- Friday: 6096
- Saturday: 5723 (took the Fitbit off before the wedding)
- Sunday: 4318 (recovered from the wedding :) )
- Monday: 5885 (better than Sunday)
- Tuesday: 11470 (that’s more like it)
- Wednesday: 10492
- Thursday: 10151
Synopsis: When the British Empire sets its sights on India in the mid-nineteenth century, it expects a quick and easy conquest. India is fractured and divided into kingdoms, each independent and wary of one another, seemingly no match for the might of the English. But when they arrive in the Kingdom of Jhansi, the British army is met with a surprising challenge.
Instead of surrendering, Queen Lakshmi raises two armies—one male and one female—and rides into battle, determined to protect her country and her people. Although her soldiers may not appear at first to be formidable against superior British weaponry and training, Lakshmi refuses to back down from the empire determined to take away the land she loves. (from the publisher’s synopsis)
My take: From the first page I was completely captivated by Michelle Moran’s story. Rani Lakshmi is a heroine with honor, compassion, morals and backbone. She wants to lead her people and keep them safe as well. Rebel Queen is told from the perspective of Sita, one of the rani’s Royal Guard – the Durga Dal – comprised of women responsible for protecting the rani. Sita’s story was so interesting and fleshed out or enhanced the factual story of the rani.
Rebel Queen is the third Moran book I’ve read and, as usual, I learned a lot. I remember in high school history learning a bit about Great Britain and it’s quest to take India. It saddened me to see the rani and her people lose their country. The British underestimated the determination of the rani and the people of Jhansi who refused to give up without a fight. The immediate results were heartbreaking and horrifying. That said, I couldn’t put the book down. It’s a real page-turner.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction I think you’ll enjoy this book. There’s a helpful glossary as well as an author’s note concerning the factual and fictional aspects of Rebel Queen. I can’t wait to see who Michelle Moran writes about next!
My take: Harlee Roberts makes quite an entrance in Nugget, CA. Her Mini Cooper, pulling a U-Haul trailer, slides off the mountain road leading to her family’s cabin. Luckily, Colin Burke, Harlee’s new neighbor, sees it happen and is able to rescue her and her things.
Harlee is looking to get her life back on track after losing her newspaper job in San Francisco. She also wants to devote time to her start-up online company. The mountain cabin near the small town of Nugget seems the perfect place to get her bearings going forward.
Colin is quickly becoming famous for the amazing furniture he makes as well as his custom home carpentry. There’s a bit of mystery about him that Harlee would like to know but she will patiently wait for him to share. That mystery has affected Colin’s life in negative ways. Harlee tries to help him deal with some issues without knowing his entire story. How the truth will affect these two who seem destined for one another soon becomes apparent.
Second Chances is the third book in the Nugget series though it can be read as a stand alone. I enjoyed the Harlee/Colin story as well as seeing familiar characters from previous books. I look forward to seeing how a few subplots progress in the next book. There’s a preview of book 4 at the end. Recommended to fans of small town romance.
Book arrivals: (linked to Mailbox Monday)
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I took last week off. Our daughter was married on Saturday! I’ll try to get a pic to post next week.
Book arrivals: (linked to Mailbox Monday)
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The blog will be quiet for the next week as we prepare for a big family event. I’ll be back next Monday.
I had a few walks outdoors but more on the treadmill due to rain.
Read on the treadmill:
Last week Rita asked about reading on the treadmill and I said I’d post pics:
The first pic is of the treadmill; next with the iPad Mini; last pic is what I see while reading. Everything else fades away and before I know it 45-60 minutes have flown by :) Important to note is that (obviously) the book isn’t at eye level. It’s down a few inches and similar to sitting and reading a book. I was amazed the first time I tried reading this way. That said, I can’t walk and read a paper book – I’ve tried. Do you read while you walk?
Synopsis: Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.
Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?
As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate. (from the publisher’s synopsis)
My take: Inside the O’Briens is the third of Lisa Genova’s four novels I’ve read. Each has a medical condition as its focus. With Inside the O’Briens she addresses Huntington’s Disease, an inherited neurological condition that has no cure.
The O’Briens are an Irish Catholic family who all live in a triple-decker in Charlestown, MA. Joe and his wife Rosie are parents to 4 adult children in their twenties (2 boys and 2 girls) and a daughter-in-law. Joe begins exhibiting symptoms that soon result in a diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease (HD). When he and Rosie break the news to the kids they have to explain that each of them has a 50/50 chance of being gene positive, meaning, if positive, they will get HD in ten to twenty years.
Genova’s excellent story-telling skills shine as she takes the reader inside the minds of the main characters. There were times I had to stop reading because the emotions I was feeling were so intense. And then I’d spend a lot of time just thinking about what I would do in their situation. I learned a lot about HD, the genetics involved in a diagnosis, and much more regarding therapy and other treatments for symptoms of the disease.
I would recommend Inside the O’Briens to fans of the author and contemporary fiction with a medical focus. It would be a great selection for book groups.
Synopsis: Single mom Grace Mason doesn’t believe in miracles, magic, or love at first sight. She likes the quiet life, complete with her eight-year-old son, their tiny house, and her teaching job. For Grace, happiness means that nothing much ever changes in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Then, one thousand miles away, tragedy strikes. A massive heart attack leaves Grace’s estranged father comatose in an Upstate New York hospital. While a team of doctors fight to keep Henry Mason alive, Grace and Evan rush to his bedside to say their final goodbyes.
Henry’s passing brings little closure for Grace, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her new surroundings. What begins as a short trip results in an entire summer spent with Henry’s second wife, Kathleen, and her next-door neighbor, Ryan Gordon, the town doctor. When a series of unlikely events lead to Evan’s disappearance, Grace must face her worst fears to find her son and bring him back home.
Stardust Summer explores the complexities of forgiveness, what it means to be a family, and the fabulous possibility of falling in love again. (publisher)
My take: Grace has no intention of going to see her father and step-mother when she receives a formal invitation to a library function at the college where her father works. They’ve been estranged for a long time and she’s just fine with her quiet life in Mississippi. Her plans change when her father has a heart attack. She and her son Evan hurry to New York hoping to arrive before it’s too late. Their plan is to stay for a week or so but their visit becomes much longer for various reasons. In that time Grace will discover information about her past that could change the way she views her future. Will she be able to change her feelings with the new information? And is she willing to make a fresh start?
Dr. Ryan Gordon, Grace’s stepmother’s neighbor and friend, is at a place in his life where he finally understands the need for a life outside his practice. He shares Grace’s grief and would like to be more than a friend to her. He knows what it’s like to lose someone important so he understands, on some level, what Grace is going through. He also appreciates what is really important in life – family and good friends. Will Grace let him in and take a chance on love?
I liked this book but had to wonder about how Kathleen navigated her grief. I paused at some of the things she did in the week following her husband’s funeral. That could be just me, though. At any rate, I found Grace and Ryan’s story interesting. Lauren Clark’s novel is one I’d recommend to fans of contemporary fiction. I loved the setting – and the cover.
Narrator: I enjoyed Erin Mallon’s narration. From older Kathleen to younger Grace and Ryan to eight-year-old Evan, I thought she voiced the characters perfectly and would definitely listen to more of her performances.
Great Expectations of Mothers
Since Visiting the Sins was published, one theme seems to have pushed more hot buttons with my readers than any other: how mothers ought to behave. In most cultures, but especially within the evangelical Christian culture of this story, we like our mothers saintly. Sober, modest and self-sacrificing. Or at least the appearance of such.
On one level, this expectation makes perfect sense. We shudder to imagine a world in which mothers abandon their young for drugs and debauchery. Those of us who were blessed with devoted mothers know in our hearts that we owe much of the good in our lives to the nurturing we received as children. And yet…
The women in Visiting the Sins repeatedly found themselves in situations in which their motherly obligations conflicted with something else. As a dirt-poor single mother without education or skills, Pokey (the matriarch of the Wheeler family) does some unsavory things in order to feed her family and propel them into increasingly greater wealth. In her mind, puritan morality is a luxury she could not afford, and she made no apologies for it.
The shame that Pokey’s behavior causes for her daughter, Rebanelle, turns out to be the driving force in Rebanelle’s life. Rebanelle holds herself to an impossibly high standard of behavior and devotes all her energy to redeeming the family’s reputation. When her daughter, Curtis Jean, slides into alcoholism and depression, the threat of public exposure is more than Rebanelle can bear. She covers it up.
Has anybody else been there?? In the course of my research for Visiting the Sins, I interviewed a host of church-going moms who had struggled with addiction and/or mental illness. Their stories ran the gamut from heartbreaking to hilarious, sometimes both, but one thread ran through almost all of them – the difficulty of admitting to a personal challenge for fear of losing their children or shaming their families.
As I followed the women of Visiting the Sins on their winding journey through the joys and pitfalls and impossible choices of motherhood, I found myself wondering – why are we, as moms, so hard on ourselves and each other? We all know the answer: because we don’t want our children to pay the price for our selfishness and weakness. But the more I hear from women who saw themselves in one of the characters in my story, the more I wonder about the price the whole family pays when a problem has to be kept a secret.
Set in the Bible Belt of Deep East Texas, Visiting the Sins is a darkly funny story about mothers and daughters, naked ambition, elusive redemption, and all the torment it’s possible to inflict in the name of family.
Down through the decades, the lofty social aspirations of the feisty but perennially dissatisfied Wheeler women — Pokey, the love-starved, pistol-packing matriarch; Rebanelle, the frosty former beauty queen turned church organist; and Curtis Jean, the backsliding gospel singer — are exceeded only by their unfortunate taste in men and a seemingly boundless capacity for holding grudges. A legacy of feuding and scandal lurches from one generation to the next with tragic consequences that threaten to destroy everything the Wheeler women have sacrificed their souls to build.
Where to buy the book:
Melanie Denman is a native of Nacogdoches, Texas and a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University. An eighth-generation Texan, and a former banker and cattle rancher, she currently lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is working on a second novel.
Giveaway: One of 15 copies of Visiting the Sins (Open USA & Canada) and Amazon Gift Cards 3 X $10, 2 X $15, 1 X $20 (Open internationally). Ends April 25.
Please click here and scroll to bottom of page for Rafflecopter Giveaway
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I walked outside almost everyday. Ah, fresh air :)
Chronically Me: Flushing Out My Live and Times With IBS: A Memoir in Comics by Joy Spencer
Joy Spencer’s memoir perfectly portrays the frustration of trying to find answers regarding a medical condition. Her frustration is conveyed by her humorous illustrations of medical appointments, treatments, and life with a chronic disease in general. I have to believe her book will put a spotlight on how people dealing with chronic diseases feel on a daily basis. Kudos to Joy Spencer! Recommended.
My take: When 30-something Polly’s life leads her to the day where the men from the bank take over her (and her boyfriend’s) house, and their business is dissolved, she is forced to start over – without the boyfriend. She finds herself living in a wreck of a flat over a vacant bakery in a tiny seaside village an hour from where her old life went wrong. There’s nowhere to go but up. Polly survives on her optimism and willingness to change. She’s a character you can’t help but cheer on as she takes her hobby of baking bread to the next level and eventually has more takers for her bread than she ever dreamed.
It’s not all easy street for Polly though. Gillian, the woman who used to be the only bakery owner on the tidal island is not pleased with her competition. She uses intimidation on Polly but to no avail. Can the two co-exist? And what about the intriguing fisherman, Tarnie. Polly is surprised by her attraction as he’s so different from her last boyfriend. Can she even look at him in that way? But there’s more – Huckle, the American beekeeper is a bit of a mystery that she would like to solve. Huckle’s friend Reuben and Kerensa, Polly’s best friend, add an over-the-top and highly entertaining aspect to the plot.
I don’t want to spoil by telling more but suffice to say that Little Beach Street Bakery could end up on my 2015 Favorite Books list. It’s the first of Jenny Colgan’s books I’ve read and I can’t wait to read another.
My take: The McCarthy sisters are about to face big changes in their lives. Clare caught her husband of sixteen years cheating (again) and it’s the last straw. Maggie’s daughters are presenting the usual challenges that come with young teens. She’s also wondering why her husband doesn’t seem to find her attractive anymore. That has to be why their love life is lacking, right? In the years following their mother’s death, youngest McCarthy sister Sarah has become an almost reclusive artist spending every waking moment at her studio. When will she find the courage to jump back into life?
When Clare flees the scene of her husband’s latest incident she’s involved in a terrible accident. Her recovery will take months and she’ll rely on her family like never before. There are a couple of male friends who will try to be part of her healing. Maggie can only hope there’s time to get her oldest daughter back on track. Sarah completes a self-makeover with interesting results. It’s not just Clare who’ll need the support of her sisters. All three will prove their love for each other through strength that only sisters can show.
I enjoyed Robyn Carr’s updated rerelease of Never Too Late. I didn’t have a chance to read it the first time around. There are moments with the mothers and their children that most mothers will relate to and I know many readers with sisters will find much that resonates. I’d recommend this book to fans of the author and contemporary women’s fiction.
Book arrivals: (linked to Mailbox Monday)
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My cold left last week and I felt more like getting some regular exercise. Still on the treadmill because temps haven’t been out of the 30s (F). We’re supposed to reach the 40s and 50s in the week ahead so I’m looking forward to walking outdoors and listening to an audiobook. Have a great week!
Welcome to ONE TRUE HEART. Like waiting for fine chocolate, this book is one you will not want to miss. For me the story is always about the people and I loved writing this story. This one started at a real place I know well, the Amarillo airport where one night a man and a woman meet by accident. She’s exhausted and on crutches. He offers her a ride to Harmony. She’s a trained soldier and sees this professor type in glasses as no threat. Only, while she sleeps, he steals a kiss.
When he drops her off at Winter’s Inn, the bed and breakfast, the inn keeper thinks he’s staying the night. For the first time in year’s Drew is tempted to get involved.
As books often do, this story didn’t come to me as a thread; it came to me as a ball of multi-color yarn. All of us live lives that are intertwined with those we love or fear or even hate. All of us are looking for one true heart. Some of us settle for less or even give up on finding what we’re looking for, but the people we meet and love all add a depth to us. In ONE TRUE HEART I wanted to show that sometimes loving can win out.
I have three heroes in my story. Drew has risked his life once and almost lost it, shattering his dreams. Johnny thinks his dreams are small and is shattered and angry that even his simple dreams can’t come true. Beau, on the other hand, has always dreamed big, but somewhere in climbing the ladder to success he’s lost sight of love.
As the story opens all three are about to find a kind of love they never dreamed could happen. The only hard part is going to be hanging onto it.
To all my friends and fans, make a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, curl up in your favorite chair and open ONE TRUE HEART. I promise I’ll leave you smiling as you read.
Jodi Thomas is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of 41 novels and 13 short story collections. A five-time RITA winner, Jodi currently serves as the Writer in Residence at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas.
Synopsis: Millanie McAllen is always logical. But after returning to her childhood home, she learns that some things are beyond explanation—like her undeniable passion for Drew Cunningham…
After finding success as a singer on the road, Beau Yates returns to Harmony to make peace with his dying father—only to find the woman he’s been dreaming of for years. But the secrets they discover might be too much for him to bear…
When Johnny Wheeler is charged with his wife’s murder, he turns to the only person who believes he’s innocent. Fortune teller Kare Cunningham’s life has always danced around reality—but Johnny is able to ground her like no other…
As their paths cross in new, captivating directions, the townspeople of Harmony need to learn to love and let go in order to live together in their little slice of heaven. (publisher)
My take: If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog you know I love The Harmony Series by Jodi Thomas. She’s back with the eighth installment, One True Heart. The principal characters are all new to the series but there are a few cameos by some of Millanie McAllen’s relatives who’ve been featured in previous novels.
I loved the three storylines of One True Heart. Each character is working to get past a personal history they’d like to forget. Millanie and Drew have survived horrific events and just want to hide out in the Harmony area without details of their past being discovered. Neither expected to meet someone who could make them see a new future.
Beau and Lark knew each other in their teens but haven’t reconnected in years. He’s now a successful musician and she is a VP at a local bank. As these two find their way back to each other they might find obstacles too much to overcome.
Johnny and Kare have been disappointed by people who were supposed to love them but instead they’ve been left licking their wounds. They’re not looking for love but it could be sneaking up on them. These two were sweet and added comic relief to the novel. I laughed a lot when reading their scenes.
As usual, Thomas’ characters are relatable, likable and easy to cheer on toward a happy ending. There’s drama, a mystery and, of course, romance. I’m always a bit sad when I finish one of these novels because I know I have to wait a while for another. Happily, at the end there’s a sneak peek of a Harmony novella that will be part of a new anthology due out in July.
Synopsis: Laurie Davis has always followed her passion. After escaping family drama to start a new life in New York City, she’s up for whatever challenges life brings. So when an opportunity arises for her to use her travel industry expertise and serve as an assistant and tour guide for her idol, Pamela Lambert-Leigh, star of television’s Tea-Time with Pamela, she jumps at the chance.
But Laurie’s exciting adventure ends up entailing a lot more than scouting locations for the cake queen’s new cookbook when Pamela’s sassy mother and sulky, rebellious daughter tag along for the trip. As they cruise around bakeries in New England trading local delights like Red Velvet Cake and Whoopie Pies for British specialties such as Victoria Sponge and Bakewell Tarts, more secrets than recipes are revealed.
Now, in between rediscovering romance, learning to forgive family, and finding the best dessert on the East Coast, Laurie, Pamela, and the gang might find there’s nothing a nice cup of tea, a sweet treat, and a little bit of friendship can’t heal… (publisher)
My take: Laurie couldn’t wait to set off on the tour with Pamela and her mother, Gracie and daughter, Ravenna. Almost immediately, though, she saw that things between the three women were tense. As the days go on Laurie learned the reasons for the strained relationships. She becomes involved in a secret that she’s not pleased to know and hopes it will be out in the open very soon. The other principals have their own thoughts on how the secret should be revealed.
I think my favorite characters of the book were Laurie, Gracie, Charles and Harvey. They seemed so genuine and honorable. You’ll have to read the novel to know about Charles and Harvey.
If you’ve ever wanted to go on a road trip in New England, and you like cake, this novel could be a guide. I’ve made note of a few places I’d like to visit. Belinda Jones’ story is about family, friendship, secrets, apologies and forgiveness. And food – dessert, to be precise. I enjoyed it and recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction and foodie fiction.
My take: The Bookseller is about Kitty, a thirty-something woman in 1960s Denver, CO who owns a book store with her best friend. Lately, Kitty has been having some vivid and strange dreams where she’s living a parallel life that is quite different from her real life. She is called Katharyn and has a husband and three children. In her dream life she finds herself daydreaming about her life as Kitty. She can’t figure out what’s going on until the dreams begin to jog some memories. As confusing as this might sound, I found it easy to follow.
Cynthia Swanson’s dual-storylines kept me turning the pages. It was apparent to me what was going on about midway through but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel. It made me think about the imperfections in life and how they can change our idea of what would make us happy or content. The natural order of life, as well as unexpected circumstances, can make our lives turn on a dime.
The Bookseller is Swanson’s debut novel. I think it would be a good selection for readers looking for something a little different.
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