Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Quick Review: "The Case for the Only Child" by Susan Newman

From Goodreads: 
Although parenting approaches change, attitudes about only children remain stuck in the past. The negative stereotypes lonely, selfish, bossy, spoiled, socially maladjusted make parents think their child will be at a disadvantage when compared to those who grow up with siblings.

The Case for the Only Child debunks the myths, taking into account the many chang-es the nuclear family has experienced in the face of two-family incomes, women who have children later, and the economic reality of raising children in our modern world. Combining often-surprising findings with real-life stories, compassionate in-sight, and thought-provoking questions, Dr. Susan Newman provides a guide to help you decide for yourself how to best plan your family and raise a single child.

My Thoughts: I saw this book on a blog a few years ago before I had Julia and thought it sounded intriguing.  Since the hubs and I are considering being 'one and done', I thought it might be a good time to pick this one up.

I liked and disliked this book.  I thought the author made a lot of good points as to why there is nothing wrong with only having one child and how research has disproven some of the old myths of the spoiled, bratty only child.  She brought up a lot of different, valid reasons that people have for choosing to not have more than one child and I found those sections to be the most interesting.

However, the author seemed very defensive and almost disparaging of people who do have more than one child. I understand that it is hard to deal with a lot of the rude comments some people make when you say you are only having one, but the author acted like she had a major chip on her shoulder.  It felt like she went off on tangents which made the book drag on and bore me. 

Overall, I think there was some useful information in the book but it would probably be one to skim rather than read cover to cover. 3 stars.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: "Come Dancing" by Leslie Wells

Synopsis:  Julia is a book-loving publisher’s assistant. Jack is a famous British rock star. “Opposites attract” is an understatement.

It’s 1981. Twenty-four-year-old Julia Nash has recently arrived in Manhattan, where she works as a publisher’s assistant. She dreams of becoming an editor with her own stable of bestselling authors—but it is hard to get promoted in the recession-clobbered book biz.

Julia blows off steam by going dancing downtown with her best friend, Vicky. One night, a hot British guitarist invites them into his VIP section. Despite an entourage of models and groupies, Jack chooses Julia as his girl for the evening—and when Jack Kipling picks you, you go with it. The trouble is … he’s never met a girl like her before. And she resists being just one in a long line.

Jack exposes her to new experiences, from exclusive nightclubs in SoHo to the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood; from mind-bending recording sessions to wild backstage parties. Yet Julia is afraid to fall for him. Past relationships have left her fragile; one more betrayal just might break her.

As she fends off her grabby boss and tries to move up the corporate ladder, Julia’s torrid relationship with Jack takes her to heights she’s never known—and plunges her into depths she’s never imagined.
With a fascinating inside look at publishing, this entertaining story of a bookish young woman’s adventures with a rock superstar is witty, moving, and toe-curlingly steamy.

My Thoughts:  Come Dancing is a fun, romantic, 'follow your heart' kind of read.  The characters are interesting, the romance is hot and heavy AND it goes into detail about the book publishing business.  How much cooler does it get?!

Likes:  I loved reading about Julia's job in publishing.  It was fascinating to see kind of an inside view of the business (albeit the 1981 version).   It sounded like a pretty awesome job!  I liked Julia as a character a lot.  She was really smart and I liked that she spent too much time in her head because it made her seem 'real'.  The setting of this book was pretty awesome; New York City in the 1980s sounded like an exciting place to be.  Also, the 80s clothes!  Julia's outfits were epic.  The relationship between Jack and Julia is pretty hot but has its issues and is definitely not your typical 'all puppies and rainbows' type relationship that are often described in books.  The relationship was kind of far-fetched so the fact that it wasn't perfect all the time made it seem a little more believable.

Dislikes:  As I said above, the story seemed a little far-fetched at times but who doesn't dream of falling in love with their favorite rock star?  It was also a little slow at times; there is only so much 'should I call him? Is he going to call me?' type dialogue that I can take before I get bored. 

Overall, Come Dancing is a light, romantic read perfect for a day on the beach (or a day when you wished you were on the beach). 3 stars.

About the Author:

Leslie Wells left her small Southern town in 1979 for graduate school in Manhattan, after which she got her first job in book publishing. She has edited forty-eight New York Times bestsellers in her over thirty-year career, including thirteen number one New York Times bestsellers. Leslie has worked with numerous internationally known authors, musicians, actors, actresses, television and radio personalities, athletes, and coaches. She lives on Long Island, New York.


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?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: "Goddess Born" by Kari Edgren

Synopsis:  The power to heal is her divine gift, the fear of discovery, her mortal curse.
Selah Kilbrid is caught between two worlds. A direct descendant of the Celtic goddess Brigid, she is bound by Tuatha Dé law to help those in need. Yet as a human, she must keep her unique abilities hidden or risk being charged for a witch. In 1730 Pennsylvania, the Quaker community of Hopewell has become a haven for religious freedom—and fanaticism—and there are those who would see her hanged if the truth were revealed.

For eighteen years, Selah safely navigates the narrow gap between duty and self-preservation, until the day a prominent minister uncovers her secret. Obsessed with her power, Nathan Crowley disregards her betrothal to a distant cousin from Ireland and demands marriage in exchange for his silence. Selah stalls for time, but when news reaches the Colonies of her cousin’s death, time has run out.
Rather than submit to Nathan, Selah coerces a stranger to pose as her husband. It’s a good plan—her only plan—even though Henry Alan harbors his own dark secrets. But when she returns to Hopewell a married woman, the real fight has just begun. As unseen forces move against her, Selah doesn’t know which poses the greater danger—a malignant shadow closing in from outside or the internal fire that threatens to consume her heart.

My Thoughts:  Goddess Born is a unique mix of historical fiction and paranormal set in the early years of the American colonies.  It gives the reader a nice introduction into Quaker life and Celtic mythology.

 Likes:  I enjoyed the premise that the descendants of the goddess, Brigid, settled in America and tried to fit in with a Quaker community. There were a lot of historical details in the story that made for a fascinating read.  The descriptions of every day life, including the role of the indentured servant, were some of my favorite parts.  I also really liked the descriptions of Selah's work as a healer (whether using her powers or not).  It was interesting to read about the different herbs she used and the different types of injuries she dealt with.  I was also intrigued by the threat of witchcraft in the story and what that meant for the the main character; an accusation of witchcraft could ruin someone's life and it seemed like an accusation that anyone could make without any real basis in fact.

Characters:  Selah is a really fun character.  She's very different than the typical 18th century woman would have been and I found that really endearing.  Her intelligence and work as a healer makes her a very unusual character (for that period) and I enjoyed watching her interact with the other characters.  Nathan Crowley was a hot mess.  I wanted to feel bad for him, I really did, but he was such a creep.  One of the things that made this story a real page turner was that it always felt like there was a villain lurking around every corner and you never quite knew who it was.  The author did a great job of not making it obvious who the real villain was and I really liked that it was a big shock at the end. 

Dislikes:  I wish there had been more about Selah's family's past as well as more about the otherworld and Brigid.  That aspect of the story didn't really take center stage and while I understand why it didn't, I would have liked to know more.  Maybe the author will go into more detail in a future book (this is the first in a trilogy).  I also thought some of the things that happened at the end of the book seemed a little far-fetched but it will be interesting to see what happens in the next book.

Overall, Goddess Born is a great read that you will have trouble putting down.  If all books set in the American colonies were like this one, I would read about that era a lot more often!  4 stars.

About the Author:

Kari Edgren did not dream of becoming a writer. Instead, she dreamed of everything else and was often made to stay inside during kindergarten recess to practice her letters. Despite doting parents and a decent school system, Ms. Edgren managed to make it through elementary school having completed only one book cover to cover – The Box Car Children, which she read approximately forty-seven times. Things improved during high school, but not until she read Gabrielle Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in college, did she truly understand the power of a book.

Ms. Edgren aspires to be a Vulcan, a world-acclaimed opera singer, and two inches taller. She resides in the Pacific NW where she spends a great deal of time torturing her husband and children with strange food and random historical facts. Ms. Edgren hasn’t stopped dreaming, but has finally mastered her letters enough to put the stories on paper.

For more information please visit Kari Edgren’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Sign Up for Kari Edgren’s Newsletter.

 Check out other stops on the tour here!

I received a copy of this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: "The Brewer's Tale" by Karen Brooks

Synopsis:  It had been Mother's secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on.

When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale. 

Armed with her Dutch mother’s recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father’s aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well. 

Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy. Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring. 

Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own It had been Mother's secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on.

When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale. 

Armed with her Dutch mother’s recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father’s aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well. 

Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy. Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring. 

Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail?

A compelling insight into the brewer’s craft, the strength of women, and the myriad forms love can take.destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail?

My Thoughts:  The Brewer's Tale is unlike any book I have ever read.  I wasn't sure if I would like it when I first picked it up, but it very quickly sucked me in.  It is an engaging tale of love, loss, and the complex world of brewing in the 15th century.

LikesThe Brewer's Tale was a fascinating look not only at the brewer's craft but also women's issues in the 15th century.  It was fascinating (and quite shocking) to be see just how little power women used to have and how one wrong move could completely ruin a women in the eyes of those around her.  All Anneke wanted to do was keep her family together and be able to support them financially but the obstacles she had to overcome and the degradation she had to suffer was just unimaginable and all because she was a woman.

I also enjoyed reading about the brewer's craft.  I knew nothing about the history of brewing prior to reading this book.  It was such a complex process and it's amazing to me that people were able to brew mass quantities of ale/beer in their basements. The book contains wonderful descriptions of the process and the equipment needed; I would love to see what that kind of set up would have looked like.  I also think the author did a great job of weaving information about brewing into the story so that it read like one cohesive story.

Also, I also I was very excited to see that there is an extensive author's note at the end of the book that gives very detailed information about the research the author did (and boy, did she do a lot of research).

Characters:  I love strong female characters and Anneke is most certainly that.  I liked that the author made her 'real' in that she was very strong and determined but at times, in the face of overwhelming adversity, she struggled to maintain that determination.  She seemed more well-rounded because of it.  This story has some of the kindest, most caring characters ever but it also has some of the worst villains I've read about in a long time.  Westel Calkin was a villain like no other; I don't remember the last time I've seen a villain quite so evil.  He was so manipulative and sneaky to begin with but when he showed his true colors, he was so evil and so horrible that at times, it was hard to read.  It's been a while since I've hated a villain as much as I hated Westel.  

Dislikes:  This isn't so much of a 'dislike' as an observation but the story was very dark at times.  It was hard to read in spots and I'm usually not so easily affected by things I read in books.  I was shocked by some of the horrors that Anneke and her family were forced to endure and at times it felt like they were never going to get a break.  I struggled at times with all the bad things that kept happening to them.

Overall, The Brewer's Tale  is an excellent book.  It had me staying up late several nights because I just couldn't put it down.  4 stars.

About the Author:

Karen Brooks has been an actress, army officer, academic and author. She was a member of the ‘Brains’ Trust’ on ABC TV’s The Einstein Factor for four years, is a regular TV and radio guest and writes a weekly column for The Courier-Mail. She is an award-winning lecturer, has a Ph.D. in English/Cultural Studies and currently holds the posts of Associate Professor and Honorary Senior Research Consultant at University of Queensland and Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Somehow, Karen also found the time to write nine novels – five fantasy novels for young adults and three for the adult market, plus a non-fiction title called Consuming Innocence: Popular Culture and Our Children. Karen lives in a Georgian house in Hobart built in 1868 with her husband, four cats and two dogs. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 
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