Mailbox Monday – Feb. 28



This month’s host is Library of Clean Reads

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Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

Merci beaucoup to my friend PK. 🙂  Check out PK’s blog  aisle b .

(from the book flap):  Anne Blythe has a great life: a good job, good friends, and a potential book deal for her first novel. When it comes to finding someone to share it with, however, she just can’t seem to get it right.

After yet another relationship ends, Anne comes across a business card for what she thinks is a dating service, and she pockets it just in case. When her best friend, Sarah, announces she’s engaged, Anne can’t help feeling envious. On an impulse, she decides to give the service a try because maybe she could use a little assistance in finding the right man. But Anne soon discovers the company isn’t a dating service; it’s an exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriage service. She initially rejects the idea, but the more she thinks about it-and the company’s success rate-the more it appeals to her. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, so why wouldn’t it work for her?

What was in your mailbox?

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

Title: Skipping a Beat

Author: Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Fiction

About: Skipping a Beat is the story of a marriage. Julia and Michael meet under unusual circumstances and fall in love while still in high school.  After graduation they head toward their future without so much as a backward glance.  After college they follow their dreams and enjoy the rewards of their hard work – to a point.  It seems that somewhere along the way Michael lost sight of what was once so important – Julia and their relationship.  He’s forced to take a new look after he has a near-death experience. Julia isn’t sure what to do with the new Michael. She’s grown accustomed to their ships-in-the-night marriage and hasn’t expected anything from him in a long time.  She’s certain that her perspective of some events in their marriage is the actual truth. Since they rarely have time for meaningful conversations Michael has been unaware of her perspective. He doesn’t understand why she doesn’t want to join him in a second chance at their life.

My take: Sarah Pekkanen gave Julia a true and believable voice. I found it very easy to relate to her. And Pekkanen didn’t stop there. She also shaped Michael as a real guy. I totally bought his perspective and his driven personality.
In any marriage only the spouses know the intricacies of the relationship. So while Michael and Julia appeared to have the perfect power marriage, only they knew the actual imperfections and how fragile their relationship really was. Michael let the chase of his dream take over and Julia felt the security of their love for each other slip away.
I liked the secondary characters. Julia’s best friend Isabelle and a young boy named Noah both figure prominently in the story. I also enjoyed the opera references throughout and how Julia compared specific ones to aspects of her life.
Like most operas, Skipping a Beat depicts the drama and emotions of life.  I found it to be an emotional and wonderful novel. It would be a great book club selection.

Recommend? Yes, definitely!  I also recommend having a box of tissues at hand (trust me on this).

Source: Atria Books and BookSparks PR

This review is being submitted to the Simon & Schuster Skipping a Beat Sweepstakes

The House of Six Doors by Patricia Selbert

Title: The House of Six Doors

Author: Patricia Selbert

Genre: Fiction

About: Mama takes thirteen-year-old Serena and her sister to the US in search of fortune, leaving behind their multicultural family, stability, and the colors of the Caribbean. After driving from Miami to Hollywood, their money and luck run out and a 1963 Ford Galaxie becomes their first American home. Guided by the memory of her native Curaçao and the words of her wise grandmother, Serena confronts unimagined challenges and grows up quickly. What gifts will this new country bring, and at what price?

My thoughts: Isn’t that a lovely cover? (click on it for a closer look)  That’s what drew me to the book and then Patricia Selbert’s characters took over from there. We experience everything through Serena’s eyes.  Her mother is chasing the dream of being rich and doesn’t understand why her children don’t share that dream. Serena and her sister would just like to follow their own dreams but instead end up trying to please their mother by doing whatever she asks/demands from them.

No matter how many times I told Mama that I loved her, she didn’t believe me.  Mama believed love was something that could not survive without money.  Her willingness to distance herself from her family in order to chase prosperity around the world baffled me. She thought she could only be loved if she were rich. (p. 240)

Serena transforms from an innocent girl to a young woman learning about life.  She overcomes obstacles in her education and works through the results of some poor decisions.

My favorite parts of the book are those when Serena remembers lessons her grandmother, Oma taught her:

Serena, your mother is taking you away from Curaçao in search of happiness.  She thinks happiness is found in prosperity somewhere out there, but happiness is found only here – in our hearts.

…You can travel the entire world, win the lottery three times over, and still never find happiness. (p.145)

I enjoyed Patricia Selbert’s novel.  I found the story to be strongest in the parts that take place on Curaçao.  The setting and people came alive for me – just like the beautiful cover.

Recommend? Yes, to fans of coming-of-age stories.

Source: BookSparks PR

Mailbox Monday – February 21

This month’s host is Library of Clean Reads

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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender

(for review from Doubleday via Goodreads First Reads)


On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale about the enormous difficulty of loving someone fully when you know too much about them. It is heartbreaking and funny, wise and sad, and confirms Aimee Bender’s place as “a writer who makes you grateful for the very existence of language” (San Francisco Chronicle).

♦ ♦ ♦

Pale Rose of England: A novel of the Tudors by Sandra Worth

(from Marcia at The Printed Page)  Thanks, Marcia!


It is 1497. The news of the survival of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, has set royal houses ablaze with intrigue and rocked the fledgling Tudor dynasty. With the support of Scotland’s King James IV, Richard-known to most of England as Perkin Warbeck-has come to reclaim his rightful crown from Henry Tudor. Stepping finally onto English soil, Lady Catherine Gordon has no doubt that her husband will succeed in his quest.

But rather than assuming the throne, Catherine would soon be prisoner of King Henry VII, and her beloved husband would be stamped as an imposter. With Richard facing execution for treason, Catherine, alone in the glittering but deadly Tudor Court, must find the courage to spurn a cruel monarch, shape her own destiny, and win the admiration of a nation.

What was in your mailbox?

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth

Title: Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War

Author: Deb Olin Unferth

Genre: Memoir

About: (from the book flap) … a new twist on the coming-of-age memoir in this utterly unique and captivating story of the year she ran away from college with her Christian boyfriend and followed him to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas.

My thoughts: I finished reading this memoir and thought there is no way I would have liked a guy so much I’d have dropped out of college, become an activist and move with him to another country to fight the good fight.  If nothing else, I admire her tenacity and her willingness to be a good sport.

Our main ambition was to help the revolution.  George and I wanted jobs, what we called “revolution jobs,” but it turned out that few people wanted to hire us and if they did, they almost immediately fired us. (p.10)

Deb and George moved from country to country following revolutions, wanting to be a part of the action.  The conditions were deplorable and they fought illness often. Personal safety was always a concern but they seemed to thrive on the danger – that or their naiveté blinded them.  At one point I found myself wondering why Deb didn’t go home when she was so sick.

The two went from being a couple of kids with a dream to a pair showing signs of discontent. Deb’s journal entries showed her observations of the collapse of their relationship.

He began to develop a caught-bird look, an intensely lonely air, which would stay with him, would become his trademark look for the rest of the time I knew him. (p. 144)

Deb Olin Unferth’s memoir seems heartfelt and although I could relate to very little, it’s a pretty amazing story.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Recommend? Yes, it’s an unusual memoir.

Source: Henry Holt

Mailbox Monday – Feb. 14



This month’s host is Library of Clean Reads

♥ ♥ ♥

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran

For review from the author:

In this deft historical novel, Madame Tussaud (1761-1850) escapes the pages of trivia quizzes to become a real person far more arresting than even her waxwork sculptures. Who among us knew, for instance, that she moved freely through the royal court of Louis XVI, only to become a prisoner of the Reign of Terror? Her head was shaven for guillotining, but she escaped execution, though she was forced to make death masks for prominent victims. Novelist Michelle Moran covers this breathtaking period without losing the thread of its subject’s singular story.

I bought: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

What was in your mailbox?

Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros

Title: Goodnight Tweetheart

Author: Teresa Medeiros

Genre: Fiction

About: (Back of the book) Abigail Donovan has a lot of stuff she should be doing. Namely writing her next novel. A bestselling author who is still recovering from a near Pulitzer Prize win and the heady success that follows Oprah’s stamp of approval, she is stuck at Chapter Five and losing confidence daily. But when her publicist signs her up for a Twitter account, she’s intrigued. What’s all the f…more

My thoughts: At first glance, Goodnight Tweetheart is a light-hearted novel.  The tweets are witty and clever and filled with of-the-moment social references (songs, movies, tv shows, etc). Little by little Medeiros revealed details about Abby and Mark that drew me in and made me care about them.  I went into the book thinking this could never happen in real life. Though I’m still a skeptic, what surprised me was how much I wanted to see a happily-ever-after for the two characters.  I enjoyed their story.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Recommend? Yes.  Perfect for the beach, a cross-country flight or a cold winter night.

Source: Library

Blog Doppelganger?

Well, not exactly.  It has come to my attention (thank you, Staci) that someone has a blog called Bookfan Mary.  It’s hosted at Blogger (I moved to WordPress from Blogger eight months ago).  My blog’s name is Bookfan but my URL is similar to what it was at Blogger.

So, please do me a favor and check the URL in your reader to be sure you’re not leaving comments at the other blog thinking it’s mine.  I think this issue may effect people who use Blogger because the blog posts came through Staci’s Blogger dashboard.

My  URL is

I realize that if you’re reading this it means you have my new URL but just in case you didn’t delete my old Blogspot URL when I moved, you may want to now.

Thank you so much.  I hope this clears up any confusion.

Mailbox Monday – Feb. 7


This month’s host is Library of Clean Reads

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and  Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth.
(For review from  Jason at Henry Holt & Co.)
From the Goodreads synopsis: A new twist on the coming-of-age memoir in this eccentric and captivating story of the summer the author ran away from college to join the Sandinista revolutionaries in Nicaragua”1987 is the year I did nothing. The year I fought in no war, contributed to no cause, didn’t get shot, jailed, or injured . . . The only thing that changed as a result of our presence was us.”  …more

What was in your mailbox?

Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia at The Printed Page and is now on a blog tour.  Click here to see the tour schedule.

3rd Blogiversary Winners

Today is my 3rd blogiversary.  Thanks to all who visit and take the time to comment. It’s a pleasure to share my love of reading with you all.

Time for presents!  Last week I posted a short message about my blogiversary. There was a link to a giveaway. selected the winners.


Gift card: PK Reeves

Welcome to Harmony/Somewhere Along the Way: Kristin T.

Heart & Soul: Joann D.

Perfection: Colleen

Mudbound: Jessica

Dark Moon of Avalon: Rhonda

Safe From the Sea: Ruthie B.

Russian Winter: Sharon B.

Room: Susan

All winners have been notified

Caribou Island by David Vann

Title: Caribou Island

Author: David Vann

Genre: Fiction

About: (Goodreads synopsis)  On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, a marriage is unraveling. Gary, driven by thirty years of diverted plans, and Irene, haunted by a tragedy in her past, are trying to rebuild their life together. Following the outline of Gary’s old dream, the …more

My thoughts: The writing is great but this novel is so bleak – the setting, the weather, the lives of the characters. Just bleak.

Anyway, in a small town in Alaska, there’s a woman who’s dissatisfied with her life. She has unexplained head pain but doesn’t feel her family believes her and medical tests show nothing. She’s unable to sleep and no amount of medication eases the pain.

Her husband has a goal, a dream, to build a cabin on Caribou Island and live there permanently. He’s driven to see it through and his wife, who doesn’t share his dream, will not be a reason to stop. They refuse to see the other’s point of view which makes them bitter and angry people.  Their adult daughter seems to be on a path to repeat her mother’s mistakes.  Their son lives nearby but prefers to ignore his family, work his day jobs and get high at night.  David Vann’s story builds slowly but solidly to a dramatic conclusion.

I don’t want to give any more away.  If this piques your interest I think Caribou Island might be the book for you.

Recommend? Yes.  Though I found the novel quite dark, Vann’s sharp and evocative writing kept me reading almost nonstop. I will definitely look for more of his books.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Harper via Goodreads First Reads

13 rue Therese: a novel by Elena Mauli Shapiro

Title: 13 rue Thérèse: a novel

Author: Elena Mauli Shapiro

Genre: Fiction

About: (pub. synopsis) American academic Trevor Stratton discovers a box full of artifacts from World War I as he settles into his new office in Paris. The pictures, letters, and objects in the box relate to the life of Louise Brunet, a feisty, charming Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars.
As Trevor examines and documents the relics the box offers up, he begins to imagine the story of Louise Brunet’s life: her love for a cousin who died in the war, her marriage to a man who works for her father, and her attraction to a neighbor in her building at 13 rue Thérèse. The more time he spends with the objects though, the truer his imaginings of Louise’s life become, and the more he notices another alluring Frenchwoman: Josianne, his clerk, who planted the box in his office in the first place, and with whom he finds he is falling in love.

My thoughts: Imagine starting a new job in a new country and you discover a box of someone’s mementos in your new office.  That’s what happens to Trevor Stratton. Something interesting occurs as he looks at each item: he seems to become part of the story of that item. I wish I’d read the book with a group because I’d like to get other interpretations.

Elena Mauli Shapiro’s novel is different from any I’ve ever read. Through her characters we experience the horror of war and the life of one interesting young woman. Scattered throughout the book are photos that depict the contents of the box. The story grows as Trevor examines each object. It is inventive, sensual, emotional and provocative.

This is a tough book for me to review as it is so unique but I will say I read it a few weeks ago and still think about it.

Recommend: Yes, especially if you’re looking for a different kind of novel. Check out the website at the link below.

Source: Reagan Arthur Books

You can read more about 13 rue Thérèse here