Monday, March 4, 2024

NonFiction Tuesday: Upcoming Release: Challenger


I love nonfiction books and there are certain topics that I am especially excited to read about. The Challenger disaster occurred when I was in middle school and I have been fascinated by this tragedy ever since.

This week's title: Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space by Adam Higginbotham

Due out: May 14, 2024

Synopsis taken from Amazon: 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Midnight in Chernobyl comes the definitive, dramatic, minute-by-minute story of the Challenger disaster, based on fascinating in-depth reporting and new archival research—a riveting history that reads like a thriller.

On January 28, 1986, just seventy-three seconds into flight, the space shuttle 
Challenger broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all seven people on board. Millions of Americans witnessed the tragic deaths of the crew, which included New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Like the assassination of JFK, the Challenger disaster is a defining moment in twentieth-century history—one that forever changed the way America thought of itself and its optimistic view of the future. Yet the full story of what happened, and why, has never been told.

Based on extensive archival research and metic­ulous, original reporting, 
Challenger: A True Story of Heroism and Disaster on the Edge of Space follows a handful of central protagonists—including each of the seven members of the doomed crew—through the years leading up to the accident, and offers a detailed account of the tragedy itself and the inves­tigation afterward. It’s a compelling tale of ambition and ingenuity undermined by political cynicism and cost-cutting in the interests of burnishing national prestige; of hubris and heroism; and of an investigation driven by leakers and whistleblowers determined to bring the truth to light. Throughout, there are the ominous warning signs of a tragedy to come, recognized but then ignored, and later hidden from the public.

Higginbotham reveals the history of the shuttle program and the lives of men and women whose stories have been overshadowed by the disaster, as well as the designers, engineers, and test pilots who struggled against the odds to get the first shuttle into space. A masterful blend of riveting human drama and fascinating and absorbing science, 
Challenger identifies a turning point in history—and brings to life an even more complex and astonishing story than we remember.

Monday Mini-Reviews: Historical Fiction

 I have long claimed that historical fiction is my favorite genre and yet when I look back at the end of the year, I am always surprised by how little of it I read.  I think this year might be a different story.  I have been picking up more historical fiction (as opposed to buying historical fiction books that just sit on my TBR) and thoroughly enjoying them.

A Wild and Heavenly Place by Robin Oliviera is a love story of sorts. Samuel is in awe of Hailey MacIntyre's beauty and when he rescues her brother from a speeding carriage, the two instantly have a connection.  But then Hailey's father relocates them from Scotland to Seattle, a new city where he believes he can find a job.  As Hailey leaves she yells to Samuel to remember Washington Territory, and Sam, who is raising his young sister, tries to find a way to get there himself. What I loved about this one: the Seattle setting as the city is just developing and the love story between Hailey and Samuel.

The General and Julia by Jon Clinch- Ulysses S Grant writes his memoirs as his death approaches.  He shares different critical stories from his life in an effort to leave his family with some financial security as he lays dying from cancer.  What I loved about this one: I knew very little about Grant or his wife Julia Dent and I found my interest piqued.  His character is something I want to know more about as he fought for equal rights for blacks and against the Ku Klux Klan.

The Turtle House by Amanda Churchill- this is a debut novel set in 1990s Texas and WWII Japan, Lia and her grandmother find themselves sharing a bedroom at her parents' house during a pivotal time in both of their lives. Lia, a promising architect, has returned home after a situation at work, leaving her job.  Mineko tells Lia stories about her early life in Japan and the man she loved before she married Lia's grandfather.  What I loved about this one: the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter and the WWII stories

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry- this American classic consumed a lot of reading time in February.  I don't think this is a five star read for me, but once I finally got into the story (which took quite a while), I was invested in the characters.  There are lots of characters which also made it a little more difficult at the beginning, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the men who drove cattle from Lonesome Dove to Montana and the rough life they lived.  What I loved about this one: I fell in love with the female characters whose lives were so challenging, especially Clara.  I also loved the landscape and open country that I could picture as I read.

These four were all winners.  I'm trying to read more memoirs in March, so I expect I'll have fewer historical fiction reads this month.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Waiting on Wednesday: Becoming Madam Secretary

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

This week's pick: Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray

Due out: March 12, 2024

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

She took on titans, battled generals, and changed the world as we know it…

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray returns with a captivating and dramatic new novel about an American heroine Frances Perkins.

Raised on tales of her revolutionary ancestors, Frances Perkins arrives in New York City at the turn of the century, armed with her trusty parasol and an unyielding determination to make a difference.

When she’s not working with children in the crowded tenements in Hell’s Kitchen, Frances throws herself into the social scene in Greenwich Village, befriending an eclectic group of politicians, artists, and activists, including the millionaire socialite Mary Harriman Rumsey, the flirtatious budding author Sinclair Lewis, and the brilliant but troubled reformer Paul Wilson, with whom she falls deeply in love.

But when Frances meets a young lawyer named Franklin Delano Roosevelt at a tea dance, sparks fly in all the wrong directions. She thinks he’s a rich, arrogant dilettante who gets by on a handsome face and a famous name. He thinks she’s a priggish bluestocking and insufferable do-gooder. Neither knows it yet, but over the next twenty years, they will form a historic partnership that will carry them both to the White House.

Frances is destined to rise in a political world dominated by men, facing down the Great Depression as FDR’s most trusted lieutenant—even as she struggles to balance the demands of a public career with marriage and motherhood. And when vicious political attacks mount and personal tragedies threaten to derail her ambitions, she must decide what she’s willing to do—and what she’s willing to sacrifice—to save a nation.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Friday Five: Feeling Like Spring


This has been a long week.  I was sick much of last weekend and even took Monday off to recover.  Tuesday and Thursday were twelve hour days since there were parent/teacher conferences.  I am happy that today is a day off!  I've got house cleaning to get done and books to read.  

It has been spring-like again here and I am noticing more warm weather clothes.  (I am also noticing some great sales on winter items that I'm finding hard to turn down).  

Here are the things that caught my eye this week:

1.  Tie Knot Mini TShirt Dress

2.  The Larsen Blazer in Plaid

3.  Meg Wide Leg

4.  Cason Ruffle Detail Blouse in Blue Midi

5.  Native Knitter Kinship Cardigan

6.  Ruffle Hem Shirtdress in Cotton Poplin

7.  Tretorn Nylite Plus Sneaker

8.  Vintage Terry Graphic Sweatshirt

9.  Eleanor Utility Dress

10.  Kennedy Dynasty Podcast

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Waiting on Wednesday: Miss Morgan's Book Brigade

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

This week's pick: Miss Morgan's Book Brigade by Janet Skeslein Charles

Due out May 7, 2024

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

The New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the “captivating, richly drawn” (Woman’s WorldThe Paris Library returns with a brilliant new novel based on the true story of Jessie Carson—the American librarian who changed the literary landscape of France.

1918: As the Great War rages, Jessie Carson takes a leave of absence from the New York Public Library to work for the American Committee for Devastated France. Founded by millionaire Anne Morgan, this group of international women help rebuild devastated French communities just miles from the front. Upon arrival, Jessie strives to establish something that the French have never seen—children’s libraries. She turns ambulances into bookmobiles and trains the first French female librarians. Then she disappears.

1987: When NYPL librarian and aspiring writer Wendy Peterson stumbles across a passing reference to Jessie Carson in the archives, she becomes consumed with learning her fate. In her obsessive research, she discovers that she and the elusive librarian have more in common than their work at New York’s famed library, but she has no idea their paths will converge in surprising ways across time.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Friday Five

We are in that time of year when there aren't a lot of summer things out yet, and winter clothing is not holding much appeal.  

My focus this past week has been on watching Iowa Women's Basketball, especially Caitlin Clark, who became the NCAA Women's Highest Scorer at last night's game.   It has been so fun to watch these games and I'm glad that I still have a chance to watch her play a few more games this season.

Here are the things I'm sharing today:

1.  Aerie Restart Quarter Zip

2.  Poplin PJ Pant

3.  Reebok C85 Revenge Vintage Sneakers

4.  Striped Shawl Collar Coat

5.  Denim Band Hem Shirt

6.  Lands End Board Shorts 5"

7.  Nike Air Max 1

8.  Button Pocket Riviera Slim Pants in Houndstooth

9.  Suzy Dress in Midnight Magnolia

10.  The Greatest Night in Pop Documentary

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Children's Lit: Middle Grade World War II Historical Fiction

There is never a shortage of WWII novels, and while sometimes I am burned out from reading about this topic, I still seem to enjoy learning more about it.

These five middle grade novels are all ones I've enjoyed in 2024. 

The Blood Years by Elana K Arnold-Arnold's novel is based on her grandmother's experiences in Romania during WWII, this is a story of sisters as they grow up.  Rieke's the younger and her older sister begins dating, pulling away from her.  The restrictions against Jews become worse and every day things become harder for them.  

Enemies in the Orchard by Dana Vanderlugt - a novel in verse in two perspectives Clara who is a Midwestern girl and Karl who has been sent to the United States after fighting for the Nazis and begins to learn about the lies he has been led to believe.

Nothing Else But Miracles by Kate Albus - three siblings in NYC work together to carry on as normal while their father is overseas fighting in WWII.  A mean landlord tries to turn them over to authorities, but luckily Dory knows the perfect place for them to hide.

The Sky Over Rebecca by Matthew Fox - there's a time travel element in this one as Kara finds footprints in the snow in Stockholm that lead her to a different time where she meets Rebecca and Samuel who are hiding during WWII.  

Heroes by Alan Gratz-  this is the latest from Gratz which features best friends Frank and Stanley who are touring a ship when Pearl Harbor is attacked.  In addition to the pulse-pounding action, Stanley is Japanese American and instantly people begin seeing him differently.

It's only February which means I am sure there will be plenty of time to read more WWII books as the year progresses.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Waiting on Wednesday: Lula Dean's Little Library of Banned Books

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

This week's pick: Lula Dean's Little Library of Banned Books by Kristen Miller

Due out: June 18, 2024

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

The provocative and hilarious summer read that will have book lovers cheering and everyone talking! Kirsten Miller, author of The Change, brings us a bracing, wildly entertaining satire about a small Southern town, a pitched battle over banned books, and a little lending library that changes everything.

Beverly Underwood and her arch enemy, Lula Dean, live in the tiny town of Troy, Georgia, where they were born and raised. Now Beverly is on the school board, and Lula has become a local celebrity by embarking on mission to rid the public libraries of all inappropriate books—none of which she’s actually read. To replace the “pornographic” books she’s challenged at the local public library, Lula starts her own lending library in front of her home: a cute wooden hutch with glass doors and neat rows of the worthy literature that she’s sure the town’s readers need.

But Beverly’s daughter Lindsay sneaks in by night and secretly fills Lula Dean’s little free library with banned books wrapped in “wholesome” dust jackets. The Girl’s Guide to the Revolution is wrapped in the cover of The Southern Belle’s Guide to Etiquette. A jacket that belongs to Our Confederate Heroes ends up on Beloved. One by one, neighbors who borrow books from Lula Dean’s library find their lives changed in unexpected ways. Finally, one of Lula Dean’s enemies discovers the library and decides to turn the tables on her, just as Lula and Beverly are running against each other to replace the town’s disgraced mayor.

That’s when all the townspeople who’ve been borrowing from Lula’s library begin to reveal themselves. It’s a diverse and surprising bunch—including the local postman, the prom queen, housewives, a farmer, and the former DA—all of whom have been changed by what they’ve read. When Lindsay is forced to own up to what she’s done, the showdown that’s been brewing between Beverly and Lula will roil the whole town...and change it forever.

Monday, February 12, 2024

NonFiction Tuesday: Better Faster Farther

I love reading nonfiction and I have so many fantastic choices on my TBR piles, but I continue to add more to my collection.

Here's a new release I can't wait to read:

This week's pick: Better, Faster, Farther: How Running Changed Everything We Know About Women by Maggie Mertens

Due out: June 18, 2024

Synopsis taken from Amazon:

More than a century ago, a woman ran in the very first modern Olympic marathon. She just did it without permission.

Despite women proving their abilities on the track time and again, men in the medical establishment, media, and athletic associations have fought to keep women (or at least white women) fragile—and sometimes literally tried to push them out of the race (see Kathrine Switzer, Boston Marathon, 1967). Yet before there were running shoes for women, they ran barefoot or in nursing shoes. They ran without sports bras, which weren’t invented until 1977, or disguised as men. They faced down doctors who put them on bed rest and newspaper reports that said women collapsed if they ran a mere eight hundred meters, just two laps around the track. Still today, women face relentless attention to their bodies: Is she too strong, too masculine? Is she even really a woman?

Mertens transports us from that first boundary-breaking marathon in Greece, 1896, to the earliest “official” women’s races of the twentieth century to today’s most intense ultramarathons like the infamous Spine Race, whose current record holder is a woman. By a lot.

For readers of 
Good and MadBorn to Run, and Fly GirlsBetter Faster Farther takes us inside the lives and the victories of the women who have redefined society’s image of strength and power.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Monday Mini-Reviews: The Women

Sometimes I put off reading book that are getting a lot of buzz. But I've been looking forward to The Women for a long time.  And let me tell you,  it did not disappoint. 

I felt like I was right in the story as soon as I started reading.  Frankie McGrath and her brother Finn had grown up in sunny California in an upper class conservative family.  But it's 1965, a time of change for the country.  Frankie's in nursing school when her brother ships off to Vietnam, but soon Frankie is also on her way overseas so she can serve her country as well.

Frankie and her fellow nurses and doctors may not have been in active combat, but the trauma they endured was just as life-changing. Friendships are formed, people come and go- some that return to the States, and some that are killed in combat, and when Frankie returns herself she can't quite come to terms to the world she now inhabits.

Hannah's story shows how Vietnam affected its unsung heroes.  We follow Frankie through her struggles, loves and losses, and her need to come to terms with what she experienced in Vietnam.

I've read many of Hannah's books and this one ranks right up there with my favorite, The Great Alone.