Friday, April 21, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - April 22

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.

Welcome back everyone!  As promised, I have pictures from Easter.  We were lucky in that the weather was not horrible.  It wasn't wonderful, but after all the rain we've had, I'm fine with that.  We had a pretty calm holiday, which was nice.  My father-in-law and brother-in-law came down, which the kids loved (and gave me and the hubs a bit of a break).

This was taken the day before at the church Easter egg hunt

The kiddos dyed eggs on Saturday afternoon....

They found their Easter baskets first thing in the morning--a DVD each, a game, a few books, a lot of Legos, and minimal chocolate.

A surprisingly decent picture of the kids

Of course, Alice had to get into the action

Obligatory family picture!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? - April 17 #IMWAYR

Happy Easter!  As I'm writing this, it is Easter Sunday and I'm gearing up to start Easter dinner, which will be fairly simple because Thanksgiving is my holiday.  Seriously.  I make a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner, but I'm sort of not into cooking on Easter (although I do love the holiday).  So, our food is pretty much of the stick it in the oven and then put it on the table variety. I even had my husband pick up a dessert at the store yesterday so I wouldn't have to worry about that.

So far, the kids have gone through their Easter baskets (mostly books and Legos, with minimal candy thrown in), gone to church, and then had an Easter Egg hunt in the backyard (eggs were filled with Legos).  Now, everyone else is watching Dr. Strange, which I was sort of "meh" about, and I'm catching up here.  All in all, a pretty decent Easter!

Before I forget, I have a giveaway going on right now (until midnight on Monday) for The Half Wives by Stacia Pelletier.  I really enjoyed this one and would invite you to enter.  

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!

I'm changing things slightly here.  While I have a number of books on my "currently reading" list (which you can see on my Goodreads page), I'm only going to update the ones that I make progress on during the week.  I've had 2 that I've included recently that are currently at a standstill point for various reasons, and I feel silly saying that I haven't moved my bookmark/audible spot all week...each week.  This doesn't mean that I've given up on the books, just that they weren't part of my reading during the past week (although I still consider myself to be reading them).

I'm finally reading my 2nd Margaret Atwood book!  I have read The Handmaid's Tale, which I found fascinating (and I'm eagerly waiting for the Hulu series!), but I hadn't ever read anything beyond that. The MaddAddam Trilogy and Oryx and Crake, especially, have come highly recommended, so I decided to give it a try.  So far, I'm enjoying it.  It is completely unlike anything else I've read lately, which is good.   However, it does tend to trigger paranoia a bit...but maybe that's a good thing?

The Queen of the Tearling is still coming along.  I'm enjoying it quite a bit, but I've really only had a chance to read it when I'm waiting on the kids for something (my kindle is usually in my purse for just that reason).  I'm guessing that it will take me another week or two to finish.

I'm trying to read one story a day in These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories.  Honestly, it is a heavier book than I really can handle at the moment...but is also a situation where I don't get to choose when I read it.

I actually finished 2 books this week, both of which I would recommend.

The first was On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins.  As I said last week, this is my first book by her and I found it to be delightful.  It had just enough angst to amp up the romance, but still light enough that it was pure enjoyment to read.  I fell in love with the two heroines and felt that the true love story was between the two sisters (you know, like Frozen).

On the other end of the spectrum was The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson.  I can't say that I enjoyed this book, but it was not a book that was meant to be enjoyed.  Instead, I found it fascinating, gripping, and anxiety-inducing (but in a good way).  I saw that it was categorized as Young Adult, which I...wouldn't agree with.  Just because the majority of characters were in their teens doesn't mean that it is a book that I think teens would enjoy.  But, hey, I haven't been a teenager for a long time and I could be wrong....

Friday, April 14, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - April 15

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.

Hello's been a quiet week here, so I just have a couple of random pictures to share today.

Our fruit trees are finally blooming....AND we had a moment of blue skies.  This is an actual cherry tree (Ranier and Bing) so it blooms a little later than  the ornamental ones.

In case you can't tell, I was TRYING to go through last week's Saturday Snapshot posts, but Alice had other ideas.  There is not a shy bone in that cat!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: "The Half Wives" by Stacia Pelletier

The Half Wives Stacia Pelletier
Date Finished: March 29, 2017
Date Published: April 4, 2017
ISBN: 9780547491165
Genre: Historical Fiction (early 20th Century)
Source:Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Novels with multiple narrators and unique points of view, stories told in a short time period, books with strong female characters

Former Lutheran minister Henry Plageman is a master secret keeper and a man wracked by grief. He and his wife, Marilyn, tragically lost their young son, Jack, many years ago. But he now has another child—a daughter, eight-year-old Blue—with Lucy, the woman he fell in love with after his marriage collapsed.  

The Half Wives follows these interconnected characters on May 22, 1897, the anniversary of Jack’s birth. Marilyn distracts herself with charity work at an orphanage. Henry needs to wrangle his way out of the police station, where he has spent the night for disorderly conduct. Lucy must rescue and rein in the intrepid Blue, who has fallen in a saltwater well. But before long, these four  will all be drawn on this day to the same destination: to the city cemetery on the outskirts of San Francisco, to the grave that means so much to all of them. The collision of lives and secrets that follows will leave no one unaltered.

My Thoughts:
I'm not a fan of love triangles.  Either they are badly done, in which case they are insufferable.  Or they are well done, in which case this overly emotionally invested reader gets all angsty.  The good news is that this love triangle lands firmly in the second category.  The even better news is that the angst level was surprisingly low for me!

As with any love triangle, you have three people.  There is Henry, who is married to Marilyn, the mother of his deceased son, but in love with Lucy, with whom he has a daughter.  In addition to these three, we also get the voice of Blue, Henry and Lucy's daughter.  It shouldn't be a surprise that the plucky 10 year old character is the most likable of the characters, although I can't say that all the other characters are especially unlikable.  Lucy is also the only character whose chapters are told in first person.  The other chapters are all told in second person, which gives this book a very unique view.  I'm struggling to find the right word to describe it--accusatory?  Forcing introspection?

The action of this novel takes place from 9am to 3pm on a specific day.  This structure forces to the story to be far more character driven than plot-driven and I don't think that is an easy task for an author.  Yet, Pelletier pulls it off.  We get to know each of the four characters quite well, including not only their hopes, but also their motivation.  I immediately felt for Lucy, "the other woman," who is really caught in an impossible situation.  I also quickly warmed up to Marilyn and felt the pain she had been living with for the past 14 years.

Henry, was a different story.  Pelletier does let us inside his soul, and I never believed that he was a bad person at all.  In fact, I saw him as a man who tried to do the right thing at all times.  But, he is still a guy who made the choice to have two families.  I am sympathetic to the fact that his grief and Marilyn's grief were incompatible, but that still isn't a reason to draw a third person into the web and keep a second family on the side.

I'm not sure if Pelletier wanted us to feel sympathy for Henry or not--and I'm not sure that I don't feel at least some sympathy for him.  However, I still feel that he is ultimately responsible for the complicated situation in which all the characters find themselves and I'm not able to excuse his decisions.  This, however, is not flaw in the book for me.  I think it is actually one of the strongest features of it--that we're able to understand why someone does something yet still not agree with it.

The Half Wives was a thought-provoking read, and one that was well-worth my time.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys character driven novels and who wants to be challenged by those characters.

About the Author:
Stacia Pelletier is the author of Accidents of Providence, which was short-listed for the Townsend Prize in Fiction, and the forthcoming The Half Wives. She earned graduate degrees in religion and historical theology from Emory University in Atlanta. A two-time fellow of the Hambidge Center, located in the mountains of North Georgia, she currently lives in Decatur, Georgia, and works at Emory University’s School of Medicine.

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

To read more about this title, check out some of the other stops on the blog tour!

With thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, I have 1 paperback copy of The Half Wives to give away to one of my readers.  This giveaway is open to US Readers and will run until midnight (Pacific Time) on Monday, April 17th.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

It's Monday...What Are You Reading - April 10 #IMWAYR

So...I guess I need to do an update after last week's update.  Sadly, my mom passed on Tuesday morning.  It wasn't unexpected, but it is still hard.  We will be doing a memorial service in the summer up here (my parents lived in Arizona, but our family was all over the place).  I did lay a little low this week, but I'm working on getting back into the swing of things.

Of course, I really won't have any choice but to get into the swing of things, as this week is going to be quite busy.  My son starts T-ball this week, which should be...interesting.  We'll have to see how he likes it.  My father-in-law and brother-in-law are coming down at the end of this week for Easter, which will be great but I need to clean the house!  That, my friends, is the story of my life...a messy house most of the time, with spurts of mad cleaning when guests are coming!

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!

I'll admit that I have a few more books going than I'd like (I swear, one of these days I'll get back down to just 3 books at once!).  However, there are actually reasons for that--and I didn't make any progress on a couple of these this week.

On Second Thought is the first book by Kristan Higgins that I've read.  I know she has quite the following and I even own some of her other books, but I just haven't given her a try yet.  This book came a month or so ago in my Send Me Swooning box and I'm trying to get to my newer books sooner rather than later, so I thought I'd give it a try.  Perhaps the fact that one of the main characters is dealing with the death of her husband should have warned me off, but it didn't. I'm actually enjoying this one quite a bit!  Higgins has a great, light style that just sucks you right in.  I'm not too far into it yet, but the characters are fabulous.

So, I didn't read anything in The Nightingale this week.  People are telling me how sad it is and I just don't think I'm up for it right now.  Normally, I would just stick this one right back into the TBR, but it is for my book club this month.  I'm not sure if I should just call it now or hope that I get in the mood to tackle it in time for our next meeting.

Instead of reading The Nightingale, I've been reading The Queen of the Tearling.  I figured I needed something that was completely out of the norm for me and this is it.  So far, I'm enjoying it.  My one stupid nitpick is that the chapters are looong!  Normally this isn't a problem, but I get most of my reading for this one while I'm waiting to pick up my kids or while I'm getting my hair done, so it is a pain to have to stop in the middle of a chapter.

I did start These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories this week.  It is definitely heavy, but the stories are quite short so it is easy to handle.  I'm trying to read one a day, but it isn't quite working out like that.  Oh well!  It still is nice to have a book that is NOTHING like what else I'm reading to break things up a bit.

There was no writing this week, so there was no progress on Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere).  I'm okay with that, honestly.  Given what has been going on, I get to take a little break.  I also didn't get to the gym, which means I didn't get to listen to any more of In Her Shoes...which is a bummer.  I really need to get back to the gym..

I did finish Miss You this week.  I'll be reviewing it later this month, so I don't want to say too much about it now....beyond the fact that it really was sort of the perfect book for me to be reading right now.  It also put me in the mood to watch something like Notting Hill or Four Weddings and a Funeral, as it does have a very strong British rom-com feel.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - April 8

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.

Just one picture today.  Why.... (corrected....)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Book Review: "The Women in the Castle" by Jessica Shattuck

The Women in the Castle Jessica Shattuck
Date Finished: March 23, 2017
Date Published: March 28, 2017
ISBN: 9780062563668
Genre: Historical Fiction (20th Century Europe)
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins Publishers
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Stories set during World War II, stories about non-Nazi Germans, novels with strong female characters

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resistor murdered in the failed July, 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows. 

First, Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and na├»ve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war. 

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges. 

My Thoughts:
I keep saying that I'm going to take a break with the World War II novels, and I keep finding myself back there.  I will say that, these days, the WWI tends to be more of an emotional minefield for me than it has been in the past, which I think makes the experience of reading a book set in this time period both more fraught and more fulfilling.

This book, however, separates itself in two ways.  First of all, a good chunk of the book--at least half--is set after World War II, mainly in 1950's Germany and later.  I know that there are other books set in this period, but I haven't read them.  We also get glimpses into what the characters suffered during the war and what their lives were before the war.  I think these different views give a much more complete view of lives of Germans in the first part of the 20th century than we usually see in World War II based novels.

The other difference is that these characters have a very specific place in history.  They are the widows of men who were executed after a failed plot to assassinate Hitler.  While the women's involvement in the resistance varies from character to character, it was a fascinating aspect of history about which I knew little.

However, what I enjoyed most about this book were the relationships between the women.  This is not a gal-pal book and the webs between the three main characters are twisted and knotted.  But it is also a very realistic view of how people, in this case women, relate to one another in times of stress and upheaval.  There is nothing "neat" about this, and that is what makes it so fascinating.

All three characters were well-rounded and multi-dimensional.  I found myself enjoying and relating to Marianne the most, although I'm not entirely sure that was Shattuck's intention.  She's a very complicated character--as the one who brings Benita and Ania under her care, she's the glue that holds the characters and the narrative together.  Yet, she is still a flawed and thoroughly-human character.  While I didn't always agree with her decisions, I did understand them.  That is a very small target for an author to hit, and Shattuck did so with ease.

Among the World War II-era books that I've read, I would say that this ranks near the top, if not at the top.  I appreciated the unique view that Shattuck brought and found her portrayal of female relationships (friendships and otherwise) to be among the best.  This is a book that I would readily recommend to anyone.

About the Author:
Jessica Shattuck is the award-winning author of The Hazards of Good Breeding, which was a New York Times Notable Book and finalist for the PEN/Winship Award, and Perfect Life. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, Wired, and The Believer, among other publications. A graduate of Harvard University, she received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and three children in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Find out more about Jessica at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

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

To read more about this book, please visit some of the other stops on the tour.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The State of My Shelves - April 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
  • DNF
  • Duplicates (Purely clerical--I find books in the spreadsheet that were accidentally listed twice)
The Monthly Update:

I took some time this month to really go through my TBR and get rid of books (print and electronic) that I know I'll never read.  As a result, my DNF/DNR list is huge (and I won't be listing it all here).  Unfortunately, my Purchase Number isn't exactly tiny, so it didn't make quite the dent I thought it would!

  • Beginning TBR: 794 (June 30, 2016)
  • Last Month's TBR: 789 (March 31, 2017)
  • Current TBR: 764
  • Monthly Change: -25 (3.2%)
  • Total Change:  -30 (3.8%)
Incoming Books:
  • Purchases: 15
  • Book Club: 1
  • Gifts and Giveaways: 1
  • For Review - Solicited: 1
  • For Review - Unsolicited: 0
  • Missed: 0
Total: 18

Removed Books:
  • Read: 8
  • DNF: 34
  • Duplicates: 1
Total: 43

The Nitty-Gritty:

Book Club:
I received 1 book for my postal book club, which I won't list here so that it will be a surprise for the next person to receive it

Gifts and Giveaway:
White Gold by Caitlin O'Connell

For Review - Solicited:
Miss You by Kate Eberlen

For Review - Unsolicited:

As I said, there were 34 of these--and all of them were DNR's (Did Not Reads).  I'm guessing that, from here on out, there will be fewer of these each month.

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 May 3, 2017.

West Metro Mommy Reads