Sunday, July 12, 2020

Quarter 2 Wrap UP and July - September Reading List

Well Quarter 2 didn't go quite as planned for reading for me.  I just think too much stress during isolation and then the stress of everything to relearn and do for reopening the dayhome just made it so that I did a lot more playing of computer games than I did reading.  Out of 16 books I had chosen (a couple of which rolled over from the 1st quarter), I only read 8.  I DNF'd one.  I just couldn't get into the writing style.  Out of 4 from the library I only read one.  It was ok and I just didn't feel like finishing the series.  Out of the ones I did read most were good, with one a disappointment and 2 were excellent surprises.  My favorites of the quarter were "The Dream Daughter" by Diann Chamberlain and "Unshaken" by Francine Rivers.

Hopefully, this 3rd quarter will bring more reading motivation!  You can find my April - June Reading List here.  I have highlighted the ones I finished.  And all reviews are here.  

So for my July - September Reading List things have changed a bit as review books are no longer available t me.  A fact that breaks my heart!  But it's not like I don't have other choices!  I have chosen the following: 

GOAL:  1 book a month from my box of longest owned and unread books :

          -Never Change by Elizabeth Berg (carried over)
          -The Scroll by Grant R Jeffrey and Alton L. Gansky
           -Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany   DNF'D
          -The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd          

GOAL:  2 books per month from my own more recent piles:

           -The Secret Wife by Gil Paul (carried over)
           -The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (carried over)
          -Distant Echoes (Aloha Reef Series) by Colleen Coble
          -Black Sands (Aloha Reef Series) by Colleen Coble
          -Dangerous Depths (Aloha Reef Series) by Colleen Coble
          -Midnight Sea (Aloha Reef Series) by Colleen Coble

GOAL:  1 book per month from library TBR:

          -A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
          -Day After Night  by Anita Diamont
          -The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

GOAL:  1 novella each month from Lineage of Grace series for personal devotion:

          -Unspoken (Bathsheba) by Francine Rivers (carried over)
          -Unafraid (Mary) by Francine Rivers (carried over)

GOAL:  finish 1 audiobook
          - Liturgy of the Ordinary-Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren 

      Bonus:  Also finished Unglued by Lisa TerKeurst

Fingers crossed I can whip thru these this summer!


Saturday, April 18, 2020

April - June Reading List

Hi Readers.  April is here.  Well technically it's here and already chugging along into it's second week.  I am very late with this post but I just have not been able to concentrate with writing posts.  It is what it is but I still want to record a reading list.  And I want to choose books that will fullfill my reading goals this year.  As I said in my 1st quarter update I didn't complete all my goals for the various reasons stated within that post.  I have carried over the ones I didn't complete into this list.  Hopefully I have a really good push and can finish those and be doing so well I can even add onto those titles.
As of now my library is closed so I can't put holds or pick up any books but I happened to have gone to the library a few weeks before the shut down so have some books from there that I will use for this quarter.  They weren't technically on my library list, I just saw them on the shelf and nabbed them because they looked interesting and were by an author I enjoy.  Now I'm glad that I did.

GOAL: 1 book a month from my longest owned and unread books:

          -The Pilot's Wife 
          -Sins of the Fathers by James Scott Bell (carried over from 1st quarter) (DNF'd)
          -Never Change by Elizabeth Berg

GOAL: 2 books per month from my owned piles:

          -The Secret Wife by Gil Paul (carried over)
          -A Proper Pursuit 
          -The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
          -Heidi by Johanna Spyri (couldn't find a link to my specific version) 
          -The Water Keeper by Charles Martin


GOAL: 1 book per month from my library list

          -Murder at the Courthouse by A.H. Gabhart
          - Murder Comes by Mail by A.H. Gabhart
          -Murder is No Accident by A.H. Gabhart

GOAL: for devotional type reading 1 novella/study per month from the Lineage of Grace books

          -Unspoken (Bathsheba)
          -Unafraid (Mary)

So that is my list for the next 3 months.  Maybe with me now not working I can get to more.  Time will tell.  As before I will highlight the books read.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2020 Book Reads and Reviews

1.  Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

Completed:  January 17, 2020

Rating:  8/10

Us Against You continues the story of the Beartown hockey after the tragic events that occurred to split the team and the town in two. As Peter, the general manager, struggles to rebuild a team who's major players have all left to play for the neighboring town's team instead, forces are working against him. That is until a slick politician comes along with some investors who want to rebuild what the town has lost. But there is a price to pay. And is Peter willing to sacrifice all to stay in Beartown and keep his job. Peter will have to find new players not only willing to play but good enough to stand up to the former players of Beartown team now playing for the rival Hed team. As the big game approaches, the two teams and towns stir up the rivalry with not only verbal assaults but pranks that start to ramp up and take dangerous turns and what started as rivalry turns to hatred. When a major player's deepest secret is exposed, it's like another bomb has gone off in the midst of the team. By the time the big game is played someone will be dead, and residents and players of both towns will have to look deep to what they have allowed hockey to become.

 Once again Fredrik Backman brings a story that goes way beyond the surface. He has a great talent at going into hearts and attitudes and human nature and exposing both the ugly and the beautiful. He writes characters that have both good and bad, and makes them relateable. In this sequel he again takes something that should be simple and enjoyable, a sport, and totally exposes underlying and complex attitudes and feelings that we as a society have allowed into the role that sports and competition in general plays in our lives and brings it to the surface through the characters. It is an emotional ride through story telling going way beyond the sport that he uses as a base for everything else. For the most part I enjoyed it, it made me think, it took my emotions all over the board and drew me in to the characters. This author has amazing character development even though the book does deal with lots of different characters. The story has moved along from the last book and some storylines wrapped up and new ones were introduced through new characters and because there is a book 3 to this whole thing a few storylines were kinda left with the reader wondering what could happened to certain characters. There is some delving into politcal and moral issues worked into this story. Backman's style is a bit different and his way of using leading sentences to hold the reader captive and wondering is for the most part ingenious but I have to admit that toward the end of the book I felt he was way over using it. The story is shocking in it's progression of violence both in the portrayal and in the sense that it totally shows how we don't believe how we as individuals could ever play a part in that or get to that point yet here we are as a society. I was glad that the proliferation of f-bombs and swearing that I found hard in the first book were very much toned down in this one. If you read and enjoyed Beartown, which is a must read to be able to understand these storylines, this will take you farther into the exploration of human nature through a town totally invested in it's hockey team.

2.  The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Completed:  January 30, 2020

Rating:  9.5/10

In 1908 Thea Reid finds herself in Pleasant Valley, Wisconson taking Memento Mori photographs, photos of the deceased. But what really brought her to Pleasant Valley was a search for her mother who gave her to an orphanage when she was small. She'd fallen into her odd career when a traveling photographer and his wife needed a helper and took her in. But now they were both deceased, and taking over the photography business was a means to an end. But settling in Pleasant Valley is proving very strange. The town is weird, divided down the middle supposedly for religious reasons, but rumor hath it it's more of a family fued involving murder with the victim haunting the streets. When the clues to her mom lead her to the local asylum Thea uses her photographic talent to gain access to the asylum. But there is more happening there that she bargained for and the secrets kept within may just be her undoing. A century later, Heidi Lane is also headed to Pleasant Valley after receiving a very odd, obscure letter from her mother. Her mom is in a home facing dementia so getting the letter asking her to come is strange especially when Heidi has been estranged from the family, including her sister, for many years. But as usual trouble seems to follow her and when strange things start occuring her urge to run as usual wants to take over especially when she starts see a ghostly woman rumored to be someone called Misty Wayfair. Will her urge to run or her deep desire to find out what her Mom's letter meant win out?

 I am not a fan of ghost stories so I was really reluctant to read this book but it seemed to get such great reviews I thought I'd give it try. And I'm glad I did. It was well written and really grabbed my attention with it's gothic and modern day settings. The two women's quests to seek their identities was compelling and the stories of both kept me turning the pages. The setting of the asylum and the curse of Misty Wayfair lent a creepiness to the story and kept me turning the pages to find out the truth and how the two stories were connected. I loved how the author was able to weave into the story how asylums used to be and how those with mental illness, depression and sometimes even medical things such as seizures were treated and experimented on. This is the second book I've read by this author and I've enjoyed both.

3.  Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

Completed:  February 14, 2020

Rating:  5.5/10

Aimee Tierney seems to have everything going her way. She's a chef at her parent's restaurant which she loves and she's about to marry her childhood sweetheart. Everything is going her way up until a couple of months before her wedding day. On a business trip to Mexico, one which she tried to talk him out of, James Donato, her fiance, falls off a fishing boat and goes missing. Now two months later, James body has been found and instead of walking down the aisle at her wedding she is burying James on her wedding day. When a stranger approaches her in the parking lot afterwards the things that are said to her rock her world even more but can they be true? Aimee struggles to move on but what the stranger told her eats at her. And even as she rebuilds not only her career but her emotional life, she is drawn to search out answers into James accident and disappearance. And the secrets she finds will make her question everything about her life with James.

 The premise of this book sounded so interesting but, for me, it fell down in areas of the execution. The exploration of grief and loss from a tragic event was good and you felt for Aimee as she tried to work through not only the tragic loss of her fiance but also all of her dreams as every area of her world comes crashing down. There was however, so much that didn't work for me with the story. Reactions, and in some cases, almost non-reactions to major events, simplistic solving of situations, answers that were a little too convenient made it feel forced and rushed. There is a book 2 and 3 and the second deals with the perspective of another of the major characters to the major secrets so maybe when read together the story would come together better. But as it read in just this first book, for me, it just didn't quite gel.

4.  The Victory Club by Robin Lee Hatcher

Completed:  February 21, 2020

Rating:  9/10

As WWII takes the men away to fight the battle overseas, this is the story of 4 women fighting the battle on the homefront. They all work Dottie, Margo, Lucy and Penelope are work at the same factory at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. Their interactions at lunch has inspired some of them to start a "Victory Club" to help people out during these trying times. It was Lucy's idea and she wants a relevant way to put into practice her Christian faith. But as the war continues and each woman tries to cope with what they have been handed in life, trials and the choices they make will threaten to derail their faith.

 This is very definitely under the category of Christian fiction. I really liked it. This is one of my favorite Christian authors because she really has the ability to present the Christian faith walked out in the trials and testings of everyday life. Robin Lee Hatcher was able to have insight into the very real situations, temptations and feelings that might have presented themselves to women of that era that were left to hold down the fort at home while the men were fighting in WWII. I liked how she didn't sugar coat trials but made them very relatable. This book was an example of why I love solid well written Christian fiction that shows our faith being walked out in everyday situations and circumstances. Just like real life doesn't always have the perfect ending, not every situation in the story was wrapped up with a pretty bow and I appreciated that in this story as it left me to think out what I might have done and how I would have reacted. This was a great read to remind us that the Christian faith is walked out one step at a time with the choices that we make when faced with the circumstances life brings us.

5.  Unveiled (Lineage of Grace Series) by Francine Rivers

Rating:  9.5/10
Tamar did not want to get married at 14, especially to Judah's oldest son Er, whom she had heard was a very cruel man. But because of the traditions of the day, Tamar has no choice in the matter. Her father has made what he considers a good match and her mother won't back her up but insists she not shame the family. As she very quickly finds out the rumors of Er being cruel are all true and she starts to bear the brunt of his meanness. And on top of it her in-laws give in to Er, not ever giving him consequences for his behavior. Her father-in-law, Judah, is spineless around him, and her mother-in-law dotes on him and is bitter towards Tamar. Tamar is for all intents and purposes alone. Even as she hides her fear of Er, she does her best to be obedient and a good wife, hoping she produces the heir they want. When Er unexpectedly dies, according to tradition his brother must take her for a wife and produce the heir that Er had not. But Onan is also cruel, though in a different way, and Tamar is left with no hope of redeeming herself by giving Judah descendants. When Onan also dies, she is banished back home much to the shame of her family and to her own disgrace. But Tamar holds out hope of being redeemed and concocts a plan to get justice for herself.

 I had forgotten to write a review of this first book in the Lineage of Grace series by Francine Rivers. The series are five novellas of five unlikely women that changed eternity. The author dedicated this story of Tamar to all those who have been abused and used and yearn for justice. Tamar's character, in spite of the horrid times for women, managed to have dignity and hope in the midst of all the cruelty and injustice. The one thing I did feel a lot reading this story was anger. Anger at the way women were treated in that day, anger at Judah for being so spineless, anger at Tamar's family, and anger that history was just so demeaning to women in general. It is just a story of the bible that is hard to put into perspective because of the content and the times. But Tamar's character in the midst of it all is what stood out for me. She was strong in her own way and managed to be faithful, dedicated and the author managed to give her dignity and convey her story as one of hope. The novella starts with a section called "Setting the Scene" (as does all the books in this series) that gives the historical perspective of the times and what was going on and finishes with an epilogue that tells what happened to the characters later in the biblical story and how the main character came to be in the lineage of Jesus. There is then a Seek and Find section that has questions to apply the story to one's life today.

6.  If I Run by Terri Blackstock

Completed:  March 2, 2020

Rating:  9.5/10

7.  If I'm Found by Terri Blackstock

Completed:  March 7, 2020

Rating:  9.5/10

8.  If I Live by Terri Blackstock

Completed:  March 12, 2020

  Rating:  10/10   


If I Run series is a trilogy composed of "If I Run", "If I'm Found" and "If I Live". When Casey Cox comes across a friend's murder scene, everything in her says to run. Going to police isn't an option as they have failed her in the past. In her mind, she must run and hide until she can find the truth. But her DNA is all over the murder scene so local police are on the hunt for her. Meanwhile her deceased friend's parents have brought in a retired war veteran to find Casey while local police work the murder case at home. Dylan Roberts worked to solve murder cases for the military and he is good at what he does but PTSD has marred his life. Everything in him wants to prove he is still good at what he does and make it onto a police force so finding Casey is imperative. But there are many contradictions to this young woman that do not make sense. Nothing about her and the trail she leaves points to a killer. But if she's not the killer why is she running? But for Casey hiding is something harder than she ever thought possible as her very nature that cannot turn away from helping others reveals her and she must flee yet again. Everyone has a stake in finding Casey including the mayor's reputation but can Dylan make it past Casey's survival smarts and all the other obstacles thrown his way?

This was an edge of your seat suspense/cat and mouse thriller. I reviewed the three together because you have to read them all as the stories are one continuation of the whole revealing more about the truth as you go. And can we just stop and acknowledge the awesome covers of these books? Each is a really great cover on it's own but when put together they make one picture as a whole. Even the spines do that. Kudos to the creator of the covers. The author wove each of the books together well while building upon each book to the conclusion. I read them back to back as I couldn't put it down and didn't want the story interrupted. The story grabs the reader right from the beginning and keeps the pages turning as Casey is in hiding while trying to find evidence to exonerate herself and reveal the real killer and Dylan is trying to find Casey. All the characters are well developed even the minor ones and I really started to care what happens to Casey and Dylan as the story unfolds. They are relatable as each tries to deal with what has happened in their pasts while trying to live through the next day. The author stated in the back that she wanted to write a story based on a female fugitive modeled after "The Fugitive" tv series back in the day. I thought she did a great job in creating a character who must prove her innocence even as she has to keep uprooting and recreating herself in the various communities she has tried to melt into.  

9.  Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Completed:  April 7, 2020

Rating:  8/10

It is 1937 and Pearl and her sister May are teenagers growing up in Shanghai. Their family was well off but Pearl has been noticing a few things that are a bit unusual such as things missing from the home and certain servants no longer around. But Pearl and her sister have little time to really think deeply about such things. They are modern girls who are also models, beautiful girls, for the Chinese calendars so they are living a carefree, independent, party filled life. That is until the day they come home to find their father has "given" them in marriage to the sons of a Chinese American business man in order to pay off his gambling debts. As they plot a way to get out of what their father has done and make their escape, the Japanese attack Shanghai and they make the life altering decision to go to America after all, but always with plans to escape their new father in law once they are there. Once on American soil however, it is easier said than done. Being the older sister Pearl has always felt a deep need to protect May yet their deep seated rivalries and jealousies follow them to America in spite of them having to cling to one another in order to survive. Life will mean sacrifices and tough choices but can they look past their own inner turmoils to help each other?

 Using Shanghai and California as a backdrop to the story, this book takes you on an immigration journey of two sisters. It was fascinating to read of the Chinese experience as they came to America and the struggles they faced and the prejudice they encountered in trying to fit in and make a life. Many of my assumptions were confronted about this group of immigrants and their journeys. Though I found the first part of the book a little slower in reading, there is lots of description of their privileged life ,which for me was a bit tedious, but it becomes fundamental to the story in order for the reader to understand how hard their new life would be for them to acclimate to and how they had to change and adapt. The book, for me, really picked up once the war began. Though it is a quick read, it is not an easy read. With the start of the war, comes some very horrific things taking place and happening to them individually and there is lots of attitudes and terms that would be considered politically incorrect in this day and age but is historically correct to the times. Though the story deals with very hard events throughout the girl's lives it is at it's core a story of sisterly love and commitment to each other no matter what. I would not call this a happy, fluffy read. The girls do not live an easy life in America and their own relationship is very complicated. But I learned a lot about another culture's experience with trying to fulfill their American Dream while staying true to their roots and coming to an understanding of what family is. The book ended abruptly for me with loose ends but then I found out there is a second book continuing the story so I will read that to find out what happens.

 Great historical fiction but with some trigger warnings to harsh attitudes towards women, and abuses perpetrated through war if you are sensitive to that.

10. Heidi by Johanna Spryi

Completed:  April 16, 2020

Rating:  10/10

As a young child, Heidi was orphaned. Her paternal grandfather lives in the mountains of the Swiss Alps all by himself. Being a loner is his choice as he has become angry at life. The villagers know to leave him well enough alone. But the endearing Heidi soon works her way into his heart as she adopts his beloved mountain with as much fervor as he himself does. But when her aunt, who dropped her off in the first place, comes to collect her to live with a rich family in the city to be a companion to their handicapped daughter, both Heidi and Grandfather want nothing to do with it. But Grandfather gets convinced he is being selfish keeping Heidi on a mountain and finally lets her go. Though Heidi befriends Klara, her heart is still on the mountain with her Grandfather and her health starts to suffer due to homesickness. Upon Klara's Doctor's recommendations Heidi is finally allowed to go home to her beloved Grandfather and mountain. When Klara comes to visit, the mountain works it's magic with her also.

 I have always loved the story of Heidi though have not read the book since a little kid. I've watched all the tv adaptations through the years and loved them all. So when I saw this in a Little Library I nabbed it. I enjoyed the story just as much as an adult as I did when a kid. It was written in 1959, with this Scholastic edition releasing in 1974. Because it was written in the '50's there is some things in there that are out of step with how we treat children or do things in this era but the story of the charming orphan Heidi and how by just being her loving self she touches and changes the lives around her is just as sweet and endearing now as back in the day.

11.  Unashamed by Francine Rivers

Completed:  April ?, 2020

Rating:  8/10

This is a retelling of the biblical story of Rahab. If you don't know Rahab's story, she was a prostitute who lived in the walls of the city of Jericho. All of Jericho had heard of the Israelites and their conquering God, so when they heard that they were headed towards Jericho, the people were very afraid. But there was something in Rahab that wants to know the Israelite's God and to seek redemption, and she would do what she had to do to save her family, knowing that they would have surrender in order to be saved. So when the Israelite spies entered Jericho, Rahab hid them in exchange for their promise to keep her and her family safe when the attack came.

 I liked this retelling of the story. Francine Rivers was able to give thoughts and feelings to the main characters of the story that made me see it in a new light and made me think of things that never occured to me. The author gave a base for the love story between Rahab the prostitute and Salmon, the Israelite and showed the difficulty of how that relationship would be accepted and yet God made it happen and Rahab went on to be in the lineage of Christ. I loved the redemption aspect of the story and how determined Rahab was to become a part of what she saw God doing. I thought the author did a great job describing the historical part of the story which really drew me into the era and times. At the end is a really indepth bible study that not only takes you further into the biblical account but also how it applies to one's life today.

 Unashamed is one novella in a series called the Lineage of Grace about 5 unlikely women who changed eternity. It can be found as a stand alone or bound with the other 4 novellas as one book. The dedication reads: Unashamed is dedicated to women who think a past of mistakes ruins any chance of a joy-filled future. Turn to Jesus and experience the wonders He has waiting for you.

12.  The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

Completed:  April 18, 2020

Rating:  7.0/10 

Kathryn lives with her pilot husband and their 15 year old daughter in her dream home in New England. She is living the life she wanted: a loving husband, a job she likes teaching in a high school, a home by ocean, a daughter they both adore. While her life may not be super exciting, it is definitely satisfying. The hard parts are the loneliness when her husband is away flying one of his routes. Then one night when her husband is gone, she is awakened to banging on the door and she gets the visit no pilot's wife ever wants to get, that her husband's plane has crashed off the coast of Ireland and there are no survivors. As she tries to walk through the grief and anguish and help her daughter through it, the endless scrutiny of what led to the crash and her husband's part in it start to take their toll. When rumors start to swell that this may have been no accident and that her husband had a secret life Kathryn is determined to find the truth while still protecting their daughter. But as even as she digs for answers does she really want to know the truth?

 I vaguely knew what the story was about having watched the movie many, many years ago but couldn't quite remember what went on but did sort of remember the twist. I forgot about one large aspect of it, something in stories that I don't like to read about, but remembered liking the "mystery" aspect of it. The story dragged at times and seemed slow moving, there is a lot of grief for Kathryn to deal with, but there was enough to what was happening that it did make me want to find out what was going on. But all in all it was a book I did not really enjoy because of some of the subject matter and the whole thing was just sad and infuriating to me. Because of that I struggled with a rating.  I didn't want to lower a rating because of personal preference to a story line but it definitely did color the enjoyment of the story for me.

13.  Murder at the Courthouse by A.H. Gabhart

Completed:  April 25, 2020

Rating:  7.5/10

When Michael Keane took on the job of deputy sheriff in small town Hidden Springs, Kentucky he thought he had left the stress of big city policing behind. He was looking forward the much more slow paced life of getting to know everyone in his hometown again and having small time tickets be his biggest policing. But when a stranger to town is found shot on the courthouse steps, Michael is confronted once again with big crime. As he tries to solve the case which has put the whole town on edge, he must deal with all sorts of townsfolk who think they know the answer. When the sheriff is laid up in hospital, he comes up with his own crazy theory and insists Michael look into it. Against his better judgement Michael complies and what he discovers will make him wonder if he ever really knew his hometown at all.

 I love Ann H. Gabhart's historical fiction, so when I saw she'd written a cozy mystery series, I thought I'd give it a try for some lighter reading time. Her characters were simple yet complex, quirky yet infuriating at times, the kind you expect to find in a small town cozy mystery. Michael himself is trying to sort out his life and things that have happened so there is some good back story. Though I didn't guess the what, where, when and why, and was there for that ride, I did unfortunately guess the who fairly early on. An easy summer type of read that you can escape with.  There are 2 more in the "Hidden Springs Mystery" series, so I'm sure Michael will be developed even more along with some of the other characters in this town.

14.  A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

Completed:  May 9, 2020

Rating:  8/10

Set in 1893, Violet Hayes is a young 20 year old woman still living with her father. She was told her mother became ill when she was very young, and though she doesn't remember a lot of her she does hold some sweet memories. So when her father announces his intention to marry a widower with two children, Violet is shocked and upset as it also reveals that her mother wasn't ill but had actually left and divorced her father. Add to it the fact that her father is trying to get her to marry a young man from town whom Violet finds dull and has nothing in common. She longs to spread her wings and talks her father into letting her stay the summer with her grandmother and three aunts in Chicago convincing him that her socialite aunt may have better prospects for her. But her true plan is to try to find her mother and to see the Chicago World's Fair but she can't tell her father that. Reluctantly, her father gives in worrying that the aunts won't be the best influence on his young daughter. But what Violet finds in Chicago is an grandmother dedicated to serving the Lord amongst the poor, an aunt who wants to show her off to high society, another who wants to introduce her to the suffragete movement, and another who thinks her precious husband is still off fighting a war that ended long ago and who believes in true love. Each of these ladies wants Violet to join their world and brings exposure to life as Violet has never known and suitors aplenty, each very different from the other, so that now Violet will have to make some choices. And in the midst of all this is the mystery who her mother was and nobody is willing to talk about that. Violet's sheltered eyes are opened wide and with her father's ultimatum she must make her choice or let him make it for her.

 This book started off a bit slow but then built into a good story of a young girl from that era and the choices she faced. The grandmother and aunts were a fun mix of very different personalities and lifestyles that really added to the story by giving historical context to everything going on at the time. Though Violet and her lack of worldliness and wisdom, and complete naive and immature attitude for her age of 20 had me at times rolling my eyes, I suppose it was not unusual for that era. I love how the author was able to transport me into the world of the Chicago World's Fair, both the fun and wonder and the seedier side, and to all the things that were going on in a big city of the time. This is a great read for fans of historical fiction with a little romance, coming of age and mystery thrown in.

15.  The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

Completed May 18, 2020

Rating:  10+/10

It is 1970 and Carly Sears has just received the news that her unborn baby has a fatal heart defect. Unfortunately the news comes on top of the news that her soldier husband was killed in the Vietnam War. Devastated and alone, she cannot bring herself to do what the doctors are suggesting she do. The baby was a dream of her and husband and she was not even able to give him the news of being pregnant before he was killed. When her brother-in-law, Hunter, says he might have a solution she is faced with the biggest decision of her life, one that seems improbable and that will require great courage and faith in the impossible. While she has a great relationship with Hunter there are things that no one knows about him. She must decide whether she can trust him with not only her unborn baby's life but with her own as well.

 I absolutely loved this story. It is a split time novel taking place in the 70's and in the 2000's. It's a contemporary story with a sci-fi twist. A story of family bonds, of the strength and faith of a mother's love and a story that challenges ethics and what one would do to save a loved one. I couldn't put it down. It is well written, was never confusing as some of these types of stories can be, and tore my heart. Carly's struggle was heart wrenching and real and I felt every moment of her mother's heart. Sometimes I was frustrated with her decision making process but that's because I was looking at it from the vantage point of my couch but it was totally real and understandable given her situations. The consequences of the choices her and Hunter make sucked me right in because they were believable and emotional. The twists were realistic and unexpected. While sci-fi and especially this type of sci-fi is not usually what I choose for my reading, I went into this story blind not wanting to know what it was really about. I was surprised that it took that turn but the author was able to weave the two together so well and made it such a rich story that I'm pretty sure this is going to be one of my favorites of the year. It was pretty clean considering it's a secular novel which I really appreciated. I loved the ending and closed it with a very happy sigh. I know this review is a bit vague about what the story is actually about but it is hard give a synopsis without revealing what it is about. If you like contemporary stories that involve family, love, moral dilemmas, or sci fi I recommend this one. I think this would make an awesome movie.

16.  The Water Keeper by Charles Martin

Completed June 28, 2020

Rating:  8.5/10


Murphy Shepard was a dedicated and courageous part of a team that used to rescue girls who had been taken and were bound for the sex trade operating out of Florida. But now he is holed up on an island caretaking a church that nobody attends while he grieves the loss of two key people in his life. When a young woman named Angel shows up at the church Murphy realizes she is headed for very kind of fate that he has dedicated his life to saving girls just like her from. A runaway who has met the wrong people, she is part of a "party boat" floating through Florida's waterways not knowing she is about to become part of  modern day slavery. As Murphy heads down to the south of Florida to grieve and to lay his friend and mentor to rest he finds a beautiful former durg addict and dancer that needs his help finding her missing daughter, a young stowaway looking to understand her past, an ex-con who just wants to go home and live out his last days and a faithful Labrador he finds swimming in the ocean. Together they form an unlikely team to find the woman's missing daughter even as Murphy's secret past is catching up with him. 

 Charles Martin is one of my favorite authors because of the depth and multi layers he puts into his stories and the way he weaves his words to create his images to convey the setting, characters and emotions. Every character is so rich and not wasted, very real in their emotions and reactions to what life has thrown at them. The settings almost become a character in and of themselves. His stories are always about redemption, hope and healing from very deep hurt. They are always a journey that he takes the reader on that leaves their own emotions bare. This story though it did have all those elements for me, did leave me a bit confused at times. There is much description of the Florida Intercoastal Waterways which at times left me lost because I don't know the area in the least so I found myself starting to skim over some of that. And I was confused at the ending until I went back and re-read the 1st chapter and then it made total sense. I have just found out that this is actually the first in a trilogy so that explains too, the questions I had when it was all over. Though at times frustrated with the character of Summer (the mom of the missing girl), I loved the character of Clay and am looking forward to seeing where he will go in coming installments. Though not knocking off the pedestal my three favorites of his (Water From My Heart, When Crickets Cry and Wrapped in Rain) this is a great read that sheds a light on the dark world of modern day slavery within the sex trade in America.

17.  Unshaken (Ruth- Lineage of Grace Series) by Francine Rivers

Completed:  July 10, 2020

Rating:  10/10

Unshaken is the biblical story of Ruth.  Ruth is a young Moabitess, who when her husband died, chose to follow and care for her mother in law Ruth as they made their way from the country of Moab to Bethlehem.   Though Naomi tries to get Ruth to turn back like her sister in law Orpah did, Ruth is adamant in her loyalty to Naomi.  She leaves behind her family that was fairly well-to-do for the unknown, as Naomi does not even know if any of her relatives would be alive.  It is not an easy task taking care of an older woman who, as the journey progresses, starts to turn from hopeful to more complaining and bitter.  But Ruth perseveres as she wants to follow the one true God of her Mother in law and learn of His ways.  When they arrive in Bethlehem, things do not go as easily as imagined and they find themselves, especially Ruth as a foreigner, shunned by the villagers and gossiped about.  Living in a cave with nothing, Naomi instructs Ruth to glean in the corners of fields as the poor and foreigners are allowed to according to God's law.  But even in those corners Ruth is made to not feel welcome and she ends up in a field quite aways from town.  As she tries to work hard and do her best for Naomi, she is noticed by the owner of this particular field, who when he finds it is Naomi's daughter in law instructs his workers to leave extra for her and to make sure she is safe.  When Naomi finds out it is Boaz's field and see the generosity of Boaz she realizes that as a relative Boaz can be a husband redeemer.  Naomi concocts a plan to bring Ruth and Boaz together.  But it would require both of their cooperation and the removal of another family member that stands in the way.

I absolutely loved the story of Ruth and Boaz.  Francine Rivers stayed true to the biblical account while fleshing out the characters in the story and the history of the times.  Through the story I really got the sense of everything Ruth was leaving behind for the uncertainty of going with Naomi and how loving, faithful, loyal and hard working she really was.   Her strong character & moral fiber throughout the story was remarkable to me even as she did what her mother in law instructed. I felt Naomi's frustrations as things didn't quite go as originally planned though at times I felt like shaking her for whining attitude (which is recorded in the bible).  Through the author's story telling I was able to get a better understanding of the Jewish laws of harvest and husband redeemers, and how foreigners were perceived in Jewish minds of the time.  I loved how in this story of Ruth the author chose to use the townspeople's gossip as a way to show attitudes and thoughts, so relatable.  In all I loved this retelling.  The study and questions at the end was excellent and thought provoking making the story of Ruth and Boaz relatable to today's personal life.   The author dedicated the book to her own mother in law who she admires  and adores.

18.  The Secret Wife by Gill Paul

Completed:  July 22, 2020

Rating:  8/10

Review:  In 1914, Grand Duchess Tatiana is just on the verge of leaving her teenage years behind when she meets calvary officer Dmitri Malama. Soon the two find love and have plans to marry with her parents, the Tsar and Tsaritsa of Russia, approval. But fate comes crashing in on them as their beloved Russia as they know it faces collapse and revolution takes over. As the family is removed from their palace home and taken away Dmitri desperately tries everything to try and save Tatiana. When they get separated things take a tragic turn and Dmitri is left with more questions than answers as he tries to figure out what happened and where they could have moved Tatiana. Forced to leave the country, he finds himself in limbo grasping onto any hope he can find. When he meets Rosa he must decide whether to keep grasping at straws or to receive the second chance at love she is offering him. In 2016, Kitty Fisher leaves London with a broken heart and marriage and comes to America to check out the cabin her great grandfather's estate left to her upon his death. Back in the remote area of Lake Akanabee in New York State, Kitty hopes to rebuild her heart even as she rebuilds the rundown, ramshackle cabin. When she discovers a jeweled pendant under the front steps it leads her on a quest to find the origins and discovers an astonishing family secret. 

 I read this author's more recent story of another member of the Russian royal family, The Lost Daughter, last year and loved it so was eager to read this earlier one as well. The split timeline goes back and forth between the historical story and the current timeline as the author builds in the connections between the women of two different eras. In the end I had very mixed feelings about this story because of my reading preferences in topics that I do not enjoy. I loved it and then disliked it. At first I was drawn into the story as the author built the relationship between the young Russian couple. You really cheered on their fledgling relationship as it develops into love. Her groundwork in the Russian history was so interesting and her weaving fictional with historical detail is excellent. Though right from the beginning, the current timeline part of the story dealt with a topic that I do not like in my reading content, I pressed on because it was more of how the character was dealing with it and what her future would hold. At first both stories were captivating but as it progressed, the theme/topic I do not like became prevalent and choices were made and the events that eventually unfolded left me disappointed with the outcome of the story. My rating reflects my enjoyment, not that the author wrote poorly. The theme and choices made within that theme clashed with my world view and just ended up not being enjoyable for me.

19.  Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren - Audiobook

Completed:  July 24, 2020

Rating:  9/10


20.  Distant Echoes (Aloha Reef Series) by Colleen Coble

Completed:  July 7, 2020

Rating:  9/10


Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany

DNF'd October 8, 2020

21.  Never Change by Elizabeth Berg

Completed:  August 19, 2020

Rating:  9.5/10


22.  Black Sands (Aloha Reef Series) by Colleen Coble

Completed:  September 3, 2020

Rating:  7.5/10


23.  The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Completed:  September 26, 2020

Rating:  9.5/10


24.  Unglued by Lisa TerKuerst - Audiobook

Completed:  September 30, 2020

Rating:  8.5/10


Friday, January 10, 2020

January - March 2020 Reading LIst

Finally decided on the books I want to get to over the next 3 months. I think this will be good, this posting of my seasonal goal. It will help me to focus more on reading and trying to reach my goal rather than wasting time scrolling around on fb or youtube or playing the games on fb. It's not that I don't want to get to my books, I LOVE to read, it's just that tv and fb just suck the time away without me even realizing how much time has passed. The next thing I know what little spare time I have has slipped away and I haven't read. So anyway, if you missed my reading goals for this year I have posted it here.

 These are the books I've chosen, minus a couple, for the winter months of January, February, and March. If you'd like to do a post of what you are reading or planning on reading for those months I'll leave a Linky on this post. I always find it fun to see what other's are reading.

 GOAL: 1 book a month from my longest owned and unread books From the oldest TBR box:
          The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
          The Victory Club by Robin Lee Hatcher
          Sins of the Fathers by James Scott Bell (Did Not Finish)
 (these have been in my to read box for years!!)

 GOAL: 2 books per month from my owned piles:

           If I Run by Terri Blackstock
           If I'm Found by Terri Blackstock
           If I Live by Terri Blackstock
           The Secret Wife by Gil Paul
           A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin
           Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

 GOAL: 1 book per month from my library list:                                                           
           Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
            Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
           The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

 GOAL: for devotional type reading 1 novella/study per month from A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers:

          -Unveiled (Tamar)
          -Unashamed (Rahab)
          -Unshaken (Ruth)

 Whew! Looking forward to some good reading!   I will be high lighting these as I get them read  so I can keep track and to motivate me.

What are you planning on reading? If you want to do a post on your plans, I don't care if it's a 3 month plan or a monthly plan, feel free to link . It must be some kind of reading goal/challenge plan though or the link will be deleted. Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 2, 2020


So here we go.  It's 2020 and time to set some new reading goals.  

For 2020 my main focus is still trying to read what I own.  I am on a book buying ban for the time being so I won't be bringing in anything brand new other than what I have on pre-order that was purchased with a gift card.  And I'm going to try and avoid the Little Library jaunts for a bit so no books come into the house that way.

So broken down generally for the year, my personal reading goal is going to look a bit like this:

- At least 3 books a month from my own piles

    -one of these books must be from my box that contains the books that have been sitting  around here the longest, the ones that keep getting pushed back because I keep bringing  in new ones.  Hopefully by the end of the year I'll have emptied this box. 

-At least 1 book per month from my library list because I just can't not go to the library

-At least 1 novella per month from A Lineage of Grace and Sons of Encouragement study books by Francine Rivers (for a total of 10)

-I'm going to shoot for the goal of reading 52 books this year.  This has always been my goal    but I have never quit reached it.  Maybe this is my year.

-Because of the success I used to have with the  "Spring Fling" and the "Fall Back into     Reading" challenges of the past, I am going to list the books I want to read for each quarter.   I'm going to put up a Linky in January, April, July, and October for those people that want to join in with me in posting their own reading pile for the quarter.  I remember loving looking at what everyone else was reading  (though if I recall correctly that helped add to my reading piles.  LOL.)  We'll see how it goes.

I will do this post up separately from this one.