Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: When The Men Were Gone

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature where highlight a soon to be released title I can't wait to read.

This week's pick:  When The Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis
Due out: October 2, 2018

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

In Marjorie Herrera Lewis’s debut historical novel the inspiring true story of high school teacher Tylene Wilson—a woman who surprises everyone as she breaks with tradition to become the first high school football coach in Texas—comes to life.
"A wonderfully touching and beautiful story…Tylene makes me laugh, cry, and cheer for her in ways I have not done in a long time.”—Diane Les Bocquets, bestselling author of Breaking Wild  
Football is the heartbeat of Brownwood, Texas. Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism.
Now, the war has changed everything.  Most of the Brownwood men over 18 and under 45 are off fighting, and in a small town the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach.
Faced with extreme opposition—by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees and even the players themselves—Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team—and the town—to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget.           
Based on a true story, When the Men Were Gone is a powerful and vibrant novel of perseverance and personal courage.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday Mini-Review: August Fiction

It's been a few weeks since I've shared any mini-reviews, and there have been lots of great books I've managed to get to.  (Unfortunately there are lots of great books I haven't managed to get to yet as well).  

I'm sharing a few notable ones from the past few weeks today.

1. The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin -I've heard this described as a little bit like the television show ER, which is a pretty apt description.  Martin is an emergency medicine doctor herself, so she is well qualified to write a story about two women who become best friends in med school.  The hospital/medical setting is the backdrop for a story of friendship and betrayal and secrets that kept me turning pages quickly.

2.  Ohio by Stephen Markley doesn't come out until next week, but it was one of the novels that was talked about at BEA.  This one feels literary to me (not just fluff).  It's the story of five classmates  - all told in their own chapters - that return to New Canaan, Ohio, their hometown after having left it a few years previously.  This book captures what small town America is, how the recession affected people, and the ways in which our stories and pasts are intertwined.

3.  If We Had Known by Elise Juska- Maggie Daley is getting ready to help her daughter move in to college and begin another year of teaching English at the junior college when she hears of a shooting at the mall.  When she finds out it was a former student she is shaken. And then she is asked by her college to look at the writing samples she has from when this young man was her student.  Should Maggie have seen any red flags in his writing sample? Is the shooting something that could have been prevented if she would have spoken up? As a teacher myself, I have lots to say on this topic, and this novel is well written and definitely discussion-worthy.

4.  A Gathering of Secrets by Linda Castillo - this is the tenth book in Castillo's Kate Burkholder series set in the Amish community of Painter's Mill.   The story begins with a barn fire and the remains of an eighteen year old Amish boy who - at first glance- seems to be the perfect young man. As Kate begins digging though there are plenty of secrets people have been keeping about Daniel and someone doesn't want Kate to expose them.  I love this series and appreciate the fact that people who haven't read the previous books can pick this one up and enjoy it as a stand alone book.

5.  Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren - I'm not a big romance reader, but every once in a while I enjoy a good love story. This book is one that I absolutely loved.  Macy is finishing up med school and planning her wedding when she runs into Elliot, her first love.  As the story moves between past and present we watch their love story unfold and slowly find out what happened to them that has caused them to not speak or see each other for eleven years. The whole time my heart was breaking just a little bit for them and hoping they'd find a way to move forward together.  This story is predictable, but every now and then I need to read a book like that.  I think I might have even sighed out loud as I turned the last page.

All five of these are titles I'd pass on to friends- definitely enjoyable and worth reading.  Any recommendations for me?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Five

Next week will be my last full week of summer vacation.  This week I have tried to break myself of nap-a-day habit, which has only been marginally successful. I did have one night where I just couldn't sleep - all the things I needed to do for school were rushing through my head.  So I guess that means it really is time to get back in a routine and get some things done.  

There are also great things to be found online in the fall. I love back to school shopping - the fall colors, the cold weather clothing - it is one of my favorite times of the year.  I'm taking the girls on a weekend shopping trip to the Mall of America this weekend, and hope we can get everything they need for the upcoming year while we are there.

Here are my highlights of my week's online browsing:

1.  Free Range Pant- Regular - Title Nine is a company I associate with good quality active wear.  There happens to be a store in Edina, MN, so I am trying to work that in to part of our trip. I'd love to try some of their pants on in person.

2.  Adjustable Bra - I hate spending money on exercise bras, but the ones I have are old and not in great shape anymore. I'm thinking of trying this brand (new to me) for my next sports bra purchase.

3.  The Be Brand Headbands - my girls have several Junk headbands and although I have a few that I wear when I exercise, I really like this brand - and all the styles- of headbands that can be worn for more than just exercise.

4.  The Stevie Long Sweater - another item I'd love to look at in the Title Nine store is this sweater. I love the colors, which just scream, "fall!" to me.

5.  Spotted Border Silk Little Scarf - long ago I worked retail and at the time small scarves knotted around the neck were all the rage. I've seen this look a few times recently on different clothing sites. I liked it in the 90s and I like it now.

6.  Girlfriend Chinos with Metal Stud Grommet Details - my black pants are in need of an upgrade as well.  This pair isn't long enough to work for year round (Iowa winters with nothing covering the ankle region is not realistic), but I think they'd be great for fall and spring - and I like the detailing on the pocket.

7.  Oversize Colorblock Striped Scarf - and I also like a good scarf like this one- I have a pair of burgundy pants that I would love to wear with this.

8.  Frye Melissa Hobo Bag - someday I am going to invest in a great high quality bag.  It's not right now, but I need to keep Frye in mind when I finally decide to spend a hunk of money on a nice purse.

9.  Embroidered Peasant Top- another top that is pretty versatile and would work well for school or on weekends.  

10.  Book Club Movie - I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I went with a group of friends this week and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.  It's not amazing, but I found it funny and entertaining and worth the time I spent at the theater.

So how about you? What's caught your eye this week?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: The Air You Breathe

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature where I highlight a soon to be released book I can't wait to read.

This week's pick: The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles
Due out:  August 21, 2018

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride--and each woman's fear that she would be nothing without the other.

Some friendships, like romance, have the feeling of fate.

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music. 

One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes--and haunt their memories.

Traveling from Brazil's inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Rio de Janeiro's famous Lapa neighborhood, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship--its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses--and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Summer Reading: From Twinkle, With Love

From Twinkle With Love is Sandhya Menon's sophomore novel, following when Dimple Met Rishi - one of my favorite books of 2017.  Of course that meant I had high expectation for this one.

Overall, this novel was OK.  It didn't live up to my expectations, which were pretty high considering how much I loved Menon's first book.

Twinkle wants to make films. She's talented enough and when she is approached by Sahil, also a film buff, to work with him, she happily agrees.  This will also get her one step closer to Sahil's twin brother, Neil, who she has had a crush on for a long time.

When Twinkle starts getting messages from a secret admirer, she is sure it is Neil.  However, she is really starting to like Sahil, who seems to understand her and appreciate her.  

Of course nothing goes smoothly in this little romance which has plenty of drama: hurt feelings, secrets, and friend problems.

I did enjoy From Twinkle, With Love, and had I not read Menon's first book, I might even have been more impressed with this one.  I'm still anxious to read anything she puts out and love the sweetness of both of her romances.  

Monday, August 6, 2018

First Monday in August: Blast From the Past

I always like looking back at my reading and remembering some of the best books I read and enjoyed. Five of the best I read in August 2008 are featured below:

1. Guest of the Revolution by Kathryn Koob- this is Koob's account of her time as one of the hostages in Iran.  I found this extremely interesting because, although I was just in first grade during the hostage crisis, my uncle was one of the last people to talk to her before she was taken hostage, and left Iran quickly, coming home to stay with my grandparents until he could find a job.  Koob's nieces attended college with me, and she is from a small town not far from my hometown.

2.  Somewhere in Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve by Christopher Andersen - who wasn't saddened by Christopher Reeve's death and then learning shortly afterwards that Dana Reeve had lung cancer?  This is a fast read, heartbreakingingly sad, providing a look at this famous couple and their love story.

3.  Oxygen by Carol Cassella - I loved this book - a suspenseful medical drama that revolves around anesthesiologist Marie Heaton, who is at the height of her career.  Cassella is a physician herself, who has written two more books after Oxygen.

4.  Lumbercamp Library by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock- this is a short, easy chapter book that I fell in love with.  Ruby's pa is a lumberjack, their family a big one.  Ruby loves books, but when her pa dies the family is left with nothing.  I've shared this book with several students and my own girls.  Even though it would work with younger readers, I've used it with upper elementary kids who like the fact that it's such a fast read, yet has such a great message.

5.  Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate - Kek moves from Africa to Minnesota as a refugee. This novel in verse explores what life is like for Kek whose world has changed dramatically.  I really loved this book, but think the cover design of the hardcover version didn't attract most of my students. The paperback cover design is much better, in my opinion.

Have you read any of these books?  What were you reading back in August of 2008?  

Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday Five: School Is Right Around the Corner

Big Sister and Middle Sister started cross country camp this week.  I've received some emails from my principal.  The girls have bought their back to school supplies.  And fall clothes seem to be everywhere.  As much as I always feel like summer gets away from me and ends much too quickly, I will admit that I am not very good at getting things done when I have no schedule.  I do much better with a set schedule and being overwhelmed with too much to do.  Don't get me wrong. I've loved my afternoon naps and not getting up to my 4 AM alarm, but it is starting to feel like we need to go back to school.  

Next weekend the girls and I have a shopping trip planned to the Mall of America.  They are all in need of a few things (Middle Sister is in need of a lot of things because she has grown quite a bit), and I am wanting a few things for myself, too.

Here are some things that have caught my eye this week:

1.  On The Write Track T-Shirt - as a book person, I also have a soft spot for typewriters/writing.  

2.  Chambray Pintuck Popover - I may break down and order this. JCrew Factory always has great sales and denim is sort of a teacher staple. I can think of many things to wear this with.

3.  Ciro Flare Sleeve Blouse - Johnny Was  is out of my price range, but I still like looking at their clothing.  And it's camo.

4.   Sofft Madina - over the past few weeks I've gone through my closet, drawers and shoes pretty thoroughly. I could definitely use a new pair of heels. These come in a champagne color and black as well.

5.  Cece Ditsy Charm Ruffle Sleeve Shift Dress - I like the front of this dress, but the keyhole detail on the back sold me on this one.

6.  Stripe Drapey Tie Top - Loft has this on sale right now, and this would work with a pair of navy pants, or black or jeans on the weekend.

7.  Multiples Cherokee Point Mitered Stripe T - I ended up getting this shirt yesterday when we went to Von Maur to pick up a pair of clearance Adidas tennis shoes for Little Sister.  I seriously have very little to wear (at least that I feel good about putting on), and think this would look nice with a pair of white jeans.  I am also thinking that if/when I get a pair of olive pants it could be paired with them.

Multiples Cherokee Point Mitered Stripe Tee

8.  NIC and ZOE Petite Summer Fling Flirt Skirt - and this is the skirt I admired at Von Maur. It's still $118, but I am betting it gets marked down soon since it's white and fall is just around the corner.  I'm keeping my eye on this one.

NIC+ZOE Petite Summer Fling Flirt Skirt

9.  Asics Gel Cumulus 18 Running Shoes - these shoes are just $39 on Sierra Trading Post (a great site for discounted shoes and other active wear). I wear Brooks to run, but have had a lot of luck with Asics to wear as just a leisure pair of shoes for walking the dog.  

10.  Biscoff Cookie Butter - yet another food I can't keep in my house or I will eat the entire jar in one night.  I was telling one of my friends about my Nutella obsession (which has tapered off this past week, thank goodness), and she recommended I NOT buy cookie butter because it was so good and addicting.  Well, with a recommendation like that, I couldn't help but look for it at every store we went to.  Unfortunately I found it.  After two days of generous spoonfuls of it, I've managed to pawn it off on my husband.  

That's it for me this week. What's caught your eye?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Summer Reading: An American Marriage

An American Marraige by Tayari Jones is another of the nine books I set aside to read this summer. I picked up an ARC of this last year at BEA, but also selected it one month from Book of the Month Club as well.  It does not disappoint.

This novel is a quick read, yet it feels literary.  Jones explores the lives of one black couple that seem to embody the American dream.  Educated, attractive, and with bright futures, Celestial and Roy are still adjusting to married life when Roy is convicted of a crime he didn't commit.  

Years pass. Despite the vows these two made to each other, being away from each other has changed their relationship.  Celestial has been able to move on with her life. Her career has taken off, and because Roy has been gone, she has found someone else to confide in, her childhood friend, Andre, who was the best man at her wedding to Roy.

Roy does get out of prison, eventually having his conviction overturned, but there is much to be decided and the life he left so abruptly is not the one he returns to.

This is a great book, and yet I hesitate to say that, because it is also a hard book.  Celestial and Roy's marriage starts with so much promise and hope as do their careers. Yet because of a crime someone else committed, they are forever changed.  Unfortunately, this story line is one that people live through, which makes it that much more heartbreaking.  

An American Marriage is a book that will stick with me for a long time and one I will recommend to others as well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Rush

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature where I highlight a soon to be released title that I can't wait to read.

This week's pick: Rush by Lisa Patton
Due out August 21, 2018

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

“There’s not a better Southern author writing today than Lisa Patton. Her delightful new book is a modern look at what is perhaps the most sacred of all Southern rituals: sorority rush at The University of Mississippi, ‘Ole Miss.’ And happily for us, Miss Patton captures to absolute perfection the hilarity, hysteria, and heartbreak of it all. Funny, touching, and full of twists and turns. I couldn’t have loved it more.” – Fannie Flagg, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, and The Whole Town’s Talking

Set in modern day Oxford, Mississippi, on the Ole Miss campus, bestselling author Lisa Patton’s RUSH is a story about women―from both ends of the social ladder―discovering their voices and their empowerment.
Cali Watkins possesses all the qualities sororities are looking for in a potential new member. She’s kind and intelligent, makes friends easily, even plans to someday run for governor. But her resume lacks a vital ingredient. Pedigree. Without family money Cali's chances of sorority membership are already thin, but she has an even bigger problem. If anyone discovers the dark family secrets she's hiding, she’ll be dropped from Rush in an instant.
When Lilith Whitmore, the well-heeled House Corp President of Alpha Delta Beta, one of the premiere sororities on campus, appoints recent empty-nester Wilda to the Rush Advisory Board, Wilda can hardly believe her luck. What’s more, Lilith suggests their daughters, both incoming freshman, room together. What Wilda doesn’t know is that it's all part of Lilith’s plan to ensure her own daughter receives an Alpha Delt bid―no matter what.
For twenty-five years, Miss Pearl―as her “babies” like to call her―has been housekeeper and a second mother to the Alpha Delt girls, even though it reminds her of a painful part of her past she’ll never forget. When an opportunity for promotion arises, it seems a natural fit. But Lilith Whitmore slams her Prada heel down fast, crushing Miss Pearl’s hopes of a better future. When Wilda and the girls find out, they devise a plan destined to change Alpha Delta Beta―and maybe the entire Greek system―forever.
Achingly poignant, yet laugh-out-loud funny, RUSH takes a sharp nuanced look at a centuries-old tradition while exploring the complex, intimate relationships between mothers and daughters and female friends. Brimming with heart and hope for a better tomorrow, RUSH is an uplifting novel universal to us all.

Monday, July 30, 2018

TLC Blog Tour: What Remains of Her

I'm always interested in a good novel of suspense and new to me authors.  What Remains of Her is a fast read that kept me interested from the first page to the last page.

Jonah Braun, a college professor at a small school in Vermont, returned home one day to an empty house.  His wife, Rebecca, and daughter, Sally, were gone and as time passed without their return, his concern grows.  

Jonah is, of course, a person of interest in this missing person case and there are few clues to go on.  His daughter's young friend, Lucinda, mentions a man in the woods, but because of her age and imagination, what she tells her father, the sheriff, is ignored.  Despite Jonah's ability to explain some things the sheriff see that leave some questions about his involvement, he isn't able to entirely clear himself.

Jonah's life is never the same, always a cloud of suspicion hanging over him. Twenty five years pass with no sign of his wife or daughter. But, on the twenty-fifth anniversary Jonah finds a young girl in the woods.  

There's a little bit of creepiness to this story as the woods are dark and feel sinister, and I couldn't help but turn pages quickly as I wanted to know what the resolution to the story would be.  Not only was there the story of Rebecca and Sally and the hope that despite the passage of time, there would be a conclusion to what happened to them. But the appearance of a young girl that Jonah tries to care for is also a story that is needing to be resolved.  Rickstad manages to wrap things up in a believable way that was satisfying.

This is an enjoyable mystery, a fast read, and a new author I will be looking forward to reading more of.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of this book for my review.  All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

For more information, visit the HarperCollins website.