Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday Mini-Reviews: Three Adult Reads

I will be the first to admit that having the flu (and working despite feeling crappy) did put a little damper on the amount of reading I got done this week.  Luckily I had some free time this weekend where I could really relax and curl up with a good book.  

The first book I spent much of the work week reading was Sophie Kinsella's newest book, Surprise Me, which will be out just in time for Valentine's Day.  This story is typical  Kinsella: a little convoluted, yet sweet, with a tidy ending.  Sylvie and Dan have been married for a decade.  When they see the many decades of wedded bliss stretching out before them, they decide to try and keep the happiness alive in their marriage by incorporating some surprises. And the surprises never quite work out as they envision.  But when Sophie becomes suspicious of Dan and thinks he might be cheating on her, she takes matters into her own hands.    Fans of Kinsella will enjoy whatever she writes....I have read all her books, and like some more than others.  This one is not her best, but it's also not her worst.  This is just a fun, easy read.

This weekend I read two books that I just could not put down.  The first, The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian had me from early on.  I love Bohjalian, so reading his work is like getting together with an old friend.  Cassandra is a flight attendant who finds herself in a Dubai hotel room with a man she went home with - only to realize as she gets out of bed in the morning that he has been killed.  Although her initial concern is being accused of killing him (something she is pretty sure she didn't do - but she does occasionally black out when she drinks), she eventually realize that the woman who visited with her and her dead one night stand right before his death, might want to get rid of her.  This plot is complex, and I love the way Bohjalian develops his characters.  

And, following that up was hard, but I have seen so much about Karen Cleveland's debut novel, Need to Know, which will be out on Tuesday, that I quickly picked it up for my evening reading.  This is a fantastic psychological thriller worthy of the buzz it's getting.  Vivian works for the CIA, looking for Russian spies in the United States.  When she manages to infiltrate a Russian operative's computer and see pictures of five spies, her entire world is rocked.  And that's pretty much all I can say about this one.  Twists and turns and a jaw dropping ending kept me turning pages. I love that Vivian is a mom juggling her job and motherhood, and despite the fact that her decisions are frustrating, I could at least relate to her choices.  Anyone who loves the show The Americans or grew up in the 80s when we really did fear Russian spies will want to pick this up.

And now, it's back to work this week, and trying to find something to read that can live up to these last two books.  

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday Five

How did it get to be Friday so soon?  Well, if you spend a week going to work all the while having Influenza B and coming right home to sleep, time passes rather quickly.  I have finally started to feel better, but I did spend last weekend in bed and then forced myself to go to work this week and attempt to function like a regular human.  I still haven't decided if that was a good idea or not.

Anyway, here is what I found online in the few minutes I actually felt like being on a computer.

1.  501 Red New Balance Sneakers - I'm not really a red sneaker kind of gal. But I saw these featured with some black leggings and am surprised by how much I liked that look. 

2.  Canyons Cardigan - Sundance has the most beautiful sweaters.  I usually admire them until they go on sale. This is one I've got my eye on.

3.  Spirit Lake Top - I'm also looking for a nice white top that could be casual or dressy. I love this one - and the jewelry that they've paired it with.

4.  Linen and Modal U Neck Swing T - there are some wardrobe staples I really need to upgrade.  This t comes in a variety of colors. I think it looks a little dressier than a plain cotton t and is also pretty versatile.

5.  Everyday Knit Skirt - This skirt is like the perfect teaching item.  Pockets which are almost a must for me is the first thing I looked at.  Plus it's a pull-on piece of clothing that could be dressed up or down. 

6.  Women's Eddie Bauer Solstice Mid-Boot - a co-worker has these boots. And since they are buffalo plaid I can't help but admire them.  

7.  Women's Hi Neck Tankini Top - only in January can I show you snow boots and then switch to swimming suits. I just got my new Lands End catalog yesterday featuring all of the beautiful new designs for swimming suits for spring and summer 2018.  This is the new pattern I've got my eye on.  

8.  Miranda Ponte Dress - this year I might really need to buy one dressy item.  My daughter is getting confirmed. I didn't get anything when my oldest daughter was confirmed two years ago, and sort of regretted it.  It seems like it is still a fairly dressy occasion and my dress clothes are lacking.  I like this dress from Boden, but I'm not sure I would get a great deal of wear out of it.

9.  Fleece Pullover - this fleece pullover also comes in a dark gray.  I like how comfortable it looks. And JCrew Factory always has great deals.

10.  Crown Heights Movie - while I was busy lying around this week, I did watch an AmazonPrime original movie.  I loved that this was based on a true story. The whole situation was absolutely heartbreaking and I've read a variety of other books and articles about wrongful convictions that has really sparked my interest in the topic.

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Waiting on Wedneday: The Atomic City Girls

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

This week's pick: The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard
Due out: February 6, 2018

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.
“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”
In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.
The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.
When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

TLC Book Tour: Sunday Silence

I'm always surprised by how many mystery series are out there. And despite reading a lot of different series, how many there are that I have yet to sample.  

Sunday Silence by Nicci French is the seventh (and finale) in this series featuring Frieda Klein, a police consultant.

I am truly late to the party on this series.  Sunday Silence does work as a stand-alone mystery, but for readers (like myself) who enjoy reading a series in order, this book is not the one you should start with.

However, the premise is certainly attention-getting.  Frieda makes a gruesome discovery after her house begins to smell. There is a body rotting under the floorboards of her house.  The murder suspect is a man who many believed died seven years ago.  

The stakes raise even higher when a young boy is taken, returned unharmed, but left with a human ear in his pocket.  

French's novel is full of suspense and is fast moving.  I wish I felt as connected to Frieda and the cast of characters in this book as I do to others from mystery series I read.  Some of that is lack of familiarity at this point with these people, but French's writing is more action driven than character driven.  While I love a good suspenseful plot, the parts of this novel I enjoyed the most were the parts where we got to see Frieda as a friend to others and learn more about her as a person.  I'm curious to see how much more I know about her after I have read all seven books in this series.

French (a husband/wife writing team) is definitely a writer worth reading.  I enjoyed the twists and turns in the story and getting to meet some interesting characters in Sunday Silence.

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.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Mini-Reviews and MLK Day

I have been looking forward to having this Monday off school for a while. However, I didn't anticipate having the flu (yes, the real flu. I had the flu test yesterday after three days of feeling icky and finally succumbing to a visit to urgent care).  My plans of accomplishing anything have pretty much been dashed. Instead, I am accomplishing a lot of resting up. Napping.  Nose blowing.  A little reading.  A little Netflix watching.  

And since I'm up right now eating some homemade chicken and noodles my neighbor made for me, some blogging.

I've got three books I've read to tell you about, and then it's back to bed for me.

1.  Escape From Aleppo by N H Senzai - set in Syria, Nadia and her family have a normal, middle class life until war comes to their country.  When her family leaves their home just minutes before a bomb hits it and Nadia is inadvertently left behind, she is on her own as she tries to get to the Turkey border where her father will be waiting for her.  Senzai does a nice job of explaining the politics of this part of the world as well as creating a story that's full of adventure and suspense. This reminds me a bit of The Breadwinner series by Deborah Ellis, and the ending is open-ended enough that I'm hoping there might be a sequel.

2. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - I bought this book right when it was published and then put it on my bookshelf without even cracking it open.  When our sixth grade literacy teacher mentioned it to me this past week and a sixth grade student came to get the library copy that same day, I grabbed it off my shelf and read it that night.  It's beautifully written (of course, I expected no less) and I loved reading the story of Woodson's childhood. This book is so deserving of every award it has received. It's a fast read (written in verse), but I had to slow myself down so I could really appreciate the writing.

3.  The Wife Between Us by Sarah Pekannen and Greer Hendricks - this is an adult novel that will be hard to put down.  It's getting plenty of buzz as a thriller/psychological suspense novel and this author duo has done a great job with it.  It is similar to The Last Mrs. Parrish which I also enjoyed, but even if you've read that one, I still endorse The Wife Between Us.  I did have a few things figured out pretty early on in this book, but there are enough twists to keep your attention and want to read to the very end.   I actually spent a few hours up during the night with this one, unable to put it down.

And, in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a new picture book to come my way Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford is a beautiful picture book, illustrated by James E Ransome.  Each page share an idea of how you can be like Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. The text is short, making this a book that can be shared with young children, but also with ideas and themes in it that are appropriate for older students.  I would use this even with our middle school kids as a springboard for a writing assignment as they try to personalize how they could be like Dr. King.  This is a perfect book to share on King's birthday, during Black History month, or any day of the year.

If anyone has read The Wife Between Us I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Until then, I'm off to do some more resting (and probably a little more reading).  

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday Five: I'm Starting to Think About Spring

I know it's just the beginning of January, but I am starting to dream of spring.  It warmed up for a few days, but now we're back to sub zero temps. Sigh.

Here are a few things I've seen this week:

1.  Classic Shirt with Glasses Print - the librarian in me is loving this shirt.  Who knew that glasses were such a fashion statement?

2.  Printed Sweater - and more glasses on this sweater.  Boden also has a glasses dress.

3.  High-Rise Floral Print Striped-Calf Compression Leggings for Women - Old Navy has some great new leggings. I love the pattern of these and the different detail on the bottom.

4.  Cozy Karma Dress - this Athleta dress definitely has caught my eye.  It also comes in black.

5.  Book Nerd 3/4 Length T - I ordered myself this shirt.  I'm a true book nerd.  And this is a must have.

6.  French Bulldog Graphic Pullover - last week I shared the Dalmatian sweater. This week I've moved on to bulldogs.

7.  Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star Velvet Low-Top - unfortunately converse are too wide for my feet, but once I saw that they come in velvet I got a little sad.  I love velvet.

8.  Sorel Joan of Arctic Shearling Snow Boot - since it's snowy, I have to at least put in a winter boot.  I don't even know where my boots are right now.  

Sorel Joan of Arctic Shearling Snow Boot

9.  Uniqlo Women's Graphic T-Shirt - Uniqlo has an Andy Warhol line of t-shirts out. I love every single one of them.

10.  Princess Charlotte's First Day of School - and Princess Charlotte starting school?  Adorable.  

So that's what's caught my eye this week? How about you? What have you found this past week?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

TLC Book Tour: Family Tree

Susan Wiggs is an author that has been around for a while. And although I've seen her books often, I've never actually picked one up.  Family Tree is my first book by Wiggs. And it won't be my last.

This novel was a perfect women's fiction read. I spent the day at home on Monday with a sick kid, and I had a great day curled up in a blanket on the couch absorbed in this book.

When the novel opens, Annie Harlow has a perfect life. A cooking show on television, a wonderful husband, and the news that she is pregnant.  

In one split second her entire world changes.

Moving back and forth in time we watch as Annie has to move home to Vermont to recover from a nearly fatal accident.  We watch Annie come to terms with her new normal and meet the teenage Annie who fell in love with a hometown boy and wanted nothing more than to marry him. 

We see how that dream fell apart while other dreams were realized and how now, despite everything Annie has been through, some of her dreams may come true after all.

I loved the romance of this novel. I fell in love with Fletcher, the high school boyfriend, who changed from a teenager without a lot of ambition to a man driven to succeed and help his father.  

I loved the Vermont setting, the small-town, the maple syrup production.  

I loved the various subplots Wiggs introduced like the fact that Annie's long absent father reappeared, reigniting old feelings.  

This was pretty much a perfect, easy, women's fiction read. 

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

Visit the HarperCollins website for more information about Family Tree.

Waiting on Wednesday: Winter Sisters

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

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

From the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter comes a rich and compelling historical novel about the disappearance of two young girls after a cataclysmic blizzard, and what happens after their fate is discovered
New York, 1879: After an epic snow storm ravages the city of Albany, Dr. Mary Sutter, a former Civil War surgeon, begins a search for two little girls, the daughters of close friends killed by the storm who have vanished without a trace.
Mary’s mother and niece Elizabeth, who has been studying violin in Paris, return to Albany upon learning of the girls’ disappearance—but Elizabeth has another reason for wanting to come home, one she is not willing to reveal. Despite resistance from the community, who believe the girls to be dead, the family persists in their efforts to find the two sisters. When what happened to them is revealed, the uproar that ensues tears apart families, reputations, and even the social fabric of the city, exposing dark secrets about some of the most powerful of its citizens, and putting fragile loves and lives at great risk.

Winter Sisters is a propulsive new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

TLC Book Tour: The Keeper of Lost Things

Ruth Hogan's The Keeper of Lost Things is a carefully crafted novel.  She has managed to create parallel stories that cleverly converge at novel's end, leaving me with plenty to think about.

A few weeks before I began reading this novel, my friend, Kristin, read it. She talked about it briefly, noting that the more she got into it, the more she was enjoying it.  I would have to agree with that.  

At first, this novel has a lot going on that isn't explained.  Stick with it.  The payoff is in the ending.  

Anthony, an elderly gentleman has been collecting "lost things" - items he finds on the ground, lying around.  He places these items in a room in his house for safekeeping.  This all began after the death of his wife, the love of his life.  

Laura has been hired as Anthony's assistant. She's never seen his collection of lost things, and little does she know she will be asked to look after all of Anthony's things and find the owners of these items.

The story moves from Laura and Anthony to Eunice and Bomber and also so to snippets of stories scattered throughout as various lost items are given a story as to where they came from and how they became lost.  By book's end Hogan manages to tie all of this up rather remarkably.

This is a novel that will stick with me. I've thought about it far more after I finished it than many other books I have read.  Hogan's ability to wrap things up was done so cleverly that it is something I will think about for a while.  

Book clubs will find this novel interesting as well. It is a story that appeals to a wide audience with plenty to discuss.

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

For more information about The Keeper of Lost Things, visit the HarperCollins website.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Monday: Mini-Reviews

I've had a good start to my 2018 reading.  Over the past week I've managed to read a book every single day, which has been kind of nice.

I'm not going to do a big, long review of all the title I've read. Instead, I'm going to give you a synopsis of a few of the books I read this week.  A few you'll see later as a part of blog tours.

 These three YA titles were all fantastic reads.

1.  Trell by Dick Lehr - Van Trell is almost fourteen years old and her father has been in prison her entire life.  He was convicted of killing a thirteen year old girl when Van Trell was just a baby. However, there are plenty of people who believe that Trell's dad is innocent, something he has always claimed. As Trell tries to find a way to prove her dad didn't kill anyone, she and a newspaper reporter uncover plenty of things that make them question what really happened the night of the girl's death.  Lots of suspense and investigative journalism. I was turning pages as quickly as I could.

2.  Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi- there aren't tons of YA memoirs out there, which is unfortunate. This is a great addition to this genre. Saedi is funny and I found myself chuckling quite often as I read. She also manages to share her experiences as an undocumented immigrant and the process (long and painful) that she and her family went through to become citizens.  And she does a great job of showing readers how, despite different backgrounds and countries of origin, we are really more alike than we are different . 

3.  A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson - this is the second novel in a series (I hope there are plans for more), set in Mississippi in the 1950s.  It's hard to believe that Rose and her family live in the conditions they do at that period in history, but Jackson is basing this story on memories of her own childhood, and people really did live as sharecroppers even as recently as the 1950s. This book picks up right where the first book left off - Emmett Till has been murdered and racial tensions continue to rise as more African Americans have been shot.  When Ruby Bridges refuses to give up her seat on the bus, the bus boycotts begin.  Rose is a teenage girl witnessing all of this as she tries to take care of her family and dreams of an uncertain future.  This is a perfect second novel, so my hopes are high that readers will get to see Rose again.

I'd happily recommend these three titles to anyone looking for an excellent way to start of their reading in 2018.