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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Maisie Dobbs
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: March 2004
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Maisie Dobbs isn’t just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence—and the patronage of her benevolent employers—she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind."

My Two Cents:

"Maisie Dobbs" is the first book in the very popular Maisie Dobbs series from Jacqueline Winspear. I have been looking forward to starting this series. After reading this book, I still find myself wondering what took so long! When the book opens, World War I is sweeping through Europe and Maisie is swept up into the war as a nurse on the front. When the war ends, Maisie decides to become a private investigator, almost unheard of for a woman.

We meet a bunch of characters in this book but I really liked our heroine, Maisie. Much of the book is tying the first case that she has back to her experiences during the war. I thought it was so interesting to get glimpses of the things that she went through during the war. We get to see how she was shaped and continues to be shaped by the war.

I really liked the writing of the book. The author did a great job of pulling me into the story through lots of little details and fascinating characters. The author did a great job of keeping the mystery close at hand until the very end. I look forward to reading more in this series!


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Blog Tour Giveaway: Modern Girls

Hello! I am very excited to be able to give away a copy of "Modern Girls" by Jennifer S. Brown! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please!)

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Blog Tour Review: Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown

Title: Modern Girls
Author: Jennifer S. Brown
Format: Ebook
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options.

After the birth of five children—and twenty years as a housewife—Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith.

As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same…."

My Two Cents:

"Modern Girls" starts out a little slowly and I was not sure how I was going to like the book. When we first meet Dottie, she seems a little naive and almost a little stuck-up. She fancies herself a modern woman, much more modern than her immigrant parents who she thinks are too stuck in their old country ways. When Dottie finds herself pregnant, she realizes that the world is not nearly as modern as she fancies it to be. Dottie's mother, Rose, finds herself in a situation that she doesn't want to be in. This is a story of mothers and daughters and once it got going, it blew me away. This book is full of secrets and the things that bind families together.

I really didn't like Dottie at first for some of the reasons listed in the first paragraph. I really liked how the author was able to show her growth. At the beginning of the book, Dottie is really only thinking about herself. She is very self centered. She believes that her smarts and her way with numbers will get her out of her parents' apartment and into her beau's (Abe) arms. The author quickly shows us that the best laid plans don't always get you to where you want to go.

Rose is fascinating too. She already feels like she has accomplished so much from escaping the old country. But she is still an outsider here. She spends time mostly with others who lived near her in the old country. Her English still leaves something to be desired. She is the matron of the house and she feels constrained. After taking care of so many children, she is hardly ready to start over. It was fascinating to watch her struggle with the decisions at the core of the book!

There are so many twists and turns in this book and I loved how the author kept me on my toes throughout the book. I was so pulled in by Dottie, Rose, their relationship, and the decisions they have to make. The relationship between a mother and daughter is incredibly beautiful and intricate. I thought the author did such a great job of capturing the beauty and the difficulty! What a memorable book! There seems that there could be a sequel, which I will ardently be hoping for!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

New House and Giveaway Winners

Hello everyone and happy weekend! I have two giveaway winners to announce today! But before we get to that, let me tell you about the past few weeks. About a month ago, we started getting estimates for renovating our house. Our house is an 1890s farmhouse and we need a bit more room than we have due to having two kids at a time (oh, the joy of twins).  

We got the first estimate and it was absolutely ridiculous. My poor husband was trying to see what he could cut out to get the price down (thank goodness for having an architect in the family). Meanwhile, my sister found a house listing for another historical house (a Victorian this time) and we decided that we needed to at least look at it! We looked at it and absolutely fell in love and put an offer in about five days later!

I have been having a hard time with the move. I hate moving and on top of that, I thought that this current house was our forever house. Also, I just really want to teleport all of my stuff to the new house. I hate packing but luckily, I love unpacking! This past month has been a total whirlwind and I cannot wait to settle down!

And now the giveaway winners...

Lies and Other Acts of Love:
Kassandra A. 

Tides of Honour:
Anna K.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

Title: The Things We Keep
Author: Sally Hepworth
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: January 19, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one other resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them."

My Two Cents:

In "The Things We Keep," Anna is losing her mind to early onset Alzheimer's and Luke is losing his ability to speak and form words. Both of them are in their thirties and suddenly find themselves living with the octogenarians and nonagenarians in a nursing home. They are frustrated with what is happening to them. They are frustrated with having to be in a facility geared for much older people. They fall for each other but the rules of the facility are meant to keep them away.

The characters in this book are wonderful. The book is told from the perspectives of Anna and Eve, a woman who is trying to fix her own life and the life of her young daughter after Eve's husband kills himself after being caught in a Ponzi scheme. Both of the characters are fantastic. The author does a really good job of showing the progression of Anna's illness and how it changes her and how she is able to communicate. Eve's story is sad as well but in a very different. I thought it was so interesting how she let Anna and Luke be together as if to bring happiness to others when she was having such a difficult time bringing happiness to herself.

This was a really powerful book that made me think a lot. What would I do if I were in Anna's place? How would I feel? The feelings of helplessness were so clearly drawn in the book that it gripped me viscerally. This is definitely a book that will stick with me long after I read the last page.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Title: The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
Author: Amanda Palmer
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: November 11, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world's most successful music Kickstarter.

Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn't alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.

Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love."

My Two Cents:

"The Art of Asking" is a book by Amanda Palmer, artist, singer of the Dresden Dolls, and wife of Neil Gaiman. I was only vaguely familiar with her through her singing career but I am so glad that I picked up this book. This book is part memoir, part self-help book of sorts. Palmer talks about her career and how even those that seem really successful may need help sometimes and how that help shouldn't be seen as shameful.

This was a cathartic read for me. I know that no one is expected to do everything on their own but there is something about me that makes it really hard to ask for help even when I know that I need that. I don't think that I'm alone at all in that. Almost all of us don't want to feel vulnerable. We don't want to feel like we can't make it on our own. We feel like we want to be free and independent and we feel that the only way to do that is to simply do everything on our own, even when things seem impossible, even when it would make more sense for someone else to step in. Palmer talks about all of those things in such a real, raw way. She also shows how important it is to say when you need help, to show that vulnerable-ness. It really resonated with me!

I really liked Palmer's style in this book. You feel like she's talking to you as a friend. She's allowing herself to show her true colors. It's this candor that pulled me in and didn't let go until the last page. This would be a great pick for those that are struggling with the same sorts of things.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blog Tour Giveaway: The Ones Who Matter Most

Want to win a copy of The Ones Who Matter Most? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please).

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