Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Five: All I Want For Christmas

Now that it's December, I can't even pretend that I'm not online shopping a ton. I'm almost done shopping for gifts, but with so much time spent online shopping, I keep finding things I'd love, too.  Here are a few of them:

1.  Ugg Slipper - I've seen these in real life because Big Sister got a pair from my mom for her birthday this fall. I love them.

2.  Women's Ketchum Down Parka- My coat situation has gone downhill over time. Since I live in Iowa, there's plenty of opportunity to wear a coat. I need one that is a little longer right now  - like this one.  

3.  Canyon Vista Mid-Century Accent Chair- a few years ago we re-did our kitchen/dining area. There was always supposed to be a chair in one corner where I could read.  I'm still waiting for that, and think this one would work out just fine.

4.  The Christmas Breton - I am not one of those elementary school teachers who gets all dolled up in Christmas themed sweaters with jingle bell earrings, but I couldn't resist this shirt. I would only wear it for the month of December, though, so my Boden order better get here.

5.  Glitter Spot Breton - a less Christmassy version of the Breton that I could wear much longer wouldn't be bad, either.

6.  Portobello Scarf - I think my mom has a scarf similar to this one. Garnet Hill has some beautiful things right now.

7.  Wool Blend Parka - and this coat caught my eye on the Gap website.  

8.  Bubble Wrap Calendar - this calendar intrigued me as just a fun gift to give. My girls would probably pop every single bubble in one day, though.  

And that's it. What's caught your eye this week?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

TLC Book Tour: Wallflower Blooming

Wallflower Blooming by Amy Rivers was the perfect book to curl up with after some Thanksgiving evening shopping. I was still wide awake and had consumed enough caffeine that I read the entire book in one sitting.  

This is a nice book. There wasn't anything earth-shattering or unbelievable in it. Instead, I got to know a few people who lived in the small Colorado town of Cambria. Val is a single woman running a successful PR firm. She isn't close to her mom or sister, mostly because she feels they abandoned her father shortly before he died.  She fears losing her business, something that happened to her dad, which devastated him, and an event she believes caused his early death.  

She is close to her cousin, Gwen, a successful single woman in Cambria who decides to run for mayor of the town despite having to go head-to-head with the current mayor who is bullying her.  Gwen asks Val to be in charge of the PR for her campaign, and despite Val's reservations she agrees.

There is a little romance as the forever single Val is introduced to one of the town's most eligible and successful bachelors, and a political battle that heats up as the book goes on.

I really enjoyed this novel. I feel as though I'm just getting to know these characters and would love to see them show up again in a future installment of life in Cambria.

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

Wallflower Blooming is published by Wooden Pants Publishing.  Visit their website to learn about this book and others published by this company.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TLC Book Tour: Queen of the Tearling

Erika Johansen's Queen of the Tearling first came on my radar a few years ago when her second novel, Invasion of the Tearling, was about to be published.  This isn't a book that would normally appeal to me. Fantasy isn't my genre of choice, although I will admit there are exceptions (Harry Potter, the Madeleine L'Engle books).  Queen of the Tearling received so many glowing recommendations that I couldn't help check out a copy. 

Shortly after that, I went on vacation and even though I took this book with me, I never got around to reading it.

TLC offered this as a book tour, and I immediately jumped at it.  Every once in a while it's good to get out of my comfort zone.

Kelsea sets out to claim the throne that her dead mother left.  Kelsea doesn't know her mother, raised alone by two guardians who have told her little about her mother or her kingdom.

As she makes her way to the capitol, she relies on a group of knights who are sent to keep her safe. There is danger all around, and Kelsea must determine who she can trust and who she cannot.  The magical sapphire that hangs around her neck gives her some measure of security, but there is much that Kelsea doesn't know about the way her mother ruled and what has happened in the kingdom.

And to add to the danger, the Red Queen of Mortmesne is out to destroy Kelsea, relying on her dark magic to do so.

This is a fantastic tale of adventure. I felt transported to this kingdom that Johansen created in her debut novel.  As I was reading I knew instantly that I could hand this off to several of my friends.  Readers who enjoyed The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard, the Selection books by Kierra Cass, the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the Divergent series by Veronica Roth should all add the Queen of the Tearling trilogy to their TBR stacks.   Even thoug this isn't the typical book I pick to read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I didn't race through this one. Instead I savored it, allowing myself to get lost in this kingdom.

Happily there are two more novels in this series: The Invasion of the Tearling and The Fate of the Tearling just waiting to be devoured.

Thanks to TLC Book tours for providing a copy of this book for my review and including me on the blog tour.  As always, all opinions expressed, are my own.

To find out more about this title, visit Harper Collins' website.

Waiting on Wednesday: It Happens All The Time

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that features soon to be released titles.

This week's pick: It Happens All The Time by Amy Havatney
Due out: March 28, 2017

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

From master storyteller Amy Hatvany—whose writing has been hailed as “gripping and emotionally honest” (Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times betselling author)—comes a provocative and compelling novel about two friends whose lives are changed by a drunken kiss.

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Non-Fiction November: Ten Titles You Won't Want To Miss

For the entire month of November I've been meaning to share some non-fiction books I've enjoyed.  And here it is, the end of the month and I've yet to get around to it.  

The number of non-fiction books I read has increased dramatically over the years. At one point in my life, I read fiction nearly exclusively.  I still read a lot of fiction, but I love non-fiction, too.

Here are ten non-fiction titles you won't want to miss:

1.  Coop by Michael Perry - Perry lives in small-town Wisconsin and writes of his life there. He has several titles to his name and I've read and loved them all.

2.  The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson - tells the story of the Great Migration.  Reads like fiction...don't be overwhelmed by the size of this one.

3.  Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin - considered self-help, this book has great advice but has so many stories that I feel like I know Rubin well.

4.  If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende - life in small town Alaska is interesting and I loved hearing about Lende's friends and family

5.  The Year of Living Biblically by A J Jacobs - Jacobs spends a year of his life trying to follow all the rules of the Bible. Entertaining and funny.

6.  The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson- Bryson writes fantastic non-fiction. This is his memoir of his Iowa childhood

7.  Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas- Dumas recounts her childhood as the daughter of Iranian immigrants. Although she tries to be American, her parents are happy to retain their roots.

8.  The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan - Corrigan is both a mother to young daughters and a daughter herself, caught in the middle, needing to take care of her aging parents while raising her family.

9.  Beautiful Boy by Daniel Sheff - Sheff's book is beautifully written, a father's story about a son he loves desperately, but who is addicted to drugs.

10. Sum It Up by Pat Summit - Summit has written a few books about her life and career. I appreciated the account of her childhood filled with hard work and determination.  Sadly, Summit died earlier this year of early onset Alzheimer's.

I'm always looking for more great non-fiction titles to add to my TBR. If you have any you'd like to share, I'm all ears.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Five: Black Friday

I've done A LOT of online shopping this week, but mostly for pre-teen and teen girl stuff.  I've ordered presents and I'm hoping that I can be mostly done with shopping soon.  Here are a few things that caught my eye this week:

1.  Joile Fair Isle Sweater - from Garnet Hill.  I have yet to find a Fair Isle sweater I don't like  In fact, I was just wondering how many of this style sweater I already own.  You can't ever have too many, right?

2.  Herringbone Frost Free Vest - Old Navy has some GREAT deals right now for Black Friday. This vest is 50% off.  And just like Fair Isle sweaters, you can never have too many vests. 

3.  Hammered Gold Leather Earrings - Big Mama featured these earrings on her site last week. She is wearing them in her new publicity picture. I spend next to nothing on jewelry, and don't wear very much, but the one thing I do wear is earrings.  And I love some good dangly ones.

4.  Mid-Rise Velvet Pixie Pants  -I used to own several pairs of velvet pants, but I must have got rid of them all. I love the color of these.

5.  Fair Isle Sweater - this sweater is out of my price range, but it is fair isle, which should explain why I love it.

6.  Anne of Green Gables on Thanksgiving - I never got into Anne of Green Gables when I was growing up, but I've decided that I need to read the series with Little Sister.  She is still OK with me reading to her every night.  I can't decide if watching the new Anne show on PBS would get her interest piqued, or if we should read the books first (which is usually my answer).

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Roanoke Girls

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that highlights soon to be released titles.

This week's pick:  The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Due out: March 7, 2017

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

“Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”
After her mother's suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother's mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran…fast and far away.
Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
As it weaves between Lane’s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Hound of the Sea

As the weather here gets colder and starts feeling like winter, Hound of the Sea has been a great escape, as I read about a man who spends his life in summer-like weather year round.

I love memoirs, so even though the name Garrett McNamara meant nothing to me, I was still interested in reading about him. It turns out that McNamara holds the Guinness world record for surfing the world's largest wave.  (As a child I spent hours reading the black and white paperback version of the Guinness Book of World Records, but I am sorely out of touch with these records at this point in my life and apparently should pay more attention to them).

Knowing nothing about this man didn't detract from my interest in reading about him and learning more.  

McNamara's childhood was unconventional: living in a commune for a time, splitting time between his parents who were not together, running around on his own, putting himself to bed when he got tired.  His mother came and went as she wished.

The Hound of the Sea not only explores McNamara's childhood, it also delves into his life as a surfer and what makes him seek thrills on a daily basis.  As a reader who knows nothing about surfing, I was able to learn more about the sport and one of its legends.  

As a reader, I might be an outlier - a person who will read a memoir just because it sounds interesting.  This book probably has the most appeal to surfers - or at least readers who have heard the name Garrett McNamara before -and want to learn more.  I enjoyed it a lot, though, and would tell anyone that McNamara is an interesting man worth learning more about.  The book is well written and easy to read, which is also a selling point.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing a copy of this book for my review. All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.
Visit Harper Collins' website to learn more about this title.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Late To The Party: Room

Back in 2010 Emma Donoghue's Room was published and I bought a copy. When my friend, Kristin, had finished reading Room she told me she wanted me to read it so we could talk about it.

Guess what?!  I finished Room just this weekend.  I called Kristin right away and told her I was ready for that talk.  

What made me wait so long?  

Well, the idea of a mom and her son locked into a room for years is a tough subject.  

It did take me a while to get into Room.  Jack, a five year old, narrates the novel. Hearing a child's voice wasn't easy at first. He is so young and has such little experience in the world.  He watches television, but doesn't realize that there are people who exist that aren't flat.  He's never seen a tree or a car or an airplane.  Everything he knows exists in the small room that has been his home for his entire life.

As the story unfolds, Jack's mother shares with him the story of how she came to be in the Room.  This is also hard to read. Her frustration with her life grows until she cannot stand it anymore and she devises a plan.

I was surprised and impressed by the way Donoghue captures what life must have been like for Jack.  I  kept waiting to think, "Wait. That doesn't make sense. There is no way that could have happened."  I never thought that even once.  When Jack encounters steps, he climbs them on all fours. He's never seen such a thing before.  His hair is long. Of course he's never had a haircut.  Donoghue explains every single detail of this very isolated existence in a completely believable way.

Our book club discussed it last night.  Some of the members aren't entirely finished with this story.  I found it hard to put down once I was really into the story.  Having never read anything else by Donoghue, I know I'll look for more of her work in the future.

There are other books that I've owned for six years and have yet to pick them up from my TBR stack (er....stacks.....or perhaps TBR room is more accurate).  If only there were more hours in a day, great stories like this wouldn't be sitting around for so long waiting to be read.

Friday, November 18, 2016

TLC Book Tour: Girl Unbroken

Regina Calcaterra's wrote about the childhood she and her siblings endured (and survived) on Long Island in the 1970s and 80s.  

Girl Unbroken: A Sister's Harrowing Story of Survival From the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho is Calcaterra's youngest sister's story. 

Rosie Maloney writes of a childhood full of physical abuse and verbal abuse, as she is raised by a mother who is mentally ill.  I've read several of these types of memoir before.  No matter the author, I believe that writing their story is therapeutic and cathartic for them.  I believe this of Maloney's story as well.  But what makes this more than just another story of this genre is Maloney's voice.

I felt as though I could relate to Maloney almost instantly.  She grew up in the same time period I did, although my childhood was nothing like hers.  Her writing is smart and she has a talent for recounting what her life was like in a matter of fact way.  I felt sorry for her, but knew because she had written her story, that she survived.  

I've always been a sucker for a survivor's story.  From One Child by Torey L. Hayden to They Cage The Animals At Night, there are tons of well-written books that fall into this category.  This book should be included in the list.

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

Visit the Harper Collins website to find out more about Girl Unbroken.