Whaling Captains of Color
by Skip Finley
This was a really good read, telling the incredible stories of the people of color living free and working in the era of American whaling (mainly the late 1700s to late 1800s). I enjoyed the vivid imagery of strong-willed, intelligent, and successful men of color (mainly of African descent) living free during the slave economy of early America. Through herculean efforts of these men to not only find their way out of slavery and servitude, but to forge new paths on the open seas as captains not only of ships and men, but as leaders in a difficult and dangerous industry.
By Helen Macdonald
A collection of essays reflecting the author’s connection to nature and the human experience. Macdonald writes beautifully and the reader is transported by her words. The topics are varied: eclipse, meadows, bird migration, migraines, mushrooms, and more. Her essay on the eclipse resurrected my faded memories from the one I experienced in 2017. How delightful to relive such a wondrous moment.
To me, this is a “dip in” book, one in which the reader most benefits by reading an essay and then setting the book aside to process each experience. This is a book to savor.
In the eARC, the format was awful. Just a string of essays with no breaks or functional table of contents, so it took a couple of essays to figure out what was going on. I am sure this will be fixed in publication, but Grove Press, please put a little more effort into the eARC. I say this with the greatest respect and appreciation for the content.
Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Press for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
By Julia Heaberlin
I am on the hunt for engrossing fiction that will not let me set the book down for long without calling me back to continue. Something strong enough to overcome the need to repeatedly check the news for the latest disaster. We Are All the Same in the Dark is just what I need.
It is a murder mystery set in Texas and features strong female protagonists, a twisty plot that keeps you guessing, and quality writing that forces the reader to slow down and absorb the words. I am not going to share more than that, as this book is best read with no advance details. Let the mystery unfold as it was written. The story skips around a bit within the chapters, so it is not a skim read. I didn’t predict the outcome. YAY!
5-stars and a new author for me to follow.
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Ballantine for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
By Paul Tremblay
Right now, I am only reading books that will give me an escape from the current COVID-19 pandemic. I opened this title on my Kindle and read the first three pages only to find it was about a rabies pandemic. Damn. It was too late, I was bitten. I rabidly consumed this book, feverishly turning the pages until the very end.
The original copyright date on this was November 2019. Really? Paul Tremblay, where did you divine the hyper-accurate downward spiral the US would take with the coronavirus pandemic?? Had I not been living this situation and the daily breaking news alerts that test our sanity and make us question the sanity of our fellow citizens, while fearing for the coming demise of our country thanks to enabled sociopathic leadership, I would have dismissed this book out of hand as too far-fetched. Instead, every head-scratching, mind-boggling, anger-inducing facet of the US’s handling and citizens’ response to the pandemic appeared in the pages of this book. I found it to be frighteningly prophetic and I had to know how Tremblay’s telling of the end unfold.
I could not turn the pages fast enough. 5-stars. Thank you NetGalley and Harper Collins for this eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
The Golden Cage
By Camilla Lackberg
(No cover image, because...who cares.)
After reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn years ago, I will pick up a psychological thriller on occasion, but I am always disappointed. Maybe it is because Gone Girl was my first in this genre, maybe it is because it was so twisted and unique.
The Golden Cage had wholly unlikeable characters, a painfully slow first third of the book, and I was not surprised by any of the “twists” to come. The main character, Faye, was revealed to be a psychopath fairly early in the book, so why she was able to be dominated by her husband was the only mystery in the book. The continuous references to high-end name brands felt like a commercial. (If you are into status, that may be a thrill to you. I am not. It was not.) The revenge premise was ridiculous. I have no problem with sex scenes in a book, but these were written like pulp fiction porn.
I am disappointed that I wasted time on this book when I could have been reading something much better. The only reason it gets 2 stars instead of one is that I stuck it out to the bitter end and didn’t give up at the end of part 1.
Read Gone Girl. Then consider the “psychological thriller” genre to be a continual failed attempt to shock the reader
By Christina Baker Kline
As a rabid ran of Orphan Train, I waited with anxious anticipation for Christina Baker Kline’s next book. I devoured The Exiles in two sittings. To me, quality historical fiction must have factual roots and be as educational as it is entertaining. Ms Kline meets theses requirements with her latest book.
This story of three young women’s horribly oppressed lives during the 1840s was an engaging and rather depressing read. After being found guilty of separate crimes, Evangeline and Hazel were transported from Britain to Australia to serve their sentences and Mathinna was a young Aboriginal girl, taken from her home to basically become a museum piece for the local governor and his wife.
The story of transported women was not new to me, but the historical treatment of Australia’s Aboriginal people was, and it was horrid. History frequently neglects the women’s perspective and I appreciate any opportunity to read about this.
The only fault I found with this book is that the thread connecting Mathinna with the others was very incidental and not developed well. In fact, Mathinna seems to become an afterthought in the book. Her story felt like a useful plot line to describe a part of history and then she was cast aside as no longer useful. Granted with all the trials and tribulations each woman faced, maybe it was better that we were spared reading any more misery.
If the current state of our part of the world is weighing heavily on you, read something else for now. Do put it on your “To Read” shelf for brighter times. If reading about the dire plight of others, puts your current situation in perspective, read it now. Either way, it is worth your time.
Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for this eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
By Carolyn Mullet
I judged this book by its cover featuring undulating boxwoods forming a maze filled with tulip blossoms. Who knew boxwoods could look like that?! Show me more. Plenty of gasps and “Honey, look at this!” comments were to follow. I feel like I embarked upon a cozy tour of lesser-known gardens of the UK and Europe.
Each garden is shared through beautiful photography and just enough text to explain the why, when, how, and highlight of each garden. I feel like I actually was able to escape the confines of my house by immersing myself in these varied, beautiful gardens.
Use this book to escape from COVID-19 fatigue and virtually explore some magnificent gardens. Then, give yourself something to look forward to, as you plan to visit any of these gardens in person, post-virus. I feel my spirits lifted and my mind freed after savoring this book.
5 enthusiastic stars. (I wish it could be published sooner. It is a gift gardeners and travelers could use right now!)
Thanks to NetGalley and Timber Press for this eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
By Ann Cleeves
I have been a huge fan of both Vera and Shetland TV series on PBS. This was my first opportunity to read a Vera mystery by Ann Cleeves. It was wonderful.
Set during a blizzard on the winter solstice in Northumberland, England on the the Brockburn Estate, home to Vera’s distant family, in fact it is where her father, Hector, was raised. Longtime fans will relish learning more about Vera and her family. The Darkest Evening grabs the reader from the first chapter and keeps them guessing until the very end.
Vera Stanhope is a flawed human being (aren’t we all), but she is a gifted detective. The beauty of the book compared to the TV series, is that the reader is treated to the inner-dialogue of Vera and her two closest colleagues, Joe and Holly. This insight into the minds of the main characters helped me get to know them much better, I absolutely loved it.
Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur books for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
By Greg Loades
The Modern Cottage Garden is an ideal read for a rainy afternoon and a cup of tea, or a warm summer day in the dappled shade with a tall lemonade. Non-traditional plant pairings, specimen plants, and four season highlights, encourage the reader to think beyond the typical cottage garden by updating it with a “fusion” flair.
Many gardening books share massive gardens for expert gardeners forgetting that many readers do not have the space or expertise to create such spaces. I love to visit large gardens, but often I am too overwhelmed to bring home and replicate any facets of them. Greg Loades brings fresh ideas to those of us who have small spaces - including patio gardens using containers. A container cottage garden, now that is a fresh idea! The photographs are excellent and further inspire the reader.
The seasonal section with “to-do” lists is helpful, as is the list of 50 essential plants. In this time of travel restrictions, the luscious photographs of UK gardens are doubly appreciated. I didn’t love the images of massive gardens and estate landscapes, and where plants are discussed in the text without a photo, I began to skim. There was plenty in this book to compensate for those two shortcomings.
Thank you to Timber Press and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
By Fannie Flagg
Variation on a song...What the world needs now, is Flagg, sweet Flagg.... As we continue to slog our way through this crapfest of a year, we need a break. Fannie Flagg to the rescue.
Mid-April I was remarking to anyone who would listen, “I NEED a new Fannie Flagg book!” She is my puppies and sunshine author who reliably dishes up comfort reads that soothe like macaroni and cheese with an apple pie chaser. Much to my amazed delight, an email arrived this week from Random House and NetGalley offering an eARC of The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop. Hallelujah!!
I immediately abandoned the excellent Vera Stanhope mystery I was enjoying and nestled in for an afternoon of pure delight.
Fannie brings us back to the town of Whistle Stop and reacquaints us with characters from Fried Green Tomatoes (among others) and shares what has been happening since we were last together. (You don’t HAVE to read FGT before this book, but you should.)
I cried, I laughed out loud. I devoured this book just like mac and cheese and apple pie...way too fast, knowing I should slow down and savor, but it was just too good to stop. Finishing the book was like looking at the empty dishes, basking in the aftertaste and looking forward to the next available offering.
Thank you Fannie, NetGalley, and Random House for this eARC in exchange for an unbiased review. This isn’t published until October, but we need it now!
By American Society of Botanical Artists
Wow! With 420 pages of excellence, Botanical Art Techniques is a gorgeous resource for anyone with an interest in creating drawings of plants. The introduction guides the reader in botanical basics, how to work in nature, or collect (when appropriate) cuttings for home study, and how to create a home studio. The sample studios are beautiful without being out of reach for most home hobby-artists.
The process of observing nature over time and relying on close inspection, is a gift during these stuck at home days. The explanation of why photographing nature is inadequate for botanical artwork was interesting and made total sense, but it hadn’t previously occurred to me.
Detailed tutorials are provided for graphite, pen and ink, colored pencils, watercolors and general instruction is provided for other methods. This will appeal to anyone interested in beginning or improving their own botanical art techniques, or to those who love beautiful botanical artwork.
I love this book. Timber Press never fails to publish books I wish to savor and collect. This one is no exception. I can’t wait to buy a print copy.
Thank you to NetGalley and Timber Press for this eARC in return for an unbiased review.
By C.J. Cooke
I needed a book to distract me from the state of the world (actually USA) this week. This book did not disappoint. Although it is set in Norway, it is about Brits in Norway. Not truly a Nordic mystery, but it does include a strong Nordic folklore element.
Lexi Ellis has just survived a suicide attempt, a breakup with her boyfriend, and a betrayal from her friend. While on a train, she overhears a conversation in which a young woman is considering a nanny position for a British family that will be living in Norway while the husband builds a cutting edge eco-home.. She manages to hijack the email exchange, assume the identity of Sofie, and become the nanny to two very young girls whose mother recently died. This thread of the story alternates with that of the deceased mother, Aurelia.
There were just too many parts that didn’t ring true. The husband and wife wanted to create a model home that respected nature and was as green as possible, but in one of the first conversations, they nonchalantly cut down old growth trees that obscured the view. This was for starters. Lexi was an emotional mess, but was able to fake being a Montessori teacher and vegan chef with almost no difficulty.
I enjoyed the book, although I did find the middle to be a bit slow and the ending was rushed and disjointed. It did the job of distracting me from the misery of the world this week, but it was not the powerhouse read I was expecting.
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
By Fiona Davis
Another new author for me and I can’t wait to read more by her!
Rare books have gone missing from the New York Public Library in 1913 and now it is happening again in 1993. Could there be a connection?
In 1913, the superintendent of NYPL and his family, live in an apartment located in the NYPL. (Yes, there is/was an apartment!) The superintendent is an aspiring author and his wife is also a writer working in the gender-driven confines of the era. Breaking the barriers will be difficult and carry consequences.
In 1993, a young librarian, who happens to be the granddaughter, is appointed curator of the rare books exhibit and materials go missing once again.
This is an intriguing mystery with interesting characters and quality writing. (Except for one instance of the word “dove” instead of the correct term “dived” in the 1913 section.)
There were many fascinating facts about the library. I toured it recently and now wish I could tour it again with an eye to the details from this book!
This book will appeal to readers of historical fiction, lovers of libraries, and anyone who enjoys a good mystery. I give it an enthusiastic 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Dutton, for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
This was my first Daniel Kalla book. It will not be my last. I am always happy to discover an author new to me.
The Last High is a medical/crime story set in Vancouver, BC. The city is truly a character in the book. I was supposed to be there this month, so it was a treat to travel vicariously through this novel. It begins with a group of teenagers who unwittingly ingest fentanyl at a party and many of them die. Dr. Julia Rees and Detective Anson Chen combine forces to trace the supply chain in hopes of preventing more deaths. The cross-section of users, gang syndicates that sell drugs, and facts about opioids in general, made for an interesting read. It wasn’t a suspenseful page-turner, but it was an engrossing read with a lightning-fast wrap up.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Canada for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
In newly established colonies predominantly populated with single men, crime and immoral activities abounded. Social reformers and church leaders believed the way to tame these behaviors was to be provide young marriageable women. The Columbia Emigration Society, of which Charles Dickens was a member, provided free passage to maids, mill workers and others in hopes of improving behavior. Women came from all over England in hopes of a better life. In 1862, sixty women were provided passage to Victoria (now British Columbia) on the S.S. Tynemouth. Upon arrival women either stayed in Victoria, or moved on to Vancouver or small gold mining towns. This historical event sets the premise for the novel.
Charlotte is twenty-one with few appealing marriage prospects and a desire to do something more with her life. Her sister Harriet’s ambitious husband pressures her to charm a powerful political ally, but things go terribly wrong. Charlotte and Harriet are booked passage on the S.S. Tynemouth.
Without giving too much away, the story is told in three parts; London life, the voyage, and arrival in the new land. Part 1, is story that has been told countless times before. The voyage was interesting, but was disproportionately long and not as engaging. Part 3, in the new land, was rushed and could have been so much more.
I prefer historical fiction that educates as well as entertains. When the author included historical details, the story was at its best. She obviously conducted a lot of research and I wanted to benefit from that! The dialogue did not seem true to the time period and was a bit uneven. The drama was not overwhelmingly dark and I appreciated that. For a first novel, Howard wrote a book that was a quick, light read. I give it 3.5 stars.
Now, off to read more historical documents about this actual brideship.
Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Canada for this eARC in exchange for my unbiased review.
By Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
This book was not what I expected, but I did find it interesting. I expected a guide on managing aging and what to expect. This was mainly an author’s life experiences sprinkled with opinions and a bit of advice. It read like blog articles or essays combined to create a book.
The 87 year old author did lead a fascinating life. Her tips on planning for senior living and burial/cremation were thought-provoking. Reading this may help me better understand my mother and mother-in-law and the challenges they face. It will also encourage me to care for myself and make preparations for how I hope to live out my final years. 3.5 stars.
Thank you to Harper Collins Publishing and NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
by Tess Gerritsen
Well, this was a surprise. I recently became a fan of Rizzoli and Isles and jumped at the chance to read a book by Tess Gerritsen. I kept waiting for those two characters to enter the book, but it turns out this was not a R&I book. So, I rolled with it.
Eva is a food writer who rents a beach house to write her long past deadline cookbook and to drink way too much to assuage her guilt from a New Years Eve gone wrong. The house is beautiful and home to a long-dead ship captain who built it a hundred years ago. An unidentified woman’s body washes up on the shore and this is a very small part of most of the story. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention will guess who and whodunnit. The mystery is secondary, the ghost story is the main plot.
The Shape of Night could be described as the love child of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” and “50 Shades of Grey” raised by Agatha Christie.
Fluffy, steamy fun, and a perfect escapist read during quarantine. 3.5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
by Sue Monk Kidd
One of my all-time favorite books is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. When given the opportunity to read and review her latest book, I jumped at the chance. As with Wings, Kidd was able to take a well-known topic and craft an engaging story about a little-known part of it by seamlessly weaving together fiction and non-fiction.
The Book of Longings is the story of Ana, a young woman who has a talent for writing, but will lose all opportunity to express herself when she is forced into an arranged marriage. She encounters many characters, both cruel and kind during her odyssey to self-actualization. One of the people she meets, and later marries, is Jesus.
This was a very daring premise on the part of Kidd, but her in-depth research does not preclude Jesus from having a wife. The years of his life from 12-30 are unknown. Women were often side characters in the Bible. Kidd states, “In first-century Jewish world of Galilee, marriage was so utterly normative, it more or less went without saying.” It was likely Jesus would have been shamed by not taking a wife. Over the ensuing centuries, it became emphasized that Jesus was not married, and also during this time women were marginalized in the world. She asks how the Western world might be different today if Jesus had been married and his wife’s story had been told?
There will be much discussion about this book and I am sure many strong opinions will be held. I enjoyed the book and found the premise thought-provoking. Had it not been written by Sue Monk Kidd, the topic and time period would not have piqued my interest and I would have passed over this book. In my opinion it falls quite short of The Invention of Wings (as does most fiction), but it is a well-written read that I recommend.
Thank you to NetGalley and Viking Books for the eARC in return for an unbiased review.
Homemade Yogurt and Kefir
By Gianaclis Caldwell
How could someone write so much about fermented milk and make it interesting? Gianaclis Caldwell has found a way. With clear instructions, beautiful photos, and delicious recipes, this book is a must-have for anyone wanting to make their own yogurt, kefir or cheeses. The author provides helpful resource links and addresses in the appendix. I appreciate that she has a dedicated section on non-dairy yogurts and even how to make non-dairy milks. She includes how to use store-bought equipment in addition to equipment-free options. There really is something for everyone who wishes to make their own yogurt or kefir. I made my first batch when we first went into quarantine (before the book) and it was good. Then, this book became available and my second batch was much better. Perfect timing!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
The Book of Lost Friends
by Lisa Wingate
As always, Lisa Wingate writes engaging historical fiction that wraps a fictional story around an obscure fact that deserves more attention.
"Lost Friends" advertisements were published in newspapers after the Civil War. These ads were submitted by former slaves hoping to locate their loved ones who had been sold.
Hannie's story is an odyssey that begins in 1875 Louisiana as she unwittingly joins her former master's daughters on their quest to prove who is the rightful owner to the estate. Benny is a teacher in 1987 Augustine, Louisiana who is searching for a way to survive her first year teaching English to students who provide challenges at every turn. Each story is engrossing and I was reluctant to leave each character to return to the other at the end of each chapter.
The two stories tie together beautifully and the reader is left wanting to know more about the "Lost Friends." Excellent resources for further reading are provided at the end of the book.
Another winner from Lisa Wingate. 5-stars
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this eARC in return for an un-biased review.
A Year at Brandywine Cottage: Six Seasons of Beauty, Bounty, and Blooms
by David L. Culp
I felt like this was a love letter to the author's garden. It read like a journal of a year's activity in the garden with additions of recipes, in-depth studies of some of the plants and their varieties, and beautiful photos.
This book is specific to the author's climate and region and not everyone will be able to use every bit of advice. Who cares! When I visit gardens, I marvel at the design and diversity. I do not expect to replicate it at home.
This is the kind of book I like to have during rainy days, hot afternoons, frosty mornings and lazy weekends. It is best enjoyed a few chapters at a time. It is inspirational and lovely and reminds me why I love to garden.
Fans of Dulcy Mahar and Margaret Roach will want to add this to their bookshelves.
Thank you to NetGalley and Timber Press for this eARC in return for an un-biased review.
The Splendid and the Vile
by Erik Larson
Erik Larson does it again! This author is on my must-read list and has never left. His books are consistently engrossing, well-researched, and intriguing.
Winston Churchill has been a conundrum to me. Most know of his exalted status because of his leadership during WWII. This is also the man whose policies led to the Bengal Famine in India which resulted in more than 3 million deaths from starvation. He was also a romantic as I learned upon a visit to Blenheim Palace and marveled at the folly in which he proposed to his wife. There are many sides to this man.
Erik Larson focuses on Churchill's life, decisions, and family during the first year of WWII. It was fascinating to learn about his decision-making and his respect for his wife's thoughts on matters. In typical Larson fashion, there are many details many/most readers will discover for the first time, and his research backs up his writing. This book will appeal to Larson's fans, WWII readers, or anyone with an interest in Churchill.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for my unbiased view.
Running with Sherman
by Christopher McDougall
This was a wonderful read. As a fan of donkeys and running, this book was written just for me, but others will love it as well. It is a human interest story that weaves through the lives of all of the people who helped Christopher and Sherman prepare for the race in Colorado. The drama and asides throughout the book were engaging and kept the narrative moving. If this was fiction, it would be unbelievable, but it is non-fiction and it is excellent.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
The Vineyards of Champagne
by Juliet Blackwell
I love historical fiction, especially WWI and WWII. I visited Reims and when I had the opportunity to read this novel set in Reims, I jumped at it. I always hope to get some education with my historical fiction and this book did provide a bit of insight. I did not know that the occupants of the Champagne region lived in caves during WWI, nor did I know about the "marraines de guerre" or godmothers of war who corresponded with soldiers throughout the war. Other than those two gems, there was no new information for me.
The story unfolded in two time periods. The WWI time period was told through a mix of letters written then (and read either then or in present day) and through character narratives. It was disjointed and did not make for a smooth or engrossing story. The present day portion of the story was a string of romance novel tropes with all of the "twists" being totally predictable. At times, the dialogue was trite to the point of distracting. I did not care for the main character, Rosalyn and at times, I just wanted to slap her.
If you do not know much about WWI and are a fan of traditional romance novels, you will find a lot to love here. I wanted to love this book, but it was just okay, but not a stellar read for me.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
by Katrine Engberg
I really wanted to like this book. As a fan of other Nordic crime dramas (TV and print) such as: The Killing, The Chestnut Man, and Dicte, I was hoping a suspenseful story with intriguing characters. This one had neither. The premise was unusual, but the pacing of the story was slow and choppy. I didn't care about the characters and the writing was odd. I assume something was lost in translation.
Some sample quotes:
"And since the joint was just a loogie away..."
"Their shoe soles stuck to the clingy linoleum flooring making their footsteps sound like a symphony of agitated plungers" (Okay, that one was funny.)
"...Clausen exhaled audibly through his nose so that a hair that had escaped the trimmer flapped in the breeze."
"Larsen turned on his heel and marched away in a cloud of rage and expensive aftershave."
"He didn't seem like he could care less"
"Tell me, are we in the middle of some fucking crime novel, or what?"
If you are a die-hard fan of Nordic crime, and have exhausted the other, finer options, this one will do. It just isn't the best.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
You're Not Listening
by Kate Murphy
Too many years ago to mention, I wrote a research paper in college about listening. The premise was that people did not value, and were not good at that portion of the communication process. There wasn't much research then and it is still an overlooked skill today. Kate Murphy seeks to change that.
This well-researched book is extremely relevant today and is a must-read. "The ability to listen to anyone has been replaced by the capacity to shut out everyone, particularly those who disagree with us or don't get to the point fast enough." Not only are we not listening to each other, we are choosing to not even hear each other!
MRI studies have shown that close friends and family members who listen closely to each other have brains that process stimuli and messages the same way. When we say we are like-minded, it turns out we really are!
Unfortunately, we hear much more quickly than we speak. Many people who listen to podcasts and audiobooks are setting the playback speeds at up to 2 times the recorded rate. Listening at this speed denies the reader the ability to hear emotions and nuances in the story and they develop an inability to pay attention to people speaking at a normal pace.
My favorite quote was from scholar Ronald Sharp, "You're welcoming another person's words and feelings into your consciousness. You are allowing that person to cross over the threshold and take up residence in your world." Wow.
There was so much to learn and savor in this book. As we become digitally connected, we are losing our true inter-connectivity. This book provides an antidote to the former. I highly recommend.
Thank you to NetGalley and Celadon books for and eARC in return for an unbiased review.
Before and After
by Lisa Wingate and Judy Christie
I loved Before We Were Yours and was haunted by the story. When I learned stories of the actual survivors of Georgia Tann's Tennessee Children's Home Society were to be told by Lisa Wingate, I jumped at the chance to read the stories.
You must read Before We Were Yours before reading this book for it to have the impact and meaning it deserves. When you finish Before We Were Yours, you will want to know more. The author and Judy Christie joined forces to tell the stories children who survived this nightmare. There were successful adoptions, if you could call them that. The author did not dwell on the negative and salacious details, but the trauma experienced by many of the survivors (and their children) was described with respect and fairness.
The horror of having children illegally taken from poor mothers without explanation or legal recourse, and no or false documentation for prevention of reunification is a nightmare that is not isolated in our history. The trauma inflicted on both the parents and the children reverberated for generations. This is a powerful book told through excellent writing and it is as relevant today as it was during Georgia Tann's time. Monsters still exist.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of this book for an unbiased review.
The Remarkable Life of the Skin
by Monty Lyman
I love books that make science accessible for everyone.
Skin. I have a love/hate relationship with mine. Fair, freckly, age spotty, wrinkly, dry...what's to love? Turns out, EVERYTHING! The senses at our fingertips, the ability to defend us from pathogens, thin as paper on our eyelids and thick as paperboard on our feet, a living breathing organ that makes quality life possible.
If you are a fan of Mary Roach and Bill Bryson, you are in for a treat. Mr. Lyman takes the reader on a fascinating guided exploration of our biggest organ. I found it fascinating. Highly recommend.
Thank you to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
By Giulia Enders
I love accessible science reads, especially ones about our bodies. Mary Roach, Bill Bryson, and now Giulia Enders.
There is so little we truly know about our bodies function. What is the purpose of the appendix? Why does our stomach twist in knots when we are nervous? What are all those bacteria doing there and how do we keep the good ones thriving while knocking out the bad ones? How does how you are born influence your immune system? There is so much to learn. This book is a good place to start.
By Mo Rocca
I have been watching CBS Sunday Morning since the Charles Kuralt era and I love the Mo Rocca segments. His journalistic style comes through loud and clear in this book. In fact, as I was reading, I could hear his voice. He not only memorializes famous people, but he includes inanimate objects and eras.
There are so many fascinating bits of trivia, that I knew I was driving my husband slightly batty with constant interruptions of "Did you know..." and "Listen to this..." Some of the bits are familiar to me (but I am into this kind of stuff, so it may be new to others).
Rethinking Mount Rushmore, Puerto Rican dictators influencing baseball, and disco. Ethel Merman disco. You will want to read this with the web at your fingertips. Fun, funny, and informative.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
Where the Light Enters
By Sara Donati
I have mixed feelings about this book.
Where the Light Enters was described as a story about two female surgeons in Brooklyn during the late 1800s and an engrossing murder mystery that is being investigated by one of the surgeon's detective husband. Ground-breaking surgeons, early Brooklyn, and a murder mystery...a trifecta of interest for me...only it wasn't.
The murder mystery was intriguing, but the author would meander away from the topic for ages, returning just in time to give me hope of more details and thus keep reading. There were so many characters to follow and drawn out social and irrelevant details that my interest kept wandering. I did not realize it was an epic and a sequel and that explains the lack of initial character development. I didn't learn key descriptions until nearly two-thirds of the way through the book. One thing about a Kindle is unless you look for it, you don't realize how long a book actually is. I trudged through this (600+) page book in hopes of solving the mystery which wrapped up intensely at the very end of the book.
The writing was good, the mystery was interesting, but the social filler left me flat, I think had I read the first book before this, I may have been more prepared for the experience. 3 1/2 stars.
Thanks to the NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
by Bill Bryson
Oh Bill Bryson, how I do love your writing! I have been a fan since reading "A Short History of Nearly Everything". My husband and I were so into this book and the discussions it inspired, that we read it together at the dining room table, only turning the page when the other was ready. I recommend reading Bryson's books this way, or you can drive others in the room crazy, through repeated interjections of, "Wow! Did you know....?!" This book is no exception.
In his typical approachable style, Bryson takes facts, trivia, and gossipy asides and weaves them together into page-turning books. The Body takes the reader on a journey through the body's smallest parts (DNA, bacteria, cells) to its largest features (skin, bones, intestines).
As I am a prolific consumer of health material, many of the larger points were not new to me. It was the back story that I found quite often to be revelatory. I love the books by Mary Roach and Mr. Bryson referenced her works a few times. In my opinion, her body books surpassed "The Body", but mainly because she took one function and thoroughly investigated it. This book felt a bit rushed in sections. The reproductive section seemed especially light. Was the author embarrassed or running out of time?
Despite the very few shortcomings, I enjoyed this book and recommend it - and all of Bryson's earlier works, too!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
Nature's Best Hope
by Douglas W. Tallamy
I read the author's earlier book, Bringing Nature Home, about the importance of native plants in the garden, so I was excited to read his latest book on the topic.
In this book, Tallamy continues his efforts to change how we view our private and public spaces by creating "Homegrown National Parks". According to the author 83% of the US is privately owned. Conservation must happen on private property.
Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act has quite often resulted in pre-emptive habitat destruction to protect property rights. As a plant or animal is considered threatened, many homeowners destroy the habitat, just in case they will be restricted at a later date. Tallamy states that this and the flaw of focusing on saving a single species rather than the ecosystem that supports the at-risk are major drawbacks of the ESA. While protecting isolated pockets of habitat is worthwhile, without connected corridors across private lands, species will continue to struggle to survive. If most landowners do a little to bring back natives, overall we can have a dramatic impact.
The book starts by sharing interesting findings of two preeminent scientists - Aldo Leopold and E.O. Wilson - which is interesting. He continues by writing about how human impacts have contribute to lack of habitat and diversity of our once robust ecosystem. I began to tire of the gloom and doom by the time he finally began to share his idea for recovery. I do wish he had focused on the "best hope" earlier and in more detail. Less-committed readers may not get to the part where a rescue is possible.
I did enjoy the book and will be looking for additional ways to make my yard part of the "Homegrown National Park" system. I hope others will find their way through the dark to get to the ray of hope in the end.
I received an eARC from #Netgalley and #Timberpress for my unbiased opinion of #naturesbesthope
by Nadine Horn and Yorg Mayer
If you are vegan or vegetarian, or like really good food loaded with flavor from herbs and spices, this book is for you. This is a vegan cookbook that does not profess to be gluten-free. If that is your thing, look elsewhere.
I love cookbooks that provide a photo for every recipe. This book does that and the photos are gorgeous! I enjoy cooking, but I prefer to not spend hours in the kitchen. The recipes are varied and there are some ideas for quick and easy meals. If you are creative, you can simplify some of the other more labor-intensive recipes.
I have a pretty well-stocked pantry and spice cupboard, so I have many of the required ingredients. If you are new to cooking or a vegan diet, you will need to stock your shelves or adapt the recipes since each recipe seems to have at least one uncommon ingredient.. This could be frustrating to beginners or to cooks who like to pick up a recipe and start cooking without having to plan every detail in advance.
Many of the recipes represent foods from around the world. I appreciate the variety and creativity. Recipe chapters include: breakfasts, snacks, quick dishes, one-pot , entertaiing, breads, dips, and sweets. A versatile selection to cover anything you might be hungry for. The recipes uses measurements in cups or gram weights which is helpful.
This book would be a nice addition to any vegetarian/vegan cook's collection.
Thank you to NetGalley and The Experiment Publishing for this eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
Whole Food Cooking Every Day: Transform the Way You Eat with 250 Vegetarian Recipes Free of Gluten, Dairy and Refined Sugar
by Amy Chaplin
This book is a great resource for anyone wishing to prepare more whole foods. Each chapter gives one basic, core recipe and then follows with many ways to adapt the recipe suitable for your dietary needs. If you want a book completely vegan and gluten-free, this is not your book...but I must say, you would be missing an opportunity to try some delicious recipes.
The first chapter was all about "Chia Bircher Bowls" which are breakfast puddings. Yummy! The gluten-free bread chapter had photos of breads in many colors. They looked very dense and I know that makes for an atypical loaf, but I find dense, flavorful breads to be delicious. About 20 pages are devoted to creating your own nut or seed milks. I used to make my own soy milk via machine, and I know I am too lazy for this, but I am sure it will be popular with many readers.
There are chapters on compotes, beans (including pressure cooking options), myriad vegetable recipes, fermenting, dressings and sauces, what to do with tempeh, cauliflower bakes, crackers, desserts, granola, and waffles. She concludes with how to stock a pantry, necessary utensils and resources for purchasing ingredients and tools.
I love that the recipes include measurements in cups, ounces, and grams so they fit any preferred method for cooking. Also included are informational boxes that highlight additional information or tips. The photos are gorgeous and will inspire the reader. (Recipe books without photos are non-starters for me.)
For much of the 1990s I was a vegan. Then after a long trip to Alaska, I added fish back to my diet.
Now, I am primarily a vegetarian with a seafood exception about twice a month. I thought I knew a lot about whole food cooking, but this book taught me some new recipes that I will be using regularly.
I would have liked more meal recipes. The ones that are present are creative and appealing. In my opinion, there were too many pages devoted to sauces, dressings, crackers, and milks and breakfast foods. If you are a whole-foods devotee with an eye to making everything yourself, this is your book. If you are a dabbler, you will enjoy parts of the book and that in itself may be enough.
Thank you to NetGalley and Artisan Books for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett
This is the story of the lives of brother and sister who are displaced from their family home when their father dies and leaves everything to his new bride and her daughters. Over the years they revisit the neighborhood to observe the home and reminisce and connect.
I know Ann Patchett has a large following and so I was excited to read one of her books. Her writing is excellent but her storytelling felt flat. The characters were interesting, but not compelling. The story just meandered without much suspense or drama. That being said, when I set down my Kindle, I did want to return to see where the story was going to go. It just didn't go very far.
I didn't dislike the book, but I didn't love it either. I will try another of her books someday. Maybe it was just this book, or maybe it was just me. 3.25 stars if I could.
Thank you to Net Galley and Harper Collins for the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
#DutchHouse #NetGalley #HarperCollins #AnnPatchett
Emily Dickindson's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Iconic Poet
by Marta McDowellI will say that I am not a huge poetry fan, but I am a gardener who loves a good story. Marta McDowell's book, Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life, roped me in as a fan for life, so I was excited to receive an advanced reader copy of this book about Emily Dickinson.
Her research is thorough and she intertwines the author's life, writings, and gardens beautifully. As the book is dividend among the seasons, I would prefer to read it in multiple sittings, perhaps with rain and a cup of tea, or on the patio with a lemonade. The plant index at the end is very useful in bringing some of Ms Dickinson's garden sensibilities to one's own garden.
I was unfamiliar with the concept of a "herbarium" before reading this book. It is a user-created book in which one presses plants and gives information about the plant. Quite often, Ms Dickinson would share pressed plants and a poem with friends and relatives. Sometimes I think of all we miss by corresponding only virtually.
Devotees of both Emily Dickinson and gardens will swoon over this wonderful read.
Thanks to Timber Press and NetGalley for the eARC in return for an unbiased review.
by Soren Sveistrup
Oh man. This was a thrilling read from the first chapter through to the end.
I loved "The Killing" series, so when I saw this book was from the screenwriter, I couldn't wait to dive in. I was not disappointed. Set in Denmark, The Chestnut Man is the story of the hunt for a serial killer. The writing is excellent. It is one of those reads where you want to fly through it because the suspense is killing you, but you want to savor it, so that you don't miss the details and you really don't want it to end.
It is rather gruesome in a couple of spots, but those spots are brief. This was a fantastic binge read.
Okay, Soren Sveistrup, I am ready for your next book.
Thank you to #NetGalley and #HarperCollins for an eARC of this book for an unbiased review.
#TheKilling #TheChestnutMan #SorenSveistrup
Finallly, we get to read of the heroism of many women and of the French during WWII. Although Madame Fourcade is the focus of this book, the section about Jeannie Rousseau absolutely blew me away.
If you have the slightest interest in WWII, or are interested in women's history, this is a must read. There so many individuals covered in this book and the author does an excellent job of reminding the reader who they are so as to not become confused.
My interest in the story of women and their participation in the French Resistance began with the movie "Female Agents" (Les femmes de l'ombre) which was available from Kanopy streaming via my public library. This movie told the story of Nancy Wake -aka The White Mouse. I then had to read her biography - Nancy Wake - available from Cloud Library. Then along came Madame Fourcade's Secret War. I have yet to tire of these stories of brave women who changed the course of history during WWII.
I love, love, love this book. I read it in a few days and just basked in the author's beautiful use of language and glorious accompanying photographs. The book is written in bi-monthly chunks that gardeners can use to plan, guide, or just enjoy. I would recommend reading it in sections rather than in a day or two as there is so much wonderful advice to implement throughout the year.
Although the author's garden is expansive and located in the northeast, I am able to apply much of her wisdom in my PNW postage stamp garden. I would give this book 10 stars out of 5. It is a must have.
I received this eARC from #netgalley and #timberpress for an unbiased review.
The essays focused on different types of gardens and the gardeners who created them. Each with a different mission or purpose and a very different result. Gardens included: indoor, urban, rental, massive, and air. The gardeners themselves had interesting stories and reasons for creating their particular garden. Those interests ranged from music, urban renewal, health, insect habitat, family traditions to heirloom seeds and more.
There is an "Earth Mother" take on gardening evident in this book that feels a bit preachy at times, but I think anytime we reflect on why we embrace a passion, we tend to wax evangelical in our narrative. The quotes at the beginning of the book leave no doubt as to where the reader is headed, so if the reader is surprised by the content, oh well.
I would like to have seen more panoramic/wide shots of each of the gardens. many of the accompanying photos focus on a plant or vignette. Some essays have minimal photography.
For me, the takeaway of the book is, "Why does one garden?" Reading the philosophies of others has lead me to think about my own purpose for gardening. I hope this defined purpose will result in a more cohesive garden and maybe fewer plant/landscape mistakes.
Thank you to #netgalley and #timberpress for an ARC ebook in exchange for an unbiased review.
by Jessi Bloom
This may be the most expensive book I have ever read....it made me want to sell my house and buy a new one with a much bigger yard so I could create many of the spaces from the book!
This book is broad in its scope. It includes; sacred spaces, plant-based medicine, daily practices to achieve happiness and well being to name a few. Each of these topics is thoughtfully presented; not just a brief overview, but nicely detailed. The author also provides information about medicinal plants, salves, teas, bath soaks, and more. Her advice on self-care and creating daily practices and rituals is very inspirational.
One part that was a bit vague was the caveat about plant toxicity in higher doses. When recommending teas and tinctures, more specificity on toxicity would be helpful.
The photographs and illustrations are lovely. This is 238 pages of bliss!
Thank you to NetGalley and Timber Press for the eARC for my unbiased review.
#creatingsanctuary #netgalley #timberpress
The Last Year of the War
by Susan Meissner
This was an enjoyable read about Elise Sontag, a young German-American teenager whose family is sent to an internment camp during WWII. I have read many internment camp books about Japanese-Americans, but this is a first.
At the camp, Elise befriends Mariko, a Japanese-American from L.A. Their friendship helps them cope with the challenges of being taken from all they knew and having to adapt to life in confinement and the effects on the members of the family. The book respectfully shares the cultural differences and the shared experience. Meissner's telling of the story brings many new details I had not know before about life in the interment camps.
The story is told from Elise's perspective which makes it appropriate for young adults, while it is still interesting for adult readers. I strongly recommend this book.
Thank you to #netgalley and #berkleypublishinggroup for an eARC in exchange for providing an unbiased review.
After the Fire
by Will Hill
Have you ever wondered how people end up joining extremist religious cults? How are they drawn in and why do they stay? What is life really like? During a visit to the Newseum in New York City, author Will Hill, discovers a wall of newspapers covering the story of the 1993 U.S. Government 'raid on the Branch Davidian compound led by David Koresh (commonly known as the Waco siege). Hill's interest in this siege and in-depth research resulted in this well-written novel. As he mentions in the epilogue, this story is not about the Waco siege as he wanted to protect and not exploit the trauma of the survivors, but it does serve as a framework for this novel.
After the Fire is told by a 17-year old survivor as she recovers from her injuries and is questioned and counseled after surviving a raid on the Lord's Legion compound where she was raised. We get to hear both her internal dialog as well as the story she relates to the officer and her counselor. At times, I questioned whether her intellect and insights were rather advanced given her captivity and limited exposure, but it didn't distract from the story. Her maturity made for a character who was engaging for adult readers without losing teen readers. This book will be devoured by both teens and adults.
Her story is told in chapters of "Before" and "After" the fire. The changing time periods flow smoothly and add to the suspense of the story. There are many suspenseful chapters where I had to jump ahead a few paragraphs because I just couldn't get there fast enough - then I would go back a few paragraphs to read more carefully. My impatience, not the fault of the author!
The author does an excellent job of showing the reader how cult leaders indoctrinate their followers without glorifying them. He helped me understand the thinking of the members of the Legion and how the children were programmed. I think it is important to note that this story was in no way offensive to one's religious beliefs as it showed how the "prophet" was in no way an adherent to biblical teachings.
I highly recommend this book. I found myself thinking about the book days after completion and I was inspired to learn more. Kudos to the author.
Thanks to #Sourcebooks and #Netgalley for a copy of the eARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
by Andy McIndoe
The cover image and title grabbed my attention from the start. I don't know why shrubs never seem to be an exciting part of the garden. This book made me look at them in a whole new way. The introduction had excellent descriptions of zones and the factors affecting them including wind, slopes, and walls. As a long-time gardener, some of this was new information to me. The photography in the book is beautiful and each section is very detailed.
The plant recommendations included many common shrubs, but there were also some unusual choices as well. My favorite shrub is the Philadelphus Belle Etoile and it was actually mentioned in the book. (It is a mock orange with the most delightful odor I have ever experienced.)
A couple of detractors that I noticed were the recommendations of English Ivy and Butterfly Bushes (both invasive plants in my zone), the Solanium Crispum - nightshade had poisonous berries, but no warning was mentioned (a friend of mine lost some chickens to these berries), and occasionally a reference to a plant in a photo with many plants making it hard to determine the one being discussed.
Overall this was an excellent book that I will be purchasing to add to my garden book collection.
I received this ARC ebook from NetGalley and Timber Press and Workman Publishing for an unbiased review.
The Library Book
by Susan Orlean
This is one of the best books I have read in months! Susan Orlean's new book (release date 10/18) about the LA Public Library fire in 1986 is non-fiction that reads like fiction. I was working in a public library at the time of this fire and I never heard of it!
Orlean's love of libraries coupled with her ability to tell a fascinating story make for a compelling read.The facts and figures are incredible. I'm glad my husband is patient, as every few pages I just had to share another tidbit I had just read. Beyond the facts and figures, the writing is excellent. I gave my Kindle highlight feature a workout while reading this. There were just so many lines I didn't want to forget.
The fire is covered in Chapter 2. I wondered as I was reading, how is she going to fill an entire book about this and keep me hooked? Silly me, I should have known better. It is Susan Orlean...of course she will keep me hooked.
One of my favorite book-nerdy features was how she used book titles and call numbers to introduce each chapter. Clever.
This is a must-purchase for public libraries, high-school libraries, and any book groups who enjoy literary non-fiction. It begs discussion!
Thank you #NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC ebook for my unbiased review.
by T.M. Logan
I think Gone Girl has ruined my for psychological thrillers. From the beginning of this book, I doubted the wife's story. (After all, the title is Lies, right?) I had no patience with the naivete of the husband. I knew where the book would be heading so I skimmed and finally skipped ahead to the end for the reveal. Disappointing.
Thanks to #NetGalley and #MacmillanPublishers for an eARC for my unbiased review.
The End of Procrastination
by Petr Ludwig
I finished this book two months ago and am just now getting around to writing the review. That tells me something.
The book is very well researched and is organized into four sections: motivation, discipline, outcomes, and objectivity. Each chapter provides a self-assessment and there are many activities designed for reflection and motivation. This is not meant to be read in one sitting. It is meant to be worked. Unfortunately, it did not inspire me to do the work.. Although the author gives many anecdotes along with tips, I didn't relate to it.
To get the most out of this book, I recommend a print copy. A print format lends itself to revisiting key sections and notation. That is just how my brain works.. I am going to generously give it a 4-star rating, because I am accepting the fact that my lack of success and interest is probably my fault, not that of the author.
Thank you to #NetGalley and #St.Martin'sPress for an eARC in return for my unbiased review.
The Whole Town's Talking
by Fannie Flagg
I love Fannie Flagg's books. She is my go-to author when I need a "fluffy" read that is folksy and has characters I can love or despise and laugh at - good naturedly of course..
This book was an absolute treat as it included many characters from most of her earlier works. It was fun to revisit them. I recommend reading her other books before reading this one. Her other books were more developed and had more sub-plots. This was not as well-rounded as her earlier books, but I still enjoyed it.
A few years ago, I heard somewhere that Fannie Flagg had passed away. I was heart-broken. When this title was released, I thought it was a book that had been in process and was finished after her death. I am so relieved that Fannie is alive and well and I look forward to spending time in her world. Sometimes I need a "puppies and sunshine" book and she is the author I depend on to write it. Ms. Flagg, I am awaiting your next one!
Thanks to #NetGalley and the publisher for providing this eARC for an unbiased review.
by Diana Gabaldon
I began the first three weeks of my retirement by plowing through books 6,7, and 8. As each book in the series is at least 800 pages, this was quite a feat! Thankfully, the weather has been miserable, so I haven't felt too guilty spending time with Jamie and Claire in 1700s Scotland and America.
After years of reading YA books for work, it has been a pleasure to read books for grown ups once again. These books are absorbing, well-researched and well-written, and they provide an escape into a fascinating time and place. Books 2 and 5 were not my favorites (with 5 being one where I skipped to the last third of the book), but the others were page-turners. I am looking forward to book nine, which hopefully will be published in 2018. What to do until then?
The Room on Rue Amélie
This was a fascinating story. The characters were very likable and believable, but I felt a bit of the story was lifted right from The Nightingale. The writing is not as rich as that in The Nightingale; in fact it feels a little more young adult in its depth and delivery.
I thought it would be predictable, but it was not. It was an emotional journey and I’m glad I spent time in The Room on Rue Amelie.
I received this as an advanced preview copy from Net Galley.
The Great Alone
Unfortunately something happened 2/3 of the way through the book and it started feeling more like young adult romance fiction. Some of it became predictable and it felt too wrapped up with a bow.
I took a while to write this review because I still found myself debating whether Leni and her mother would have become that close after all they had been through and what happened to Matthew could have been avoided had Cora made different choices. Granted, had Cora made better choices, things would’ve been entirely different for everyone, but I understand domestic abuse in that era (and even today for that matter) is not exactly easy to prove or to escape, so I am still conflicted. 3.5 stars.
Enigma (FBI Thriller, #21)
This is my first Catherine Coulter book and overall I did enjoy it. It started out with a bang and kept on running. It was a page turner in that respect, but I felt the storylines were choppy and never really meshed until the very last page where the author summed it up in a rush. I prefer to have my multiple storylines tied together a little more through the plot rather than through a rushed explanations the very end.
I didn’t realize that this was the 21st book in a series and maybe having read some of the earlier books would’ve helped me understand the connection with Sherlock and Savich. I felt the relationship with the new FBI agents was rushed and contrived.
For a quick beach read, this book fit the bill.
This story was written in two different time periods and tied together beautifully. The characters were strong and nuanced and you really wanted the best for them. At one point I felt the orphanage scenes were tropish and over-the-top, but then I learned that it’s partially based on a true story. That absolutely floored me and haunted me for days afterwards.
This book reminded me quite a bit of Orphan Train, another historical fiction book that I fell in love with. I highly recommend this read. It was well written and I think it’s important to honor the memory of the children who went through these horrors by spending some time in their shoes.
I’ll be reading more books by this author. Well done.