileva Maric was studying physics at an elite university in Zurich. Her rise from the relative backwater of misogynistic Serbia to all-male university classrooms in Switzerland was nothing short of meteoric. Her male peers could only try to keep up with her clever calculations. For Mileva, math was an easier path than marriage. Then, fellow student Albert Einstein took an interest in her and the world turned sideways. Their life together was a partnership of heart and mind. But could there be room for more than one genius in a marriage?

The other Einstein: Mileva Maric was a fascinating, brilliant physicist in her own right. She was, in fact, the other Einstein. In the world of physics, there’s much debate over the role she played in forming the theory of special relativity, one of her husband’s greatest works. Was she simply a sounding board, computing the complex mathematical equations? Or did she contribute something more?

Review from Amazon.

My Thoughts
I read this book in one day two years ago. I absolutely loved it and it’s on my Goodreads’ favorites list. Mileva Maric is one of my favorite characters in literature due to her ability to withstand pressure from males to not further her research and education. Einstein was not an easy man to live with, but Maric had the ability to withhold her own.

There is some controversy over the book, which you can read about in an article published by Notre Dame Magazine and written by Stacy Nyikos. No proof is available that Maric did contribute to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Benedict is suggesting that Maric did play a role and did not receive credit due to women’s limitations in academia at the time.

Click here to purchase The Other Einstein.

Title: Carnegie’s Maid
Author: Marie Benedict
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 352

In the age of the Industrial Revolution, Clara Kelley makes the journey from Ireland to America in hopes of creating a new life to support her poor Irish family. When she lands, the unexpected happens. A gentleman working for Mrs. Seeley, owner of a servants’ registry in Pittsburgh, confuses her with another Clara Kelley traveling second class on the ship. Realizing that the Clara Kelley expected did not make the journey successfully, Kelley decides to take the job of being Mrs. Carnegie’s maid. She has no experience being a lady’s maid as the real Clara Kelley does and is also Catholic which is forbidden in the Carnegie household, but keeps up the ruse in order to provide financially. Mrs. Carnegie comes fully to rely on Kelley and earns her full trust. Andrew Carnegie falls in love with Kelley’s grace, beauty and intelligence. Kelley’s ideas will forever change Carnegie’s ideas of business and philanthropy.

My Thoughts
I was not sure at first if I would enjoy Carnegie’s Maid as much as The Other Einstein, but by the end I loved this novel just as much. Kelley and Carnegie’s relationship is forbidden and must be kept secret, but does not stop them from having numerous discussions on how to help immigrants succeed in America. Kelley changes him from a cold businessman to one of the most well known philanthropists. The change in Carnegie is what makes this novel a worthy read.

Benedict’s Inspiration

Benedict’s ancestors were Irish immigrants just like Clara Kelley and used one of the libraries Carnegie founded to educate themselves. The self taught immigrants in her family worked as steel and mill workers. Due to the benefit of having access to free resources, they slowly became families working as doctors, lawyers and professors. Benedict’s story is supported by the idea that some historians have of a personal relationship changing Carnegie.

Further Reading
http://www.greermacallister.com/blog/2018/2/1/98md23vzev588kakjr4allqaz0b4b0

Click here to purchase Carnegie’s Maid.

Title: The Only Woman in the Room
Author: Marie Benedict
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 272
Hedy Lamarr, a beauty icon, fled Austria when her husband, one of the wealthiest men in Austria, began supporting Hitler’s regime by providing ammunition. Lamarr learned the German secrets, including the weakness of German torpedoes, while attending dinners with her husband and would read science books after he retired to bed. She meets Louis Mayer in London and soon begins her acting career in Hollywood. She was not only a great beauty and actress, but a brilliant inventor who used the knowledge gained about German torpedoes to try to undermine the Third Reich. The novel is based on true events.

My Thoughts
I enjoyed reading about Hedy Lamarr’s attempt to save many lives during World War II. She was definitely a woman before her time in her amount of independence and knowledge. Her giving heart and nature shows in the novel.

Read more about Maurice Benedict’s inspiration for the novel here.

Click here to purchase The Only Woman in the Room.

*NEW MYSTERY SERIES*

I have the tendency to start a series and then never finish. There is just so much I want to read and not enough time in the day. Right now I have over 100 books stacked in our bedroom closet that I’ve never read. My husband has been kind enough to let me take over the space. I eventually plan on having a library, but for right now the closet floor will have to suffice. I will be reviewing series on here for readers who follow them.

Title: Fatal Fortune
Author: Miranda Rijks
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Format: Ebook

Dr. Pippa Durant works as a psychologist in the small town of Storrington, England. She is having a normal day grocery shopping after work when she notices people in the store stop to stare at her. Unbeknownst as to why, she gets a call from her brother on the way home saying to check the evening news. Leanne Smith is found murdered in her home after winning the lottery two months prior. Her face is beaten beyond recognition. The police mistakenly use the picture of Dr. Pippa found on top of Leanne’s body at the crime scene to identify the victim and now her face is on every major news channel.

Dr. Pippa comes forward to police saying she has no connection to the victim and the only information she has is that Leanne’s town is ten miles away from her home. Detective Sergeant Joe Swain focuses on Dr. Pippa as the prime suspect. Who could possibly want her framed for murder?

Disclaimer: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts

Dr. Pippa is a likeable character and the supporting characters made for a fun read. The novel had plenty of twists and turns to keep me intrigued.

Fatal Fortune will be published on May 5, 2019. The next two books in the series, Fatal Flowers and Fatal Finale, will be released May 2019 as well. The series can be read independently or in order. I’m not making any promises, but I think this three part series is one I will finish.

Preorder the book here for $0.99 or download for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.


About the Author

Miranda Rijks is the author of I Want You Gone (previously titled The Obituary), a thriller published in April 2019 with great reviews. Rijks has a law degree and worked in marketing prior to becoming an author with a masters degree in writing. She lives in West Sussex, England with her husband and daughter.

Follow Miranda Rijks
Amazon
Facebook
Goodreads
https://mirandarijks.com/

Whoa Susannah

Title: Can’t Make This Stuff Up
Author: Susannah B. Lewis
Publisher:Thomas Nelson
Genre: Christian Humor, Biographies & Memoir
Paperback: 224 pages

I have followed Susannah B. Lewis on Facebook for several years and she has become a favorite comedian of mine. Can’t Make This Stuff Up! is Lewis’s long awaited memoir and I downloaded the Kindle version when it became available this month. If you are looking to read a book from a gifted storyteller with a love for the South, then you’ve found it. Picture sitting on a front porch with a glass of sweet tea as Lewis shares her favorite childhood stories filled with humor, grief, loss, love and encouragement. Her writing style is genuine and warm. I related to Lewis’s early years of marriage, young motherhood and her feelings of grief.

About the Author

Susannah B. Lewis is a popular comedian, author and blogger. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and three children. Follow her on Facebook and visit her blog.