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

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Lost Vintage Book Review


I've visited World War II Europe in my readings on numerous occasions in books like Cilka's Journey, The Girl They Left Behind and The Nightingale. This month I revisited the era via Ann Mah's 2018 novel, The Lost Vintage. I enjoyed the trip though of course, the situation was not always a pleasant one. 

The Lost Vintage travels between current day California and France and World War II France, where one family did as best they could to survive the German occupation. 

Living on a prestigious wine domaine in the Burgundy region of France, they managed for a while to avoid drawing attention to themselves by keeping their heads down but eventually they were drawn into the war in one way or another. 

The mystery that drags the current generation down in the modern day part of the book is whether or not members of the family were Nazi collaborators or members of the resistance.  The idea that our ancestors were on the right side of history is an interesting one that cannot be true for all of us.

Because this book is well written, I had no problem switching back and forth between the different time periods. I was a bit less enthusiastic about the inclusion of the occasional French phrase, sometimes translated and sometimes not. I expect the French was included to give a French feeling to the book and translation is not necessary but I did find the practice intrusive.

As the back of the book says, this story contains a mystery, a love story and of course, a history lesson.  It is packed with French food, culture and of course, wine. It is well written and it is easy to read. If you enjoy historical fiction, wine and/or reading about France, I believe that you will enjoy The Lost Vintage. You may even find yourself needing to read "just one more chapter", wanting to drink a bit of wine and desiring a trip to France.

Without giving away the secrets of this book, I will mention that it deals with a little discussed part of the story of France. That is, what happened to French women when the country was liberated from the Germans. French women were often treated as traitors and found guilty without a trial by what was really mob justice. No allowances were made for varying situations like the difference between women who slept willingly with German soldiers and those who were raped. 

This book comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. You can buy your copy of The Lost Vintage from Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas movie reviewed.




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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Breath - Book Review

Dear Nose,

I am so sorry.  I didn't realize how much I was taking you for granted.  I should have appreciated you more.  Now that I finally know how much I need you—how much you mean to me—I hope it is not too late to make a new start.  Will you forgive me?  I promise to make it up to you.

Love, Me

Yeah.  So okay.  That was long overdue.  It wasn't until I read Breath, by James Nestor, that I discovered the error of my ways.  It's like missing a truth that is staring you right in the face.  How is it that we miss the things that are right in front of us every day?

I must say Breath is, by far, one of the most stunning books I have ever read.  As a lifelong athlete, and former coach, I thought I knew quite a bit about proper breathing.  Wrong!  

This book was a journey of discovery... a revelation.  After the first few pages, I lost count of the epiphanies I was having—or that were having me.  The author had me at this:

the greatest indicator of life span wasn't genetics, diet, or the amount of daily exercise, as many had suspected.  It was lung capacity.

And, it turns out, we can increase our lung capacity by 30-40 percent just by knowing how to breathe right.  If that is the case, why wouldn't we want to learn how to do so?  Who doesn't want to live longer and with greater wellness?

This book blends the author's personal quest to find solutions to his own health crises while seeking out other "pulmonauts" who are finding new, and old, ways of helping their patients address any number of serious medical conditions: immune disorders, high blood pressure, weight challenges, anxiety, asthma, sleep apnea, dental issues, and so much more.

We learn that 90 percent of us do not breathe correctly.  Also, those who are least healthy among us are overbreathing.  Overbreathing?  Did we ever imagine too much breathing could be bad?  Or that too little carbon dioxide was harming us?  How much is too much or too little?  What is the right amount?  How do we achieve that balance?  What is the proper breathing rhythm?  How can we attain that?

And then there is mouthbreathing vs. nosebreathing.  The negatives of mouthbreathing, as illustrated by the author's own clinical experimentation, should be more than enough to make every single one of us avoid it like the plague.  Who knew just how bad the effects could be?   

But wait, there's more: left nostril vs. right nostril breathing.  Ever thought about that?  No?  Neither had I.  Breathe through the left, lower body temperature and blood pressure—reduce anxiety.  Breathe through the right, speed up circulation, heat up your body, and increase your heart rate.  

Which brings us to this: What is the deal about the erectile tissue in the nose?  Um, I'll let you read about that for yourself.  That was probably my first big shock while reading Breath.

There is so much more that will astound you when you read Breath.  This book is filled with wonder.  It left me with a completely new sense of awe for my body and how everything is so intricately, and beautifully, connected to my breathing.  I gained renewed hope in discovering just how resilient and malleable our organs, and vital systems, can be when we know how to take simple health-reversing actions.

Throughout my life, whenever asked what part of my body I disliked the most, I always said it was my nose.  I'll never feel that way again after learning the truth about the magnificence of my nose.  It is so much more than the first line of defense against the invaders that would cause me harm.  I have gained such a tremendous respect and appreciation for what my nose does for me every second of every day.

In a single breath, more molecules of air will pass through your nose than all the grains of sand on all the world's beaches—trillions and trillions of them.  As they make their way toward you, they'll twist and spool like the stars in a Van Gogh sky...

There is something to be gained by everyone who delves into the mystery we call breathing.  Every 3.3 seconds we have the opportunity for transformation.  Breathe it in... and be the brilliance of that Van Gogh sky.




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Friday, November 13, 2020

The Lady and the Mountain Man (The Mountain Series Book 1) Reviewed

The Lady and the Mountain Man
This book took me by surprise! 

Because of the title, I was concerned that "The Lady and the Mountain Man" would be too juvenile to hold my attention.  However, since Misty M. Beller is a best selling author, and I liked the Montana setting, I thought I would at least start reading it.  After all, I could set the book aside if it didn't appeal to me.  As it turns out, the opening first few paragraphs caught my attention quickly and the story line kept me interested.

This book reminded me not to judge a book by it's title.  There have been times when a title grabbed my attention, only for the book to be a disappointment.  Even though I love the cover, this book's title didn't appeal to me, but I really enjoyed the story and would highly recommend it as a clean and wholesome romance for anyone.


The Lady and the Mountain Man
(The Mountain Series Book 1- 1874)

 The Lady and the Mountain Man
(The Mountain Series Book 1)
Before his death, Leah's father had entered into an arranged marriage contract with Simon Talbert on behalf of his only daughter.  The wedding was to take place in only 6 days.  As an only heir, Leah would become a very wealthy woman when she obtained the age of 23, in less than a year. 

When Leah Townsend overhears her fiance admit to killing his first wife and prepared to do the same to her to gain her inheritance, she knows she must flee Richmond, Virginia.  Unfortunately, she had no idea where she could go and be safe. 

Leah's friend, companion and former governess, Emily, hatched what seemed like the perfect plan for Leah.  She would go to St. Louis, Missouri, and stay with a family that Emily knew there.  It seemed like an ideal plan until Leah happened to discover that she was followed to St. Louis by Simon's brother.  She had to come up with a new plan, and fast!

Leah decided to answer a newspaper ad from a gentleman in Montana who was seeking a wife.  It was a long way away, and something no one in Richmond would expect.  Plus, she would not be easy to follow.  She immediately sent a telegram to the wife-seeking man in Montana, secured passage on a boat, and left St. Louis.  

Leah was not prepared for the wilds of Montana or the subsequent events that placed her in some very difficult circumstances causing her to depend solely on God's provision.  


My Conclusion

"The Lady and the Mountain Man" was an easy read and one that I really enjoyed.  I read it rather quickly and hated for it to end.  Fortunately for me, when I checked the following morning, I found the Mountain series has 12 books.  I immediately downloaded the 2nd book to my Kindle.

If you enjoy romantic historical Christian fiction too, I know you will enjoy this wonderful book.





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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review

Knots & Crosses: Tartan Noir Crime Novel by Ian Rankin 

In 2019, I was introduced to Ian Rankin via Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program, Classics of Detective Fiction: From the 1960s to Today. I really enjoyed Rankin's Black and Blue, which was the book we read but only recently returned to start at the beginning of the series and read Knots and Crosses.

When Rankin wrote Knots and Crosses in 1987 he thought he had written a standalone crime detective novel and had even planned on killing Detective Rebus at the end of the book. Success for Rankin and Rebus was not fast in coming. After publishing Knots and Crosses to little fan fare, Rankin put Rebus aside and moved on to write his next book with no idea that he would eventually return to Rebus' world and that he would still be writing books for the series in 2020

Knots and Crosses Book Review
Anyway, I read Knots and Crosses. I really enjoyed it. I recommend it. Need I say more? Well, yes, I suppose I should because you may not have read anything by Ian Rankin and you may not have seen my earlier review of the eighth book in the series, Black and Blue.

I wrote about the number of covers that the eighth book has had and you won't be surprised to hear that this book also has had many covers. I had to work a bit to find a picture of the original cover, which I believe the image at the bottom of this page to be since Rankin describes the original cover as having knots and crosses on it and this is the only one that fits that description. 

Knots and Crosses is a classic detective story with a strong plotline. It was written in 1987 and based firmly in the Scotland of the time. It is considered British Realism Noir or Tartan Noir as it was written by Scottish writers and is set in Scotland. The Scottish story has style elements from other American and European crime writers of the same time period. 

Detective Rebus is a former Special Air Service (SAS) officer now doing police work and coping with a difficult past in a very destructive manner. Typical to noir, he is a working class main character who doesn't have ordinary heroic qualities like idealism, courage and morality. He's a drinker and a smoker and does not have many friends nor successful relationships. He is not above stretching the law in an effort to solve the case he is working on, which is also common in gritty, noir detective novels. 

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin
Because Knots and Crosses is the first book in the series, we are given the back story of Detective Rebus while he attempts to solve the nasty case of a serial murderer who is killing young girls and advertising that fact to the police.

REVIEWS


"Most of Knots and Crosses is claustrophobically situated inside his mind – and it’s a lonely, uncomfortable place. His asperity, his broken marriage, his drinking, his cold flat, his falling asleep in chairs because he can’t quite drag his tired hide into bed … Perhaps you could argue that these too are the stuff of cop cliché. But they feel real here. He feels like a character with weight. Rankin...nails the essentials."  I agree with The Guardian, Rebus seems perfectly developed in this story.

Another review on The Guardian says, "It is not always easy to read because of the context, but it grips you so hard that it feels compulsory to read on..."  Yes, this book has some uncomfortable moments but it will have you wanting to know who did it and you will read on.

Ian Rankin's First Book, Knots & Crosses
Finally, in the year that this book was written, Kirkus said, "Solidly drawn characters, keen psychological insights and an intriguing, well-knit plot—along with a rather florid but individual writing style—make Rankin a newcomer to watch." More than twenty successful novels later, I say they were right with that prediction. 

Knots and Crosses comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.

WHO WILL LIKE KNOTS & CROSSES? 


If you enjoy a well-written detective novel, I believe that you will enjoy this one. It is a crime fiction classic now and it is immensely readable. It does have violence, sex, drugs and murder but nevertheless I enjoyed the story, getting to know Detective Rebus a bit better in the process. For armchair travelers, it is also a look at the nice and the not-so-nice underbelly of Scotland's Edinburgh.

On Amazon, you will find Knots and Crosses by clicking here and all of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels by clicking right here.

See you at 
the book store! 
Brenda 
Treasures By Brenda 

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Knots & Crosses Book Review

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review







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Sunday, November 8, 2020

Basic Tips I Learned on My Self-Publishing Journey

Self-Publishing Tips for Newbies

Let me start by saying that I'm NOT a self-publishing guru. I'm just a work-from-home-self-taught woman who decided to jump in and tackle some of those dreams left dying on the table.

I've written quite a bit here on ReviewThisReviews about self-publishing books. You'll find a list of the links below.

To date, I've self-published eight books and am currently writing the ninth. 

The topic of the books are Riddles, Poetry, and Sayings for Cards. Currently, I'm focussed on building a series of Riddle Books. There are five riddle books in the series and the sixth should be published in one to two months.

A General Overview of What to Do When You Self-Publish (According to my Personal Journey)


Note: To date, I've only published via Amazon's KDP self-publishing platform

  • Amazon Author Page: Once you've published your book, complete a detailed page about yourself on Amazon's Author Central Page. Here's Amazon's author central page for the USA. When publishing my books, I had to create author central pages for the UK and USA separately. Perhaps, Amazon will amalgamate things at some point, so we only have to do it once. Here's the UK author central page in case you need it.

  • Amazon Author Page Photo: Decide whether your Author Central page will feature a Logo or your personal photo. At first, I put up my logo but changed it to my personal photo. I prefer to emphasize that I'm just a regular person, not a 'big company.' 

  • Build a Website that Relates to Your Books: If you've never built a website or can't, you can hire someone or just build a blog related to your books. I've built websites (I'm not a website building guru either!), so I was able to create a website to coincide with my Riddle Books. You can take a look at my StumpedRiddles.com website here. Think about how you want people to navigate your site before you build it; write it out, give it a lot of thought. The ease at which people can work their way through your website is important. The top navigation bar on my riddles website features these tabs: Home, Riddles, Answers, Riddle Books, About/Contact. Within those headings are subheadings. Don't forget to include all the legal jargon you need on the site.

  • Facebook Business Page: Build a business Facebook page that features a Shop with your books. It takes a little learning, and you need a certain amount of products before you can build a shop. I chose to link my books back to each of their product pages on my website; that way, when you publish your book on multiple platforms (not just Amazon), you don't have to worry about changing links - since each product/book will direct back to your own product page on your own site.

  • Social Media Main Photo & URL Names: Create social media pages for your business/books. Decide whether you want to use your logo or your personal photo. I decided to use my Riddles logo for my social media pages, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. However, I created a Promo-Video and included that video at or near the top of each social media site: It features my personal photo and personal story. You'll have to choose your social media URL based on what's available; I wasn't able to get "Riddles" - it was taken. However, I choose URL's that were close: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

  • Promo-Video: Create your promo video using your favorite video platform. I used Animoto. If your book/business dictates it, I would suggest being personal while describing your books' purpose. You can take a look at the promo video I created here.

  • Your Tag Line and Book Purpose: If you're able to establish a "purpose" for your books, create a consistent tag-line that describes your purpose and includes that tag line on your social media, website, and books. The tag-line I came up with is "Turn the World Off With a Smile." It's a twisted variation of a lyric line in the Mary Tyler Moore theme song. I know, I'm aging myself! That lyric was "she can turn the world on with her smile." Given the craziness of the world today, I decided my riddles are created for the distinct purpose of helping people to "turn the world OFF with a smile."
Here are some additional articles I've written relating to self-publishing - Again, I'm not a guru, just learning as I go!

As I learn more, I'll add more articles here on ReviewThisReviews. My next learning journey will be how to self-publish on platforms other than Amazon. That should be challenging.

Here's the first riddle book I created - I went through several cover designs before finally deciding on this one:

#StumpedRiddles - Riddle Book
#Stumped - Riddle Book - First Volume






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Thursday, November 5, 2020

Hiking Naked - Book Review

 

Kindle Unlimited Link

Are you taking a leave of absence
She whispered her question as if I were planning a prison escape.

No.  What Iris had in mind did involve absence, but truly, it was more about arriving back at presence.  In Hiking Naked, Iris Graville takes us along on her journey of stripping life down to what is most essential.  This is a book about reclaiming your joys.

If ever there was a time to plan a prison escape, surely it would be now.  Just as Iris felt imprisoned by the burnout of years in the public health field, who among us is not wishing for an escape from the weariness of daily crisis... from the pandemic stress in which we are engulfed?

For me, being immersed in the author's sojourn to a place far removed from constant bombardment was not only a much-needed respite, but also a knowing, as Graville put it, of "the riches of attending to what's truly important."

Anyone who has ever fantasized about moving to a remote haven far from the madding crowd will relish this account of Graville's time spent in Stehekin (a Native word meaning a way through), Washington.  As Iris ferries us via her writing to this uplake North Cascades paradise, we discover ourselves in a place any lover of Northern Exposure would find intriguing and refreshing.  

Imagine living without TV, phones, freeways, or frenzy.  Think what it would be like to mail-order your groceries (and have a stranger named Alice select your food items for you).

Envision a time of reading, writing, hiking, and just being.  Wrap your mind around days filled with art, bread-baking, letter-writing, laundry-hanging, and journaling about the desires of your heart.

In the process of becoming "Stehekinized," Graville found her own way through the tumult of both internal and external fires and floods.  As she sought balance, and let Stehekin live within her, Iris found the path to what was next.

I highly recommend this book to anyone searching for clarity, for renewal, for a clear sense of calling, for a return to the essence of life.  Here's to finding your own Stehekin.  May the way through be a journey to joy.





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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Reviewing Right Behind You by Rachel Abbott

 The idea behind this book is just horrifying for any parent, let me paint you a picture .....


Purchase Right Behind You by Rachel Abbott on Amazon - photo by Lou16

Imagine you have a young child and one day the police come to your door to arrest your partner for child endangerment, at the same time a social worker and another police officer inform you that your daughter has to go with them and you can't accompany her because you may influence what she says.

Wouldn't you go out of your mind with worry about your child as well as wondering if you knew your partner as well as you thought and going over every little detail that you could think of?

Now let's say you wait and you don't hear anything so finally you decide you're going to call the police station because, seriously, your daughter must be worried not being with her mum for so long.   The next thing you discover is the police have no record of your partner's arrest and certainly don't have your daughter.   It was an elaborate ruse to kidnap your child and now you have to work out why - will there be a ransom, was your partner involved?

This book was a real page-turner and if you enjoy suspenseful fiction then you will absolutely love this.   I did work out who was behind it before the book revealed which I found very frustrating, but that's something I'm known for with both movies and books!

This book gets a big thumbs up from me, although I am very glad my daughter is an adult now, the author's idea is truly terrifying to any parent and I'm not sure I would've wanted to read it had my own daughter been a pre-schooler.   That's how good it was.

I have never come across Rachel Abbott before but I will certainly be looking out for some of her books in the future.   I actually got the kindle version of this book for free as I have an Amazon Prime account.   I love having a Prime membership because I can try different authors and even different genres of books for free before purchasing more books.

Rachel Abbott has several other books available in book form, in Kindle form as well as audiobooks, in fact, a couple of them are available for free if you decide to trial audible (I don't have this yet, but a number of people have been telling me to try it).





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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Citizens of Campbell - Book Review

Have you ever loved a book so much you wish you had been written into it?  That is the feeling I came away with after reading Citizens of Campbell.  Ann Reed's debut novel felt, in many ways, like a story I had already inhabited while growing up in small town America.  More than anything, this was a homecoming for me.

The heart of this novel is the bond between two quietly heroic men—Earl Johansen and Nearly "Walking Elk" Kelly.  One is a hero for saving a man's life; the other for simply being who he is—a good and decent man.  

I'm sure Earl and Nearly would be surprised to find themselves between the covers of a book.  I imagine Earl would be a little embarrassed and Nearly secretly delighted.  The dailiness of their lives, to them, wouldn't seem worthy of mention, but they would be wrong.

Citizens of Campbell reveals the soul of what it means to be essential to someone else.

Ann Reed, the author, is an extremely gifted singer/songwriter.  More than writing the story of Campbell, Iowa, and its citizens, she has sung it.  The song is an anthem all kindred spirits will recognize.  You will feel the chords, the true notes that are the music of living simply and beautifully alongside, and in concert with, your chosen family.

Highly recommended.




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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Smoking Meat for Beginners Book Review

Smoking Meat for Beginners Book Review
Everyone knows that I have a passion for preserving old family recipes. These are recipes passed down from my grandmother, mother, and aunts. You can find these old family recipes along with some new ones on my blog, Sam's Places.

During grilling season here in Western NY I love cooking on my grill. I'm always looking for new ideas and recipes to try on the grill.

A few years ago I started to follow David Farrell's blog oldfatguy.ca. I quickly became a fan and very interested in David's recipes and methods of smoking meats.

At the time I didn't have a smoker, I had a gas grill. I really wanted to try one of David's methods. So I followed his method for his 3-2-1 Spareribs on my gas grill. I picked up some wood chips wrapped them in tinfoil then poked some holes in them. 

I followed his method for seasoning, temperature to maintain, and cooking time. They were delicious and I was hooked.

 

The Old Fat Guy's Guide To Smoking Meat For Beginners

When his book came out I couldn't wait to buy it. I knew that I wanted a smoker but had no idea what type of smoker to buy. After reading the very first section of the book where David explains the benefits and downsides of every type of smoker. I decided that I wanted an offset smoker.

Char-Griller Offset Smoker


 And, low and behold, for Father's Day my daughter bought me this Char-Griller offset smoker. Now I was all set. 
 I had the book and the smoker.

The next part of the book will explain all about accessories for your smoker. What you need from temperature control, cleaning your equipment, cooking utensils, types of wood for smoking, and much more.

Then, David tells us how to get your smoker ready no matter what smoker you have. There is a whole section dedicated to food safety. I found this to be very helpful with tips on cross-contamination, dangerous ingredients, and improper storage.

You will find classic recipes and methods along with appetizers, rubs, sauces, and marinades. Read about David's many successes and some of his failures along the way. 

This is my go-to book along with David's blog whenever I'm preparing to smoke something. You'll find this book easy to read and non-technical. This is a perfect gift idea for not only beginners, but even the most experienced smokers will find useful information in this book.

The Old Fat Guy's Guide to Smoking Meat for BeginnersThe Old Fat Guy's Guide to Smoking Meat for BeginnersThe Old Fat Guy's Guide to Smoking Meat for Beginners

 

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Forever By Your Side by Tracie Peterson Book Review

Forever by Your Side
As soon as I saw this book available, I requested a copy.  Tracie Peterson is one of my all-time favorite Christian fiction authors.  I always love her books.  

I didn't realize this was the third book in the series, Willamette Brides, but that was not a problem.  I had already read the first two books, so I was familiar with the characters and the background story for the book.

A reader would probably enjoy this book without reading the first two in the series, but I'm not sure it would mean as much to them.  Knowing the complete backstory, what brought us to this point in time on the Indian reservation, fills in what might otherwise be blanks in the book.  I do recommend reading the first two books first, but you will definitely want to read the resolutions in "Forever By Your Side". 


Synopsis of Forever By Your Side

 Forever by Your Side
(Willamette Brides)
Constance Browning is thrilled when she is hired to catalogue the history of the American Indians on the Oregon reservation, her own childhood home.  Constance's parents are still missionaries there and she is excited to return after years away at school.  

Tom Lowell, Connie's best friend, is the second half of the team hired to record the historical facts.  Together, they travel from the East Coast to the Oregon reservation.  Once there, they are welcomed to stay with Connie's parents instead of other government accommodations.  This is an optimum arrangement for Connie & Tom since they also hope to find out who is supplying the Indians with whiskey and guns.  It has been rumored that her parents are behind the shipments and are organizing an upraising.  

Connie is certain her parents are not involved in anything that would put the Indians in danger.  She knows their hearts and their mission to help the people they love.  Unfortunately, her opinion doesn't matter when there is evidence that her father is part of the operation.  

Since Connie knows some of the Indians, she & Tom plan to use their research as a cover for inquiring about a potential upraising.  They are stunned by some old friends who now consider Connie's family the enemy.  

Connie is equally surprised by the government agent, Clint Singleton, on the reservation who now expresses a romantic interest in her.  She had a childhood crush on him years before and he had totally dismissed her then.  She has to ask herself, is she still in love with Clint?

All the changes are confusing, but Connie is determined to prove her parents are innocent.  With the evidence against her father, that won't be easy to do.


My Recommendation

As I stated in my introduction, while this could be a stand-alone book, I believe the entire series should be read in order.  Connie's cousins, their marriages, and most especially one husband's murder, are important to understanding the entire Willamette Brides story plot and the resolutions in this book.  

Personally, I was glad to finally know the true identity of Mr. Smith and the reasons behind his actions.  

The previous books in the series, Secrets of My Heart and The Way of Love are wonderful books, full of love, mystery and an excellent story that carried through the series.  I highly recommend the Willamette Brides series by Tracie Peterson, especially now that we have Forever By Your Side that provides the answers and resolutions.


 

 

I received an advance copy of "Forever by Your Side" to review from NetGalley. I would like to express my appreciation to Netgalley, the author, Tracie Peterson, and the publisher, Bethany House, for this opportunity. 
 



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Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Last Correspondent Book Review

The Last Correspondent is a work of historical fiction written by Soraya M Lane.  It takes place during World War II just prior, during and after the invasion of Normandy.  The scenes are set in London and France during the war.  

This story is about three woman who fight to use their careers to tell their story in a man's world.  They show a tremendous amount of courage, grit and determination in order to get the story told.  This then is the story of a war correspondent, a photographer and a model.

I found this book to be a real page turner.  In fact after I was about half way through the book, I couldn't put it down till I read the whole book.  It is one of those books where the author does such a good job of making the characters believable that I couldn't wait to see what happened next.

The Three Women

  • Danni-  Danni is a seasoned photographer, who has photographed the war on several different fronts.  As the days close in on the Normandy invasion she finds herself in London.   Only the  men are allowed to get passes to cover the war during the invasion, but Danni is determined to find a way to get to the action.  She has teamed up with a correspondent, Andy, who has been with her during her last several assignments.  They have become good friends and cover each others backs.  Danni enlists Andy to help her sneak aboard a medical ship that is sailing toward Normandy.
  • Ella-  Ella is a reporter who has written stories  under a man's pen name in order to get her works published.  When she is found out, her publisher fires her.  She finds a job with a magazine reporting on the war from a women's point of view.  She interviews women working on the war effort and the magazine is so pleased with her work that they send her to London to report on the war.  Like Danni, Ella also finds she is limited in her access because she is a woman.  Ella goes by herself to try to find a way to the action and find herself on the same medical ship as Dani and Andy.  After a rough night hiding on board they decide to team up as they make their way to shore.
  • Chloe-  Chloe is Andy's sister who was a Vogue model prior to the war.  When she was in Paris on a modeling job she met Gabriel, an editor, whom she fell in love.  At the beginning of the story Chloe is at her home in England, longing to find a way to be with Gabriel in Paris.  She says she is a showgirl in order to make her way into Nazi occupied Paris.


The Men in Their Lives

  • Cameron- Cameron is a Lieutenant that Danni first meets and has a conflict with when she is covering the war in Sicily.  She meets up with him again in a bar in London and then in Normandy.  They have a real love/hate relationship.
  • Andy- Andy is a war correspondent and best friend to Danni.  They have been together on several war zones and he always has her back when she is pushing the envelope.
  • Gabriel-  Gabriel is Chloe's lover and she sneaks in to Paris to be with him, only to find out the it is very pre-occupied working for the resistance.  
  • Michael - Michael is also a war correspondent and Ella first meets him at the bar at the Savoy in London.  This is a meeting place for many of the correspondents and photographers.  She next meets up with him in Normandy.

Recommendation

If you are a lover of historical fiction this is a wonderful  read.  It is full of history, women's fight to be treated as equals, and just a bit of romance.  A great read all around.  I highly recommend it.




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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Following the very successful novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes Heather Morris' 2019 book, Cilka's Journey. Yes, it is a sequel of sorts to the first book though it definitely stands alone. 

Frankly, this book is another dark look into a horrible time in man's history. That's to be expected based on the subject of the novel. Initially, I did not care for how the story flipped back and forth between the main character's time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Germany and in her time in the Vorkuta Gulag Labor Camp in Russia but I quickly managed to overcome the darkness and the style and be absorbed by the very real characters in the story.

Cilka was sent to Birkenau when she was taken from her home at the age of 16 simply because she was Jewish and young and healthy and able to work. When Birkenau was liberated, she was tried and sent to the Siberian labor camp for having slept with the enemy. For her crime, she received a sentence of 15 years of hard labor. 

Whether the beautiful 16 year old really had any choice about whether to sleep with the enemy or not is debatable but the book is about her journey through and survival of both facilities. I don't need to say how unpleasant that situation was and I will not reveal how it ended.  Here's the official book trailer:


 


This second video is from the author and discusses albeit briefly the connection between this book and her first, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. 

Warning, this next video has LOTS OF SPOILERS but it does do a good job of telling you about the story.



FICTION OR NON-FICTION?

If you watched the preceding video, you know the answer to this question. Cilka's Journey is a fictional account of the true-life story of Cecília Kováčová. 

Of course, the story is filled out with details the author cannot really know but in large part it is said that the book is based on the conditions and situations people including Cilka found themselves living in at those two facilities. 

Descendants, however, declare the story to be outrageous calling it "lurid and titillating." They say that this is not the way Cilka shared her story to them.

The author defends the book saying that it is based on first-hand testimony given by people she interviewed and the experiences of women who were subjected to the life in those camps. She says, "It is a novel and does not represent the entire facts of Cilka's life." You can read more about the controversy here on The Guardian

In another interview with ABC, the author defends the disputed fact that women were used sexually in the camps and sums up with, "If it's all the same to you I think I'll go with their testimonies because they were there."


Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey Book Review


IS IT RECOMMENDED?

Yes, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMEND by me. The book has an average 4.39 stars on Goodreads and 92 percent of the reviewers on Amazon gave the book a five-star rating.

WARNINGS

Well, I feel that writing a warning about the unpleasant reading that comes in a book set in Nazi Germany and a Siberian Labor Camp in the 1940s is almost unnecessary I will say that this book deals with sex, starvation, murder.  The main character's work in the Labor Camp finds the reader face to face with terrible workplace accidents. It is definitely not nice but it is present and it is an intricate part of the story.  Plus, of course, there is the controversy of just how true this story really is.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK

Anyone who has an interest in historical fiction will enjoy the book, with consideration to the warnings given above. Anyone who read The Tattooist of Auschwitz and liked it will enjoy this book. As author Heather Morris says in the second video shown above, you should enjoy this book "not for the horror and evil that is included but for the humanity and the compassion and the love and the hope." I agree.

You can find your copy of Cilka's Journey on Amazon by clicking right here. Be sure to come back and let us know what you think of the book.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

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Friday, October 9, 2020

A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor Book 1) by Kristi Ann Hunter Reviewed

A Defense of Honor has a very unique plot. That fact alone drew me to this book. Plus, I had never read a book by Kristi Ann Hunter and I love finding new authors (new to me). 

Normally, I review books that I can highly recommend to anyone.  A Defense of Honor delves into some very unpleasant realistic attitudes, especially during the time period of the book's setting of London in 1816.  Therefore, I would only recommend this book to someone who doesn't mind examining the dirty underbelly of society, as well as their own hearts and minds. 

As I read the book, I found myself questioning several things, which is most unusual when reading a Christian fiction.


Synopsis of A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor Book1)

Kit FitzGilbert is "The Governess".  She is hated by London society, even though her true identity is concealed.  Her self-appointed job is to ensure that illegitimate children are financially supported by their wealthy fathers.  She and her friends also protect the mothers and allow them a way to re-enter society without the child or society being any the wiser.

 A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor Book #1)Kit, Daphne & Jess provide a home for the children which is supported by the funds that Kit extracts from their fathers.  

Haven Manor is a large secluded estate that is overseen by a local solicitor, Nash Banfield.  The owner has no desire to live there, so Nash allows the women and children to live in the manor.  This arrangement benefits all parties because the women take care of the upkeep of the manor, the children have a home away from public awareness or scorn, and the owner's property maintains it's value.

It all works quite well for twelve years.  Then, Kit meets Graham, the Viscount Wharton, who is heir to the earldom of Grableton, at a ball she was not invited to attend.  When they go their separate ways, he doesn't even know her full name, but he is haunted by the memory of the beautiful woman in the green gown.

When Graham accidentally finds Kit at Haven Manor while searching for a friend's sister, he is thrilled to once again have an opportunity to get to know her.  However, even though he now knows where she lives, he has no idea who she really is.  In fact, until recently, he had never even heard of The Governess.  

Their relationship is tested multiple times as he discovers more about her, the children, and the household.  It is highly unlikely that a friendship between the two can continue.

 

My Opinion the Book "A Defense of Honor"

Even though this is a Christian fiction, it challenged me.  The reading was not difficult, but some of the judgemental attitudes of the characters were hard for me to embrace.  I don't really understand being able to totally write-off someone you love and dismiss them completely from your life.  

After reading certain chapters, I would stop and think about them.  Question if I knew someone who had done anything like that.  I wondered if the attitudes and actions were very "real-life".  As I delved into my own memories, I found that I have known individuals who, in fact, walk away from family members and friends.  They seemingly never look back, yet leave broken hearts and pain that can take years to overcome, if ever.

There was another point of opinion I found difficult.  The main character, Kit, was judged harshly for the means she used to ensure illegitimate children were financially supported by their biological fathers.  I'm not sure I see the great "sin" in her methods, even though I certainly see the danger.

Plus, the ending bothered me. I can't go into detail about that without ruining the book for you, but I would love to know how others feel about the plot's resolve.  If you read the book, please come back and tell me what you thought.


 

 




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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Robin Sloan's Sourdough, A Book Review

Sourdough Book Review

We love Sourdough. It is nearly unanimous in our book club. Not a cookbook, it is instead a funny story that is very readable, which is what we all need this year. It is a bizarre yet magical fairy tale of sorts set in today's world. It is about finding your passion and following it and about baking bread and the science of baking bread. In particular, it is about sourdough bread and the life of one computer programmer who learns to make some very special bread. 


BOOK SUMMARY

Robin Sloan's Sourdough Book Review
Author Robin Sloan reckons that Sourdough may be the first English book to feature a sourdough starter that has feelings as as an important supporting character.  The other main character is a lonely young woman named Lois who takes a programming job in San Francisco where she passes the days and nights of her life doing work that she does not care for. 

Eventually, Lois is finds an escape after repeatedly ordering takeout from a mysterious little café. The owners of the café serve up  combination of spicy soup and sourdough bread that is very comforting to Lois and that restores both her body and her soul. She becomes their Number One Eater or at least a very loyal, regular customer. However, her relationship with the café comes to an abrupt end but not before she takes ownership of the sourdough starter. The starter is alive, which means she has to look after it or it will die. 

Anyway, it turns out that this starter is quite special and Lois makes the best sourdough bread ever with it. Indeed it is so successful that she leaps head first into baking bread and the bread literally changes her life. It helps her to climb out of the low spot that she has been barely surviving in by introducing her to new people and giving her a passion project. 

Eventually the bread leads her to a farmer's market unlike the one you thought of when I said the words farmer's market. This market is a part of the underground economy. It is radical and it is filled with experimental foodstuffs. To be invited to this market means that there is something unusual about what you do and in Lois' case it is because of her story. That is a successful software programmer turned baker. What happens next? Well, let me just say it is all very unexpected and you will have to read the book to find out.

Sourdough is about San Francisco. It is about geeks, nerds, coders, secret societies, conspiracies, books and even about robots. It is a look at two kinds of culture: the worlds of high-tech culture and bread culture, which you might not think could collide. Finally and obviously, it's about bread.


IS IT RECOMMENDED?

Sourdough Bread Story by Robin Sloan
Yes! The book Sourdough  is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me though I am pretty partial to sourdough bread, too. The book may have bread as the focus but it is not boring. It is a work of fiction that is easy and light and might just make you happy. Consider what these others have had to say about the book:

The Guardian says, "Sourdough is a soup of skillfully balanced ingredients: there’s satire, a touch of fantasy, a pinch of science fiction, all bound up with a likeable narrator whose zest for life is infectious. The novel opens a door on a world that’s both comforting and thrillingly odd. Savour it."  I like this recipe and I did savour the book.

The L.A. Times says, “Sourdough displays both lightness and a yearning for escape, but only in the best sense." I agree. Lois is on an entertaining adventure that I was only too happy to go along on.

In her letter to the book blogger Nut Free Nerd (NFN) says, "You (the book) reminded me of the value of carving out time in a busy schedule to do the things you love, and that you never know where life will take you...You were so wacky and whimsical and witty and entertaining that I found myself constantly thinking about you in between reading you and I still find myself thinking about you all these weeks later." I'm with NFN. I was reminded to stop working and to make time for life and the things I love and enjoy and like NFN, I am still thinking about the book, still cultivating sourdough starter and still trying to make sourdough bread in my bread machine. 

Finally, here's a one-minute review of the book:


 

WARNINGS

Sourdough by Robin Sloan is a Good Loaf
Some prefer the first half of the book to the second as the second half takes a turn you might not see coming. I was okay with the twist, which is simply totally unexpected and not offensive in any way. There is really not a lot to be offended by in this book. There is some mild swearing and of course, this book will make you want to to eat or maybe even bake sourdough bread. There is the potential to gain weight if you find yourself needing sourdough bread. Finally, there is a lot of food wastage but at least, it's not real food that is being wasted and definitely no characters go hungry in the book. Slurry, anyone?

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK?

I think a lot of people will enjoy this book including but not limited to foodies and bread lovers, bakers and non-bakers and computer folk.  Anyone who is looking for something fun with an almost discernable scent of bread will enjoy it and as the L.A. Times says, anyone who is looking for a book that is "light but not trite" will find that this book rises to the occasion , pun intended. This book will entertain you and it might also leave you pondering which is a better of doing things - the traditional way or new and improved ways.

I recommend buying the hardcover copy of the book. It has a textured cover that glows in the dark, which is totally appropriate for the this book and the properties of the sourdough starter. Find your copy of Sourdough in whatever format you prefer on Amazon by clicking right here

Finally, I want you to admit that the loaf of sourdough bread in the introductory photograph was not baked by me. It is a product of the most amazing folk at Black Walnut Bakery in Cumberland near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

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Sourdough or, Lois and her Adventures in the Underground Market by Robin Sloan


A review of the novel about Sourdough bread by Robin Sloan








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