Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

An Easter Egg Hunt For Jesus Book Review

More To The Holiday Than Eggs And Bunnies

I found a wonderful book to include in the little one's Easter Basket this year. An Easter Egg Hunt For Jesus will be a nice way to help her understand what we are really celebrating during this special holiday. Just like with Christmas, children need to know the real 'reason for the season.'

easter egg hunt
Egg Hunts are fun for kids
image courtesy of pixabay.com
I will admit that it is fun to color the eggs with the children and even more fun hiding those eggs for them to find. How often do we stop to let them know why we Christians celebrate the Easter Holiday? Depending on their age, it might be difficult to explain the Crucifixion and Resurrection in a way that doesn't disturb them . I remember my oldest coming out of her Sunday School class one Sunday near Easter being absolutely horrified over their lesson that morning. She was about 7 at the time but she had grasped all too well the story of Jesus on that cross. She kept saying, "They killed him, Mommy! Why would they do that?" I kept trying to explain that He had to die so that he could come back to life but I didn't do a very good job of it. I also remember thinking the teacher shouldn't have ended the lesson that day without telling the children at least something about what came next. Maybe she did, but my daughter couldn't get past the part of his death on that hill. I wish that I had been able to prepare her for that lesson with a book like An Easter Egg Hunt For Jesus. It hadn't been written, yet.

Forest of Faith Series 

A series of books have been written to help children understand better, in ways that they can relate to, the meaning of both Christmas and Easter. The stories take place in a forest with adorable little animals who learn more about their faith. The books are written for ages 4 through 6 and have been illustrated beautifully by Lee Holland with the stories being written by Susan Jones. I really think they would be a wonderful addition to the library of books we have to read to our little ones. 

Little Bunny is excited about the special egg hunt taking place in the forest as are all of the creatures who live there. In his enthusiasm to find the 'special egg' he makes a mistake that he believes has ruined the fun for his family and friends. They all come together to help him understand about the Resurrection of Jesus and the celebration over the new life that He offers to all of us. It is a sweet little story! 

I recommend this book to share with the small ones in your family!




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

What Beavers Do - Review of Beaver Valley by Walter D. Edmonds

Beaver Dam: Review of Beaver Valley by Walter D. Edmonds
Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay  I added text.

What Skeet Sees


My photo of  book cover
Skeet is a young deer mouse who lives in a burrow on a spruce knoll above a swamp in a peaceful valley. A brook runs past the knoll toward a pond. Skeet lives with his mother, his sister Samantha, his baby brother Loopey, and his grandfather, Overdare.

One day while he's getting a drink in the brook, he hears something making a loud splashing sound. He was curious, so he drew nearer to the sound. He heard a high-pitched whistle. The splashing stopped. Then he saw a dark brown head looking cautiously around an edge of grass. He had never seen such an odd creature as that which emerged. He thought it looked comical with its large orange front teeth and its paddle-like tail. Skeet stopped being afraid because he could see this awkward creature would never be fast enough to catch him. The creature was soon joined by five more like it.

Skeet ran home to ask Overdare what these creatures might be. “'Beaver!' exclaimed Skeet's grandfather....'I hoped I'd never see in my lifetime when beaver get into this valley.'” (p, 7)

Overdare confirmed the beaver weren't dangerous to mice, since they didn't eat meat. So Skeet couldn't understand why his grandfather didn't want them around. Overdare explained:

“Beaver...think they know the way everything ought to be in any place they settle down. If it isn't that way, they make it so, and they don't care a bit what happens to anyone else in the process.” (p. 8)

What the Beavers Do


Grandfather hopes the beaver will leave, but curious Skeet hopes they hang around long enough for him to watch. And watch he does. He sees the beavers build a dam, chop down trees, raise the level of the pond, build a canal for transporting logs from the places where they had felled them, and build a second dam. The water level kept rising higher and higher.

Photo of p. 16-17, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration, text by Walter D. Edmonds
Photo of p. 16-17, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration, text by Walter D. Edmonds


What Author Walter D. Edmonds Thinks of Beavers


Edmonds was raised in upper New York State in the small town of Boonville. He frequently observed beaver at his family home, Northlands, along the Black River . He personally saw how negatively the beavers impacted the ecosystem when they moved into an area.

Beavers have always fascinated me. Most of us who have never seen one in the wild think of them positively because they are such industrious animals. Teachers often hold up the hardworking beavers as examples their students should follow. Edmonds seems to see them as industriously destroying their environment to please themselves.

He reveals this attitude in one of the book's last sentences. He describes a mother who had brought her young son to the spruce knoll for a picnic to see the beaver ponds. She wanted to teach her son some natural history. She didn't seem interested in all the dying trees whose roots had gotten too wet. She was only interested in all the work the beavers had done building their dams, their home, and their canal. Let's eavesdrop on her:

“Isn't it wonderful, Tommy?....They're as clever as engineers. They're just like men.” (p, 69)

Should You or Your Child Read This Book?


Whether you love beavers or not, you will learn a lot about their behavior in this book from one who has observed beavers over time. Older readers will pick up the author's attitude. The book would be perfect to read aloud as a family and discuss. 

The author shows us each step in the beavers' transformation of the valley, and suspense builds as the water level rises. Skeet at first is just curious. But as the water level continues to rise, he realizes that animals in burrows on lower ground will lose their homes. Some don't get out in time and are trapped to die. Skeet and his family wonder if they, too, will have to find a new home.

The copy of the book I have is illustrated by Leslie Morrill. I love her drawing of the beavers and the mice. Her hand-drawn maps help readers keep track of the changes in the valley.

Photo of p. 10-11, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration
Photo of p. 10-11, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration


This is chapter book is at a grade 3-5 reading level. It's a great book for homeschoolers. Almost any age from kindergarten on will find it interesting. Why not get a copy for your home library?

This book is out of print. It is still available at Amazon

All quotes and book illustration photos are from this book: Beaver Valley by Walter D. Edmonds, illustrated by Leslie Morrill; Little, Brown and Company, 1971.

Learn more about beavers and other wild animals in my review of Nature's Everyday Mysteries. I review some of my favorite picture books about animals here. You may also enjoy fellow contributor Renaissance Woman's review of Deep Creek.  





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Friday, February 7, 2020

The Liberty Bride Book Reviewed

Daughters of the Mayflower - Book 6 in the Series

The Liberty Bride Book Reviewed
I've never found a series of books that I enjoyed more than the Daughters of the Mayflower series. 

Every book is based on the life of one of the female descendants of a married couple from the Mayflower ship.  Each descendant plays a part in a pivotal moment in American history.  

Just as each book has a different main character, each book is written by a different author.  Together, these books make a magnificent historical fiction series.

In The Liberty Bride,  Emeline Baratt is sailing home to America after the death of her aunt in Brighton.  Unfortunately, that voyage is during the War of 1812, which is fought between America and the United Kingdom.  

Her allegiance to America is greatly tested when the unthinkable happens. 


The Liberty Bride

1814 Baltimore - The War of 1812    (Jun 18, 1812 – Feb 18, 1815)

 The Liberty Bride
Daughters of the Mayflower - Book 6
Check Price
In spite of the ongoing war between America and Britain, Emeline's father has sent his best ship, under the command of his most experienced captain, to bring his daughter safely home from the United Kingdom.  However, even a privateer ship is vulnerable to capture in wartime.  They are simply no competition to a heavily armed warship.

Emeline, the captain and his crew are taken captive when they are attacked by a Royal Navy frigate, the HMS Marauder.  Being a prisoner on a warship and being forced to work for the enemy is not something anyone would desire.  But, there is obviously an even greater danger for a female.  

Realizing her perilous plight, and with the encouragement of her companion, Emeline makes the decision to tell the Captain of the Marauder that she is in fact a British loyalist following her father's demands to return to America.  She convinces everyone, including the crew from the American ship, that her loyalties lie with Britain.  As such, she is given tremendous freedom onboard the Marauder.  She hopes to be able to gain military plans and information that she could somehow pass along to American commanders.  What she doesn't realize is that there is already an American spy onboard and she has just make an enemy of a much needed ally. 


More about The Daughters of the Mayflower Series


If you have read my previous reviews on books in this series, you already know these books are not only historical fiction, but they all have romance woven throughout the pages.  However, in the case of Emeline Baratt, she has no desire to marry, which is the basis of her conflict with her father.  She would prefer that men stop pursuing her and her dowry.  She wishes to be an artist, not a wife tied to a home and domestic chores.  I very much enjoyed the way the author, Mary Lu Tyndall, developed a romantic plot in The Liberty Bride.


Previously Reviewed Book from the Daughters of the Mayflower Series

 
The Mayflower Bride Book ReviewThe Mayflower Bride Book 1 Reviewed

True American History woven into the fabric of fiction! An excellent historical romantic fiction about the Mayflower voyagers: Separatists & Strangers.



The Pirate Bride Book ReviewThe Pirate Bride Book Review

At the innocent age of 12, Maribel Cordoba's life changes forever. Her formative years & education are guided by nuns, but she never truly forgets the pirate who stole her heart.



The Captured Bride Book ReviewThe Captured Bride Book Review

An unlikely team is assigned a mission that is fraught with danger. It becomes necessary to trust a previously perceived enemy. I highly recommend this historical Christian fiction.



The Patriot Bride Book ReviewThe Patriot Bride Book Reviewed

After enduring several life tragedies, this wealthy young widow finds the strength & needed alliance to serve the patriots as a messenger. Highly recommended!









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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl - Book Review

Available for Pre-order Now
Every extraordinary book has that moment when you fall irrevocably in love with it.  For me, that oh-I-just-love-this-so-much moment in Catherine Ryan Hyde's Brave Girl, Quiet Girl came from the mouth of a babe.  You can pretty much count on a two-year-old to get right to the heart of the matter and Etta doesn't disappoint.  When she whispers brave girl, quiet girl to her trembling rescuer, the story is made... the book's soul is revealed... and this reader was completely smitten.

Because you can follow links to the official book synopsis, I won't spend time rehashing what you can discover for yourself.  Let me just give you the broad strokes and then cut to the chase.  After all, that's what I want in a review—not so much facts, as the alchemy of what makes for an unforgettable reading experience.

I have already mentioned Etta.  If you ask me, this amazing toddler is the pivot upon which everything turns.  As the story begins, Etta is ripped away from her family in the course of a carjacking.  Her mother, Brooke, is desperate to find her baby, but the odds are stacked against a safe return.

And then there is Molly, a cast-off teen, living on the mean streets of L.A. after being discarded by her rigid, unaccepting parents.  It is so perfectly fitting that a child who has lost all sense of worthiness is the one who comes to find, and protect, Etta after the jackers abandon her in the dark of night.

Despite the bleak circumstances that embrace both Brooke and Molly (or, I'm now thinking it is because of that bleakness), the broken pieces of two psyches will discover a way to fit together in perfectly imperfect ways to form a new sense of acceptance, belonging, and family.

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl is ultimately the story of how the light gets in through the broken places to illuminate the beauty that was formerly hidden within the bleakness.  I've come to the recognition, after reading a majority of Catherine Ryan Hyde's books, that one of her many gifts as a writer is something I can only compare to the Japanese aesthetic known as wabi-sabi.

The thing I find so appealing about this aesthetic, especially as it applies to CRH's consistent approach to bringing together beautifully flawed people, is how the imperfection causes me to love them more.  Just as the Japanese do, the author highlights rather than hides the flaws.  In her skillful hands, the flaw becomes the work of art.

Just as wabi-sabi features that which is authentic, and acknowledges that nothing is finished, so too do we see that in this book's work-in-progress characters.  We experience them in their raw state of becoming.  It makes them entirely relatable and, in my case, made me feel great empathy for their plights.

Finally, I was deeply struck by how the homeless in this story viewed those who sought to help them.  It made me reflect on my current relationships with those who are without a home.  Why is help offered?  When is help not at all helpful?  What is the best way to reach out to those in need?  How do they define the need?

Those who appreciate the humanity at the center of Catherine Ryan Hyde's writing are sure to find much to love, just as I did, in Brave Girl, Quiet Girl.  I knew I could count on coming away from this read with a feeling of greater compassion—not only toward Brooke, and Molly, and Bodhi—but also for my own flawed self.

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl will be released on May 19, 2020.  I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from NetGalley in return for my honest review.  I highly recommend this book and encourage you to pre-order your copy now.











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Thursday, January 30, 2020

An Invisible Thread - Book Review

"An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance.  The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break."  ~ Ancient Chinese Proverb

Read an Excerpt
It began, for both the author and me, in much the same way.  We were two busy professional women, rushing past panhandlers, only to feel yanked back by an invisible thread.  Something we knew nothing about at the time, Laura Schroff in bustling Manhattan, and me in sleepy, rural Colorado, drew us to connect with individuals whose circles and lives were so far removed from our normal daily existence.

Was it destiny?  Perhaps.  All I know is that one instant of pausing to really see the person behind the sign became a moment of recognition.  For some reason, both Schroff and I were to have an awakening that came at the hands of destitution.

You never really see that coming—a whole new purpose born of paying attention, of listening, and of being drawn into the stories of those who have so little... those who are stereotyped as takers rather than givers.  This book review, of An Invisible Thread, is really the story within a story of how all of our lives are intertwined.

It seemed like any other ordinary day when Laura Scroff's life was profoundly, and forever, changed.  She had no intention of meeting up with a disadvantaged street child, but things that are meant to be tend to override executive sales agendas.

After initially passing up eleven-year-old Maurice, who asked Scroff for spare change because he was hungry, she found herself looking back over her shoulder at him, and then backpedaling to take Maurice to McDonald's for lunch.  This seemingly unassuming, one-time act of kindness then took on a life of its own.  Over Big Macs and fries, Laura and Maurice launched what would become a lifelong friendship.  Through months, and then years, of weekly meal dates and life-enriching experiences, these two became chosen family.

As one who had grown up with abuse, Schroff could empathize, and feel great compassion for this young boy who was attempting to survive the most extreme poverty—a poverty that extended well beyond that of hunger and lack of safe shelter.  Surrounded by drug-addled adults who were emotionally unavailable to nurture him, and living by his wits alone, Maurice's poverty went soul deep.

Though her friends and colleagues warned her off, thinking Schroff's outreach to Maurice was too risky, Laura's commitment to, and bond with him would not, and could not, be broken.  This would not turn out to be a one-way charity case.  It became a mutually beneficial friendship that transformed and healed both individuals.

He Shared His Story With Me Over a Subway Sandwich
Those who follow my Facebook postings know that I interact with homeless individuals on a daily basis.  It isn't something I would ever have thought would become a mission for me.  I just felt compelled one day to stop and listen to the personal story of the man behind one of those panhandling signs.

I Felt Compelled to Stop and Let Kindness Connect Us
I don't even like the word panhandler because of its negative connotation.  Doesn't it spark labels of beggar, or for some people, even something as ugly as loser?  I've seen and heard those drive-by insults when standing on a corner checking up on one of my homeless friends.  You know... the guy who rolls down his window and shouts, "Get a job, loser!"

Perhaps We Are All Living on a Prayer
What Laura and I found, when really getting to know the person holding that piece of cardboard in his hands, was a whole new way of living... a whole new way of perceiving those willing to bare their vulnerable souls to a public that isn't always very welcoming to them.  We both discovered, and opened up, the gifts of these beautiful souls.  We became the recipients of change that is not spare.

I highly recommend An Invisible Thread, not because it has been a New York Times bestseller, but because of its focus on kindness and goodness.  Do I believe there is an invisible thread?  Oh, yes... absolutely... and I am so thankful for those on the other end of my thread.







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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Reviewing The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

In a nutshell The Slight Edge is about applying the principles of compound interest to your life or at least that's how I understand it!

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Photo by Lou16 featuring the book & my Green Ogre Drink!


If you had told me a few years ago that I would be reviewing personal development books I would have thought you were nuts.  In my mind personal development books were great for some people, but I didn't need them - I'm sure a few of you can relate to this!

It was really during 2018 that I started reading these books and mainly because they were being recommended to me by a very positive and supportive network of friends that I had.   I have struggled with a few of them and loved others.   If you're new to the world of personal development reading I think you will love this book.

The first personal development book that I found the most beneficial was The Magic by Rhonda Byrne, this was mainly because you read a chapter a day and there were tasks to do each day.  This is a great introduction to personal development.

I have found quite a few great books to read, but I had missed The Slight Edge for some reason (even though it had been recommended to be several times) so when I saw it on the end display at my local library I snapped it up.

The way Jeff Olson writes makes this book very easy to read and the slight edge he talks about is so, so simple to apply.   As he explains how little steps every day works you realize just how simple (note I said simple not easy) having success at whatever you want is.

I realized that there have been many times in my life where I have applied the slight edge and it has worked, but I also realized how many times I have done the opposite.

As I said at the beginning of this review I really think the slight edge is the same application as compound interest except it's about your life not money.   Jeff talks about a couple of fables in the beginning and one of them I have seen repeated online in different forums as a great example of compound interest.   In fact I used the story to explain to my daughter about the importance of saving money from her pay every week (I started my own super fund when I was 19).  It's a story about an old man and his two sons, let me know if you've heard it (or a variation of it) before.

An old man called his two sons in to see him and gave them both a choice they could choose$1 million which he would give them in 31 days or they could choose 1 penny which would double each day and at the end of the 31 days he would give them that amount.

One son took the million dollars, but the other chose the penny.   At the end of the first week the penny had turned into 64 pennies, but by day 31 (and the power of compound interest) the penny had exceeded $10 million.

I really recommend The Slight Edge as it really does just make total sense and really makes you think about the actions you take every day which turn into habits.   I will add that I have added The Slight Edge to my shopping cart for the next time I place a book order something I never do when I have already read a book through my library.


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Friday, January 24, 2020

The Gregory Sisters: While Love Stirs - Book 2 Reviewed

The Gregory Sisters: While Love Stirs - Book 2 Reviewed
The Gregory sisters were all strong willed, independent thinkers, and activists who were ready to challenge the social norms of their day.  Even though they were not prepared to be financially independent, when their supporting parents died, by necessity, they faced that challenge head on with determination and action.

In my last article, I reviewed the first book in the series, When Love Calls, that focused on the oldest sister, Hannah.  In this review, I'll tell you about Charlotte, the middle sister and the second book in the series, While Love Stirs.

Each of these books is categorized as a historical romance.  While that is true, the stories are so much more than simple romance novels.  They are about women who must survive in a time that females were not expected, in many cases not even allowed, to work outside of the home.  They each must find a niche that will allow for an income and is acceptable in their society.


While Love Stirs Book Synopsis


 While Love Stirs
(The Gregory Sisters Book #2)
Although an independent thinker like her sisters, Charlotte Gregory's interests follow a more traditional role for a woman in the 1910's. She loves to cook!  Believing that the only job for her would be a chef, or chef's assistant, she heads to a renowned restaurant in a local hotel. After all, she is a graduate of Fannie Farmer's School of Cookery.  Surely an esteemed hotel/restaurant establishment would recognize her value and give her a chance.  

After being directed to the side entrance of the hotel designated for unaccompanied women, she quickly discovers the head chef's "not a chance" attitude toward a woman being employed in the kitchen.

Then, when she visits her sister in the hospital, she is disgusted with the lack of concern for proper nutrition for the patients.  She tries to explain to the doctor how the right meals could help patients get well sooner, but she is once again met by the steel wall of male dominance and superior thinking.  Not to mention the hospital's very limited budget and inability to make changes.

Dejected, distressed, yet still determined to get a job cooking, Charlotte returns home to consider what other options might be available to her.  When she finds a newspaper article advertising a contest being hosted by the gas company promoting gas ranges, she believes she has found her answer.  If she can just win that contest, surely she would be recognized as a real chef with an education in nutrition and be able to find suitable employment.  But, there are other women who wish to win that contest too and will stoop to deceptive levels to accomplish their own personal goals.



And, that is the limit to how much of the plot I will divulge.  You will simply have to read the book to find out what happens!


My Thoughts & Opinion of "While Love Stirs"


I admit, it had not occurred to me that a woman would have trouble finding a job as a cook in the 1910's.  This book gave me a new appreciation for the plight of a single women who did not wish to be forced to marry just to survive.  I believe I have taken the vast opportunities for granted in my lifetime.  I've always had the right to vote, I've always been able to wear comfortable clothing, I've always been allowed to walk through the front doors of public places, I have always been able to get a job when needed, and I was most certainly allowed to make my own marriage decision.  

While this series has been entertaining to read, it has also been somewhat educational and thought provoking.  I knew the history of the suffrage movement, the history of fashion in America, and the history of etiquette.  But, I still found it enlightening to read how it could have affected individual lives.  I have no doubt the real life stories would be far worse since there is not always a happy resolution in reality.








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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review of Book Clubs

Belonging to a book club can be a fun and rewarding experience.
Book Club Luncheon Outing January 2020
I have belonged to a book club for the past 17 years.  I always look forward to the next meeting and discussing the books we have read.

Book Club Information Online

I did some research online in preparation for writing this post and found there is really no "one size fits all" approach to book clubs.  

There are book clubs hosted by groups of friends, by libraries, by publishers, by churches, by special interest groups and a multitude of others.  You can find online book clubs, clubs that meet at peoples houses, clubs that meet at public places and library sponsered clubs meeting at the library.

Some book clubs have books selected by the sponsoring organization or person and others have members select the books.  There are book clubs that only read one genre of books such as a mystery book club or a history book club and others that read a variety of different genres.

In looking for some history on the start of book clubs, I came to the conclusion that the discussion of books in groups dates back as far as we had the written word.  In the USA I found references back to 1634 on a ship headed to the Massachusetss Bay Colony and another literary society started in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin named Junto.


My Experience in a Book Club

The book club I belong to has about 12-14 members at any given time. This seems like a good amount of people for a good discussion.  Each month there are some people missing but we still have enough for a lively discussion.

Our club actually started 20 years ago and still has 5 of the original members.  As members have to leave due to illness, moving or other obiligations new members are added to our group. I joined when we moved to the area and a friend invited me to join the group.

We meet once a month at a different members house and that member leads a discussion on the book and provides refreshments for the group.  

We read a variety of different genre's, each book is chosen by the hostess for the month.  The hostess will have given us the name of the book and the date she will host the meeting at the previous meeting.  So we have a month to obtain and read the book.  Some members get the book from the library, some order an ebook online and others purchase a paper book.

We try to stay on topic, but sometimes that is difficult as we have been together for a long time. Sometimes we just need to set some time aside to socialize before we start the book discussion.

For refreshments we might serve wine and/or soft drinks and a variety of snacks.  We usually end the evening with a dessert.  Many of our hostesses will look for a food theme from the book and serve a snack or dessert that fits that theme.

Over the years we have done some fun things with the group.

  • Several times we have invited an author to our meeting to lead the discussion of their book.  It is fun when we find a local author to do this.
  • We have gone on field trips before.  One in particular that I remember was to a historical house in the area where one of our members is a docent.
  • Another time we decided we would try our hand at writing a book.  We each wrote a chapter and then passed it on to a member at the next meeting to write the next chapter.  We did not have a plan ahead of time about where the book would head so it was a surprise to all of us when we got the final story.  It wasn't a particularly compelling book but it did give us an experience of what an author goes through in writing.


Guidelines for a Book Club based on my Experience

Here are some of my thoughts on book clubs.

  • Set your schedules a year in advance ( or at least 6 months).  Before we did this we spent a lot of time each meeting discussing who would have the next meeting.  Now we send around a sign up sheet each January and everyone picks a month.  They don't have to choose the book or the exact date till the month before.
  • The hostess should plan a few questions to help get the discussion rolling.  A lot of times these questions can be found on the author's or publishers websites.
  • Having prepared questions are a good way to get the discussion back on track when someone tries to sideline it.
  • Keep  an open mind to reading types of books you  wouldn't normally choose.  I have read so many books in book club that I would never have chosen, but when I read them they are great.  It has really broadened my horizons in my reading.

Books we Have Read

In the 17 years that I have belonged to book club we have read nearly 200 different book.  I can't begin to list them all in this post but here are a few of the ones that we have read in the past couple of years that I thought you might enjoy.

The first one is the one we are reading for this month.  It is a historical fiction book, which is one of my favorite genres.  This was a very interesting book.

   
The next book is one we read last year.  It was an interesting study involving cooking and the different personalities that took a cooking class.  It was different from others we have read but I found it very interesting.



Here is a list of several other books we have read in the past several months.

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarity
  • Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
  • The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe
  • Leaving Time by Jodi Piccoult
  • No Way Back by Andrew Gross
  • Long Road to Mercy by David Balducci
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
  • I've Got My Eyes on You by Mary Higgins Clark
  • The Address by Fiona Davis
  • The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
All of these are books that I enjoyed and would recommend.
Happy  Reading!!



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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane - A Review

If you have been reading our reviews, you know that January is Tea Month!  It is also part of the Chinese New Year celebrations that will be happening all around the world on the 25th of  January.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Book Review

It's also time to share a new book that I truly enjoyed.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane caught my eye on two counts.  One, I love birds, so was interested in the address and the second was the ambiguity of the title.  Who goes around being known as the "Tea Girl" and why?


The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Book Review


Lisa See, the author has extensive knowledge of what is happening in the areas where China has taken over the lands that once belonged to some really isolated tribes.  Such are the Akha, that  lived in the high mountainous regions of Laos, Myannmar, Thailand and Yunnan province in China. 

                                                           Map courtesy of Google Maps

As with many indigenous tribes, they are unaware of the political struggles or the ramifications of being overtaken by another government.   They farm and cultivate their land for their own use. Daily life is difficult enough without worrying about politics.  Rice, tea and poppies are their main crops.  Opium, derived from their crops is sold to the outside world for medicines.  They themselves have used opium for medicines for centuries.  Tea is the other common denominator.  They grow tea and cultivate the leaves of trees that are hundreds of years old.  This tea is sought after by tea aficionados from around the world.

They are a land of people who have stayed together and lived according to the laws and customs of their "tribe".  They have their own language, yet they are encouraged to learn Mandarin and leave their language behind. Education is minimal unless they show a talent for learning.  Then maybe they have a chance at a better life.  The question is, "Who's ideas of a better life will they follow?" 

Each child can confirm their lineage for 7 generations.  This is one of the most important things they know for sure.  Girls and boys can recite their lineage and will do so when they find a mate.  The elders of the community will give their permission to marry, based on that lineage!  There will be no marriages allowed that are too close in family ties.

Image from Wikipedia 


This story and it's people grabbed my attention and held it right to the very end.  I was fascinated by their customs and horrified by some of their practices too.  What really caught my interest though was how the people, because of their beliefs did things that we would consider so unacceptable.  The Akha, like many of the Asian peoples, have a profound wish that their first child be male. Because of China's one child law,  many girls are given up for adoption.   

Over the years, these girls have been adopted into American, Canadian and European households.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane finds herself caught up in a cultural tug of war.  Her adopted parents are caught up in it as well.  She does not look like them, She will never look like them!  Yet, her parents love her as if she were born to them like any other child.  

Her adoptive parents go through all the trials and tribulations involved when you have a child that is "different".  As many parents are aware, whenever something is NOT just so,  many questions are asked and need answers.  Yes, their child is adopted.  No, they don't know anything about why she was given up for adoption.  No, they are her parents and they love her unconditionally.  Yes, she asks questions all the time.  No we don't have the answers to all her questions.

What makes this story interesting is that bond between the birth mother and the daughter that she no longer knows.  I don't want to give anything away from this story, I want you to go and pick up the book and read it for yourself.  


My Conclusion & Final Thoughts


I learned so much about the Akha people and I also learned a lot about myself.  It was easy to put myself into the characters of this book.  What would I do?  How would I react?  How would I feel about being given away?  Where do my loyalties lie?  These are all questions you will find yourself asking as you are reading this book.

There are no right or wrong answers.  For the Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, there are lots of different answers and many roads that could be taken.  See how she deals with the way,  and the road,  her life has taken.  I promise, you will learn something about yourself in the pages of this book.







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Friday, January 17, 2020

The Gregory Sisters: When Love Calls - Book 1 Reviewed

The Gregory Sisters: When Love Calls - Book 1 Reviewed
I recently read a delightful series of romantic fiction books set in the early 1910s.  The books provide a clear picture of what life in America was like for women a hundred years ago.  Specifically, women who were not married and clearly needed a way to earn a living.  They serve as a reminder of how thankful I am that I was not an adult female during the Progressive Era.  What a difference 60 years can make!

The Gregory sister's lives are turned upside down when their parents die.  Not only are they grieving the death of their parents, but they cannot afford to payoff the mortgage and family debts.  They are faced with losing their home while having to make major life changes and decisions that will effect the rest of their lives.  Neither sister has a husband, fiance, or even a prospective husband.  And, neither sister has a job.  Actually, they are all still in school, albeit, the two oldest are in vocational schools.

The first book, When Love Calls, provides the background information for the series.  The 3 sisters are in all of the books, but each book has a primary sister character.


When Love Calls Book Synopsis


 When Love Calls (The Gregory Sisters Book #1)
A Novel
When Love Calls focuses on the oldest sister, Hannah, who is in law school.  When her parents die and the family home is repossessed, Hannah makes the difficult decision to leave school and go to work.  After all, someone has to earn money for rent, food, clothes, etc., for all 3 girls. 

Hannah feels extremely blessed when she is hired as a "Hello Girl", a switchboard operator for the telephone company. Unfortunately, the very thing that would make Hannah an excellent attorney, is the part of her personality that makes her a problem by company standards.  Hannah has a mind of her own.  She doesn't make a very good conformist follower.  Still, she tries hard because she really needs the job.

There are so many changes all at once in Hannah's life, it makes it hard for her to know who she can trust.  When the very attorney who represented the bank in their home foreclosure seems to keep turning up, Hannah isn't sure if he is trustworthy, yet she needs his help.  As it turns out, they have a lot in common.


My Opinion of "When Love Calls"


I suspect this book was named "When Love Calls" because Hannah is a switchboard operator.  However, it could easily reference how she changed the entire direction of her life because of her love for her sisters.  She answered the "call" to care for her sisters instead of finishing law school. 

Because of her life changes, she meets someone and falls in love.  Of course, he does call her on the phone occasionally.  Regardless, what is clear is that love dictates Hannah's actions. 

There are many changes in the Gregory sister's lives over the course of the series.  The one thing that is consistent is the bond between sisters.  Regardless of trials, failures, fortune, or life choices, these girls remain committed to supporting each other.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a wholesome and uplifting story of love and family.








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Monday, January 13, 2020

Michelle Obama’s BECOMING Book Review

Michelle Obama’s BECOMING Book Review

I am a Canadian who does not pay a lot of attention to American politics though I do remember the former First Lady, Michelle Obama, from the very first days that her husband became the President of the United States and I remember seeing her image time and time again during the years that followed.

Since the release of her book Becoming in November of 2018, I have been hearing about it. More recently, I saw that it was the Ottawa Public Library’s most requested book in 2019. Either of those reasons would have been a good reason to pick up the book but the actual reason that I read it was because it is my book club’s next book.

THE STORYLINE


I reached for the book with little in the way of expectations though I obviously wondered what all the hype was about. It seems a bit early (in Michelle's life) to label the book an autobiographical memoir but it is her story to date and it is told from her perspective so I guess it is a memoir of sorts.

Becoming is a story of gender equality, race, marriage and politics.

The first section, Becoming Me, shares the story of her childhood and education in Chicago and how she became who she is. That is, a highly educated woman, a lawyer cum public servant cum hospital administrator and a devoted wife and protective mother.

The second section, Becoming Us, covers her romance and her marriage to Barack Obama.

The final section, Becoming More, tells of the Obama family and their lives as public figures when Barack becomes the President of the United States. It tells how Michelle tried to retain some sense of her own identity and to achieve some sense of normalcy for her family. It shares the sacrifices she made when she put her own dreams aside to support her husband’s goals. Despite not being able to follow her own career path, she supported the work of her husband and turned her considerable talents to making meaningful contributions indirectly associated with his work.

BOOK VIDEOS


The first video shown here presents a short peek at the book and Michelle Obama’s story:



The second video, in which Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey surprise a group of school girls with a visit, does a better job  in my opinion of sharing some of Michelle's experiences becoming the First Lady and it gives you a feel for the story you will find between the covers of the book:



WHO WROTE BECOMING?


Even before I picked it up, I wondered if Michelle wrote the book or if she had employed a ghost writer. Could someone be so successful in so many areas of her life and also become a bestselling author?

I could not find anything definitive to answer that question. Business Insider says that Michelle used, “a team of people”, which makes sense to me and The News Record says that Michelle asked for help from a friend and that she and that friend met about the book on and off again for a period of nine years.

REVIEWS


Becoming is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. I enjoyed it and think that no matter who did the writing it is a well written and very interesting book.

Politico Magazine called it a bit thin in areas and I agree with that statement. Politico says that Michelle was a “woman who sparkled all her life, ascending to registers of success she anticipated in middle school, only to sideline her ambitions for her husband's” and that while the book touches on all of that, we never learn in the end “What she wants to be when she grows up.”

Oprah Winfrey added the book to her book club list. She called it a tour de force and I agree with that statement. Oprah said you will laugh and you will cry. I think you will.

Both Business Insider and The Atlantic say that Becoming “is on track to become the best-selling memoir of all time.” That, in my mind, is a high recommendation for a book.

If you need any more convincing, I note that 94 percent of reviewers on Amazon and 91 percent of readers on Goodreads gave the book 4 or 5 out of five stars. Those are amazing numbers.

IN SUMMARY


I think Michelle Obama handled her life choices well at least as she reveals them in her book. Without having any way of knowing much about her life beyond what the media shares, I think that this book gives us as much a glimpse into her world as we will ever receive.

The New Yorker says that she has become one of the most popular Americans in history and I did not miss their reference to the fact that she has now had a “second coming, as an unprecedented, potentially billion-dollar American brand.” The Former President and First Lady reportedly were paid a whopping 65 million dollar advance for their memoirs. You can bet that we will be seeing Michelle Obama again and I look forward to following her continued life story.

Meanwhile, find your copy of Becoming competitively priced on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Link:

Buy your copy of Michelle Obama’s Becoming on Amazon.






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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

2020 A New Year of Reading Materials to Discover!

Woman on the Edge, Book Review, psychological thriller, review this reviews
My New Years Resolution!
At the start of 2020, I made a decision to not only read more, but to vary the types of books that I sink my teeth into.  So here is a new author and a new book for my Review This Review Today.

As a member of Goodreads, I saw that my list of preferred books seems to be either mysteries or spy thrillers.  Added into that mix there are also some historical romances.  What I realized looking at my list, is that there are so many more categories of books that I have not delved  into.  

So, along with a new year and a new decade, comes the promise to rectify that situation.  And so I offer you a new author and a new genre of books for me.  


My New Genre is a Psychological Thriller!

Now you might ask why I haven't tried this category before now, and the answer is rather simple.  Psychological thrillers, while they keep you on the edge of your seat, they make me uncomfortable.  I find that I can't get these stories out of my head.  They (these types of thrillers) keep me from sleeping well.  I don't watch these types of movies either.  After Silence of the Lambs, I did not sleep well for weeks.  I don't know what that says about my character, but I know that sleep deprivation does not look good on me!


A New Year and a New Decade means there are changes afoot!

 
I love starting the new year off with a bang.  So beside the fireworks that lit up the sky, I found a new author and a whole different genre of reading to go along with it.

Samantha Bailey is the author of Woman on the Edge.  It's fresh off the presses and will be available in paperback,  after the 3rd of March this year.  If you are an Audible member it has the best price tag ever. $ 0.00 for Prime members or if you start a trial membership. 

thriller, new author, canadian,

There are so many twists and turns in this novel, that you just won't figure out who's behind all the mystery.  It is a page turner that will have you losing sleep, because you just can't put it down.  As her debut novel,  I think Samantha Bailey has a real winner on her hands.  It's a novel that all women can relate to.  Motherhood, sleep deprivation, secrets from your youth and so much more are all part and parcel of Woman on the Edge!

Just a couple of the reviews that are being posted about this book:


“One woman’s struggles with motherhood and another’s desperate desire to be a mother collide in this explosive debut. Woman on the Edge is a white-knuckle read that welcomes a bright new talent to the world of psychological suspense.”
— MARY KUBICANew York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl

"Gripping from the first page to the last, Woman on the Edge had me nail-biting and breathless all the way through. But even after you've turned the final page, this riveting and deeply felt thriller from debut author Samantha M. Bailey won't relinquish its hold on you." 
— LAURA SIMS, author of Looker

I could post more but I don't want this to be a spoiler for anyone.  One of the things I loved about the author is that she is Toronto based!  Everyone loves hometown celebrities and I'm no exception.  It thrilled me to read her book and be able to geographically know where she was.  It's a small thing that resonates with me.  If you aren't from Toronto, it will not detract from the story in any way,  I just was amused that I knew these places.  


So What Else is in Store for 2020?  

 
I don't know just yet, but rest assured I will be looking into some of the genres that I have been ignoring.  The world is just so much better with so many books to choose from.  








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