Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

It’s the May long weekend here in our tiny corner of the world. The weather is finally cooperating for outdoor book binges. We had a birthday party yesterday and I have this weird thing about parents judging my housekeeping skills, so we cleaned like mad before the 12 year old boys showed up to make a mess again. Thankfully, clean-up was a breeze so today lent itself to indulgent backyard gazebo time with a rosé lemonade (meh) and a book (amazing!)

I’ve had The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek on my to-read pile for months. I’ve put it off, and put it off, and put it off… until I decided to give it a go last night. I made it to chapter 13 (when I should have been sleeping but we all know I’ll give up sleep for a good book.) The wee hours of the morning finally got to me, so I put it down knowing I’d have the afternoon to while away in 1930’s Kentucky hill country. Oh. My. Word. Why didn’t I read this book sooner?!?

Why didn’t I read this book sooner?!?

From the first paragraphs, this title is evocative and transports you to another time and place. It’s rife with folklore, superstition, and old home remedies – balanced with an honest and colourful depiction of a difficult era and landscape. Inspired by the historical and truly remarkable Kentucky Pack Horse library service and gentle-hearted blue-skinned people of Kentucky, Kim Michele Richardson weaves a poignant and heart-wrenching telling of poverty, misogyny, racial prejudice, and poverty. Through it all, books bind humble souls together – feeding the mind when the land won’t yield food and families are dying of starvation.

I don’t want to share any spoilers so I’ll leave you with this: pick up a copy of this book, book off a chunk of free-time, and dive right in! You’ll find yourself invested – infuriated with the wrongness of so many situations, in tears because of the heartache and loss, and absolutely in love with the Book Lady, Cussy, and the family she builds through the care and gifts for her patrons. Honestly, one of the best books I’ve read in awhile!

This complimentary title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: May 7, 2019

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Book Review: The House at Hope Corner

Delightful summer read!

I’ve read a few books from Bookouture, a UK-based digital publisher, and each one has been enjoyable. No surprise, The House at Hope Corner by Emma Davies was another successful literary escape (my favourite type of low-budget not-actually-a-vacation.)

Whirlwind romance, delightful scenery, just enough trouble to keep things interesting, and of course, a likeable female lead defining herself in the midst of it all – it equals a formula for a fantastic summer read. This book is the type you’ll want to load onto your reader for a relaxing afternoon under a tree or sitting on the beach – or in my case, snuggled up under the covers on a quiet dreary day.

I laughed, I cried, and I felt like I was right there, a part of the family with every tense scene, ever new situation, every triumph. The House at Hope Corner is a warm-hearted, page-turning depiction of a sweetly eccentric woman, her charming farmer fiancee, and the merging of two very different outlooks on life – finding balance between artistic, creative freedom and rigid, routine farm life while overcoming challenges and the secrets that come to light as you get to know someone and there family. It’s a great work of contemporary women’s fiction that will charm the socks off you!

I received a complimentary of this title via NetGalley with thanks to the publisher. As always, all opinions are my own.

Published: May 10, 2019 (Available now)
Publisher: Bookouture

Book Review: The House of Hardie by Anne Melville

Every once in a while, you dive into a book that really makes you think the author has a handle on their genre. My contact at Agora Books reached out to me and offered The House of Hardie by Anne Melville as a suggested read in response to some of my requests and reviews to their agency. She was spot on – I loved this book!

Two families from two classes. Four siblings with four dreams. Fate versus destiny...
In this dramatic Victorian saga, can love and passion overcome power and ambition? Not a new question posed in fiction, but done very well in this case.

The House of Hardie was first published in 1987 and is the first in the Hardie Family series. Agora has re-published this title posthumously. Author Anne Melville, in fact a pseudonym for Margaret Edith Newman, born in 1926 in Middlesex.

Before writing, she worked a variety of jobs including teaching in Egypt, editing a children’s magazine in London, and advising the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Twickenham. She published her first novel as Margaret Newman, a mystery novel entitled Murder to Music.

Newman continued publishing novels until her death in 1998, under a variety of pseudonyms and encompassing multiple genres. As Anne Melville, she focused on historical novels. Over the course of her career she published fifty-five novels.

As to the novel itself, it addresses the obstacles of romance between the merchant class and the Ton, the barriers set upon women with unrealistic expectations and limitations, it explores romance and adventure and the ties that bind us to family (and the bonds that are even greater.)

It was a well-written saga of a tale with an engaging plot and well-developed characters – especially the well-rounded, strong female leads. I mentioned in my Instagram post yesterday that it was “Historical fiction done right!”

My thanks to Agora Books for the complimentary copy via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published: May 2, 2019 (get it in store now!)
Publisher: Agora Books

Meal Plan Monday: Non-Edition

I’m skipping meal planning for the early part of this week as we use up the fridge/freezer/pantry items on hand. Nothing to share menu-wise. Instead I’ll remind you to plan time and things that nurture your spirit and feed your soul this week. I’ll also remind you to look for opportunities to feed others – with encouragement, with love, with kindness (food is a great thing too if they contain any of the above ingredients.)

Happy Monday!

Rambling on a Busy Week

I haven’t read as much as I’d have liked to this week. It’s been crazy busy – so busy I may have forgotten an important appointment, whoops! I’ve had some turnover in our office that has required some flexibility, we volunteered our time for a massive fundraising yard sale, and of course, we celebrated one special kid’s birthday. All important things on top of the normal things and by the time I’ve managed to sit down or crawl into bed, my body has been saying “Close your eyes, woman!”

I allowed the birthday boy (because he’s the birthday boy all week) skip school today. Last night, he was working alongside adults and pulling his weight (and more than) helping to move boxes and furniture for the yard sale, in the damp, in the dark, no complaining. Today, they moved everything again (out into the field) so he asked if he could help hands-on so I made the call that community service was an important learning opportunity for him as well. I’m remarkably proud of his generous and kind heart.

When we got home this afternoon, a little chilly and damp, he turned on the Food Network while I puttered around tidying the house (before my BRAND NEW WASHING MACHINE is delivered tomorrow! Pinnacle of adulthood!) He left it on when he moved to his room and I’ve been sucked into the web of Carnival Food, Firemasters, and Chopped. In all reality, I should really be vacumming the couch, but I just don’t want to move. Honestly, I could take a nap. The dog is cozy looking on his bed, snoring out loud, and I’m a little jealous.

I know this is all a ramble and I really don’t have a point… but sometimes I just need to spew in a sort of decompression. We have a busy weekend ahead – Mother’s Day lunch with my in-laws, Sunday School prep (I keep forgetting that I’m the teacher this week!), church (and Sunday school), and dinner with Kevin’s in-laws (aka my family.)

So here are my final thoughts… how do you decompress or carve out a time to recharge when you’ve had a busy, productive week and know that the weekend isn’t going to be any better? And how will you be honouring Mom this weekend? I always jokingly comment that we’re so busy celebrating all the other moms that this mom doesn’t get any time for herself. Any others mamas feel that way? Mothers Day weekend is as hectic as Christmas.

Blog Tour & Book Review: The East End by Jason Allen

The East End by Jason Allen was just published this week – on Tuesday, to be exact. Congratulations to the author! I know a lot of heart and soul and sweat and tears go into the process of taking a book from idea to page to publication. When a publicist at HarperCollins sent the initial description and asked if I’d like to be part of the blog tour, I jumped on board. Here is some information on the book, the author, and my final thoughts.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

After graduating high school, Corey Halpern would love to leave the Hamptons and never look back. He is stuck though, saddled with responsibility for his alcoholic mother, Gina, and his younger brother. So for now, he finds momentary escape by breaking and entering. The night before Memorial Day weekend, he targets the estate of Leo Sheffield, the billionaire CEO for whom he and Gina work.  But everything goes awry. Leo arrives suddenly—and he’s not alone. As Corey looks on in stunned horror, he witnesses a fatal mishap…as does another traumatized onlooker. With everything to lose, Leo will do whatever it takes to cover up the truth. Things spiral out of control, however. Pushed to their limits, Corey, Gina, and Leo all hurtle towards climactic showdowns as explosive as the holiday fireworks lighting up the night sky.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A Meditation on Fire. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing at Clayton State University. THE EAST END is his first novel.

MY REVIEW:.

I like to provide honest reviews and I always feel a little awkward when I don’t rave about a title. So I will be honest and say this is not a book I would have purchased on my own and I realised that very quickly into the first two chapters. I know it would not be a title I would recommend to a lot of the real-life readers who are part of my circle because they would have found it incredibly offensive – it’s raw and graphic and full of harsh language and scenes that would have left them uncomfortable. (A “Rated R… viewer discretion advised” type of novel.) That being said, I know a ton of other readers in my online circles who would absolutely love this book for all the same reasons – because it’s edgy, and fast-paced, and very, very corrupt.

So while I can’t recommend it in good conscience to some of my dear and closest friends, I can say that THE EAST END is well-written. It’s not bright or cheerful, but dark and atmospheric. It’s sad (as in desolate) and tumbles along at quite a pace. It’s not a traditional mystery or suspense, but it’s suspenseful in the tension-filled, catastrophic rush to a shocking ending. The lives of many unhappy people are intertwined and the moral/immoral choices and quandaries – the lies, the loyalties, the tale of a whole bunch of people who are not happy with their lives and are trying to fill the gaps with drug and alcohol addiction, unhealthy relationships, illicit affairs, and illegal hobbies – catch up in one dynamite conclusion. The author does a remarkable job of capturing the despair and despondency of the characters despite their socio-economic differences. He effectively touches on the need for trust and connection while highlighting the dangers of secrecy, obsession, and desperation. Best of all he leaves you with a small spark of hope that two of the main characters find redemption and happily ever after.

(As a small note of humour, when I finished, all I could think is, “Man, I don’t think I’ll ever visit the Hamptons. People are not happy there.” I’m sure the tourism board will be thrilled with this one… )

My thanks to the publisher, Harlequin, for providing a copy of this title and inviting me to be a part of this tour.


Chubby Cheeks & Endless Love

By all outward appearances, today was the same as any other day. My boys bickered over breakfast. I had to remind them to feed the dog three times. I’m pretty sure they both forgot to put deodorant on this morning and I’m not entirely sure they brushed their teeth. Some punches were thrown in the backseat of the car. We tripped over things lying around in the house. There are dishes in the sink.

But today was a special day as well. Our youngest is twelve years old. For those who are familiar with our J, he is one of a kind special. He’s quite adept at pushing buttons and to be honest, he can be a little bit annoying. He’s also remarkably curious. He’s creative. His imagination will keep him entertained for hours. He loves to talk (he gets that from his dad, of course.) He struggles with school at times (but I think it’s boredom and how easily he’s distracted) but he gets pretty good grades. He doesn’t have many close friends, but he’s friendly with everyone. He doesn’t walk – anywhere – he dances, he skips, he wiggles. He can be impulsive, he can be mischievous, he can be sweet as sugar. He’s a cuddler and a thinker and just a wee bit weird.

As he ages, I want him to be all of those things. I want him to have a plan for life, but be comfortable marching to the beat of his own drum. I want him to be respectful of others, but never compromise who he is at heart. I want him to indulge his curiosity and share his learning with absolutely everyone and everyone. Taking inspiration from the words of Thor’s mom in the latest Avenger’s movie, “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be… a measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.” – along these lines, I want him to have the confidence to be the very best version of himself without ever bearing the weight of other’s expectations. I pray he is successful and follows his path and that he remains true to himself and God’s plan along the way.

2007 | Cuddles in the NICU

I look back over the last 12 years and remember the chubby cheeked babe who spent a week in the NICU. I remember the baby in the backyard who couldn’t stand the grass. The toddler who loved the mud and always had a grin on his face. The toothless wonder cheeky in school pictures. The young student who got in trouble for having a collection of erasers in his desk – and using them to enact battles during class time. The boy who loves art shows and takes so. much. time. selecting. art. cards for his room. The one who participates in craft shows and volunteers to set up our church kids’ camp every summer. The boy who wanted to buy a book about birds and spent hours lying on the trampoline bird watching. The one who gets emotional in books but claims to hate reading. I miss the chubby cheeks and endless rolls – the innocence of the whys and hows of the toddler years – but I also love and cherish every moment that is shaping his future as a man. I hope he nevers forgets how amazing we think he is and that in another twelve years he can look back on his time in our home and know that he is loved beyond measure.

Meal Plan Monday: May 6 Edition

I have been feeling a little exhausted the last few weeks – we’ve been juggling a lot and trying to stay balanced. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve cried a few times just to let the excess of internal pressure out. We’ve also eaten out a few too many times and I realise that while I enjoy the break from the kitchen, too much not-home-cooked food doesn’t help with managing stress or emotions.

I thought the HelloFresh box with 3 meals last week may have helped take some of the thought and prep work out of home-cooked, but alas, I was terribly disappointed. Our one meal was bland and the meat was tough, the other was absolutely no different than picking up our own groceries and prepping from scratch, and the final is awaiting a verdict. Definitely not a plan that we’ll continue.

This weekend – if you don’t count the fact that our basement floor was soaking wet because our pump failed – was fairly relaxed. We visited with family (late night, lots of laughs!), spent some time mopping up some excess water downstairs, hung out in the local laundry mat, church… and an art tour with a friend. It was busy, but not stressful – and the sun was shining – yay!

Our menu for this week still has some convenience meals, and a night out for Chinese buffet as we celebrate our youngest son’s 12th birthday! Here is what’s on the docket:

  • Butter chicken with rice and/or naan
  • Stir fry
  • Subs (at home)
  • Thai chicken wings, home fries, and salad
  • Taco salad

How do you celebrate birthdays? Favourite meal? Choice of restaurant? Lots of family and friends? We always let them pick a restaurant and as they get older, a laid back no-plan kind of party with friends a bit later.

Book Review: Suki by Beryl Kingston

It seems that all the books I’ve agreed to read & review have all been published in April & May. It wouldn’t be an issue – I can knock out 5 or 6 books a week, easy-peasy – but (and that’s a doozy) – life has been throwing a bit of chaos over the last few weeks and my reading time has been limited. Agh. Also, a bunch of the books have been sagas – not quick little pocket-friendly reads. They’ve had some heft to them. So we do what we can and refuse to let reading become a pressure.

My most recent read was Suki by Beryl Kingston, courtesy of Agora Books via NetGalley. You may recall I was a part of a blog tour for one of Kingston’s other novels, Two Silver Crosses. I have tried to eloquently frame the words I want to use for my review, but can’t quite find the right ones so you are stuck with my meagre offerings.

Suki was originally published in two parts: Only Young in 2000 and Only Human in 2001. It was republished under the current title on April 18, 2019. As with other Agora titles I’ve read, the cover art is highly appealing.

As for the novel itself, I had such mixed feelings the entire time I read it. The title character, Suki, is an unwed wet nurse who finds herself lying to provide a future for her own child. She is deceitful, naive, and yet, likeable. The family she works for is ridiculous and unsympathetic. Her lover is despicable… until you get to know him. There is so much going on in this book and there’s a whole scope of complexities happening in the plot.

The author touches on (unfair) expectations for women, the despicability and normalcy of the slave trade, the absurd habits and entertainments of society in the 18th century. You’ll travel all over England, across the sea, through the West Indies and Africa and back again and in between. You’ll meet characters you love, you hate, you love to hate and hate to love and sometimes it will be all of the above for a single personage depending on where you are in the book. My emotions were engaged – I was angry, I was incredulous, I was disheartened – I was also entwined quite intricately into the sinuous route from first chapter to final sentence.

As mentioned before, Ms. Kingston writes remarkable tales – sagas that take an investment of time. However, they’re very well written with descriptive prose and colourful situations. Well worth the time required when you close the cover for the last time with a possible tear and a heartfelt sigh.

Book Review: The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr

I’d like to preface this review by saying that Robyn Carr is one of my favourite contemporary women’s fiction authors. She’s pretty spectacular and there’s something about the way she pieces her words together that is easy to read and relatable. I know I’m not alone in this opinion as she’s a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author – she knows what works. In fact, so many people love her, that one of her beloved series, Virgin River, has been picked up for a Netflix series production. I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first started hearing about it as an anticipated release.

The View from Alameda Island is set for publication tomorrow (April 30, 2019) and it will pop up everywhere – grocery stores, bookstores, airports, libraries, etc. Here is the tagline description from the publisher:

A poignant and powerful story about how one woman’s best intentions lead to the worst of situations, and how love helps her to heal and ultimately triumph.”

Now, I read this last week so my thoughts aren’t entirely fresh, but I was, honestly, underwhelmed. I found it a bit slow to start and it just wasn’t my favourite of Ms. Carr’s stories. That being said, the further in I read, the more I enjoyed it. It was, as described, poignant – it touched on emotional abuse, physical abuse, divorce, strained family relationships, new beginnings, healing, and gentle romance.

Overall, I did enjoy the book – it was true to previous works in perhaps an overly formulaic way – as mentioned, not entirely my favourite. Maybe it was the fact that I read it after a very gripping novel or was a bit over-stressed last week -a bit of an it’s not you, it’s me situation?

As much as the primary characters carry the plot (and I did admire their strength and tenacity), I actually wanted to read more about some of the secondary characters and their development. (Perhaps written that way as a potential series???) I do not advise against reading this novel – in fact, I’d say give it a try – it has heart and soul and happily ever after – but it doesn’t get a definitive must-read recommendation from me (and I feel terrible actually saying that…) Sorry, Ms. Carr – I still love you! My opinions aside, I’m sure it will still pop up on best sellers lists and will be a great summer read. (PS – avoid if language and romantic scenes aren’t your thing…. I know some of my friends on here are cautious with content!)

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Published by: Harlequin Mira
Publication Date: April 30, 2019