Thursday, July 20, 2017

Book Beginnings/The Friday 56 July 21, 2017

Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader. The idea is to share a sentence or so from the first page and the 56th page of the book you are currently reading!  Also, I will now also include a brief synopsis.
The Life She Was Given

From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets—beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time—and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

Beginning of the Book:
July 1931
Blackwood Manor Horse Farm
Dobbin's Corner, New York
Nine-year old Lilly Blackwood stood in the attic dormer of Blackwood Manor for what felt like the thousandth time wishing the window would open so she could smell the outdoors. Tomorrow was her birthday and she couldn't think of a better present.

Page 56: 
Chapter 6

The trees surrounding Blackwood Manor were black and bare making the estate look even grayer.  The house seemed as overpowering as the day it did the day Julia left, grim and bulky, the color of the winter sky.

What do you think would you continue to read this?  I have actually only 1/3 left to go; I'm hoping to finish before the weekend, but then that means tomorrow.  Not sure about that, but definitely before the weekend is over.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

June Wrap-Up

Wow, I thought May was a good reading month with 12 books that I finished, but in June, I read even more 15 books finished.  Unfortunately, they were a mixed bag with book ratings ranging from 5 stars down to 1 star and at least one that I DNF'ed.  Quantity, definitely does not equal quality, But here is what I read and my review for them.

Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II

I listened to this as an audiobook. Although parts of this book were interesting, it was not quite what I was expecting or what I hoped for. A good part of the book (about a third to half) discussed the history of Japan and also, China to a lesser degree. I was hoping for a lot more people's personal experiences before, during, and after the Japanese internment. For this reason, I can't give this more than 2 stars, maybe 2.5, but Goodreads doesn't allow half stars to be reflected in each person's rating. Overall, I was disappointed in this book.

2 stars

Second Chance Summer (Cedar Ridge, #1)

I listened to this book on audio. This was my first book by Jill Shalvis. For the first half of the book, this book was merely OK, but I enjoyed the second half and will continue reading this series.

I will be listening to the 2nd book in this series in July.  

3 stars

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child

My first 5 star book of the month

Excellent book! I listened to this as an audio book. At first, I didn't care for the narrator, but either she improved as the book went on or I just got use to her. It was a very interesting story of growing up in amidst the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her life was good and normal for the first nine years of her life, but then her family had to flee from the war-torn country.  She had to deal with several family deaths, moving to several African countries, and finally resettlement in the U.S. (Rochester, NY) through the refugee program. She thought life in America would be perfect and learned there were many unexpected challenges. 4.75 stars.


Pretending to Dance

I received an ARC of this book quite awhile ago, but never got to read it. In the meantime, I have been able to get an audio version of it on Overdrive. It was really good and kept my attention and wondering what it was that made her flee her North Carolina home and sever all ties with her family after her father's death from Multiple Sclerosis. The only thing that I really didn't like in the book happened in the very beginning of the book. when she and her husband were interviewed by a social worker, because they were wanting to adopt a child. The social worker asked her and her husband why they can't have "children of their OWN'. Being an adoptive parent, any "good" and professional social worker with any knowledge of adoption should know that this is not an appropriately phrased question to ask. A more appropriate question would have been to ask why they could not have biological children. When you adopt, the adoptive child(ren) become your OWN children, just not biologically. Other than this, the adoption storyline was very enjoyable and appropriate. I recommend this book and will look into other books by Diane Chamberlain.

4 stars

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

Wow! What an excellent book! I don't think I ever heard of these "radium girls" and there was even a company here in Illinois that employed these dial painters, who used paint containing radium. Ths book was extremely well-researched and although this is nonfiction, most of this reads as fiction, but it is true. It was a page-turner and often kept me up somewhat later than I usually do. Definitely 5 stars.


This book was just barely ok. There were times when it was interesting, but those times were too few; overall, I really would have been fine not even reading this. I can't say much without giving something away, but I feel it was totally unnecessary to include in the story in the first place. If you've read the book, you should know what I'm alluding to. Also, I feel authors sometimes include certain storylines because it is the in thing at the time.

1.5 stars

If I Run (If I Run, #1)

This is a really good book that I listened to on audioI never read anything by this author before and with this author marked as writing Christian fiction, I wasn't sure what to expect. This was also one of the free selections in this summer's Sync audiobook teen program. But I was pleasantly surprised that this was a very good suspense and I would never have known it was a Christian author who wrote this if I had not read that she was. Kaycee finds her friend murdered and ends up the main suspect, so she flees the state in hopes of figuring out how to bring the killers to justice. This is actually the first book in a series and ends in a cliffhanger. 4.5 stars

My Happy Days in Hollywood: A Memoir

A solid 3 stars. This book was interesting, but nothing particularly memorable about it. It was written, as well as narrated by the author, Garry Marshall, who has a thick New York accident, which at times made it hard to understand for this Midwesterner. He was the creator of Happy Days, in addition to directing some other tv series and many movies, the most famous of which was Pretty Woman. I also just found out he had passed away last year (2016) at the age of 82.

The Red Umbrella

I first heard of this book on Raul's BookTube channel, The Latin Lector. He raved about this book and I really enjoyed it. It is set in the early 60s in Cuba and the U.S after Castro was in power. I never really learned about that period in history in school so it was very interesting and informative. I just loved the ending. Since this book was released last year, maybe the author will write a sequel.

4.5 stars

The Cherry Cola Book Club

This was a totally mediocre book. The premise was good, a librarian's attempt to save a small town library, but the delivery fell flat for me. Very disappointed.

2 stars, but that may be generous.

A Stardance Summer (Eternity Springs)

Another winner by Emily March in her Eternity Springs series.  I was a latecomer to the series, starting with the 7th book and trying to catch up on those first 6 ones that I missed.  Because there are 4 books that I have not yet read, I was confused at first with all the names and where they fit into the series, but for the most part I figured it out before long and enjoyed the series.  The synopsis on Goodreads is a bit misleading, since it says Brick's ex-girlfriend shows up unexpectedly, which never happens.  There are several storylines in this book and all of them are enjoyable.  I look forward to the next book in the series.

4 stars

All the Summer Girls

This was barely even an okay book; I listened to this on audio in one day, otherwise I'd have DNF'ed it long before I finished.  Even a day and half after finishing when I was writing my review, my memories of what this book is about are waning and as I type this up several weeks later, I can't really remember much at all.  It wasn't until the last third of the book that it became somewhat interesting.

2 stars on Goodreads, but that's generous!

Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education

I thought this book might be interesting.  It discusses how education, especially college education, keeps lower-class children from reaching their potential.  But this book is very academic and is full of statistics that one does not remember after reading/hearing it.  (I listened to the audio version.)
There were a couple of examples/studies of actual people that were interesting.  Ashley's story was told in the first chapter of the book and I figured there would be a wrap-up at the end of the book; that was the only reason I continued to listen to the entire book.  By the time I finished the book, there had not been any wrap-up to Ashley's story and I felt cheated. 
The book was way too long and seemed to repeat itself, but just used different words to do so.  Also, the audiobook was read by the author and I found him an extremely boring and dry narrator. 

1 star.

Spring/Summer 2017 St. Martin's First Sampler

I have enjoyed the Book Samplers which were provided by Buzz Books showcasing a variety of their books for the next two seasons, so I was extremely excited when I saw that St. Martin's Press was doing this also. But to be honest, I really did not love any of these samples. The last one in the book, Stars Over Clear Lake looks like one of the more promising, as well as The Last Place You Look, but I am not that excited for any of them. I actually was somewhat disappointed in these selections and St. Martin's Press is one of my favorite publishers. I received this book as an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.

2 stars

By Starlight

I haven't read a Dorothy Garlock book in over 15 years, but I found I still enjoy her. I listened to this one on audio. This is not my favorite historical era, Prohibition, but I did find it pretty good.

3 stars.

I read/listened to a several excellent to very good books, a few stinkers, and some that were good  and others were only okay.  My favorite book that I read in June was The Radium Girls, which I definitely recommend!  How Dare The Sun Rise was my favorite book that I listened to in June, followed closely by If I Run.  I also recommend these, either as audios or actually read.

Sorry  this June Wrap-Up is so late this month.  I think, I will be stepping back a bit with my overall blogging.  I want to of course keep up my wrap-up, but I may not be posting every Wednesday and Friday, as I have been doing.  I'm feeling a bit burnt out and will from time to time post on these days, but I want to post because I want to not because I feel I have to!  Blogging is suppose to be fun and lately, I haven't been enjoying it as much and since I don't get paid to do it, I really need to make sure I'm enjoying myself

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

WWW Wednesday July 12, 2017


It's time for the weekly meme, WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
All you need to do is answer the following questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
So let's get onto it!

What are you currently reading?  I'm still reading Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif, but I'll finish this on Thursday, possibly even Wednesday, since I have only 30% left to finish.

What did you recently finish?  I just finished My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shavis on audiobook  earlier today.  I tried listening to Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, but I think I'll read this one instead; it seems they alternate viewpoints between WWII France and modern day and it was a bit confusing, but I think reading it will be much better and I've heard so many good things about it.

What do you think you'll read next?  I think I'll pick up the ARC, The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman and my next audiobook will be The Passenger by Lisa Lutz.

What have you been reading?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Beginnings/The Friday 56 July 7. 2017

Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader. The idea is to share a sentence or so from the first page and the 56th page of the book you are currently reading!  Also, I will now also include a brief synopsis.

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening

A ferociously intimate memoir by a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who became the unexpected leader of a courageous movement to support women’s right to drive.

Manal al-Sharif grew up in Mecca the second daughter of a taxi driver, born the year fundamentalism took hold. In her adolescence, she was a religious radical, melting her brother’s boy band cassettes in the oven because music was haram: forbidden by Islamic law. But what a difference an education can make. By her twenties she was a computer security engineer, one of few women working in a desert compound that resembled suburban America. That’s when the Saudi kingdom’s contradictions became too much to bear: she was labeled a slut for chatting with male colleagues, her teenage brother chaperoned her on a business trip, and while she kept a car in her garage, she was forbidden from driving down city streets behind the wheel.

Daring to Drive is the fiercely intimate memoir of an accidental activist, a powerfully vivid story of a young Muslim woman who stood up to a kingdom of men—and won. Writing on the cusp of history, Manal offers a rare glimpse into the lives of women in Saudi Arabia today. Her memoir is a remarkable celebration of resilience in the face of tyranny, the extraordinary power of education and female solidarity, and the difficulties, absurdities, and joys of making your voice heard.

Beginning of the Books:
  The secret police came for me at two in the morning. The second knock on the door quickly followed the first..  They were loud hard knocks, the kind that radiate out and shake the door frame.  My five year old son  was asleep but I was awake still, sitting up with my brother

My thoughts:  The secret police is never a good thing, especially in Muslim nations.

Page 56: I bled for three days; my sister told me afterward that my face turned yellow. They couldn't take me to the doctor; although there is no official rule banning female circumcision, female circumcision can still be treated as a crime in many Saudi hospitals.  

My thoughts: And a crime it should be.  This book certainly will not help people to see Islam in a better light.  It will just give us another view of why it is barbaric.  Thank goodness, it is not the Friday 55; I definitely would not have been able to include any of the description of the actual act here.  It was difficult enough to read.  Ick, I really did not need to have the process described to me.  

I hope this does not get any more graphic or I may not be able to continue.  What do you think would you continue to read this?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

WWW July 5, 2017


It's time for the weekly meme, WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
All you need to do is answer the following questions:
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
So let's get onto it!

What are you currently reading?  I almost forgot today was Wednesday, all due to the holiday, it messed up my sense of time,  I am currently reading Daring to Drive by Manal Al-Sharif,  I literally just finished my audiobook.  So not listening to anything at this time.

What did you recently finish?  I just finished a few minutes ago Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson.  I also finished the audiobook, By Starlight by Dorothy Garlock and the ARC, Reading With Patrick: A Teacher, A Student, and A Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo.

What do you think you'll read next?  I'm still pretty early into Daring to Drive, but I'm planning to pick up the ARC, The Bookshop at Water's End by Patti Callahan Henry.  I think I may start listening to Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.

What have you been reading?