Second Quarter Wrap-up

April

1) Death by Darjeeling by Laura Childs

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2) Gunpowder Green by Laura Childs

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3) Shades of Earl Grey by Laura Childs

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4) Not the Killing Type by Lorna Barrett

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5) Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush

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6) Live and Let Chai by Bree Baker

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7) Classified as Murder by Miranda James

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8) Book Clubbed by Lorna Barrett

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9) Passionate about the Passion Week by Dr. William Varner

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10) One Piece, Volume 24 by Eiichiro Oda

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11) A Fatal Chapter by Lorna Barrett

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12) Hope Between the Pages by Pepper D. Basham

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13) Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

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14) One Piece, Volume 25 by Eiichiro Oda

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15) Title Wave by Lorna Barrett

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16) Bloom by Nicola Skinner

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17) A Just Clause by Lorna Barrett

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Total Books Read: 17 books

Total Pages: 4821 pages

DNFs?: No

Shortest Book: Passionate about the Passion Week (120 pages)

Longest Book: Guards! Guards! (403 pages)

Least Favorite: Book Clubbed by Lorna Barrett

Favorite: Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush

May

1) The Library Book by Susan Orlean

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2) The Elnora Monet by Rachel Skatvold

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3) Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

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4) The Next Great Jane K. L. Going

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5) The Well-watered Woman by Gretchen Saffles

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6) Dear Reader by Mary O’Connell – DID NOT FINISH

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7) One Piece, Volume 26 by Eiichiro Oda

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8) The English Breakfast Murder by Laura Childs

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9) The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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10) Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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11) Prairie by Chautona Havig

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12) Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

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13) I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

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14) Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 7 by Hiromu Arakawa

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15) The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

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16) Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

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17) Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 8 by Hiromu Arakawa

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18) Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery

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19) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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20) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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21) Summertime Lilies by LM Karen

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22) Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas

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Total Books Read: 22 Books (1 DNF)

Total Pages: 5,932 pages

Any DNFs?: 1. Dear Reader by Mary O’Connell

Shortest Book: Fahrenheit 451

Longest Book: Lost Stars

Least Favorite Book: The Well-watered Woman

Favorite Book: I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening).

June

1) On the Road by Jack Kerouac

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2) The 12 Brides of Summer Collection by Various Authors

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3) Beach Read by Emily Henry

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4) The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

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5) Island Charm by Audrey Wick

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6) Salt House by Hala Alyan

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7) The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser – Did not Finish

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8) The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

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9) Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 9 by Hiromu Arakawa

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10) Bite the Biscuit by Linda O. Johnston – Did not Finish

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11) Grown-up Pose by Sonya Lalli

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12) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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13) Bridge of Gold by Kimberley Woodhouse

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14) Gifts from a Challenging Childhood by Jan Bergstrom

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15) The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

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16) Stop Calling Me Beautiful by Phylicia Masonheimer

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17) The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

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Total Books Read: 17 books (2 DNFs)

Total Pages Read: 5,055 pages

DNFs?: Yes. 2. Bite the Biscuit by Linda O. Johnston and The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

Shortest Book: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 9 (192 pages)

Longest Book: The 12 Brides of Summer Collection (539 pages)

Least Favorite Book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Favorite Book: Stop Calling Me Beautiful by Phylicia Masonheimer and Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Quarterly Statistics:

Total Books Read: 56 books (3 DNFs)

Total Pages Read: 15,808 pages

DNFs?: Yes. 3 DNFs.

Shortest Book: Passionate about the Passion Week by Dr. William Varner (120 pages)

Longest Book: Lost Stars by Claudia Grey (551 pages)

Least Favorite Book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Favorite Book: Stop Calling Me Beautiful by Phylicia Masonheimer and I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

No. of Re-reads: 3 books

No. of Adult Fiction: 35 books

No. of Young Adult fiction: 11 books

No. of Middle-Grade reads: 4 books

No. of Comics, Graphic Novels and Manga: 6 books

No. of Non-fiction: 6 books

No. of Books Published Before 2020: 39 books

No. of Books published in 2020/2021: 17 books

No. of Books Borrowed from the Library: 32 books

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Bridge of Gold Blog Tour and Giveaway

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About the Book

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Book: Bridge of Gold

Author: Kimberley Woodhouse

Genre: Christian Historical

Release date: June 2021

Repairs on the Golden Gate Bridge Uncover a Century-Old Murder

Walk through Doors to the Past via a new series of historical stories of romance and adventure.

Underwater archaeologist Kayla Richardson is called to the Golden Gate Bridge where repairs to one of the towers uncovers two human remains from the late 1800s and the 1930s. The head of the bridge restoration is Steven Michaels, who dives with Kayla, and a friendship develops between them. But as the investigation heats up and gold is found that dates back to the gold rush, more complications come into play that threaten them both. Could clues leading to a Gold Rush era mystery that was first discovered during the building of the bridge still ignite an obsession worth killing for?

Click here to get your copy!

My Thoughts

So far I have been enjoying the books in this series so far. I’ll admit that I did not know I wanted to read a fictional mystery surrounding the Golden Gate Bridge until I picked up Bridge of Gold.

I enjoyed the intrigue that takes place in this duel timeline novel, one timeline set in 1933 as construction on the bridge gets underway, and in the present day when a mysterious sunken ship is found close to the south tower. I also really liked how we got the antagonists’ perspectives in both timelines. It added an extra level of mysteriousness and creep factor to the story that made me want to keep reading to find out who they were and how they made themselves known to the main characters. I’ll also admit that I’m not the biggest fan of dual timelines, but it was done really well and I found it fascinating how everything ended up tying together in the end.

I also liked that a kind of subplot to the main story was Kayla having to deal with her grief and anger over her parents’ deaths, as well as learning to forgive and find closure. I also liked getting to know Steven and watch the relationship between the two of them grow. It was also enjoyable getting to know Luke and Margo in 1933 and their struggles during the Depression. However, I found myself on the edge of my seat waiting to see if they would be together or not…I’m not going to go into specifics, but if you know, you know. Also, am I the only one who found the Mayor annoying?

Overall, I did enjoy Bridge of Gold, I loved how it made me root for the characters, but also made me worry that not all of them would make it to the end. I m looking forward to reading more from Kimberley Woodhouse in the future. 4/5 Stars.

About the Author

p-1Kimberley Woodhouse is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than twenty fiction and nonfiction books. A popular speaker and teacher, she’s shared her theme of “Joy Through Trials” with more than half a million people across the country at more than 2,000 events. Kim and her incredible husband of twenty-five-plus years have two adult children. She’s passionate about music and Bible study and loves the gift of story.
You can connect with Kimberley at: http://www.kimberleywoodhouse.com and http://www.facebook.com/KimberleyWoodhouseAuthor

More from Kimberley

BRIDGE OF GOLD was a blast for me to write. Not only do I love writing dual-timeline stories, but the present-day hero and heroine are named after my daughter and her husband. Steven and Kayla in the book are fictitious, but there are a few things in the book that do mimic their real-life namesakes.

One of them is food.

My son-in-law Steven in real life is six-foot-four and active military. The man can eat. It’s amazing to me how many calories it takes just for him to survive! Then there’s my daughter, Kayla. She was an elite swimmer for many years along with her brother. I could never keep them fed when they were at the height of their swimming careers. In fact, I joked that all I did was cook and load the dishwasher during those years.

To celebrate the release of BRIDGE OF GOLD, I’m going to give out a recipe that I created almost thirty years ago. It went through many revisions the first few months as I perfected it and now you get a special treat because I do not give this recipe out. In fact, one of my dearest friends begged for it when our kids were little. I gave in but made her promise to close her eyes while she made it (LOL) and to never, ever give it to anyone else.

Enjoy! And thanks for joining us on the tour for BRIDGE OF GOLD. I hope you love it.

Kim’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies – recipe by Kimberley Woodhouse

2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. kosher salt

¾ cup melted/browned butter (this is important! Don’t skip this step)

2 Tb. Hot chocolate mix

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 – 12 ounce package mega morsels (I use Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips)

Directions: combine the first three dry ingredients and mix well. In a small saucepan on the stove, melt and brown the butter. Medium heat is recommended but you’ve got to watch it so it doesn’t burn. You want a beautiful caramel color. Set aside and allow to cool to around 100 degrees F before continuing. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Once the browned butter is cool, add the hot chocolate mix to it. Transfer to a stand mixer and blend the butter mixture with the sugar. Whip it until well combined and frothy about 2 mins. Gradually add eggs and flour mixture, beating on low just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Using a cookie scoop, drop heaping TB scoops 2 inches apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-14 minutes, watching carefully. Allow to cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to cooling racks. Enjoy!

For other fun tidbits about BRIDGE OF GOLD make sure you check out my blog at – kimberleywoodhouse.com

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, June 24

The Sacred Line, June 24

The Write Escape, June 24

lakesidelivingsite, June 24

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 25

HappyWhenReading, June 25

Reflections From My Bookshelves, June 25

Through the Fire Blogs, June 25

Texas Book-aholic, June 26

Bigreadersite, June 26

Pause for Tales, June 26

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, June 26 (Author Interview)

Inklings and notions, June 27

Christian Bookaholic , June 27

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 27

For the Love of Literature, June 28

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, June 28

All-of-a-kind Mom, June 28

Where Faith and Books Meet, June 28

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, June 29

Bliss Books and Jewels, June 29

Lis Loves Reading, June 29

For Him and My Family, June 29

deb’s Book Review, June 30

Simple Harvest Reads, June 30 (Guest Review from Marilyn Ridgway)

Livin’ Lit, June 30

Remembrancy, June 30

Older & Smarter?, July 1

Lighthouse-Academy, July 1

Tell Tale Book Reviews, July 1

Genesis 5020, July 1

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, July 2

Betti Mace, July 2

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, July 2

Locks, Hooks and Books, July 3

Inspiration Clothesline, July 3

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, July 3

Live.Love.Read., July 3

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 4

Mamma Loves Books, July 4

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, July 4

Mary Hake, July 4

Blossoms and Blessings, July 5

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, July 5

Blogging With Carol, July 5

Connie’s History Classroom, July 6

Life of Literature, July 6

A Baker’s Perspective, July 6

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, July 7

To Everything There Is A Season , July 7

KarenSueHadley, July 7

Splashes of Joy, July 7

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Kimberley is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10e03/bridge-of-gold-celebration-tour-giveaway

Six Degrees of Separation – First Edition

Hello everyone,

Today I am trying out the Six Degrees of Separation Tag/Meme. I have seen several blogs I follow do this meme each month and it sounded fun. It was created by Kate W at booksaremyfavoriteandbest.

Basically each month a book is picked, and then it is up to participants to pick a book that is related to it. For example, it is by the same author, has a similar title, is about a similar subject matter, or even something like you got it at the same bookstore, etc. And you’re going to do it five times, and the goal is to have fun, but also to see how different your first book is from your sixth book, and see how you ended up with the last book. I know I probably haven’t done a great job with explaining this, if you would like a more thorough explanation, I encourage you to check out Kate’s post explaining the “rules.”

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The first book for this month is Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. I’ll be honest I haven’t read this book, but I’ve heard about it. In fact, I remember one of my teachers in about 5th or 6th grade mentioning this book when we were going over punctuation. It is essentially a primer on punctuation, and how to use it, and why it does matter where certain punctuation goes. I’m sure we’ve all heard the joke/adage that there is a difference between “Let’s eat grandma” and “Let’s eat, grandma”.

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The second book I chose is a book I had to read for a class in college called The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. This relates to the previous book because it has to do with the English language, and it is a non-fiction book. It is a book about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and how one of the contributors was Dr. W. C. Minor, who was considered to be a madman in an insane asylum. It is a fascinating read, and if you’re nerdy about language, or just curious about history, I highly recommend it.

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The next book that is related to the previous book is The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon. It is also about words, and is a novel about the publishing of the last dictionary in a world that is heavily reliant upon memes/pictures to communicate. I have yet to read this one, but I’m hoping to pick it up soon because it sounds like a fascinating story.

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Since the previous book was a dystopian, and books are a thing of the past, I decided to pick Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It is set in a dystopian future, where books are illegal and are burned if found. I really enjoyed this one, and I am planning to have a review with all my thoughts up in a few weeks!

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Following along with the theme of books, next is Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin, which is honestly such a departure from the previous book because it is set in the 1930s in rural Kentucky and it is about packhorse librarians. This is another one of my favorites, and it seemed like a somewhat decent follow-up to Fahrenheit 451.

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The last degree of separation is The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. This is also about packhorse librarians in the 1930s in rural Kentucky. It received a lot of buzz when it came out a couple years ago, and when I heard what it was about, I was curious to pick it up because it sounded similar to Wonderland Creek. And while it did have similar elements, it was also a different story (obviously), and different in the fact that the previous is considered Christian Fiction, and this one is not, but it is still a really good read.

Well, how do you think I did with the six degrees of separation? What books would you have chosen for this list?

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag 2021

Hello everyone,

Today’s post is the Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag. A lot of content creators I follow do this tag every year, and this year I decided I wanted to give it a try! Basically, I will be answering a survey about the books I have read so far this year and will be my way of sharing the best, the worst and the notable reads I have read so far.

I’ll be honest, it’s a little tricky doing this tag since I’ve read 125 books so far this year. Yes, I’ve read a lot, but honestly, I feel like for the rest of the year I am going to try and slow down my reading. I think another practice I have been trying to be better at is implementing is putting down books I am not enjoying, and so far I have been good about it. Anyway, let’s jump into the questions.

1) Best Book of 2021 so far

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I’ll be honest, this is a hard one. However, instead of trying to narrow it down, I will give you my favorites for each quarter. In the first quarter my favorite was Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos. My second quarter favorite was Stop Calling Me Beautiful by Phylicia Masonheimer.

2) Best sequel you have read so far in 2021.

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The best sequel I’ve read so far, isn’t so much a sequel as it is a companion to a previous book, and that is Soaring Earth by Margarita Engle. It is a beautiful memoir told in verse that follows the author in her teen years as she tries to figure out who she is and what she wants for life. It was a great follow up to Enchanted Air, and I highly recommend both of these books!

3) A new release you haven’t read yet.

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This is a tricky one, because I’ve been trying to keep up with the new releases that I know I desperately want to read. If I had to pick on though it would be Along a Storied Trail by Ann H. Gabhart. It follows a packhorse librarian in Kentucky in the 1930s. If you’ve been following me for the last year or so, you know that those are definite buzz words for me! I’m hoping to get to it soon, I’m just waiting for my library to get it in.

4) Most anticipated book for the second half of the year.

Honestly, I don’t have one. Yes, I have books on my Goodreads TBR that come out later this year, but I wouldn’t say that I am dying to have them in my hands right now. Also, after the first couple of months I sort of stopped paying attention to the upcoming releases list so I’m not sure as to what all is coming out in the latter half of the year.

5) Biggest Disappointment so far

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Hands down Confessions of a Curious Bookseller by Elizabeth Green. I had very high expectations for this one and I didn’t like it all. It was the biggest let down so far.

6) Biggest surprise so far.

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For this one, I have two books I read in June that were the biggest surprise. Actually make that three, these three I loved and devoured. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, Salt Houses by Hala Alyan, and The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur.

7) Favorite New Author

This is a hard one, because I’ve read many new authors this year. I would definitely say some of my favorites are Leila Slimani, Hala Alyan, June Hur, and Nicole Panteleakos.

8) Newest Fictional Crush

I don’t have an answer for this one for two reasons, 1) I don’t really get fictional crushes; and 2) the only crush I have is on my husband.

9) Newest Favorite Character

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This is another hard one, mainly because I have read so much so far this year. If I had to pick one, it would probably be Flora from Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. She was just so precocious and I loved her adventures with Ulysses.

10) A book that made you cry.

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Usually I don’t really cry during books, however, there are three books that I distinctly remember tearing up while reading each of them they are: Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Salt Houses by Hala Alyan.

11) A book that made you happy.

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This is an easy one, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

12) Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far

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I don’t have one specific book, but I bought the Virago Classics boxset of the Anne of Green Gables series because the covers for each installment was gorgeous!

13) Books I need to read by the end of the year

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I would love to finish the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, as well as my rereads of The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and The Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery. It seems daunting, but I think I can do it.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: House of Dreams by Liz Rosenberg

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on House of Dreams by Liz Rosenberg.

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House of Dreams is the biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables series. For many years, especially when she was still alive, not much was known about her personal life, and it is only in recent years that more information has come out about her life. While she shared some similarities with Anne, her life was also marked with tragedy from as early as her infancy and all the way through to her death. Readers will learn more details about her childhood, her struggles with mental illness, and her difficult marriage, but also how writing brought her a since of joy.

First off, House of Dreams is great biography that is both informative and entertainin, but it definitely does not shy away from discussing the dark times in L. M. Montgomery’s life.

A fact that is made very apparent from the get-go is that Maud’s early years were similar to those of her character, Anne Shirley. Like Anne, she created imaginary friends in mirrors and glass doors, in fact one of Anne’s imaginary friends, Katie Maurice, was actually one of Maud’s invented friends that she had as a child. As the biography progresses, it becomes very apaprent that one of main themes is that that of art imitating reality, and in a lot of casees this is true of most of Montgomery’s works, especially in her debut novel, Anne of Green Gables in which she focused on the happier aspects of her childhood, although not everything was as cheerful. Rosenberg states, “Fiction is the art of transformation. For many writers, including L. M. Montgomery, it allows for happy reconciliations they cannot achieve in real life” (177).

Another topic that is discussed in House of Dreams is mental illness and how it is soemthing that should not be ignored or viewed as taboo. Both Montgomery and her husband suffered from mental illness, more specifically manic depression, and it made their lives miserable and also led them to self-medicate several cocktails of medicine that were not good for them. Mental illness is an important factof Montgomery’s life because it has been speculated in recent years that she possibly committed suicide.

The importance of good frienships is another prevalent theme that can be seen in the life of L. M. Montgomery – or to use a term that was used in her works, the importance of “kindred spirits.” Both her and her husband seemed to have gotten out of their manic depressive episodes when their dearest friends were near. And, when Maud’s best friend, Frede, died, she suffered severe depression because she had lost someone who was a dear kindred spirit to her.

Overall, this was agreat biography about a great Canandian author who is still beloved by many. However, it is sad to think thatthe author who gave the world the precocious Anne Shirley, suffered a lot during her life. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson.

Second Chance Summer follows Taylor Edwards who returns with her family for the first time in five years to their lake house. However, Taylor wants to be everywhere but there, especially since the last time she was there she ran away from her best friend, and broke the heart of her first love. But when her father forces her to get out of her comfort zone and get a job, she is forced to both confront her past with both Lucy, her former best friend, and Henry, her first love who still carries the hurt from her leaving without a word. But maybe this summer she will get a chance to reignite her friendship with Lucy, and maybe another chance at love with Henry.

Second Chance Summer was a great read, because not only is it about romance and friendship, it also deals with the topic of death. Over the course of the novel, Taylor’s dad is dying from cancer, and their summer at the lake house is his last wish before he passes on. During this time he encourages Taylor and her siblings to live their lives as normally as possible despite the circumstances of their stay at the lake house. Taylor also starts to grow closer to her father when both of them have trouble sleeping at night.

Matson definitely does not shy away from showing the realities of watching a loved one deteriate from an invasive illness like the late stages of cancer, as well as how the family copes with watching their dad wither away before their eyes. As someone who lost a loved one to cancer, this was hard to read at times, not because it is graphic, but because it is so accurate in the depicstion of how quickly someone from cancer can die.

However, I also appreciate how the novel doesn’t just finish with Taylor’s dad’s death, it continues to show the family dealing with their grief, especially Taylor, who uses her father’s death as an excuse to push Henry away again. But to his credit, Henry doesn’t give up that easily, and eventually Taylor also realizes that she is foolish to throw away someone like Henry because of her fears of losing him. She learns that even though that is a possibility, she shouldn’t lose out on the chance of happiness for the sake of protecting herself.

Second Chance Summer is a reminder of some of the best parts of being a teenager, as well as the challenging parts, especially when it comes to love and friendship, and of course grief. While Matson’s work is still a pretty light read, it still packs a punch and will probably draw a tear or two from most readers when they get to the parts about the reality of death. The novel does have a mostly happy ending, however, it is not the happy ending that most readers probably hope for – Taylor’s dad somehow miraculously is healed from Stage IV cancer. While this would have been nice, it wouldn’t have been realistic, and instead Matson provides a character that readers can relate to, especially those who have had to watch a parent/grandparent/sibling die from cancer.

Readers will both root for Taylor has she gets closer to her dad, figures out how to be friends with Lucy again (who she basically abandoned in the middle of Lucy trying to navigate her parents getting divorced), and whether or not a relationship with Henry is a good idea.

This book is recommended for readers who want a light contemporary read, with a hint of seriousness. It has a little bit of romance, a little bit of friendship, and a little bit of heartache and grief, but Matson does a great job of dealing with this issues throughout the novel.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Salt Houses by Hala Alyan.

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that Salt Houses existed until I came across it on a booklist on Modern Mrs. Darcy. As soon as I read the synopsis, though, I could not wait to pick it up.

Salt Houses is a multigenerational novel that is told from the perspective of several members. It opens up first with Salma, the night before her daughter Alia’s wedding in 1962, in the Palestinian town of Nablus. As part of the festivities, she is asked to read the dried coffee grounds in Alia’s cup, to read her future. However, she sees a lot of upheaval, travel and turmoil in her daughter’s future, but doesn’t know how to share the reading with her. From here we follow Alia’s family up until 2014, with perspectives from her brother, her husband, herself, her two daughters and two of her granddaughters. We see her and her husband flee to Kuwait City during the Six Days War in 1967, and having to flee again when Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait in 1990, further displacing her family and testing their limits as they each have to make decisions that could change the rest of their lives.

Oh my goodness, I don’t know where to start with this review because I really loved Salt Houses. I’ll admit I was a little worried about what to expect since we are following a Palestinian family over several generations. I guess my main concern was that it would be overly political regarding the conflicts involving Israel and Palestine. However, while you do see the characters dealing with their feelings after being displaced – first in 1948, and then in 1967 – the novel is so much more than that. It follows each character as they adjust to the upheaval and try to find home where they are; some of them while battling their inner demons. The writing is gorgeous and lyrical. The author does a fantastic job of capturing the emotions of each character, as well as writing descriptions that engage all five senses. I felt like I had been transported into the lives of the Yacoub family and was experience everything that they were.

Each chapter/section is told from the perspective of a different family member (several of them get two sections), and it jumps several years into the future each time. I will say that it was helpful having the family tree at the front of the book because I found myself flipping back to it, especially when we start getting Alia’s granddaughters’ perspectives.

I don’t know if I had a particular character that was my favorite, but I related to both Rimnah and Alia because of my hobbies – reading – and my temperamental bent (which I am working on being less so).

While I loved the novel, I would caution against going into it expecting it to be a light read. It isn’t although it does have some lighter moments throughout the book. Salt Houses is about the different conflicts each generation has to deal with from the Six Day War to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, to the 2006 conflict in Beirut. As well as how the characters live during the aftermath and try to o on with their lives in the midst of tragedy. I also enjoyed learning more about Palestinian culture, which is something that was new for me to read about.

Overall, this was a fantastic read and I highly recommend it if you are looking for something similar to A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, but slightly less intense. I am looking forward to reading more of Hala Alyan’s work in the future. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Translated by Sam Taylor).

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I don’t even know where to stat with this review. I will say that it will most likely contain spoilers because I have a lot I want to say about this book.

First, I should probably start with what the book is about. The Perfect Nanny follows French-Moroccan lawyer, Myriam, who wants to go back to work after being at home with her two young children. In order to do so, she needs to hire a nanny. Enter Louise, who is the perfect candidate and the perfect nanny. The family loves her and the work she does for them, however she soon starts to become too involved with them, and everything they found charming about her now aggravates them. And Louise herself starts to change, to the point of becoming neurotic, and eventually leading to tragic events.

Wow. All I can say is wow! I honestly was expecting to not enjoy this book at all… I loved it! The Perfect Nanny starts with bang with the tragedy – one of the children is dead, the other one is close to dead, and Louise is covered in blood after trying to commit suicide after attempting to murder her charges. After this opening scene, readers are taken back in time to a year and half before, when Louise was hired by the family and what eventually led to the opening tragic events. I was hooked from the beginning, and I had to find out what happened. If I had not had things to do the day that I read it, I probably would have tried to finish it in one sitting!

If I were to give a short description of this book, I would say it is if Mary Poppins had a mental illness and has a psychotic break and does the unthinkable. In this case, our Mary Poppins character is Louise, and at first she seems practically perfect in every way for the first few months. But then things start to change when she becomes overly dependent on her employers, and obsessive of them. The final shoe drops when she becomes obsessed about not throwing out food that has expired. However, sensing that her services may soon no longer be needed, she becomes almost manic in trying to get Myriam pregnant, and when that fails, she sinks even lower in trying to figure out how to prove that she needs to be kept around.

I don’t know if The Perfect Nanny can be considered a thriller, I consider it to be, and it is one of the best ones I have read! It is told in several interconnected parts, with several sections from the perspective or about certain individuals connected to Louise r the family, as well as the lead investigator of the case. The Perfect Nanny is equal parts gripping and disturbing as we watch Louise descend into madness and becomes increasingly toxic, as well as several clues as to how she becomes so.

My only complaint is that sometimes the grammar was a little clunky, but I think that is because the book was translated from French and it might be based on translations choices that were made.

Overall, I loved The Perfect Nanny, it was everything I wanted in a thriller, however, I can also see why some might not like it. I do recommend it if you are looking for a book that has some elements of a thriller, but also explores topics such as wealth, class, motherhood, and I would even say toxic dependency. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Island Charm Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book: Island Charm

Author: Audrey Wick

Genre: Christian Contemporary Beach Read

Release date: May 14, 2021

An imposter in paradise.

When Anna Worthington’s twin sister gets jilted by her fiancé, Anna steps in with a plan for a girls’ Key West getaway instead of a honeymoon trip. Yet when her twin has her own crisis of commitment and doesn’t board the plane, Anna finds herself on a romantic getaway that she’s forced to navigate alone.

A vacation romance with an expiration date.

Gunnar Lockhart, whose specialty is island tourism, is the perfect match for helping Anna complete her vacation bucket list, but time together forges a connection more personal than either anticipate. As they make island memories, Anna has to untangle her mixed emotions. Are her feelings toward Gunnar real? Or like her sister’s wedding day, has this connection been doomed from the start?

Click here to get your copy!

My Thoughts

It’s summer and what better way to travel to Key West (which I would love to go to someday) than by reading a book that is set there – besides actually getting to be their in person. Island Charm does just that! While it is a romance novel, the author does a great job of transporting readers to Key West, and includes a lot of the actual landmarks there. Although the characters are obviously fictional, I am also a assuming that there are also a couple of places that are too? Feel free to let me know if I am wrong though!

However, while I loved being transported to Key West, that’s about where it ends. It’s not that it was a bad book, I still liked it. But I found the romance to be somewhat bland and shallow, and the chemistry between Anna and Gunnar was non-existent for a good portion of the book (that’s just my opinion though). Also there were some things I questioned and that seemed slightly unrealistic – for instance, not having a way to communicate with each other besides Anna going to the Information booth, etc. Also, I found the conflict to be somewhat petty too. I would go into more detail, but I don’t want to reveal too much for those who would like to read the book themselves.

I did really enjoy the parts with Gunnar and Jack – and elderly gentleman – because it seemed to add a layer of depth to the novel. I liked getting to know both Gunnar and Anna, but they seemed under-developed. Yes, they had backstories, and yes they are both dealing with stuff, but it did seem somewhat contrived and convenient. Again, that’s just my opinion, and that’s just me, other readers probably will disagree with me on this.

Overall, this was an okay read. It was light, clean and fluffy, and it did transport me to Key West, which I loved. But that’s about it. I do recommend it if you are looking for a light summer/beach read.  3/5 Stars.

About the Author

Audrey Wick is a full-time English professor at Blinn College and author of women’s fiction/romance. Her writing has also appeared in college textbooks, and she is a guest blog columnist with Writer’s Digest. Wick believes the secret to happiness includes lifelong learning and good stories. But travel and coffee help. She has journeyed to over twenty countries—and sipped coffee at every one. See photos on her website audreywick.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @WickWrites.

More from Audrey

“The Importance of Setting in Fiction Writing”

My favorite element in writing a novel is setting. Making places come alive through storytelling brings special joy, and I’m fortunate to be able to do that in the pages of Island Charm.

Island Charm is my first beach-read, a standalone contemporary novel set in Key West. Key West is a small island in the Florida Keys, an archipelago that stretches west from the southern peninsula of Florida. The Keys dangle into the Gulf of Mexico like a string of island pearls. Key West is the last on the strand.

I first experienced Key West in the summer, but years later, I traveled back in winter. Whether its July or January, Key West is beautiful anytime of year. What I like best about the island is its walkability. It’s roughly four miles long and one mile across, making it easy to explore on foot. The boardwalk, docks, piers, and public beaches means there is plenty to experience. Fantastic views stretch in all directions.

Additionally, the island has an impressive literary history. Authors including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Shel Silverstein, Philip Burton, Judy Blume, and Meg Cabot have all called the island their home at one time or another. It’s easy to see why my heroine, Anna, is so taken with the scenery, just like these writers. I hope readers will be as well!

Follow Anna as she explores Key West in Island Charm. Thanks for traveling with me through the pages, and I hope readers enjoy their time on the island.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, June 19

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, June 20

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, June 20

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, June 21

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, June 22

Reflections From My Bookshelves, June 22

The Write Escape, June 23

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 24

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, June 24

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, June 25

Inklings and notions, June 26

Blogging With Carol, June 26

For Him and My Family, June 27

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 28

Simple Harvest Reads, June 28 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

deb’s Book Review, June 29

Locks, Hooks and Books, June 30

Kayem Reads , June 30

CarpeDiem, July 1

Genesis 5020, July 1

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, July 2

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Audrey is giving away the grand prize package of a CD that includes a digital copy of Island Charm as well as multiple full-length novels also published by Pelican Book Group!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10db6/island-charm-celebration-tour-giveaway