4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

4/5 stars

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We know from the description that Olivia falls and is brain dead and pregnant and her mom wants to know what happened the night she fell and if she was pushed.  I stayed up way past my bedtime to find out what happened that night!

This book is fast-paced, with hooks at the end of chapters to make you want to read the next chapter.  I don’t like thrillers where you feel that these things could never happen in real life, this book was not like that.  Everything in this book seemed plausible, like it really could happen.  I also really liked that there were so many different possibilities and what happened was not revealed until the end.

This was Christina McDonald’s first novel, but it really does not read like a first novel.  It reads as though the writer has a lot of experience knowing what works and what doesn’t and how to hook readers.

As the mom of two teen daughters, the thing I did not like about this novel was that the mom didn’t really know her daughter as well as she thought she did.  That made me look hard at my girls and my relationship with them and whether or not I know them well.  They have both just started college and that is a big adjustment with the possibility of new friends and new situations and I just hope they make good choices.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Gallery Books for my copy of this arc in exchange for my honest review.

From the Publisher:

Description

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4 star reviews, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

4/5 stars

I was almost done with this book and I thought: I am so grateful that Abbi Waxman has another book coming out in July (and I actually have that book in my Netgalley queue right now!!).

I absolutely love Abbi Waxman’s unique, quirky voice. She is witty and funny and sarcastic and with that she tackles difficult topics. She shows how we have to keep breathing and walking and moving forward and laughing even when life is hard and messy.

The Garden of Small Beginnings is the story of Lillian, whose husband died in a car accident in front of their house almost four years previous. She had an infant and a toddler at the time. She fell apart. She had to be hospitalized. Thank God for her sister who swept in and took care of everything. She and her sister are super close (as I was reading the book, I kept hoping that my girls will have a relationship like Lillian and her sister Rachel do when they are adults).

Lillian is an illustrator and even though the textbook publisher she works for is going under, she manages to land a job illustrating an encyclopedia of flowers and vegetables for a seed company. She agrees to take a gardening class taught by one of the seed company’s owners. She can bring her daughters and her sister wants to tag along, too. At the class they meet an assortment of people: a retired banker, a surfer, two retired teachers and a single mom from the projects. The teacher takes a liking a Lillian and she realizes that she is attracted to him as well, but she is not sure if she is ready to date yet. Together with their teacher, they form a bond, helping each other plant gardens at each of their homes, and being there for each other through big life events. It made me long to take a gardening class and hope I would become friends with all of the other participants.

If you have a sense of humor, you will like this book. If you are a mother, you will like this book. If you like books about messy life stuff, you will like this book. I really enjoyed it and I would not mind being friends with Abbi Waxman — I bet she is a blast to hang out with!!

4 star reviews, History, Non-fiction

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth

4/5 stars

I absolutely adore the PBS series Call the Midwife. I love the simple, wholesome way of life and the way they live their faith. I love seeing how people lived in a poor London ghetto in the 1950s and 1960s. I also love it because I feel like I get a glimpse into what life was like for my parents, who were in their late teens/early twenties in the 1950s and 1960s.

I LOVED the first book in the series Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth. After reading the first book, two of my real life friends said they would be interested in reading and discussing the second two books with me.

Shadows of the Workhouse is the second book in the series. It was difficult to read and very depressing. In the nineteenth century poverty was a huge concern in England. The Act of 1834 proposed workhouses to house all of the poor – the old, the sick, the chronically ill, the mentally impaired, children, as well as able-bodied men and women who could not find work and were therefore destitute. In order to ensure that this was a “place of last resort” the Act had conditions where the workhouses should not be pleasant, husbands and wives were separated, children were separated from their parents – in many cases never to see one another again. It was inflexible and harsh. People lived in fear of the workhouse and when someone found themselves unable to feed their children and had a child starve to death, they would have no choice but to knock on the workhouse door, knowing they may never again see their children. Everyone was given a cot, a rough Army blanket, rough unflattering clothing and three meals per day, though the meals were sparse and not very good. Discipline and punishment were harsh, often abusive.

This book tells the story of several people who lived in the workhouse. Jane was the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man and a servant girl. She never knew either of her parents. She had a fun spirit as a child that the workhouse master broke. It was horrifying and devastating to read. I only stayed with the book because one of my friends pointed out that if we want to make the world a better place, we need to be aware of all the facets of humanity, we can’t turn a blind eye to bad situations. Reading this with two friends definitely helped.

This book also tells the story of Peggy and Frank, an orphaned brother and sister who lived in a workhouse. A fish coster – someone who sells fish in an open-air market – comes to the workhouse to get a boy to work with him and help him and the Master of the Workhouse picks Frank. I found it fascinating to read about the life of a coster and how they go about their business. I found Frank’s story to be motivating and inspiring. The relationship between Peggy and Frank challenged by boundaries in a way similar to “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” by Brynn Greenwood and made me think, once again, that you can’t judge someone unless you walk in their shoes.

Another story was about how one of the nuns was accused of shoplifting and how that affected the convent and the community.

The final story was about a man whose father had died when he was young, in the 1800s. It told the story of what growing up poor in London in the 1800s was like and went on to show how the British military recruited poor young boys. As I read this story, I thought about how wonderful it is that Jennifer Worth wrote these books about people’s lives in a time gone by, stories that we would never know about otherwise, a way of life that is so different from how we live a century later and yet we can learn so much from how people lived in the past.

Although this book was difficult to read and depressing, I am glad that I read it. I really appreciate the two friends who read it with me. It really helped to have someone to sound off with about how upsetting things were in the story and to bring positive perspectives to light.

4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, Women's Fiction

My Favorite Half-Night Night Stand by Christina Lauren

4/5 stars

After reading Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth, I wanted to read something light and fun and easy. This book was just the ticket!

Millie is a college professor and she has a group of male college professor friends, one of whom, Reid, she find attractive, but she won’t admit that even to herself. When a college event is announced, the group of friends decides they all need a “plus one” and they all join a dating website. At first, Millie gets all the creepy weirdos, then she makes another profile using her middle name and is matched with the friend she is attracted to, she tries to give him hints that it is her using her typical joking fashion, but as smart as these PhDs are, they are socially inept and it’s a funny, cute story.

There is quite a bit of sexual situations in this book, so it’s not for people who don’t like that kind of thing in their books. But if you are looking for a light, fun read…this is a great pick!

4 star reviews, 4.5 star reviews, 5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, thriller, Women's Fiction

My Top Ten Books of 2019 + Honorable Mentions

I saw a lot of book bloggers and bookstagrammers doing this and I thought it would be fun. I learned a lot about what I like to read during the process. I like books that stretch me and challenge my views and make me think.

My favorite books this year:
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The Wife by Alafair Burke– This was my first book by Alafair Burke and I look forward to reading more. This book kept me guessing and I never could have predicted that ending!
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Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering – reminded me of what it was like to be in college and willing to do anything to be liked. I also had an eating disorder and was prone to self-destructive behavior at that time in my life.
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Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia – I fell in love with the outside-the-box thinkers and the rebel heroine and the Boundary Waters. I loved this story that kept me literally on the edge of me seat.
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Bonfire by Krysten Ritter – This book was like Erin Brockovich meets Mean Girls – the factory in town is poisoning people, the main character is assigned to check it out and encounters all the popular people from high school who are still acting like its high school. There is also a sweet romance.
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Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala – this book blew my mind and made me rage and cry and understand life for a smart, successful African immigrant who is gay and from a conservative family. This book challenged me in all the best ways.
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Only Child by Rhiannon Navin – the aftermath of a school shooting and how it effects one family. This felt real to me because we are not perfect in our life or our grief.
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The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy– this book reminded me of what it was like to be a new mother; it reminded me of the solid group of mom friends that I had when my girls were little. The ending was a surprise.
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Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jenny Worth – I LOVE this show and the book gets into more details about the people and what the East End of London was like in the 1950s. 🥂
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – this book showed me what racial profiling FEELS like.
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How to Walk Away by Katharine Center– all the feels and inspiration. There is so much about the human experience in this book. She is left by her fiance when she is in the hospital after becoming paralyzed in an accident that was her fiance’s fault, her fiance’s mother-in-law needs some throat-punching, there is a whole thing with her sister and a lot of sexual tension with her physical therapist.

I had a REALLY hard time narrowing it down to just TEN BOOKS, here are a few more that I REALLY enjoyed:

Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult – this book made me think, it made me see things from perspectives other than my own (as most of Jodi Picoult’s books do) and I love to understand different points of view and challenge my own.
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One Day in December  by Jodi Silver – Love is all around us. I loved this book. It felt real to me. Just seeing someone on the bus and falling in love and having it be easy wouldn’t seem real, but the way this story unfolded felt real and beautiful and at times it ripped my heart out.
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Winter in Paradise by Elin Hildebrand- after four glorious Christmases with the Quinn family, I didn’t think I could get as into a new family, but Irene is my mom-if-adult-kids role model, I love Huck and Ayres and I am Team Cash all the way. This book had me feeling all the feels and immersing myself in another family’s woes.
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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – As a child of the 70s who grew up watching Mountain Family Robinson and Grizzly Adams, I’ve always had a part of me that wanted to live off-the-grid and this book gave me a taste of what that might be like. Along with a beautiful love story.
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Watching You by Lisa Jewell – I know this has not been popular, but I loved it. I loved the characters and I found the ending unpredictable. 🥂
Did you read any of these? What did you think?

4 star reviews, Book reviews, Cookbooks, plant based, Self Care, vegetarian

Clean Enough by Katzie Guy-Hamilton

4/5 stars

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Katzie Guy-Hamilton is both a pasty chef and a health coach and her approach to eating is to eat clean…most of the time.  And to recognize that there are times when you want a treat and that is ok.  She provides recipes for both clean, healthy, wholesome plant-based meals and tasty treats that still honor your body’s need for nutrition.

I have an eating disorder.  It started as anorexia when I was 12 and, like many people with eating disorders it spirals from anorexia to bulimia.  I wish I could say that I am passed it, but I have had to accept that, for me, it will probably be something I will deal with for the rest of my life.  Although in all honesty, it is nothing like what it was when I was a teenager.  The thing that has made the biggest change for me is focusing on nourishing my body, focusing on vitamins and minerals.  That never occurred to me in the 1980s when I was growing up, it was all about calories, not nutrition.  For me, eating a whole food plant based diet has helped tremendously.  I have read of and spoken to a lot of other people who suffer with eating disorders who have found the same thing: whole food, plant based, the less animal products the better and I actually have a theory that there is something in processed foods that triggers binging and for those of us with eating disorders, after binging comes purging.  But I have no proof of that, it’s purely anecdotal.

I love Katzie Guy-Hamilton’s approach because I think it’s realistic.  I think eating whole food, plant based meals is important to get the vitamins, minerals and protein our bodies need.  But I think we all crave sweets once in a while and having some good recipes for fairly healthy sweets is imperative when those cravings hit.

My daughters and I tried the Cinnamon Carrot Lemonade and found it to be super delicious and refreshing!  I was also really excited to have an actual recipe for Gold Milk because I love ordering it in cafès but I had no idea how to make it.  Also, I am excited for a chai latte that uses rooibos instead of black tea since I don’t do much caffeine!

The granola recipe looks amazing–the ingredients are on my grocery list!  And I am buying apple cider for the overnight oats!  I have made overnight oats many times with almond milk, but never thought to add apple cider and I can not wait to try it!!

There are recipes for things like sumac and gigante beans–which I have never heard of and don’t know where to buy, which is kind of a turn off with cookbooks for me.  But I am excited to try both the Gentle Lentils and the Blistered Miso Sweet Potatoes.

The recipes for treats all look amazing!  I have been trying to eat vegan desserts lately and all of the recipes contain eggs and dairy, but I did earmark a couple for my daughters to try and they look delicious!

I would like to thank Netgalley and The Experiment Publishing for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell

4/5 stars

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From the publisher:

When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She’s the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.

Convinced there’s a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning…and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.

My Review:

When Lori from GetRedPR emailed me about this book, I instantly knew that I wanted to read it.  First of all, I love David Bell’s writing.  Secondly, the premise of the story had me intrigued – was it the same woman?  Two different women?  Why do they look alike?  Why did she have Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket?
This book really kept me going.  There are a lot of twists and turns and things I did not see coming.
The story is told from Nick’s point of view and really lets the reader into the mind of this very normal, relatable, real-seeming, recently divorced man with a stepson.  Nick himself has had issues with the police with regard to the stepson.  Now that this woman he saw in the grocery store is dead, he becomes a suspect for the police.  Nick knows he did not kill her and feels a connection to her since she looks like his college girlfriend who he never got over and he wants to find out why she was looking for him.
David Bell’s writing is so simple and easy to read.  There is not a lot of fluff and it doesn’t get bogged down in long descriptions or explanations, the writing just flows and makes it easy to keep reading and stay up well past a reasonable hour to find out what the heck is going on and you will do that with this book!
4 star reviews, Book reviews, Home, Keeping House

The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

4/5 stars

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This book caught my eye because about 8 years ago, I was a homeschool mom blogger and I came across a 40 Bags in 40 Days Lenten challenge.  Each day for the forty days of Lent, you fill one bag with stuff to donate.  It changed my life!  Having less stuff was very liberating!  It was easier to keep my house clean which meant I had more time for other interests.

A few years later, the Kon Marie Simple Art of Tidying Up came out and I spent hours picking up my things and deciding if I loved them or not.  The biggest change this brought is that my husband embraced the idea of rolling his t-shirts which allowed him to see ALL of them when he opened his drawer – he was so excited about this that he has actually brought other men (who wanted to see) his rolled t-shirt drawer and they all exclaimed about how it must make packing a breeze and eliminate wrinkles when traveling.

Joshua Becker has written the newest book that will encourage Americans to have less stuff.  Joshua encourages us to realize that having less stuff will allow us more time to pursue other interests.  What I liked most about this book was that he encourages you to get the whole family involved and talk about this.  His advice on talking about it as a family was very helpful and his method of looking at stuff as Benefit or Burden was insightful.

The Minimalist Home sets up a plan to tackle your home room by room or space by space.  There are checklists and action plans for each room that I found really helpful.

After having done the 40 Bags in 40 Days and reading about the Kon Marie method, I thought I had decluttered, but this book actually made me take a closer look, which I greatly appreciate and I feel much lighter as I scheduled a pickup of goods I will donate.

I received a digital advance copy of this book from Netgalley and WalterBrook Multnomah Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.

4 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, Keeping House, Minimalism, plant based, Sustainability

The Sustainable Home by Christine Liu

4/5 stars

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Several years ago, I was a homeschool mom blogger and I took on the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge for Lent.  Basically what you do is fill up 1 bag a day of stuff to donate (or discard) for each of the 40 days of Lent.  I felt so much lighter after I got rid of that stuff.  It was so much easier to keep my house clean.  So I just kept going with it.  It has made us be more intentional with what we bring in to our home and what we purchase.

Over the last couple of years, I have become more and more aware of how much is being wasted in our society.  The rate at which we are redecorating, stores that sell fashionable items for dirt cheap, all of this is contributing to waste.  What are we going to do with it all?  It won’t decompose.  Where on the planet will it all go?  We are depleting resources by continually creating these things.  The working conditions of the people making these products is often deplorable.  I want to be more intentional and so when I saw this book available on Netgalley, I knew I wanted to get my hands on a copy.

Christine Liu does a great job of explaining the global issues of consumerism and materialism.

Then she goes on to explain the benefits of a decluttered space with useful and meaningful items.

Which space would you rather work in?

I used to admire the one on the left, but think that was not where someone actually worked, it was just a design space.  I have found that when you get rid of what you don’t need, you can have a workspace like the one on the left.

Christine Liu gives a practical guide to how to decide what to keep and what to toss and gives suggestions on what to do with the things you decide not to keep.

She then goes into energy consumption in the home and making your home more energy efficient.  She discusses using plants in the home.  She goes into detail about being sustainable in the kitchen, from diets that sustain the planet to growing your own food to how to store your food to what to do with food waste.  There are recipes for several plant based meals.  She gives advice on clothing that is sustainable for the planet and what to look for.  Christine Liu advises getting higher quality pieces that last longer.  There is advice on caring for your clothing and laundering your clothing.  She also discusses bedding and has a recipe for making your own room spray.  From there she goes into being more sustainable in the bathroom from skin care and body care recipes and ideas to hair care and water usage.  Ms Liu also discusses greening the workspace, dining out, going places and taking action.  This is an extremely comprehensive guide to living a lifestyle that is better for the planet as well as our bank account.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

4 star reviews, Book reviews, Health, New Age

Tough Truths: The Ten Happiness Lessons We Don’t Talk About by Deirdre Maloney

4/5 stars

D1B60F47-AA60-41A9-9B70-5BD04AC04B50.JPGThis is a tiny little book.  It’s the size of my hand only about 100 pages.  You can read it in one sitting if you want.  I chose to read a chapter, digest it and then read the next.  My husband read it with me and we discussed it, which was interesting.

There were a lot of interesting things in here.  A happy person is happy at least 70% of the time.  Some of our unhappiness may stem from our beliefs about what we “should” do.  I really like that the author keeps it quick and to the point, with one simple example.  This book is easy to read and understand and easy to apply the principles of happiness to your own life so you can be happier.

My husband and I read this book together.  When he would get home from work, I would read a chapter and we would discuss it and discuss how it applied to ourselves individually and as a couple.  It was helpful to discuss this book with someone and to see their perspective on things.  This book really doesn’t take long to read so I recommend it to everyone because I am sure we would all like to be happier!

From the Publisher:

Let’s get down to it. Everyone wants to be happy. Seriously.

Happiness may mean different things to different people, and those different people may go about it differently, but in the end we all want it. We all want to feel good.

Despite this…despite us all working so hard to find it, the reality is that many, many of us aren’t happy. Or we’re not as happy as we could be be…as often as we could be. Somehow happiness, a simple concept we learned as children, has become an elusive and frustrating aspiration. And, far too often and without even knowing it, the thing standing smack dab in its way is us.

Tough Truths is a little book that packs a happiness punch, tackling the topic by giving the straight scoop on how we tend to contribute to it…and get in its way. It also provides specific tips, examples, and even one simple mathematical ratio to help you get to greater happiness.

Because, seriously, who doesn’t want that?

I received this book from GetRedPR, Deirdre Maloney and Business Solutions Press in exchange for my honest review.