Friday, October 24, 2014

My Love for All Things Laura Ingalls Wilder

Picture from

When I was a little girl my aunt bought me a copy of Little House in the Big Woods for a holiday gift (I can't remember what holiday) and I completely fell in love with Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I wish I had a picture of my copy of this book because it is very obvious that it was well-loved.  My aunt continued to buy me each book in the series for holidays and birthdays until I had the full series.  I devoured each book and read them over and over again all the way up through my teen years.  I had the Little House cookbook and a Mary and Laura porcelain doll and I dreamed of living in the pioneer days.  I even read a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was fourth or fifth grade.  I just thought she was awesome.

Fast forward to now, I still have my entire set of Little House books and they look much like the picture above.  They are in a box at my mom's house and I can't wait to get them out to share with Julia.  What's even more fun is that now that I live in the Midwest, I live within driving distance of all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder museums, one of which is located in the same state that I live in.  You can bet when Julia is older, we will be visiting them all.  One of my fellow coworkers is also a LIW fan so we have spent a lot of time fan girling about her books and her life.  (Yes, I'm a nerd, I know.)

Why am I posting this random Laura Ingalls Wilder love fest, you ask?  Missouri State University is currently offering a Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) on Laura Ingalls Wilder's life and early works.  It's a free eight week class and it's open to anyone.  I'm currently enrolled and I think it's pretty awesome.  In addition to reading about Wilder, there are lectures to watch and discussions to participate in.  We will also be reading Wilder's first four books this semester as well as Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life. I'm really enjoying it!  We will start reading her books next week and I will be posting reviews of them here.  I haven't read her books since I was in high school so I look forward to reading them as an adult.  

If anyone is interested in joining in on the class, you can check it out here!  You can participate as much or as little as you want.

Have any of you read the Little House books?  If not, are there any books you read as a child that really touched you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quick Review: "The Gospel of Winter" by Brendan Kiely

From Goodreads: 
A fearless debut novel about the restorative power of truth and love after the trauma of abuse.

As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

The Gospel of Winter maps the ways love can be used as a weapon against the innocent—but can also, in the right hands, restore hope and even faith. Brendan Kiely’s unflinching and courageous debut novel exposes the damage from the secrets we keep and proves that in truth, there is power. And real love.

My Thoughts:  I finished this book a few weeks ago and I'm still trying to collect my thoughts on it.  If you looked up the word 'haunting' in the dictionary, it would say see this book.  The Gospel of Winter tackles the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal in such a way that you can't help but feel affected by it.  The main character, Aidan, is not really a likable character however I did sympathize with him.  I think his personality issues were, in part, the result of what happened to him so I didn't dislike him, I just felt really bad for him.  He was holding in so much pain and he was so lost and confused by what he was feeling and what had happened.  It was hard to watch all the people in his life fail him; his dad left, his mom was pretty self-centered and the housekeeper he was close to just ignored what was happening to him.  You couldn't help but feel bad for him.  I actually felt bad for all the kids in this book because they all seemed so lost.  Aidan wasn't the only character who was abused (there were two others) and I think the author did an excellent job of showing the different ways that people cope with abuse through these characters.  It was pretty heartbreaking to watch each boy be kind of broken down by what happened to them. While the book was really sad and at times, hard to read but there was hope at the end.  The way the story ended left me feeling like Aidan was going to be okay despite it being kind of open ended.  Overall, there was something strangely beautiful about this story and I think it will stick with me for a long time. 5 stars.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mailbox Monday (31)

I'm linking up with Mailbox Monday again this week.  Check it out here!

Hello everyone!  Things have not slowed down at all around here lately but I'm still managing to get some reading in.  I work at a university and students are getting ready to enroll for Spring right now so needless to say it's mass pandemonium at work right now.

I only picked up one book this week but I can't wait to read it.  I devoured the 'Wolves of Mercy Falls' series a few years ago and this is a continuation of that series.

From the Library (ebook):

What books did you get this week?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mailbox Monday (30)

It's that time again!  Check out everyone's book hauls for the week here!

I picked up two books at the library this week.  I'm almost caught up on review books and look forward to some time for 'free reading'!  I hope everyone has a great week!

From the Library:

What books did you get this week?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: "Bitter Greens" by Kate Forsyth

Synopsis:  The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens…

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

My Thoughts:  Bitter Greens is one of the most impressive books I have read in a while.  I hate to use the word unique to describe it because I don't think it gets at how incredibly awesome and different the story is from anything I've read.  Bitter Greens is beautifully written and the author does a wonderful job of weaving together the different stories to create one cohesive and magical tale.

 I had never heard of Charlotte-Rose de la Force before reading this book but she is one neat woman. I loved that she does her own thing even if it is unconventional for the time.  She is over-flowing with self-confidence but at the same time has a vulnerable side that is very charming.  I was rooting for her throughout the whole story.   I did feel bad for her in that all of her attempts to marry were thwarted and she wasn't able to have the life she wanted because she was not from a wealthy family.

The re-telling of the Rapunzel tell was stunning.  The descriptions of Selena's life in Venice and Margherita's life in the Pieta and then the tower were gorgeous.  I know that Selena was kind of the villain but I couldn't help but feel sorry for her.  I really liked her even though I didn't want to.  Margherita was the picture of grace under pressure.  She seemed to always be able to keep calm no matter what she was forced to endure.  Oh and her was a little creepy at first but the way Ms. Forsyth described it, the reader could almost see how beautiful it was.

I'm going to stop now because I'm starting to sound like a fan girl but I will say that Bitter Greens is an excellent read and I highly recommend it.  4 stars.

About the Author:

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling & award-winning author of thirty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both adults and children. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 20 Novelists, and has been called ‘one of the finest writers of this generation. She is also an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers, and has told stories to both children and adults all over the world.

Her most recent book for adults is a historical novel called ‘The Wild Girl’, which tells the true, untold love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, ‘The Wild Girl’ is a story of love, war, heartbreak, and the redemptive power of storytelling, and was named the Most Memorable Love Story of 2013.

She is probably most famous for ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale interwoven with the dramatic life story of the woman who first told the tale, the 17th century French writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. ‘Bitter Greens’ has been called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’, and has been nominated for a Norma K. Hemming Award, the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Fiction, and a Ditmar Award.

Her most recent book for children is ‘Grumpy Grandpa’, a charming picture book that shows people are not always what they seem.

Since ‘The Witches of Eileanan’ was named a Best First Novel of 1998 by Locus Magazine, Kate has won or been nominated for numerous awards, including a CYBIL Award in the US. She’s also the only author to win five Aurealis awards in a single year, for her Chain of Charms series – beginning with ‘The Gypsy Crown’ – which tells of the adventures of two Romany children in the time of the English Civil War. Book 5 of the series, ‘The Lightning Bolt’, was also a CBCA Notable Book.

Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. She is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology, having already completed a BA in Literature and a MA in Creative Writing.

Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia, ‘A Mother’s Offering to her Children’. She lives by the sea in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, and many thousands of books.

For more information please visit Kate Forsyth’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Check out other stops on the tour here!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mailbox Monday (29)

I'm linking up with Mailbox Monday again!  To join in on the fun, go here!

I've kind of had a dry spell the past few weeks but a couple books made it to mailbox this week.

From the Library:

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

For Review (from HFVBT):

What books did you get this week? 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

September Wrap Up and an Update

Whew!  September is over, October is here and it's time for fall!  It just started feeling like fall this past week and I'm loving it.

September was such a busy month!  We went to California in the early part of the month to visit some of my family and had a blast.  The Russian class I am taking really went full speed ahead and I'm taking a MOOC (massive open online class) on Laura Ingalls Wilder (more on that later).  The Russian class is great but the amount of homework I have to do is borderline ridiculous.  I'm also working on a big project at my job so I feel like I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off because I have so much to do!  Because life is so busy right now, things are probably going to slow down around the blog a bit for a while (what am I saying, they already have).  I have a few blog tour reviews lined up but otherwise, I might be in and out for a while. 

At the end of August, I needed to read 5 books a month for the rest of the year in order to hit my goal of 75.  In September, I read 6 books despite everything that was going on!  I have read a total of 61 books this year so I'm confident that I will reach my goal.

Here is what I read:

1.) Shadow on the Highway by Deborah Swift
2.) Sins of the Highlander by Connie Mason
3.) The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff
4.)  Hand of Fire by Judith Starkston
5.) The Brewer's Tale by Karen Brooks
6.) Goddess Born by Kari Edgren 

What books did you read this month?
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