Friday, March 17, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - March 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 posted pictures of our visit to Tumacacori National Historic Park. My husband and I had been there in the past, but we had never taken the trail down to the Anza River.  I'm not sure why that is--the path is only about 0.2 miles!  Anyway, we decided to make the trek this time, despite the wind, and we were greatly rewarded!  This is probably the most beautiful spot in this part of Arizona!

Heading down to the Anza River

Heading back....
There is a trail that goes from this spot to Tubac.  We hadn't planned to do any hiking, so we weren't prepared--but we'll be definitely be back to hike it next time!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - March 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.

Welcome back to our most recent Arizona trip!  I have another National Park post-well, a National Historic Park.  I'm actually splitting this up into 2 posts, so be sure to come back next week for the second half.  I'm also going a little out of order with these posts, but I'll explain why in my 3/25 post.

On this day, we visited Tumacacori National Historic Park.  This was a mission settled by Jesuit Missionaries in the 18th century (the first missionaries were in the area in the 17th century) and was in use until the mid-19th century.  I'd been here several years ago, but we had not visited since our kids were born.  We figured they were old enough now to enjoy it--and they did!  We took the "Junior Rangers" self-guided tour, so the information was at their level and they were very engaged.  And, at the end, they got to make their own tortillas!

$5 is pretty cheap for a National Park--but we had our NPS Annual Pass, so we didn't even have to pay that!

The mission

Looking up to the altar

The remains of the store room

Another view of the Mission 
My kids learning how to make tortillas!

There is also access to the Anza River at the Mission....but I'm saving those pictures for next week!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The State of My Shelves - March 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/DNF (Did Not Finish or Did Not 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: 796 (January 31, 2017)
  • Current TBR: 789 (February 28, 201)
  • Monthly Change: -7 (0.88%)
  • Total Change: -5 (0.63%)
Incoming Books:
  • Purchases: 8
  • Book Club: 0
  • Gifts and Giveaways: 1
  • For Review - Solicited: 4
  • For Review - Unsolicited: 0
  • Missed: 0
Total: 13

Removed Books:
  • Read: 7 (6 count towards TBR)
  • DNF/DNR: 14
  • Duplicates: 0
Total: 21 (20 towards TBR)

The Nitty-Gritty:

Books Purchased:

  • The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (Book of the Month Box)
  • The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson (Book of the Month Box)
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
  • Pretty Face by Lucy Parker
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
  • Dr. Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins (Send Me Swooning Box)
  • Perfect for You by Candis Terry
Book Club:
  • None this month
Gifts and Giveaway:
  • Never Again So Close by Claudia Serrano (Goodreads Giveaway)
For Review - Solicited:
  • Finding Our Forever by Brenda Novak
  • I Found You by Lisa Jewell
  • The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
  • The Half Wives by Stacia Pelletier (this one isn't quite true--I did get an eBook, but there are some technical difficulties with it.  I'm now waiting for the print copy to come in)
For Review - Unsolicited:
  • None this Month
Books Read:
  • All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (no review)
  • From Scratch (Blue Plate #1) by Rachel Goodman (no review)
  • Finding Our Forever by Brenda Novak (review 3/23/2017)
  • The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan
  • All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
  • Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (no review; audiobook and does not count towards TBR)
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (no review)
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.

  • Asking For It by Louise O'Neill (DNF)
  • Eventide by Cindy Martinusen (DNR)
  • Roses by Leila Meacham (DNR)
  • The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (DNR)
  • Gossamer Ghost by Laura Childs (DNR)
  • A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore (DNR)
  • Inscription by H.H. Miller (DNR)
  • Staggerford by Jon Hassler (DNR)
  • A Billionaire Between the Sheets by Katie Lane (DNR)
  • White Collar Girl by Renee Rosen (DNR)
  • Alibis by Andre Aciman (DNR)
  • Grounded by Neta Jackson (DNR)
  • The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory (DNR)
  • Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks (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 April 5, 2017.

West Metro Mommy Reads

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Book Review: "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir" by Jennifer Ryan #TLCBookTours

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir Jennifer Ryan
Date Finished: February 19, 2017
Date Published: February 14, 2017
ISBN: 9781101906750
Genre: Historical Fiction (WWII England)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Stories about women in World War II, books set in England during World War II, shows such as Upstairs/Downstairs and Downton Abbey, Epistolary novels

"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!" 

As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead 'carry on singing'. Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir", the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives. 

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit -- a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn't understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past -- we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir's collective voice reverberates in her individual life. 

In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the home front, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict. 

My Thoughts:
Every once in a while, I find myself falling into a book as if it is the most comfortable chair ever made.  This was one of those books.  Jennifer Ryan was able to transport me to England in the early days of World War II and introduced me to some of the most memorable (but realistic!) characters I've met in a long time.

I am going to start this review with a bit of a heads up.  This novel is told through letters and journal entries and has several narrators.  This is all fine--and Ryan handles the multiple narrators expertly--but I know that this format may not appeal to all letters.  I would also recommend reading this book in print instead of electronic form because I found myself flipping back several times in the early part of the book, just to remind myself who was who.

It does seem like the majority of books I've read lately have used the multiple narrator technique and, sadly, it isn't always successful,  Here, however, it really works.  Each narrator has a distinct voice and, because this is an epistolary novel, we have to get to know the characters through their words without any extra description.  Ryan is able to do this with apparent ease.

There was so much I loved about this book.  It reminded me of Downton Abby--not so much because of the manor life setting, because there wasn't one (there was one rich family and one maid was a supporting character), but because the plots in this novel just seemed very...English.  Even if this book didn't deal with the aristocracy, the conflicts in this novel reminded me of ones you would see in such a show.

I also felt that this book embodied, more than anything else I've read, the British belief of "Keep Calm and Carry On."  The War was brutal on the civilians of England, but the women in this story not only hold themselves together, but are also instrumental in the survival of the town.  The fortitude of these women is definitely something to behold--and I'm sure that it is very characteristic of the behavior of real women in England during the War.

I truly enjoyed this book, and it was a book that stayed with me long after I finished it.  I would highly recommend this to anyone, especially to those who are looking for a book chock full of interesting women.

About the Author:
Jennifer Ryan lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and their two children. Originally from Kent and then London, she was previously a nonfiction book editor.  Connect with her at her website and on Facebook.

I was given 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 blog tour.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Saturday Snapshot - March 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.

We're back with our most recent trip to Arizona!  One place that we always visit when we're down there is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  It is almost more of a zoo than a museum and it is just amazing.  Since we visited earlier than usual (we usually go over Spring Break, but this year we went over President's Day), things were a little different--which was nice!  It was surprisingly crowded--and we happened to choose to go on the same day as SIX school trips, but we still had fun!

On the veranda, overlooking the Desert Trail

We actually got them to STAND NEXT TO EACH OTHER!


My husband was able to get the coyote in the background.  I swear that canine has a perfect sense of timing--he runs off every time *I* try to take a picture!
I always get a kick out of this sign....

I'm going to go a little out of chronological order next week, but we'll be visiting another bit of the National Park Service!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Book Review: "All Fall Down" by Jennifer Weiner

All Fall Down Jennifer Weiner
Date Finished: February 21, 2017
Date Published: June 2014
ISBN: 9781451617788
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Books about addiction, books about women trying to balance everything

Allison Weiss got her happy ending—a handsome husband, adorable daughter, a job she loves, and the big house in the suburbs. But while waiting in the pediatrician’s office, she opens a magazine to a quiz about addiction and starts to wonder…Is a Percocet at the end of the day really different from a glass of wine? Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class…or if your husband ignores you?

The pills help her manage the realities of her good-looking life: that her husband is distant, that her daughter is acting out, that her father’s Alzheimer’s is worsening and her mother is barely managing to cope. She tells herself that they let her make it through her days…but what if her increasing drug use, a habit that’s becoming expensive and hard to hide, is turning into her biggest problem of all?

My Thoughts:
I'm a huge Jennifer Weiner fan and I've said that I've read all her books....and I thought I had.  Then, I was going through a pile of books on my TBR table (where the overflow that won't fit on my TBR bookshelf lives) and I found this one.  I apparently purchased this, probably back when it was released, and then it was buried.  Oops!  On the upside, it has been a while since Weiner's last adult novel, so this was kind of like a brand new release to me.

This book is not Weiner's usual fare.  She deals with addiction, which she had only peripherally touched on in other books.  The drug of choice in this book are opiods, which was fascinating.  You see, I'm one of those people who have never done drugs, but I've heard and read enough to have kind of an idea of what it might feel like.  I have had a bit too much alcohol from time to time, so I do know what that is like.  But I've never understood painkiller addictions.  It's not that I don't believe it is a real thing--but I've had things such as Vicodin and Oxycontin after surgeries and....they have done absolutely nothing for me.  So, I just couldn't understand what the appeal was (and I wasn't about to start popping pills to find out).  Here, Weiner spins such a compelling tale that I could almost feel the highs and lows as Allison goes through them.  I also could understand why Allison would turn to pills when the rest of her life was so out of control.

Once I picked this book up, I couldn't put it down (and, since I read most of it on an airplane, that was not an issue!).  Weiner's story telling is in top form here.  The pacing is perfect to reflect the frenetic life that Allison lives and in speeds up as she begins to spiral.  Allison is a character that I'm sure many readers can relate to.  While I don't agree with her choices (and I'd like to believe I'd never make them if I were in her shoes), she is still utterly believable.

I did have a few nit-picky things--I wish Weiner had fleshed out Allison's husband a bit more.  We barely get to know him and I think that if there was more to him, it would only enhance our understanding of Allison.  I also felt the last section was a bit bogged down and about twice as long as it could have been.

Still, this was a very satisfying read and I would put it towards the top of Weiner's books.  I would recommend this book to just about anyone.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? - February 27 #IMWAYR

So, um...hi there!  I haven't been the best blogger lately.  Usually, this means that I'm in the midst of a reading slump.  This time, that is not the case.  I'm not able to read as much as I'd like, but that's just due to time constraints.  Instead, I'm in the midst of a blogging slump.  I just can't get myself up to reviewing anything (although I am still committed to my solicited reviews) and I don't think I've looked at my blog reader for at least a month.  Oh well, I'm sure that I will get out of this soon, so just bear with me.

In fact, I'm hoping that rejoining this meme will help.  I do love seeing what everyone is reading (even if it works against my goal to shrink my TBR!) and I am feeling a bit disconnected from you all, thanks to this slump.  I'm hoping that forcing myself back into the game, will help me to start enjoying and yearning for the game again.  Does that make any sense?

Anyway, on with the show!

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've actually finished a few books since my past update, but those will show up on my next monthly TBR update.

There you go....I'm baaack!

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!