Friday, February 24, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - February 25

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

The last few (several?) SS posts featured pictures "from the archive," some of which I had posted in earlier SS posts.  The fact is that this time of the year just isn't that interesting!  The weather is bad and the kids are busy in school.  So, there you go.

Now, however, I actually have new pictures!  Sunny new pictures!  VACATION PICTURES!  Of course, the ones I share today (and probably more over the following 4 weeks) will look familiar--because we've visited them several times.  Oh least we can see how things change!

So, today we're going back to Saguaro National Park in Tucson, near where my parents live.  This National Park is divided into 2 districts and these pictures or from the Rincon district.  On this trip, we were able to get out and do some light hiking instead of just driving through.  This, of course, continues my love fest with the National Park service that I talked about a few weeks ago (here and here).  It is ironic that as much as we love the parks, the one we visit the most (this one) is 1500 miles away--especially when my husband's father, who we visit often, lives only a few hours from two other National Parks!

Apparently cycling through the park is not for the faint of heart!

Heading out on the Mica View Trail

If you thought cyclist and pedestrians are bad, good luck with the desert tortoises! 
On top of Javalina Rocks

Obligatory family picture--thanks to the random stranger willing to play photographer...

My daughter wasn't a fan of the Mica View trail, but she loved Javalina Rocks!

Next week, we're heading back to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Book Review: "The Orphan's Tale" by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan's Tale Pam Jenoff
Date Finished: January 15, 2017
Published; February 21, 2017
ISBN: 9780778319818
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours

You might enjoy this book if you like: Novels about women in World War II, Novels about circus life, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Seventeen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation of her native Holland. Heartbroken over the loss of the baby she was forced to give up for adoption, she lives above a small German rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep.  

When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants, unknown children ripped from their parents and headed for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the baby that was taken from her. In a moment that will change the course of her life, she steals one of the babies and flees into the snowy night, where she is rescued by a German circus. 

The circus owner offers to teach Noa the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their unlikely friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything. 

My Thoughts:
Every time I think I'm done with World War II fiction, another title comes along that pulls me back in.  I've enjoyed Pam Jenoff's books in the past and this premise intrigued me, so I was back down the WWII rabbit hole.

Other than some backstory and a few events in the lat half of the novel, most of the action in this novel is set apart from the realities of the war.  This doesn't mean that the war doesn't play a part--it is very much in every word in this novel--but it does give a different view of events.  Personally, I prefer war novels that focus on the lives of "ordinary" people instead of the politicians and soldiers.

I was immediately taken with both Noa and Astrid's stories.  Jenoff excellently gives them ample story without spending pages trying to catch the reader up with everything that happened in their life up to that point  I will admit that I found Astrid's story to be more compelling.  I felt that Jenoff dove deeper into her past issues and made her a more nuanced character.

This novel is excellently paced.  It picks up speed as it goes along and climaxes at just the right moment for the full effect.  Also, on a smaller note, the way Jenoff wrote the trapeze passages are perfect--I felt my palms beginning to sweat every time Noa climbed the ladder.  It takes great skill to evoke an actual physical response from prose.

So, here is my big complaint with this book.  Like so many other novels, this is a dual-narrative story, which is something with which I have a love/hate relationship.  When it works, it is wonderful...when it doesn't, it really hampers my experience of the book.  Unfortunately, this book falls into the latter category.  The key to a successful dual- or multi-narrative story is for each narrator to have a different voice  I need to be able to tell that each narrator is a distinct entity.  Noa and Astrid have the exact same voice here--there were many times when I would have to put the book down for various reasons (I have young kids...interruptions are frequent!) and, when I got back to the book, I had no clue who the narrator was.  Even on the few occasions that I was able to read without interruptions, the two narratives started to bleed together.

It's unfortunate that the narrative issue impacted my experience so much.  However, this may not bother other readers.  My advice would be that, if the indistinct voices are something that wouldn't bother you, to give this book a try.  It has so much going for it and, if you can overlook one drawback, you will enjoy it.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

Connect with Pam at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

I was given an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

For more information about this book, please visit the other stops on the blog tour!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - February 18

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

Last week, I warned you that this would be another birthday post...but I didn't tell you who the birthday person was....

Well, it is MY DAUGHTER!  She turned 8 this week, so here are some pictures of her through the years, each taken on or near her birthday....

A few hours old

1 year old

2 years old

3 years old

4 years old

5 years old

6 years old

7 years old

Taken the morning of her 8th birthday!
I'll be featuring recent pictures again starting next week, so be sure to come back and check them out!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - February 11

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

I'm reaching back into the vault this week--if you've been reading this blog for a a few years (or if you follow/are a friend on FB....or part of the TLC Readers FB group), you've already seen these.  But, it's rainy here and we've done nothing picture-worthy this week, so there you go!

This past week was the birthday of one of my favorite authors--Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In 2014, when we did our epic road trip, we were able to visit 3 of the places she lived (we still need to hit the sites in Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri!).  Here are some pictures of that trip....

De Smet, SD

The Ingalls Homestead.
The cottonwoods in this picture were planted by Charles Ingalls.

Plum Creek; Walnut Grove, MN
The site of the Ingalls dugout

Plum Creek; Walnut Grove, MN

"The Little House in the Big Woods" Pepin, WI
This is actually just a glorified rest area....

"The Little House in the Big Woods" Pepin, WI

Next week will be a celebration of another birthday...come back to see whose it is!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The State of My Shelves - February 2017 #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks

The State of My Shelves is a monthly check in where I report on my progress on tackling my immense TBR.  I've opened this up to other bloggers as a meme.  To participate, just do a post documenting your progress, link up below, and include the button for this meme (HTML is at the bottom of this post). My post will go up on the first Wednesday of the month (unless the 1st is on a Wednesday, in which case it will be up on the 8th) and the link-up will be open all month long.

How books come into my TBR:

  • Purchases (Pre-orders, subscription boxes, impulse buys)
  • Book Club (Books purchased for my in-person book club and books that come in for my postal book groups)
  • Gifts and Giveaways
  • For Review - Solicited (I have an agreement with the author/published/publicist to review these books)
  • For Review - Unsolicited (These just appear on my doorstep.)
  • Missed (Purely clerical--for some reason, I find a book that I already own that didn't make it into my spreadsheet)

How books leave my TBR:

  • Read
  • Duplicates (Purely clerical--I find books in the spreadsheet that were accidentally listed twice)
The Monthly Update:

Another month of a (slight) TBR growth.  Sigh!  But, as I explain, some of my books were "off list," so not all of my reading show in the numbers.

  • Beginning TBR: 794 (June 30, 2016)
  • Last Month's TBR: 805
  • Current TBR: 796
  • Monthly Change:  -9 (-1.11%)
  • Total Change: +2 (+0.25%)
Incoming Books:
  • Purchases: 13
  • Book Club: 0
  • Gifts and Giveaways: 0
  • For Review - Solicited: 0
  • For Review - Unsolicited: 1
  • Missed: 1
Total: 15

Removed Books:
  • Read: 8 (7 count towards TBR)
  • DNF/DNR: 16
  • Duplicates: 0
Total: 23

The Nitty-Gritty:

Books Purchased:
I probably should stop reading my eBook "Deals of the Day" emails...

  • I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
  • Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes
  • Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  • Lift and Separate by Marilyn Simon Rothstein
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
  • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (Book of the Month Subscription Box)
  • (Fox & O'Hare #4) The Scam by Janet Evanovich and Lee Godlberg (Send Me Swooning Subscription Box)
  • Everything For Her by Alexa Riley (Send Me Swooning Subscription Box)
  • The Fixer by Helenkay Dimon (Send Me Swooning Subscription Box)
  • Doc by Mary Doria Russell
  • The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler

Book Club:

Gifts and Giveaways:


For Review - Solicited:

For Review - Unsolicited:

  • In the Lights of the Garden by Heather Burch

Books Read:

I've added DNR - Did Not Read - to this.  These are books, primarily print books, that I've pulled from my TBR as I don't think I'll ever read them.

  • The Good Daughter by Alexandra Burt (DNF)
  • Breathing Room by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (DNR)
  • The Billionaire Wins the Game by Melody Anne (DNR)
  • The Billionaire's Dance by Melody Anne (DNR)
  • Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt (DNR)
  • The Spark by Kristine Barnett (DNR)
  • The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti (DNR)
  • Daughter of the Goddess Land by Sandra Saidak (DNR)
  • Romeow and Juliet by Kathi Daley (DNR)
  • Valley of Dreams by Lauraine Snelling (DNR)
  • A Dream to Follow by Lauraine Snelling (DNR)
  • Believing the Dream by Lauraine Snelling (DNR)
  • More than a Dream by Lauraine Snelling (DNR)
  • Dakota by Lauraine Snelling (DNR)
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (DNR)
  • Moranthology by Caitlin Moran (DNR)

To Join the meme:
Simply include the button in your update post and link the URL in form below below.

The next update post will go up on March 8, 2017.

West Metro Mommy Reads

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Audiobook Review: "Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood" by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Trevor Noah
Date Finished: January 25, 2017
Published: November 15, 2016
Genre: Memoir
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this audiobook if you like: The Daily Show, Stories about Apartheid, Humorous memoirs

Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle. 

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

My Thoughts:
I won't say that I'm a huge Trevor Noah fan.  Honestly, I find him a bit inexperienced to be hosting The Daily Show (although he is improving).  When this audiobook was first released, I was lukewarm...and then I fell for all the rave reviews and decided to give it a try.

And I'm so glad that I did.  First of all, I prefer this Trevor Noah to the one on TV--not that I especially dislike him on The Daily Show, but I think his immaturity (for lack of a better word) works better when he is telling his own story than when he's doing satire of current events.  I'm not going to say that I felt that Noah seems more mature after listening to his audiobook (he doesn't), but I felt that I was able to understand him a bit more.

I'm ashamed to admit that my knowledge of South Africa is limited.  I knew about Apartheid, of course. However, I didn't realize how life was for non-white South Africans after Aprartheid ended (hint: it was not totally dissimilar to life for African Americans, especially in the south, in the pre-Civil Rights era).  Noah is able to relate this world to the reader/listener with child-like innocence.  Well, maybe not so innocent....

One thing that this memoir does not have--and I appreciate its absence--is that Noah doesn't tell us how he was able to go from post-Apartheid South Africa to the United States and, ultimately, the desk at The Daily Show.  While this would have been expected, I think that its inclusion would have distracted from the central narrative (and, hey, it also gives Noah material for his next memoir!).

My only nitpick is that I would have organized some of the chapters a bit differently.  I'm not saying that the organization of the book is "bad," just that I would have made different choices.  As it is, there is a lot of looping back to certain topics and the narrative isn't strictly chronological.  If I had my dithers, I would have streamlined a bit more.

All in all, this is a book that lived up to its substantial hype.  Even if you don't watch The Daily Show, this is still a memoir that will both entertain and educate.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - February 4

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

This post is going up a little late tonight and I apologize for that. There were some weird issues going on with the blog--all of which turned out to be user error (oops!), so I'm a little behind the ball on this one.

Today, I'm bringing you the second selection of National Park pictures.  I meant to include these last week, but I had trouble getting them from my phone to my blog.  Again, user error.  Anyway, here they are.  (Please check out last week's post for the full story on this).

Devil's Tower National Monument (Wyoming)  July 14, 2014

Devil's Tower National Monument (Wyoming) July 14, 2014
Olympic National Park (Washington) July 24, 2016

Olympic National Park (Washington) July 24, 2016

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Book Review: "The Runaway Midwife" by Patricia Harman

The Runaway Midwife Patricia Harman
Published: January 31, 2017
Date Finished: January 14, 2017
ISBN: 9780062467317
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

You might enjoy this book if you like: Stories about midwifery, novels set in small communities, books featuring a heroine of a "certain age"

Midwife Clara Perry is accustomed to comforting her pregnant patients…calming fathers-to-be as they anxiously await the birth of their children…ensuring the babies she delivers come safely into the world.

But when Clara’s life takes a nosedive, she realizes she hasn’t been tending to her own needs and does something drastic: she runs away and starts over again in a place where no one knows her or the mess she’s left behind in West Virginia. Heading to Sea Gull Island—a tiny, remote Canadian island—Clara is ready for anything. Well, almost. She left her passport back home, and the only way she can enter Canada is by hitching a ride on a snowmobile and illegally crossing the border.

Deciding to reinvent herself, Clara takes a new identity—Sara Livingston, a writer seeking solitude. But there’s no avoiding the outside world. The residents are friendly, and draw “Sara” into their lives and confidences. She volunteers at the local medical clinic, using her midwifery skills, and forms a tentative relationship with a local police officer.

But what will happen if she lets down her guard and reveals the real reason why she left her old life? One lesson soon becomes clear: no matter how far you run, you can never really hide from your past. 

My Thoughts:
I became a fan of Patricia Harman's after reading her first two books, The Midwife of Hope River and The Reluctant Midwife, both of which were historical novels set in the first half of the 20th  centure.  I will admit I went into this book thinking it was the 3rd in a series.  Perhaps, technically, it is.  If so, it is the standalonest standalone in a series I've ever read.

Unlike the first two novels, this one is set in the present day and, although Clara hails from West Virginia (the setting of the previous two books), the bulk of this novel takes place on a Canadian island in Lake Erie.  I was surprised by this when I started, but I quickly realized that the world Harman created in her first two novels wouldn't exist in the present day, and the world of this Island (which reminded me of the Avonlea) is, at least, in the same vein.

The highlight for me was the community that she creates on this island.  It is filled with quirky characters, each with their own stories and their own prejudices.  Harman doesn't fall into the trap of creating some sort of utopia--instead, this is a true-to-live community with its own problems.  It is also a place I want very much to visit--the descriptions are vivid and picturesque and it sounds like the perfect place to find peace and solitude.

I quite liked Clara as a main character.  At the beginning of the book, she is in dire straights and she deals with the state of her life throughout the book.  She experiences quite a bit of growth as the book progresses and I rooted for her the entire time--and I would be more than happy to hear about her further adventures in later books.

The book, however, was not perfect.  I truly enjoyed reading about Clara and the life of the island, but I found the story be a bit plot-light.  Or maybe I found it to be a bit plot-distracted.  There were a number of possible things to push the story along--Clara's life on the run, a property dispute, a decades old cold case, but nothing really gelled as the central motivation for this story.  If you are a character person, this might not bother you.  However, if you need a clear plot for your novels, this is an obstacle.

I also found the ending a bit to easy.  I'm not saying I didn't like how it ended, I just felt that all the pieces fell together a little too quickly and that a jump was made that sort of came out of nowhere--and it was something that I would have enjoyed reading more about in the rest of the book.  It was a strange experience, liking the ending, but not being sure how we got there and I wish that I had been left with a different feeling when I turned the last page.

I would still recommend this book as there is much to like about it.  However, I probably wouldn't pass it onto one of my more critical reader friends who might be likely to notice the same things that I did.

About the Author:
Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculties of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She is the author of two acclaimed memoirs and the bestselling novel The Midwife of Hope River. She has three sons and lives near Morgantown, West Virginia.

Find out more about Patricia at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

To read more, please check out some of the other blogs participating in this tour.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: "I Liked My Life" by Abby Fabiaschi + GIVEAWAY

I Liked My Life Abby Fabiaschi
Finished Reading: January 1, 2017
Published: January 31, 2017
ISBN: 9781250084873
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher (St. Martin's Press)
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Family stories, books with multiple narrators, stories where characters look back on their lives, mother/daughter stories

Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch...until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge...but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

My Thoughts:
I've been doing this book reviewing thing for several years now and, in that time, I have learned that the more you love a book, the harder it is to review it.  It is actually quite easy--and even fun--to tear a book you hated apart.  But, reviewing something that spoke to you so clearly and resonated with you so deeply is a whole other can of beans.

That being said, this is probably the hardest review I've had to write yet.

First off, I don't want to say that the summary to this book is misleading--it isn't--but I will say that the tone of the book is not what you'd expect from the summary.  Don't get me wrong, there is some heavy, heavy stuff here and Fabiaschi doesn't back away from exploring the characters' very strong emotions, but this book is not nearly as full of doom and gloom as one might expect.

I think we can credit the characters for this.  Maddy, Brady, and Eve are all so incredibly written that you forget that they are words on the page.  Both Brady and Eve deal with both grief and guilt over Maddy's death, but they do so in very distinct ways.  Brady deals with the consequences of his professional life and the distance it caused between him and his family.  Eve, on the other hand, has a good-sized dose of teenage angst added into the mix.  I'll be honest, if Eve had showed up in a different book under different circumstances, I probably would not have been able to stand her.  However, she works here in this book and there wasn't a moment when she didn't seem like a realistic teenager thrown into a horrible situation.

The real star of this book is Maddy.  Despite being dead and telling her story from the other side, is one of the most vivacious and admirable characters I've read.  I wanted to know Maddy--heck, I wanted to BE Maddy and her circumstances only amplified that.  I can wish that we all have a Maddy in our lives.

The other element that really stood out to me in this book is that it seems to be on a certain trajectory--which is great.  It's nice to know where a book is going.  But, by the end, you realize it was never really going there.  Now, this could have caused the book to go down in flames and I've certainly seen many books that try to do this end up that way.  Yet, Fabiaschi not only makes it work, but this makes the book even more touching than it already was.

I could gush on and on over this one (and I probably will to everyone I meet in person.  Considered yourselves spared), but I will end this by saying that this is my new go-to recommendation for pretty much everyone.  Do yourself a favor and give it a try!

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press, I have one copy of I Liked My Life to give away to one of my readers.  This giveaway is open to entries in the United States and will run until midnight (Pacific Time) on February 6.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 29, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading - January 30 #IMWAYR

Okay folks...we've almost survived January.  It is crazy that I find myself talking about survival, but things are so (expletive) crazy here in the US that I just don't know what to expect from day to day.  I've spent a good amount of time this week not reading posting political articles on Facebook--so I won't go into it here.

But, the point is, I haven't been reading as much as I would like this week.  I wouldn't say it is a "slump"--maybe more of a distraction.  I want to be reading, I just need to make the time for it.

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.  Please visit her blog to link up and join the fun!

So, not a lot of change from last week.  Oh, there is one thing!  I was saying that my goal was to finish Alexander Hamilton by December 31, 2017 (well, at first I said 2016, but that clearly happened).  Now my goal is March 23, 2018.  Why the new date and why THAT date?  Because--ahem!--I HAVE TICKETS TO SEE HAMILTON ON MARCH 24, 2018!!!!!  Yes, I had to buy a subscription and get tickets to 5 other shows coming here to Portland...but it is totally worth it!  So, you know, I'll be impatiently waiting for the next 14 months...

Last week on the blog: