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Blogging my way through my extensive to be read pile of books.

Big thanks to @peggy_lampman for sending me a copy of her book for review! 👏🏻 This was a book as lovely as its cover. Although it is mostly about two cousins who open a diner in a run down section of Detroit, it’s also about trying to get the neighbors to frequent the establishment rather than letting it become the next trendy yuppie eatery. Lots of good food descriptions, a restaurant staff with diversity, and characters to root for, make this a satisfying read. My favorite part was that the romances didn’t all work out in the end (nothing annoys me more than having to ruin a perfectly good book with a romance you can see coming from a mile away)! Pick this one up when you need a sweet read as a palate cleanser after all the creepy October selections. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 #lakeunion #thewelcomehomediner #peggylampman #bookblogger #bookreview #bookreviewer

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When We Were Worthy Book Cover When We Were Worthy
MaryBeth Mayhew Whalen
Fiction
Lake Union Publishing
September 12, 2017
Paperback
278
Free from publisher via SheReads

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

 

My review:

What an enjoyable read! I felt like I was lifted into this small town, where football is king of the fall season. Of course along with the football, comes the privileges of not only the football players, but the cheerleaders. It's this kind of adulation that forms the crux of this story. Just how much can you get away with if you are one of "the chosen"? In this case.......quite a lot. However, this novel is much more than that, it also delves into the grief of two mothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of a tragedy. It's about a young girl with a secret that can bring down the entire football program, but at what cost?  It's about a small town where everyone knows everyone and everything that goes on, and has an opinion about it. And it's about a teacher who has been accused of a crime that she may not have committed. The novel is told through the perspective of four people, and the writer does a great job of weaving in and out of chapters to complete the picture of what really happens one fateful night following a home game. The story flowed well, the characters were all interesting and the suspense of what happened kept me turning pages as fast as I could! I even shed a tear or two over the letter near the end (you'll know what I mean if you read it).

A great book for anyone whose been privy to the happenings within a high school, particularly in regard to the social hierarchy.  A great expose of small town life, and the courage to rectify a wrongdoing.

This was a SheReads pick for fall. Click the link to be directed to their website, and look for other reviews on social media under #SheReads.

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I'm back (albeit a bit late) with my September wrap up. I'm taking a look at the number of books coming into my house within the month, versus the number I read. This is an attempt at taking down my gigantic to be read pile, which blossomed after BookExpo and my birthday in June. So, onto this month's results.

Incoming books I purchased = 5

Incoming from publishers = 6

Total Incoming = 11

Outgoing = 16 (9 physical 7 audio)

Monthly total: 11 incoming minus 16 outgoing = minus 5
Total last month = plus 61
New total = plus 56

Not quite as many knocked off this month, but that is mostly due to it being a light reading month compared to the last two. Even with that, I still headed in the right direction, so yay me!

How is your tbr (to be read) situation?

The Stolen Marriage Book Cover The Stolen Marriage
Diane Chamberlain
Fiction
St. Martin's Press
October 3, 2017
Hardcover and Advanced Reader Copy
384
Free from publisher

"In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess's new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she's trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out. The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town's prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he's letting on. When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry's wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry's actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband's mysterious behavior and save her own life?"--

My review:

When a new Diane Chamberlain book comes along, you can count on me to be reading it. Not only is Diane a local author, but her books are always superbly crafted, and frequently about a subject that I knew nothing about prior to reading. This one involves a polio hospital that was built in Hickory NC, to treat the many victims of the polio epidemic of 1944. Tess, a registered nurse, goes to work at the hospital, but before the story progresses to this point we learn about her loveless marriage to Henry, and the man she left behind in Baltimore.  There are many questions revolving around Henry, his families open resentment of Tess, and the household's second generation maid and her family. We also have an accident, a secret stash of money, and a woman trying to make sense of it all, while desperately working toward making the best of her situation among this strange cast of characters. The writing is sharp, the various plots are all engaging and interesting, and there are a few twists thrown in by Chamberlain to keep you on your toes as a reader. The ending was a bit too tidy for me, but that is on me, and takes nothing away from this great read. I would also be remiss if I didn't comment on the absolutely gorgeous cover of this book. All of the raindrops that you see are raised up and shiny! If you are a cover lover like I am, this is a collector's item 🙂

Another fantastic novel by Diane Chamberlain. If you are already a fan, you will not be disappointed by this one. If you haven't read any of her work, please rectify that immediately!

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Caroline: Little House, Revisited Book Cover Caroline: Little House, Revisited
Sarah Miller
Historical Fiction
William Morrow
September 19, 2017
Hardcover
368
Free from publisher

In this novel authorized by the Little House estate, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

My review:

The Little House series of books were some of my absolute favorite books of elementary school. I like to think they were the foundation for my love of reading today, particularly since I still love a good family saga. I will gravitate toward anything relating to Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I jumped at the chance to read this book from Ma's perspective. Taking place from when the family decides to leave the big woods, and through their time on the prairie, it describes the thoughts and actions of Caroline. Full of events that occur in the original books, it includes the girls Laura, Mary and baby Carrie, but this is definitely Caroline's story. I found it very interesting to get her views on things, specifically her hesitation to leave the woods, and her intense fear and dislike of the Native Americans they encounter at their new home. I must admit that this was a surprise to me, and was quite uncomfortable to read, but I applaud the author for not sugarcoating this aspect of who Caroline was. I was impressed with the obvious research the author put into the novel, with an author's note that explains not only her research, but the times when the timeline is not quite accurate for the continuity of the story. At times I felt that the book dragged a bit, but being that it was Caroline's life at the time, I certainly would not have wanted the author to make things up to liven up the story.

Overall a well written portrait of the matriarch of one of the most beloved middle grade series. If you are/were a fan of the Little House books, I think you would enjoy the story from a new perspective, even if you may not feel quite the same way about Caroline after reading her thoughts and opinions.

Today I am happy to give you a sneak peek of the next novel (coming April 3, 2018) by Kristy Woodson Harvey. This is the second novel in the Peachtree Bluff trilogy. You can find my review of the first, Slightly South of Simple here, as well as Kristy's two previous novels Dear Carolina and Lies and Other Acts of Love. 

To celebrate the cover reveal, Kristy is giving away a $100 Amazon gift card. Visit her website at www.kristywoodsonharvey.com (under cover reveal in her blog section), for a chance to win!

Here is what the back blurb looks like:

Leaving fans “practically [begging] for a sequel” (Bookpage), critically-acclaimed author Kristy Woodson Harvey returns with the second novel in her beloved Peachtree Bluff series, featuring a trio of sisters and their mother who discover a truth that will change not only the way they see themselves, but also how they fit together as a family.

After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve.

Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.

But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all.

Harvey’s signature warmth and wit make this is a charming and poignant story of first loves, missed opportunities, and second chances that proves why she is the next major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author).

And here is the cover! It's gorgeous, just as ALL of her covers have been!

Head over to your favorite bookseller and pre-order this one! And if you haven't read the first book of the trilogy, I highly recommend it, or any of her previous works!

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Little Fires Everywhere Book Cover Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng
Fiction
Penguin Press HC
2017
Paperback
352
Publisher via BookExpo

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned - from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood - and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

My review:

Make no mistake about it, this will be one of the best books you will read this year! Ms. Ng knocked it out of the park with her sophomore novel (her first was the highly acclaimed Everything I Never Told You). This had all the ingredients of a 5 star read for me, except for one glaring fact. I am the mother of two adopted daughters (from China)! Without revealing too much about the plot, suffice it to say that I don't know that I've ever hated a character more than Mia! I hated that she got involved in the custody issue, and when the reader finds out the reason behind her doing so, I hated her even more!! I'm going to try not to rant here, but I was also insulted by the lawyer implying that there were no Asian dolls available back in 1998. I beg to differ. My daughters came to the US in 1997 and 1999, and they both had several dolls that looked like them including Cabbage Patch, Barbie (Kira 1998), Mulan (which was released in 1998) and American Girl. I know that is nitpicking, but it still rankled with me. I thoroughly enjoyed all the other characters and plots in this book, and the writing was fabulous!

This is a must read book. Definitely worthy of 5 stars, but I gave it 4 because I couldn't see both sides of the one subplot when the issue hit a bit too close to home. Do yourself a favor (except perhaps if you are an adoptive mom) and get yourself a copy of this one!

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The Other Alcott Book Cover The Other Alcott
Elise Hooper
Fiction
William Morrow
September 5, 2017
Paperback
432
Free from publisher

We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May. Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession. Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her? So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely “The Other Alcott.” “Elise Hooper’s thoroughly modern debut gives a fresh take on one of literature’s most beloved families.

My review:

Confession time before continuing with this review. I have never read Little Women! I know, I know, but I have to gear myself up for really long books, and just never got around to this one (although I do own a copy). I'm not sure whether that fact has any bearing on my review, but I wanted full disclosure. This was a perfectly good  read, but it did contain a few problems for me. I thought the story was interesting, it seemed well researched, and it flowed well. I am not an artist, and I did get a bit bored with some of the longer passages about May's art. The dynamics of the family members was the most entertaining part of the book for me, although I can't say that I came away really liking any of them (why couldn't Anna take care of the parents?). I did appreciate the various settings described throughout (Rome, London, Paris, Boston), and the peeks that were given of some of the other famous artists of that time period. The insertion of letters was also a plus for me.

A good read, maybe a bit too heavy on the creation of art, but probably one that will have even more impact for those who have read Little Women.

 

Let's see how this month worked out for me in my attempt to lower my tbr (to be read) pile.

Incoming books from publishers (and an Instagram giveaway win):

Books I purchased:

Total Incoming = 17

Outgoing:

Total Outgoing: 12 physical, 11 audio, 1 e-book = 24

This month: 24 minus 17 = minus 7
Last month ending: plus 68
New total = plus 61

Considering that this total was plus 77 after the month of June (with BookExpo and my birthday), I'm pretty happy with my progress! Carry on to September 🙂

My thanks to @williammorrowbooks for this free copy for review. This title released 8/22. 📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖 Interestingly, I recently came across an article that said that Myrtle Beach (where our beach house is, and this picture was taken) is one of the top spots for UFO sightings! I decided it was a sign that I should read this book, even though I have absolutely no belief in such things. While I enjoyed the part of the story where Lucy is looking for evidence of what happened to her brother, the spaceship stuff was just beyond my interest. There was quite a lot going on in this story, but suspending my feelings about UFO's kind of took away from my enjoyment of the subplots. I also think this was a bit too long, for me it kind of dragged in places. ⭐️⭐️💫/5 While this was not really for me, if this world (or out of this world) is of interest to you, definitely give it a try. 📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖 Lucy Durant was only fourteen-years-old when she lost her older brother. First to his paranoid delusions as he became increasingly obsessed with UFOs and government conspiracies. Then, permanently, when he walked into the desert outside Bishop, California, and never returned. Now on the tenth anniversary of Nolan's mysterious disappearance, Lucy is still struggling with guilt and confusion--her memories from that period are blurry and obscured by time, distance, and alcohol. Now an adult, she's stuck in a holding pattern, hiding out at her father's house, avoiding people, and doing whatever she can to keep herself from thinking about Nolan. But when a series of unsettling events leads Lucy back to Bishop, she is forced to reconcile with her estranged mother and come to terms with the tangled memories of her past to discover what really happened to her brother all those years ago. Told in Lucy and Nolan's alternating voices, Everything We Lost is a psychological mystery exploring family, beliefs, obsessions, the nature of memory, and fear of the unknown--a haunting, compelling story that will resonate with readers long after the last page is turned. #everythingwelost #valeriegeary #williammorrow #bookblogger #bookreview #ondbookshelf

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