Showing posts from May, 2017

Book Review: Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon

First line: "I felt as if I'd got into a novel while going about in the places I'd read so much of," Louisa May Alcott wrote in her journal after seeing the sights of Dickensian London in 1865., from the Introduction

Book-inspired travel is a favorite of mine and my wife's. On my first trip with my in-laws, they cheerfully indulged my literary nerdiness by diverting a family road trip so that I could search for poet and novelist H.D.'s grave in Bethlehem, PA. Through multiple biographies and Jackson's own writing, my wife and I pieced together a route through North Bennington, Vermont, to explore Shirley Jackson's world. And for my babymoon, my wife took me to Yaddo, famed writing center, so I could walk the grounds so many favorite authors had.

All this is to say: a book that basically does all the work and offers me many, many ways to visit my favorite literary sites is pretty much catnip for me.

In its second edition, Novel Destinations offers a va…

Wordless Wednesday, May 24

My Wordless Wednesday offering for today includes two of my current reads: Buffalo Soldier and The Secret History of Jane Eyre: How Charlotte Brontë Wrote Her Masterpiece.

Have a Wordless Wednesday image to share? Link to it in the comments!

Book Review: How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick

First line: If you picked up this book, it's probably because you've had trouble narrowing down "what you want to be" to one thing.

I agreed to review this book purely on the title: I was unfamiliar with Wapnick and her TEDx talk on calling but have long struggled with what I "want to be when I grow up" (even now, in my mid-30s). While I love learning, I don't love it enough to want to attempt a Master's degree or expensive classes, and I've struggled with understanding if I'm happy or not in my vocation(s).

Still, I was apprehensive about this book when I started, fearing it'd be a long form essay on #YOLO (you only live once) or a passionate defense of the gig economy.

Instead, I found this a fascinating, empathetic, empowering read that acknowledges today's economic realities, the personal temperament of many people I know, and the ways current US culture is oriented toward a rigid, specialist-type career path (and how that need n…

Book Review: The White Road by Sarah Lotz

First line: I met the man who would save my life twice -- and ultimately destroy it -- on a potholed road in the arse-end of the Welsh countryside.

I grabbed this book off NetGalley because I like Mulholland Books offerings, even though adventure thrillers aren't normally my thing. But I'm glad I started this one, as it was a wonderfully diverting summer read, the kind of book that had me impatient for lunch and putting off dinner because I had to know how things would end.

Without (hopefully) giving away too much, the novel follows two mountain climbers, Simon and Juliet, who struggle with their demons as well as their aspirations. Juliet is a famed mountaineer hoping to establish herself with a historic climb, while Simon is employed by a shock journalism website that specializes in "dark" found footage.

Unsurprisingly, things unravel quickly for both Juliet and Simon, and I hung on every word. Lotz is new to me, but Stephen King is a fan of hers, among others, and…

Weekend reads and nor'easter-y Mama's Day!

This morning started chilly and drizzly but there's some sun peeking out, although it seems like it's going to be a cold, wet weekend.

My mother is flying in today for the weekend, which is a great treat, although our one big plan -- to attend Lilac Sunday -- has fallen through because, apparently, there's going to be a nor'easter on Sunday! I'll say right now I only like nor'easters if it comes with a snow day on Monday; otherwise, I've got no use for 'em!

As we're a two mama house, we'll be juggling giving each other Mama's Day time, so there will a little reading, lots of noshing, some sight seeing, and plenty of Unabridged Toddler time.

For those of you who are mamas, happy mother's day to you! And for those of you for whom this weekend is less fun because of problematic or missing mothers, you've got my love. I hope it isn't too painful.

My weekend read is Jenni L. Walsh's Becoming Bonnie, a historical novel about one h…

Book Review: Landfalls by Naomi J. Williams

First line: No one knew what to make of the new galley stoves when they arrived.

I first read this book in 2015 and adored it, and I was delighted when my book club selected it to read last month. Rereading it reminded me of what is so fabulous about this book, and I think it might be edging into one of my top ten all time favorite books. (!)

As with all the books I adore, I feel like I can't adequately explain why I loved it so and what about it was so compelling. In this case, it's everything -- the premise, the characters, the narrative style -- and this reread had me once again breathless in awe.

Williams recounts the late 18th century voyage of the Astrolabe and Boussole, two French frigates tasked with further global exploration, scientific inquiry, and cartographic correction. Each chapter follows a different crew member, and details the dramatic and tragic journey of the two ships.

I hesitate to say too much about what happened (don't google before reading) because…

Book Release Spotlight: Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

Becoming Bonnie is another novel I've been salivating over, ever since I caught wind of it last year. It's finally out, and I'm starting it in a few days. Really excited to share the squee about this one -- and even more exciting -- the sequel, Being Bonnie, has just sold, so more Bonnie to come! The Becoming Bonnieweb page has pre-order links, an FAQ, and other fun extras (like which member of Bonnie & Clyde's gang are you?)!

Becoming Bonnie: A Novel Jenni L. Walsh Forge/Macmillan: May 9, 2017 Hardcover | 304 pages Fiction / Historical
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From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh comes the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo.

​The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family's poverty, provide for herself, and maybe so…

Book Review: The Big Adventures of Tiny House by Susan Bernardo

First line:Once there was a farmhouse in a field of hay, but as it lay sleeping, the acres gave way to a bustling city whose bright, shiny towers edged out the farmhouse, the fields and flowers.

I love the idea of tiny houses although I could never, never, never live in one. The farm where my wife works, and where Unabridged Toddler spends most of his time, has a tiny house, and so when this book was offered for review, there was no way I could pass it up.

Both my toddler and I were completely charmed by this sweet read and gorgeous illustrations. An old farmhouse is transformed into a tiny house, and he and his friend, Big Truck, travel the country and make friends. A snobbish mansion makes Tiny nervous that he's not a real home, but he quickly discovers he's home no matter what.

The text is rhyming, but not irritatingly so, and the illustrations are wonderfully bold and bright. As Tiny and his friends travel the United States, there are visible notes of multiculturalism that…

Book Review: The Fisherman's Bride by Catherine Magia

First line: You only know of me through the healing of my mother, a shadow of a woman blessed by the miracle in the Gospels of Luke, Mark, and Matthew.

This slender book explores the life of the Apostle Peter's unnamed wife, and I found it a compelling, complicated, and surprising read.

As the first line explains, the only reference to her comes from the gospels, when Jesus heals her mother; from this simple line, Magia imagines what life for this unknown woman must have been like.

I didn't know what to expect with this novel; I enjoy fiction inspired by the events and figures in the Bible, even though I'm not a fan of explicitly Christian fiction. To my great delight, Magia balances an evocative sense of place and era with a gentle reverence for Jesus as a spiritual leader.

The novel opens with our heroine facing an unwanted marriage to a much older man, but her father's apprentice Simon asks for her hand, which she accepts. But as with everything in her life, this ch…

Book Review: Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

First line: Melissa made fun of me at school today.

I wasn't falling over myself in love with the first book in this trilogy, Sleeping Giants, but without anticipating an oh-my-god read with this one, I enjoyed it more than the first book.

The mysteries from the first book are explored in this one -- the meaning of the alien technology and the purpose for the abandoned machine now named Themis.

Whereas the first book felt more intimate, in a way, being focused on the four or five characters involved in researching this alien technology and what that research does to them, this book pulls back and starts looking at the global implications.

There are still four main characters we see things through, who give the story some heart, but much of the story is focused externally -- and with good reason. An alien robot lands in London at the start of the novel, similar to Themis but not the same, and our heroes have to scramble to figure out what the meaning of this visit is -- and if they…

Book Blast: Lilli de Jong

I think all of us passionate readers have a TBR in the thousands and we still can't help anticipating new releases. (My 2017 aspirational TBR has more books than I can read in a year, but does that stop me from adding more?! NOPE!)

I've been super curious about this historical novel, Lilli de Jong, since I caught sight of the cover and title earlier this year. Honestly, I wanted to read it based on just those two things but after reading the blurb, I'm pretty much guaranteed to pick this one up. (And, undoubtedly, do some ugly crying.)

It doesn't hurt that it's been blurbed by authors I love and admire, like Sarah McCoy, Valerie Martin, and Sandra Gulland.

You can read an excerpt at the author's website.

So, what do you think -- curious, too?

Lilli de Jong
by Janet Benton

Nan A. Talese, May 16, 2017 Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for …

Book Review: Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese

First line: I was a love-struck newlywed when Hitler came to Austria.

I wanted so badly to love this book, from its stunning cover to its fabulous first line, but sadly, this one just fizzled out for me midway. It took me almost three months, to the day, to finish this book, because I spent two months ignoring it. However, I seem to be in the minority, so don't take my word for it!

The premise and characters are interesting enough, so I think this is really a case of it's-me-not-you with this book. The story alternates between Adele Bloch-Bauer, Austrian socialite and figure of many of Klimt's most famous paintings, and her niece, Maria Altmann. Both women live in fascinating times: Austria from the late 19th century through World War II, and both women live in a world of privilege and prejudice.

There's a variety of plot threads woven through the novel -- marital drama for both Adele and Maria, Adele's patronage of the arts and her passion for Klimt, Maria's s…


Did everyone have a good weekend? Mine was wicked busy but very fun, hence the very better-late-than-never! announcement for the winner of my most recent giveaway.

The winner of The Widow's House is ... Heather W.!

Congrats to the winner! Thanks to everyone who entered -- more giveaways coming up soon!