Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Searching for Sylvie Lee

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: Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
Due out: June 4, 2019

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.
Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.
But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.
A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Monday (Not So) Mini Reviews: Ask Again, Yes

Usually on Mondays I share a few titles I've read over the past week.  For the past several weeks I've continued to struggle to get excited about much of any of what I'm reading.  Chalk it up to the occasional reading slump that strikes readers every once in a while.  Or maybe it's the fact that I have too much to do at work right now, so my brain is tuned in to that.  Whatever the case, reading has been a bit harder lately.

The good news is that when I finally get into a book, I am enjoying it. So at least I'm picking up some great stuff.  

This weekend I devoured Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane.  If all my reading experiences were like this one was, I can't imagine I'd ever hit a slump again.

The novel opens with two young men, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope beginning their careers as New York police officers.  The two marry around the same time, and through chance, buy homes next door to each other.  Francis' wife Lena is hopeful that she will find a friend in Brian's wife, Anne, but that doesn't happen. Despite Lena's efforts, Anne rebuffs any attempt at friendship, and it seems obvious fairly early on that there is something not quite right with Anne.

The two families lives intersect throughout the novel, and even though the couples are not friends, the Gleeson's youngest daughter Kate is the same age as the Stanhope's son, Pete, and these two kids have a close bond that develops over time into something more than just a friendship between children. 

I don't want to give any of the plot away, because part of the joy of this novel is how unexpected some of it was.  As the stories unfold, the lives of these two families are forever connected, and a tragedy that devastates them is viewed through the lens of time, which provides an interesting resolution to this story.

Keane tackles the tough topic of mental illness, how our past experiences make up who we become, and how to make peace with ourselves and our past.  

I think book clubs will be loving this one, which lends itself to great discussions.  Readers who enjoy Sue Miller, Celeste Ng, or Anita Shreve will want to give this one a try.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday Five

We were teased last week with temps in the 70s, and now are back to the 40s (and 30s at night). Minnesota has it worse than us, though, and seeing the pictures on Facebook of the road conditions makes me thankful for my 40 degree weather, disappointing though it may be.

The shorts I've found this week won't be anything I put on right now, but I'm still hopeful that the weather will warm up quickly.

Here are some of my finds this week:

1.  Embroidered Denim Courier Shirt in Confetti Floral -I'd pretty much wear denim in any form, and I love these little accents on it. However, I do have a distinct picture of an elderly woman wearing something like this years ago, so I'm questioning my taste a bit.

Embroidered Denim Courier Shirt in Confetti Floral in gardner wash image 4

2.  The Frances Loafer Mule in Spotted Calf Hair -I love anything in calf hair.  I think these are so cute and would dress up jeans or a pair of black pants.

The Frances Loafer Mule in Spotted Calf Hair in dried flax multi image 1

3.  Border Stripes Jute Tote Bag- I haven't bought a new purse or bag in a while and this one would be so fun to use over the summer months. It's not horribly expensive - $69 - at JJill.

Image for Border-Stripes Jute Tote Bag                                                                                                     from JJill

4.  Cotton Stretch Shorts - Every year I think I should get a few pair of shorts for the summer season. The truth is, I rarely do anything that requires more than athletic shorts over the summer. But there are times when some nicer shorts are required.  These come in moss and a few other colors.

Image for Cotton-Stretch Shorts                                                                                                            from JJill

5. Gelato T-Shirt - I love a good T-shirt, and every once in a while I actually purchase one that I don't wear to exercise.

6.  Chunky Ribbed Open Front Cardigan - I love the horizontal ribbing on this one, which makes it just a bit different than every other black cardigan.  

7.  Library T-Shirt - I've been looking at librarian clothing's been a while since I've added a new library-themed t-shirt to my stash.  I think this one looks fun.

8.  Free Range Short - I love the color of these shorts.  And, even though I don't need more than a few pairs for summer, these are a pair I really want to try.

9.  Stripe Contender 7/8 Tight in Powerlift -it's also been a while since I've bought any new workout leggings.  I like the blue/green color combo and I also liked the stripe patterning.

10.  Brene Brown's Netflix Special - I've watched the trailer and read some of Brene Brown's books. I'm not a devoted fan like some people are, but I do think this special on Netflix sounds worth my time.

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

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Children's Lit: Looking Ahead

I've been making a list of some new books coming out for kids.....picture books, middle grade, YA.....there are tons in every category I want to get my hands on as soon as possible.

Here's one I can't wait to read:

A Place To Belong by Cynthia Kadohata
Due out: May 14, 2019

Summary taken from Amazon:

A Japanese-American family, reeling from their ill treatment in the Japanese internment camps, gives up their American citizenship to move back to Hiroshima, unaware of the devastation wreaked by the atomic bomb in this piercing look at the aftermath of World War II by Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata.

World War II has ended, but while America has won the war, twelve-year-old Hanako feels lost. To her, the world, and her world, seems irrevocably broken.

America, the only home she’s ever known, imprisoned then rejected her and her family—and thousands of other innocent Americans—because of their Japanese heritage, because Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Japan, the country they’ve been forced to move to, the country they hope will be the family’s saving grace, where they were supposed to start new and better lives, is in shambles because America dropped bombs of their own—one on Hiroshima unlike any other in history. And Hanako’s grandparents live in a small village just outside the ravaged city.

The country is starving, the black markets run rampant, and countless orphans beg for food on the streets, but how can Hanako help them when there is not even enough food for her own brother?

Hanako feels she could crack under the pressure, but just because something is broken doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. Cracks can make room for gold, her grandfather explains when he tells her about the tradition of kintsukuroi—fixing broken objects with gold lacquer, making them stronger and more beautiful than ever. As she struggles to adjust to find her place in a new world, Hanako will find that the gold can come in many forms, and family may be hers.

I've read other books by Kadohata that I've enjoyed and am always excited to see something new from her.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: The Islanders

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 Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore
Due out: June 11, 2019

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine meets the works of Elin Hilderbrand in this delicious summer read involving three strangers, one island, and a season packed with unexpected romance, well-meaning lies, and damaging secrets.

Anthony Puckett was a rising literary star. The son of an uber-famous thriller writer, Anthony’s debut novel spent two years on the bestseller list and won the adoration of critics. But something went very wrong with his second work. Now Anthony’s borrowing an old college’s friend’s crumbling beach house on Block Island in the hopes that solitude will help him get back to the person he used to be.
Joy Sousa owns and runs Block Island’s beloved whoopie pie café. She came to this quiet space eleven years ago, newly divorced and with a young daughter, and built a life for them here. To her customers and friends, Joy is a model of independence, hard-working and happy. And mostly she is. But this summer she’s thrown off balance. A food truck from a famous New York City brand is roving around the island, selling goodies—and threatening her business.
Lu Trusdale is spending the summer on her in-laws’ dime, living on Block Island with her two young sons while her surgeon husband commutes to the mainland hospital. When Lu’s second son was born, she and her husband made a deal: he’d work and she’d quit her corporate law job to stay home with the boys. But a few years ago, Lu quietly began working on a private project that has becoming increasingly demanding on her time. Torn between her work and home, she’s beginning to question that deal she made.
Over the twelve short weeks of summer, these three strangers will meet and grow close, will share secrets and bury lies. And as the promise of June turns into the chilly nights of August, the truth will come out, forcing each of them to decide what they value most, and what they are willing to give up to keep it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Best Non-Fiction of March

Maybe I felt like a good cry was what I needed in March.  All three of these books are amazing, but two of them were extremely devastating.  And yet, I loved reading every single word of them and will keep them on my shelf for a future re-read.  

I also could easily write a full, detailed review of all three of these books.  Instead, I'm going to try my best to give you a short, concise review that will make you want to go out and grab one of these right away.

The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams was one of the books that could have left me in tears the entire time I was reading. And yet, how could it? Despite the fact that Yip-Williams was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer in her late 30s, she recognizes that her life has truly been a miracle.  Born blind, her parents are advised by her grandmother to let her die, that her life will never amount to much.  Instead, Julie is able to eventually move to the US, receive a surgery that will not correct her eyesight, but will restore some of it, graduate from Harvard, get married and have children.  She is grateful for every moment she has been given -fighting for her life, accepting the future that awaits her, and providing much wisdom in the writing of her memoir.  Although sad, I found this book to be so inspirational.

Good Talk by Mira Jacob-  I continue to believe that graphic novels aren't really my thing, except that I've read quite a few of them now, and generally enjoy them. So maybe they are my thing. This is a graphic memoir and I absolutely loved it.  Jacob begins her memoir with a conversation she has with her seven year old about race.  Jacob is Indian, her husband Jewish, and their conversations about politics and race are timely and should get readers thinking.  I did think that Jacob was promoting her own beliefs and opinions which made me a little less enchanted with Good Talk, but there is quite a lot to love about this memoir, that I can overlook that.

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene- Greene is a writer by trade, and this is a well crafted memoir, despite the fact that it will reduce you to tears.  Greene's daughter, Greta, was sitting outside on a bench in New York City with her grandmother when a brick fell off a nearby building, striking Greta in the head, killing her.  Greene shares the trauma and despair of learning of their daughter's accident, but he also shares their grief and the healing process he and his wife experience after this devastating tragedy. This is not a story you will forget, and you will find great wisdom and comfort in reading about the Greene's ability to move forward after Greta's death.

These three are my favorite non-fiction reads of March, and I can't imagine forgetting any of these stories.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Monday Mini-Reviews

Despite the fact that my reading has slowed down a little and I've felt meh about many books I've started, the books that I've actually read from cover to cover have been great.  These three are my recommendations for you this week:

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun by Dana Reinhardt - this might be my first beach book of the season, although it is one that can be enjoyed anytime it is read.  I've read Reinhardt's YA novels and enjoyed them, so I was excited to see she had an adult novel coming out.  Jenna has planned a 50th birthday trip for her husband and another couple to Puerto Vallarta.  The characters aren't really likeable, yet Jenna, as a nearly 50 year old woman, was someone I felt like I could relate to a little.  Her teenage daughter, Clem, provided challenges because Jenna wanted to know what was going on in her life, yet Clem wanted privacy.  Jenna struggled with her marriage and trusting her husband who worked closely with a beautiful younger woman, and some of her behavior was related to her insecurities.  This is very much a character driven novel and even though I don't know that I would be friend with any one of the characters, I was engaged with the story and interested to see how things would resolve.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing - Narrated by the husband, we watch a couple try to keep the spark alive in their marriage by killing women together.  As the story unfolds we learn about their marriage: how they met and fell in love, and a little about Millicent's childhood and how she was bullied by her sister, Holly.  This entire story is crazy with lots of twists and turns. I tore through it and handed it off to my husband who I watched shake his head at nearly every page.  There are so many psychological thrillers out there and I've read some that fade quickly from my memory, but My Lovely Wife is one that I'll be remembering for a long time.

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib -I haven't read a book about eating disorders in a long time, but it's a topic I've always found fascinating.  Most of the novels I have read have been YA, so I was interested to see an adult novel that tackles this subject.  Anna was a professional dancer who left Europe with her husband to live in Missouri.  Depression and anorexia cause her weight to plummet to just 88 pounds when she finally begins treatment.  At Swann Street there are other grown women with eating disorders, all fighting for their lives as they attempt to fight their disease.  This is a fast read, and Zgheib does a good job of showing that eating disorders are a mental illness that need attention to overcome.

What have you been reading lately? Any books you'd recommend?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Friday Five

When I was shopping with my family over spring break, I didn't spend a lot of time looking at clothes for myself.  However, my youngest daughter kindly pointed out that I have a wardrobe that consists of pretty much the same thing: stripes, camouflage, and polka dots.  (I didn't point out that fur and bling  and leopard print are also my go-tos). She is pretty on-target. I like what I like.  

Here are a few things I found this week that I found to share:

1.  Seville Espadrille Wedges in Leopard Calf Hair - yes, leopard print!  Who doesn't need a pair of espadrilles in leopard calf hair?

2.  High-Neck Ruffle-Trim Swing Dress  - I feel like this dress could be paired up with a cardigan and work well for hot summer days.

3.  Merino Wool Crewneck Sweatshirt in Leopard -  I don't have a leopard print shirt, but clearly this is something I need. 

4.  Linen Belted Shirtdress - linen always looks better when I see it advertised. Every time I wear it I feel like it looks wrinkly.  Still, I continue to be envious of how nice linen looks when worn well.

Linen Belted Shirtdress

4. The North Face Mountain Collarless Full-Zip Jacket - I like the color of this jacket and the fact that there is no collar.  It's a little pricey right now, but I'm going to keep my eye on it.

The North Face® Mountain Collarless Full-Zip Jacket

5.  Canvas Tote by Meanwhile Back on the Farm - I love a good bag.  Often I carry two or three bags to work, so I can always use something new to use. 

Canvas Tote by Meanwhile Back On The Farmâ„¢

6.  Bloom Embroidered Cargo Pants - embroidery is another one of my go-tos.  Olive is really in rihgt now, and I would love to have these to wear to work.

7.  Emmaline Tee - a nice, dressy T is something I can always use more of.  I like the twist of this one in the front as well.

8.  Eyelet Collared Tie-Front Dress - I love eyelet (one of my go-tos). This dress comes in green and navy and would be so cute with a pair of sandals or Vans.

eyelet collared tie-front dress : factorywomen dresses

9.  AE Ahhhhmazingly Soft Snap Hoodie - I've looked at this hoodie a few times. The color isn't one I would automatically pick, but looks good with my skin tone.  And if it is soft, I could probably be persuaded to wear it.  

10.  Kidlit These Days Podcast -  I've listened to two episodes of this new podcast, and of course since it's about middle grade literature, I'm all over it.  I can't wait until they release more episode to listen to.

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

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Children's Lit: The Undefeated

Kwame Alexander is one of my must-read authors.  And Kadir Nelson is an illustrator whose work I love.  When the two work together to create a picture book, the result is amazing.

This picture book is beautiful.  I would expect nothing less from both of these icons of children's literature.  

Kwame Alexander's writing is always amazing, and the verses he writes in The Undefeated to share the message of perseverance, reminding readers of many African Americans who have contributed to achieving equality for all, are beautifully written.  When paired with Nelson's amazing illustrations, the message in this book will be something you won't forget.

Kwame Alexander write an afterword worth reading, and there is a list of the historical figures and events are shared at the book's end as well.  

This picture book belongs in every school library and teachers will find plenty to enjoy about using this as a read aloud.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: Paris 7 AM

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:  Paris 7 AM by Liz Wieland
Due out: June 9, 2018

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

The acclaimed, award-winning author of A Watch of Nightingales imagines in a sweeping and stunning novel what happened to the poet Elizabeth Bishop during three life-changing weeks she spent in Paris amidst the imminent threat of World War II.

June 1937. Elizabeth Bishop, still only a young woman and not yet one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century, arrives in France with her college roommates. They are in search of an escape, and inspiration, far from the protective world of Vassar College where they were expected to find an impressive husband, a quiet life, and act accordingly. But the world is changing, and as they explore the City of Light, the larger threats of fascism and occupation are looming. There, they meet a community of upper-crust expatriates who not only bring them along on a life-changing adventure, but also into an underground world of rebellion that will quietly alter the course of Elizabeth’s life forever.

Paris, 7 A.M. imagines 1937—the only year Elizabeth, a meticulous keeper of journals, didn’t fully chronicle—in vivid detail and brings us from Paris to Normandy where Elizabeth becomes involved with a group rescuing Jewish “orphans” and delivering them to convents where they will be baptized as Catholics and saved from the impending horror their parents will face.

Poignant and captivating, Liza Wieland’s Paris, 7 A.M. is a beautifully rendered take on the formative years of one of America’s most celebrated—and mythologized—female poets.