Thursday, September 3, 2015

Avenue of Spies

Avenue of Spies by Alex Kershaw was already checked out and in my TBR stack when Ann and Michael from Books on the Nightstand talked about it a few weeks ago on their podcast. 

Their recommendation had me bumping it up to the top of my pile and quickly devouring it.  

Sumner Jackson is an American doctor in Paris, living with his wife and son on the Avenue Foch, a street where many of the homes have been taken over by Nazi officers.

From the beginning of the Nazi occupation to the end of the war, Kershaw follows this family, who are a part of the Nazi resistance.  Jackson, as a doctor, had the ability to sneak Jews out of the city by hiding them in the hospital and eliminating any record of their time receiving medical care.  

With the enemy literally right next door, this family of three refused to leave the country when they were able to, and instead chose to stay and help those who were being persecuted.

I was fascinated by Jackson's life, and also by the history of the Resistance in Paris and the treatment of Americans during the war.

History buffs will love this book, as will nearly anyone who begins reading and can appreciate Kershaw's writing style that is instantly engaging and not a dry or boring history book.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick: The Longest Night by Andria Williams

Due out January 19, 2016

Product Information taken from Amazon:

In this absorbing and suspenseful debut novel—reminiscent of Revolutionary Road and inspired by a little-known piece of history—a young couple must fight to save both their marriage and the town they live in.

In 1959, Nat Collier moves with her husband, Paul, and their two young daughters to Idaho Falls, a remote military town. An Army Specialist, Paul is stationed there to help oversee one of the country’s first nuclear reactors—an assignment that seems full of opportunity.

Then, on his rounds, Paul discovers that the reactor is compromised, placing his family and the entire community in danger. Worse, his superiors set out to cover up the problem rather than fix it. Paul can’t bring himself to tell Nat the truth, but his lies only widen a growing gulf between them.

Lonely and restless, Nat is having trouble adjusting to their new life. She struggles to fit into her role as a housewife and longs for a real friend. When she meets a rancher, Esrom, she finds herself drawn to him, comforted by his kindness and company. But as rumors spread, the secrets between Nat and Paul build and threaten to reach a breaking point. 

Based on a true story of the only fatal nuclear accident to occur in America, The Longest Night is a deeply moving novel that explores the intricate makeup of a marriage, the shifting nature of trust, and the ways we try to protect the ones we love.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Book Tour: The Paris Key

I'm easily sold on any novel set in Paris, and Juliet Blackwell's The Paris Key provides a beautiful Parisian setting along with some family secrets and a woman trying to start her life anew.

Genevieve's uncle has always run a locksmith shop in Paris - at least for as long as Genevieve has known him. After his death, and attempting to start over after her failed marriage, Genevieve decides to move to Paris and take over her uncle's business.

The novel moves back and forth in time with portions of it being told by Genevieve's mother, a woman who is no longer alive and who has kept some secrets from her family.

Blackwell's story is entertaining and enjoyable along with a few secrets thrown in to add some suspense. 

Published just today, The Paris Key is worth checking out.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Blast From the Past: September 2005

Ten years ago I had a lot of great books to read.  These five are just a few of the highlights.  

And fifteen years ago...

I'd love to go back and re-read many of these books, but with the current state of my TBR stacks, that's not likely to happen. For right now, I'll just remember how much I enjoyed reading them.

How about you? What were you reading ten years ago? Fifteen years ago? Last year?  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Salon: A Birthday and the Beginning of Another School Year

Today while sitting in church I was mentally trying to determine my to do list in my head.  It was a long list. I had great intentions of getting right to work when I got home. And then, I picked up Woman With A Secret by Sophie Hannah, a novel I started yesterday that I have been obsessively reading and want to finish up. And two hours later, I haven't begun a single item on my list. I'm also not done with the book.  However, I have set it aside for a bit so that at least I can check a few things off of my list.

Tomorrow is the first day for students in the district where I teach.  My girls started on Thursday last week.

Of course we had to take the traditional first day of school picture, which was ridiculously difficult.  I have tons of them on my phone and one that passes as being ok.  However, I really like the bottom of these two because it pretty well shows what life is like at our house.

Yesterday was Little Sister's birthday. She's nine now which seems amazing.  Mostly her birthday presents consisted of Shopkins, these little plastic toys that she collects. But Friday after school (despite the absolutely horrible three hour downpour that occurred during this time) I went and got her a fish.  She's been asking for one for a while, and did a good job fish-sitting for our neighbor girl.  

Today it's the calm before the storm. I've got a list of everyone's after school activities for the week and a meal plan.  The girls are starting out with lunches packed at night and clothes laid out for the next day.  I've even laid out five days worth of work clothes.  

Each school year always seems like a new beginning to me, and usually my organization falters fairly quickly.  However, last week our staff did a two day Leader in Me Training based on Stephen Covey's book: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which has me reflecting on how I spend my time.  If I did less internet surfing I could accomplish a lot more which would also help in my being organized. I'm going to try very hard to control this part of my life and get more done.

I've still got lots to do today and since my girls are split between their grandmas, I am going to take advantage of this time and knock a few more things off my to-do list. 

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Five

Whoa! What a week!  I've been back for nearly the full week now, and am still alive, so I guess that's a success.  

The girls started school yesterday, and students will be reporting to my school on Monday morning.  

I didn't have as much time to spend shopping but there are still plenty of things I enjoyed.

1.  Woman in Gold

I rarely watch television, and it's even more rare for me to sit down and watch a movie, but I've been wanting to see this one ever since my mom told me how good it was. I agree. It's excellent.  In brief: based on a real-life story of a woman who seeks restitution from the Austrian government for the artwork (valued at over $100 million) that was taken from her family by the Nazis.

2.  Joule Women's Lightweight Sweatshirt, Floral

I love Boden, a British company, and now that I know about Joule, I also love them.  This floral sweatshirt has a hood on back and a narrower torso, so it's not too square of boxy.  I'd love to add this to my wardrobe.

My older girls are at that age where they are enjoying looking and experimenting with a few beauty products.  They don't wear makeup regularly yet, but Middle Sister is way (too) into doing her hair, and I can see her loving a box like this that arrives every month.  Christmas is only a few months away, so I'm keeping it in mind for a possible gift.

I saw this at Von Maur last week when I went with a friend.  I don't think I'd have a lot of opportunity to wear a poncho, but I loved the look of this one.  

It must be nearing fall. There are some beautiful sweaters out there. I always love Sundance's selection of sweaters, but wish they wouldn't be priced as high as they are.

And, since my internet surfing time is limited right now, that's it for this week.  What's caught your eye this past week?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Prisoners of Breendonk

The Prisoners of Breendonk: Personal Histories from a World War II Concentration Camp by James Deem is an exceptional look at World War II from a concentration camp in Belgium. 

Deem's book has taken the experiences of a variety of Breendonk prisoners and made them personal for the reader by giving a glimpse at their lives and who they were as people.  It is one thing to read about a group of people but as bits and pieces are revealed about each prisoner, it is hard to imagine the torture they went through.

Breendonk was not labeled a concentration camp, but instead was termed a reception camp where prisoners would be held until their release.  However, the torture endured at Breendonk was no less than at any concentration/death camp, and roughly half of the prisoners didn't survive.

Deem's book is well researched and provides many photographs and sketches along with some maps that give a better idea of what life was like in Breendonk.

I have read other non-fiction accounts of life in the concentration camps during World War II, and this is a fantastic addition to this growing collection.  

This is geared toward middle school - high school readers and will help satisfy their curiosity about World War II.  Although it doesn't go into Belgian history, it does give a glimpse at this country during the war as well. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick: The Guise of Another by Allen Eskins
Due out: October 6, 2015

Product Information taken from Amazon:

Who was James Putnam? Answering that question may mean salvation for Alexander Rupert, a Minnesota detective whose life is in a serious downward spiral. A Medal of Valor winner, Alexander is now under subpoena by a grand jury on suspicion of corruption. He’s been reassigned to the Frauds Unit, where he is shunned by his fellow detectives, and he fears his status-seeking wife may be having an affair. When he happens across a complex case of identity theft, Alexander sees an opportunity to rehabilitate his tattered reputation.

But the case explodes into far more than he could have expected, putting him in the path of trained assassin Drago Basta, a veteran of the Balkan wars who has been searching for “James Putnam” for years. As his life spins out of control, Alexander’s last hope may be his older brother, Max, a fellow police detective who steps in to try to save his brother from the carnage his investigation has let loose

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thunder Bay Titles For Fall: Must Reads

Earlier this summer I received an email from Thunder Bay books advertising some new fall titles they had coming out.  After looking at the titles a little more seriously, I realized that there were many I was really interested in.

And then I did something I have never done before. I emailed Casey at Thunder Bay books and asked if I could look at some titles.

I was thrilled when Casey kindly arranged a few titles to be sent to me to review and I was not disappointed with any of them.

In fact, I'll be sharing these with my library colleagues as soon as school starts back up.

A Tower of Giraffes: Animals in Groups by Anna Wright
I think I have a minor obsession with the interesting names given to groups of animals. This book features a different animal on each page, giving the collective name of each animal with a brief paragraph about the animal featured. The illustrations are highlighted by unique patterns, feathers, and knits.  This is a great book to add to my collection of animal books.

Clothesline Clues To Sports People Play by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
Each page features a rhyming text giving hints about the sport featured in the illustrations on each page. Baseball, soccer, tennis, fencing and football are a few of the sports featured.  This is a fun book, great for read alouds and getting kids thinking about the various sports and the equipment needed to play them.

I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien
Three new students share their feelings about being the new student at a school where the language and customs are unfamiliar.  The author draws from her own experiences as a new student in a foreign country when she was a child.  Just as with the author, the children in this book now find a place in the United States they can call home.

Poppy's Best Paper by Susan Eaddy, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet
This is a cute story about Poppy, who plans to be a writer someday. When her class is given a writing assignment, she is sure hers will be the paper that the teacher will pick to read aloud. Unfortunately, it is her best friend, Lavender's paper, that is shared.  Poppy is extremely jealous of Lavender and vows to have her writing shared the next time.  Except things don't go exactly as Poppy planned. I love this story and am excited to use it as a read aloud at school, knowing that students will identify with Poppy.

The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
As soon as I saw this story I knew exactly which grade would enjoy it and where it would fit in the curriculum.  Our fifth grade spends a lot of time on inventions and reading this picture book would be a great springboard for this unit.  I appreciated that this book provides a glimpse at the friendship between these two important men, something I knew nothing about.  Also provided are additional notes at the book's end that give a better picture and more detailed information about the inventors and inventions shared in this book.  I love The Inventor's Secret!

Thunder Bay books impressed me wholeheartedly.  I loved every single title and can imagine various classes or lessons to use each book with.  I will be telling the librarians in my district about these books, but also investigating other titles that they have coming out. I could easily purchase their entire collection for my library and am already excited to see what they have coming out in spring 2016.

Thanks again to Casey and Thunder Bay for these five titles.  Although I received the books in return for my review, the opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Did You Ever Have a Family

I am lucky enough to have read Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg months before it was published.  And for all these months, I have thought of those characters many, many times.  

When a tragedy occurs the morning of her daughter's wedding, June finds herself alone and grieving. As various people affected by this tragedy narrate portions of this story, the ways they are connected are revealed. Each one has played a part in the way the events have unfolded.

There were points where I found this story utterly heartbreaking, where I wanted to change how I knew things would end.  And yet, there were also parts that were revealed and allowed me to see a glimmer of happiness, of the way people come together and that life does go on.

Did You Ever Have A Family is an amazing novel, one that I think people will be talking about for a long time, that book clubs will read and enjoy and that is absolutely unforgettable.

I have struggled with what to write about this novel, not wanting to give too much away.  Did You Ever Have a Family is a must read novel for 2015.