Monday, August 25, 2014

Week in Review


Good evening. I'm a little late with today's update. I've had a week full of reading due to the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon. I didn't read as much as I had hoped, but I did get a lot more reading done than usual.

Today was the first day of school for my kids. C started 5th grade and M started 2nd. They both had good days, but we're already having to juggle homework and afterschool activities. At the moment they're outside playing with friends even though they should be doing homework and practicing piano. I just can't bring myself to make them come inside yet!

Reviews and Blog Posts
Aside from the Bout of Books postings, I also wrote a review of The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell. I was hoping to get a couple other reviews written, but it didn't happen.

I finished The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe, which is my August book club selection. We'll be discussing it later this week. And I've made it through about half of The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath. I'll admit I'm still struggling a bit with this one, but I'm trying to stick with it.

C is reading Cold Cereal by Adam Rex. M read Lucky Stars #1: Wish Upon a Friend by Phoebe Bright and will be starting the next in the series tomorrow (when it arrives from Amazon).

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Easter is a special time for the Bird family. Every year, Lorelei goes all out to make the day special for her family, with an egg hunt in the garden and a special meal with family and friends. But then tragedy strikes, and the family breaks apart. Easter is no longer a happy time for the entire family. Years later, Meg returns to clean out her mother's home after her death, and the story of how this family fell apart is finally revealed.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell is a family saga told from several different times and perspectives. We get to know Lorelei and Colin, and their children Meg, Beth, Rory and Rhys when they were young and happy. And we get to see them as they are now. Lorelei is an eccentric woman whose perpetual collecting eventually evolves into a severe hoarding problem. The impact this ~ and the tragedy that happens on that one Easter ~ has on each of her family members is what the story is all about.

I had mixed feelings about The House We Grew Up In. The novel was engaging and held my interest, but it started to feel like a soap opera by the time it was done. Every single character has some serious issue, and it felt like the author added in every unusual relationship she could think of: adultery, parent and child with the same lover, sleeping around, bisexual, incest and more. Any of these would have been fine, but to throw them all into one novel with a small number of characters was too much for me.

Overall, it was a unique look into hoarding and the impact it has on different people. If you enjoy family sagas, and don't mind a bit of over-the-top relationship drama, check out The House We Grew Up In. It's gotten some much higher reviews from others, so it's definitely worth a look.

My Rating: 3/5

This review was written based on a copy of The House We Grew Up In that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review includes Amazon Affiliate links.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bout of Books Challenge: Book Spine Poetry

This week, I'm participating in the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon. Today, My Little Pocketbooks is hosting a Book Spine Poetry challenge, in which you need to create a poem using at least three books. I thought this sounded like fun, so here is my poem.

The beach house on Cape Cod.
I recall the secret place,
the forgotten garden

The rules allow for the addition of one additional word for each title, and I added three so it would make a bit more sense.

Bout of Books 11 Read-a-thon

Bout of Books
The Bout of Books read-a-thon starts today and I've decided to sign up. I don't think I've actually done this one before, but it sounds pretty easy. Here's an explanation of what it's all about:
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
My goals:
  1. Read every evening for at least an hour Mon-Fri. (I work full time and the kids start all their fall activities this week, so getting an hour of reading in each night is actually a tough goal!)
  2. Read for at least 4-5 hours on the weekend.
  3. Finish The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath
  4. Finish The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe
My progress:

Time spent reading: 2.5 hours
Book/Pages read: 70 pages of The Bone Seeker

Time spent reading: 2 hours
Book/Pages read: 78 pages of The Beach House
Challenge: Book Spine Poetry

Time spent reading: 30 minutes
Book/Pages read: 26 pages of The Beach House

Time spent reading: 1.5 hours
Book/Pages read: 90 pages of The Beach House

Time spent reading: 2 hours
Book/Pages read: 101 pages of The Beach House

Time spent reading: 0
Book/Pages read: 0

Time spent reading: 1.5 hours
Book/Pages read: 48 pages of The Bone Seeker

Monday, August 18, 2014

Week in Review


It's been two weeks since I participated in this weekly meme. I'd like to say I've been reading and blogging a lot in that time, but I haven't. I do have some reviews planned for this week, and I am determined to finish the book I started over a week ago. I haven't made it very far into it, though.

Reviews and Blog Posts
I compiled a list of 13 historical fiction novels that I recommend. Check it out and let me know what your favorites are.

I also wrote a review of The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett. It's a wonderful novel for book lovers!

I finished The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell, which I found on NetGalley. I need to write that review, but I had very mixed feelings about the book and am having a hard time putting my thoughts down. Hopefully I'll manage to do that this week.

I've been reading The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe, which is my August book club selection, but I just haven't felt like reading lately, and I couldn't decide if it was because of the book or just a general issue. So I decided to start another book, The Bone Seeker by M.J. McGrath, and I have to say that I've gotten into this one much more.

C is reading The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart. He read the first book in that series earlier this summer. M just finished Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel. She also finished Holly the Christmas Fairy by Daisy Meadows recently.

What are you reading this week? It's Monday! is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, so hop over there if you'd like to see what others are reading too. You can also check out the younger version of It's Monday!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review: The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

Peter Byerly is distraught over the loss of his wife nine months ago. He has retreated to their cottage in the English countryside, hoping to return to his love of collecting and restoring rare books. But when he opens a book about Shakespeare forgeries and finds a Victorian watercolor of a woman who looks just like his wife, Peter is soon on a search for the origin of the painting and the truth about Shakespeare's real identity.

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett is a wonderful journey for anyone who loves books. It follows Peter's search in 1995, which turns into a bit of a thriller at times. But Lovett also takes the reader back in time a bit so we can learn the story of his relationship with his wife and how he came to be a bookseller. He does a beautiful job of expressing Peter's feelings about the rare books he encounters, and his feelings are contagious.

And then he takes us back even further to the history of one particular volume, whose life begins in the 16th century. Peter is charged with uncovering the truth behind the book's history ~ is it a real or is it a forgery? His discovery could answer the age-old question of Shakespeare's real identity.

I really enjoyed The Bookman's Tale and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in rare books and the history of books. I will admit that anyone who is not interested in this subject may not be as enamored with the book as I was. But I expect that most of my readers would enjoy it.

My Rating: 5/5

Book Club Kit for The Bookman's Tale (PDF)
Read an excerpt of The Bookman's Tale

This review was written based on a copy of The Bookman's Tale that I received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review includes Amazon Affiliate links.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

13 Historical Fiction Novels Worth Reading

I've read some excellent historical fiction novels recently, so I thought it would be fun to compile a list of recommendations. I ended up with 13 historical novels that are worth reading, in my opinion. Every one of these would be a great selection for book clubs as well. I've included the first paragraph of my review for each book to give you a sense of what the book is about.

This list is presented in no particular order.

1. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd ~ When Sarah Grimke turns 11 years old, her mother gives her a very special birthday gift: her very own slave, 10 year-old Handful. But Sarah is an unusual Southern girl who abhors slavery, even at her young age. She tries to refuse the gift, but her mother forces her to accept it. So she takes Handful as her handmaid, and they form a unique relationship that lasts a lifetime. Read the rest of my review

2. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline ~ On the brink of being kicked out of another foster home, 17-year-old Molly Ayer starts doing community service in the home of 91-year-old Vivian Daly. Her assignment is to help Vivian clean out her attic, but soon it's apparent that Vivian merely wants to look through her old things and remember her past. This past started with a young girl who was uprooted from Ireland to live in New York City with her family, and then soon after, loaded onto a train with other orphans bound for new homes in the Midwest. Read the rest of my review

3. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert ~ At the age of seven, Rachel Kalama is whisked away from her home and her family in Hololulu and sent to the island of Moloka'i. This is the place where those with leprosy are sent to die at the end of the 19th century. This is a heartbreaking story about the loss of family and the loss of life. But it is also an inspiring story about how people persevere over such horrible situations. Read the rest of my review

4. Honolulu by Alan Brennert ~ Growing up in Korea in the early 1900s, Regret longs to escape her future as an uneducated subservient wife and daughter-in-law. She finds a way out of this life by becoming a "picture bride" to a man in far-away Hawai'i. But when she and the other brides arrive in their new home, they quickly learn that their new husbands are not the prosperous, young men they expected. Read the rest of my review

5. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton ~ The story begins with a little girl who is hiding on a ship. It is clear that she has boarded the ship with a woman she calls The Authoress, but after waiting for a very long time, the little girl joins some other children in a game. Soon she is on the dock in Australia, all alone. No one from the ship or the town she has arrived in is there to claim her. The dockmaster and his wife take her in and raise her as their own. They name her Nell because she cannot remember her name. When Nell is 21 years old, her father tells her the truth. This sets the young woman off on a quest to discover who she really is. Read the rest of my review

6. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See ~ Lily is the daughter of a farmer in a remote county of China in the 19th century. As she arrives at the tender age of six, she receives a visit from a diviner and then a matchmaker from another area of the county. It seems her feet, which are so important in this culture, have potential to be what people of this time consider perfect, so she is given the opportunity to be paired with a laotong, or "old same." In her lower status as a farmer's daughter, she would not normally have this opportunity, so she is naturally excited. Read the rest of my review

7. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See ~ Pearl and May are beautiful girls living the high life in Shanghai in 1937. They spend their evenings modeling and partying without a care in the world. But then their father announces that he has lost all their money gambling and has agreed to marry them off to two Chinese-American men to pay his debt. The girls go through with the wedding but refuse to follow the men to America, deciding instead to continue the life they've always known. But when the man who arranged the marriages begins to threaten their family, and the war invades their city, they find themselves on a treacherous journey to a very different life. Read the rest of my review

8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows ~ Juliet is a writer living in London at the end of the second World War. She is struggling to choose a topic for her next novel when a letter arrives in the mail. It's from a man named Dawsey who lives on the island of Guernsey. He found Juliet's name in a book and has written to ask for her help in acquiring books for the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to read and discuss. The two begin corresponding by letter, and soon she is also exchanging letters with several other Guernsey residents. Read the rest of my review

9. The Help by Kathryn Stockett ~ When Skeeter graduates from college in the early 1960's, she returns home to Jackson, Mississippi. Her friends are all married and having children, while she is a single aspiring writer. Her sorrow over the loss of her childhood maid, who left town while Skeeter was in college, and her desire to become a professional writer propel Skeeter to a project that will affect the lives of most of the women in her town. Read the rest of my review

10. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford ~ As Henry Lee walks past the Panama Hotel, a landmark that has been boarded up for decades, he is pulled into the excitement of the crowd that has gathered to see what has been found locked away in the basement all these years. It turns out that the belongings of many Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II were stored in the basement and never reclaimed after the war. This discovery takes Henry back to his childhood in the 1940s, and his loving friendship with Keiko, a Japanese girl who was lost to him during the war. Read the rest of my review

11. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay ~ Sarah's Key: A Novel by Tatiana de Rosnay alternates between two characters who are experiencing the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup in France in very different ways. First is Sarah, a Jewish child living in France during World War II, who is arrested along with her parents during the roundup. To save her younger brother, she locks him in a hidden cupboard, taking the key with her, figuring she'll be back shortly to let him out. Second is Julia Jarmond, a journalist living in France in 2002, who stumbles upon Sarah's story while writing an article about the 60th anniversary of the roundup. She becomes determined to find out what happened to Sarah, and how their lives are connected. Read the rest of my review

12. Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill ~ Aminata Diallo was born in Bayo, an African village, in the mid-1700's. There she lived with her loving parents until she was 11 years old. Then her whole world shattered. She was taken away, forced to walk for days across the land, loaded onto a ship, and sold into slavery in America. In 1802, she is in London writing her life story at the request of Abolitionists who feel she can help their cause. Read the rest of my review

13. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ~ Death is pretty busy in Germany during World War II. But one child he encounters, as he takes her little brother's soul away, has a bigger effect on him than all the others. In The Book Thief, Markus Zusak tells the story of this girl, Liesel Meminger, from the perspective of Death himself. From her brother's death, to her childhood living with a foster family in Germany during the war, Death narrates the story of this girl who just cannot resist her desire for books. Read the rest of my review

Also, be sure to check out some of the historical fiction recommendations shared on my Facebook page and Twitter.