☕ Book Break ☕ |~A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy~

 ~A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy~

“She was still vaguely hopeful that there was love out there somewhere—just a little less sure that she might actually find it.”

“Her life was like her house—a colorful fantasy where anything was possible if you wanted it badly enough.”

Chicky Starr revamps an old mansion, turning it into a holiday resort for those wanting to spend time in an out-of-the-way place. Stone House is in a remote area on the cliffs of Ireland, part of a small village. The novel follows a varied cast of characters. A warm read. Humorous. Relatable.

Maeve Binchy was one of a kind. I’m not sure how she did it. The stories she wrote are rich with characters in situations that we often find ourselves. I find myself becoming attached to her characters, and remembering them long after the last page has been read. This was her last novel.

While this is not my favorite novel of hers, it was a joy to revisit for this fan.

This one may be a bit slow in parts, and does seem to meander a bit, but I think it’s well worth the time. It leaves me with a warm, cozy feeling.

Click here to leave a comment

☕ Book Break ☕ |~Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D.Vance~

~Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D.Vance~

I finally got around to reading Hillbilly Elegy. This is an interesting and eye-opening memoir. I’ve heard people compare Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance and White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History by Nancy Isenberg, liking one over the other, but I found each one of these books unique in its own right. Studying our culture has always been a special fascination to me, so these types of books are right up my alley.

Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir about an a Kentucky boy with few advantages who grew up and made it good. He managed to go to an elite college, graduate, and become financially successful. This book is an exposition of his roots and a narrative of his journey. It’s also an examination of what has happened to the American dream and why so many have failed to achieve it from the perspective of an insider. It’s very thought-provoking.

I found myself growing attached to the characters in this story. Moving, at times humorous, colorful, interesting.

I think it is a much-needed read for anyone who wants to understand class in America. I would pair this with the other book, White Trash. If you’re not a voracious reader like I am, I think either one is excellent. If you prefer memoir then Hillbilly Elegy may suit your taste, if you lean more towards a broader examination of the class structure and love history, you may prefer White Trash. In all honesty, I feel they both deserve a place on your shelf.

Get both if you can.

What’s the last memoir you read?

Click here to leave a comment

☕ Book Break ☕ |Finding Hero by Diana L. Sharples

~Finding Hero by Diana L. Sharples~

Finding Hero is a young adult mystery, but rather than a straightforward whodunit, the characters each have their own story. I first read Diana Sharples’ work with her book, Running Lean, a story about a girl with an eating disorder. All of Diana Sharples’ characters in Finding Hero encounter problems other than simply solving a mystery. She writes a complex story.

Finding Hero is a multi layered tale involving teenage life, complicated family history, and a mystery from the past that could have severe consequences for Daniela and Devon. A storm wreaks havoc in their lives, not the least of which is uncovering a long buried body.

I like this new book. When I first downloaded it and saw all those little dots I thought it was on the long side, but as I was listening it did not seem long at all. It’s hard for a book to keep my interest when I listen to it on kindle, but Finding Hero did. I was hooked from the beginning.

I’ve been a sucker for Shakespeare since I first encountered The Bard, so when the book opens it with the character Daniella Cooper auditioning for a part in Much Ado About Nothing my antenna went up. If you’re not a Shakespeare fan the title is referring to a character in the play. You don’t have to be into Shakespeare to enjoy this book, by the way.

The only thing I did not like in this book was the behavior of some of the adult characters. I found myself getting angry at the failure of the grownups, but I understand that that was intentional. They just made me mad! However, simply having a child does not make one a mature adult. These characters reflect true people and the behaviors and obstacles encountered in real life. .
Finding Hero is a clean read. All of Diana Sharples books that I’ve read are, but this one is actually published by clean reads.

I received an advanced copy of this book and was asked for an honest review.

Click here to leave a comment

☕ Book Break ☕ |~The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale~

~The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale~

“It wasn’t a person’s age that made death sad. It was the size of the absence it caused in the ones left behind.”

This book has all the feels. The story is set in the same part of the country as Steel Magnolias, which I feel should be required viewing for anyone who is breathing, and it has a little bit of the same flavor, with sassy southern women. The characters face adversity with a dash of humor and grace.

I loved the the authentic setting and characters. I was surprised it was categorized as Christian fiction. While there is mention of church and God and the main character, Carrigan, has many questions about God’s will, it doesn’t read like inspirational fiction. I would identify it more along the lines as southern fiction or women’s contemporary.

Friendship is an important theme in this novel, and Celeste Fletcher McHale paints a lovely picture of true and lasting friendship between three women. It makes one long for the faithfulness and resilience of lifelong friends. I found myself chuckling and crying as I read about these three women. .
We are given an epilogue at the end of the story, however I would love to see additional novels about these characters.

Beautifully written and completely enjoyable. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Click here to leave a comment

Interview with YA Author Diana L. Sharples

Running Strong

Flannery Moore rides a dirt bike and can’t remember the last time she wore a dress. She’s also in love with her best friend, Tyler Dorset. While nothing else could make her do so, Flannery decides to change herself into the kind of girl she thinks Tyler would fall for. When her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Flannery knows she has to make sacrifices. But will that include giving up on Tyler? Can “less than” ever really be enough?

Available June 29, 2018, through all major outlets.

 

 

************

I fist encountered Diana Sharple’s work when I read her young adult novel, Running Lean. The book stuck in my mind. I would hand Running Lean to any young person to read and feel it is a good book to spark conversation about a serious issue many of our teens face. Running Lean is a Christian young adult novel told from the point of view of the boyfriend. Running Strong is the long awaited sequel.

Diana hit a few bumps in the road, but has been working triple time the last year. She has already had one book come out earlier this year, and four more are on the way.

She is an amazing woman. I appreciate her taking time out to come and talk with us.

**********

You tackled a tough issue in Running Lean. What was your inspiration?

Running Lean and Running Strong were both “born” at the same time. Years ago, I envisioned a series of books following a group of teenagers at a small, rural high school, and for one book I experimented with an ensemble cast, each member of which either modeling or strived toward the attributes described in the Beatitudes from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. I modeled Stacey’s character and problem around “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Except that Stacey’s hunger and thirst was for an unrealistic standard of beauty which causes her to reject food and water. As I wrote, though, it became apparent that Stacey’s story could not be adequately handled in an ensemble situation. Her story needed to be in the spotlight. (Writing an ensemble piece turned out not to be my best idea, anyway!) Thus I took her, and her devoted boyfriend, Calvin (Blessed are the pure in heart…) and dove headfirst into the research necessary to write a realistic story about a girl suffering with anorexia. I needed to know all the hows and whys, and so that research was extensive, consuming, and often heartbreaking. After that, however, the other stories remained to be told! And out of that first ensemble cast came Tyler (Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness…), and his awkward relationship with one of his best friends. Running Strong has changed considerably since then, but I always envisioned Tyler as a musician hoping to break away from his small, small world, while that world refused to let him go.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the next titles in the series?

Actually, most of the books I’ve been writing over the years were birthed in that initial series, although I’ve had to make some choices that divided them into different series. Running Strong is a stand-alone sequel to Running Lean, in which the two best friends sort out their awkward relationship and discover more about themselves in the process. (This was a subplot thread intentionally left dangling in Running Lean.) But I needed more than just the fluffy teen drama of a girl falling in love with her best friend. My personal battle with breast cancer gave me the deeper life aspects I needed to explore for the story. And so, the teen drama is interrupted by a parent’s diagnosis, which causes Flannery to realize the sacrifices that sometimes have to be made for love, and Tyler to realize that his small, small world is bigger than his own dreams.

Running Strong is scheduled for publication on June 29, 2018.

Because…Anonymous is the first book in a series of YA mysteries, which takes the bad-boy Romeo from Running Lean, Noah Dickerson, and gives him his own spotlight for growth. While Noah and his mother are in hiding from his alcoholic, abusive father, and Noah is trying to sort out how that negative influence has impacted his own life and personality, he finds himself caught up in a series of mysteries at school. And, of course, there’s always a female crush involved.

Because…Anonymous is available now, and the other two books are coming in the next few months.

And finally, Finding Hero is yet another story that came out of that ensemble cast, but I’ve had to make major changes the characters and the setting, so it is now the first book in its own series. Daniella is a diva forced to move from her artsy environment to a small Appalachian town after her mother inherits a large tract of land there. Devon is a Cherokee boy living in near poverty, whose mother used to work for Daniella’s grandfather. These two have almost nothing in common, but they’re forced together after human remains are found on the Cooper family property, and solving the mystery could send loved ones to jail.

Finding Hero will be available on September 11, 2018, from Clean Reads Publications.

You have several books coming out this year. Do you have a favorite character?

Oh dear, I really do love them all! But I’d have to say that the one character I connect with the most on a personal level—the one that I think is nearest to my own personality—is Flannery from Running Strong. She’s a tomboy, a biker chick, and a romantic dreamer rolled into one. Add red hair and green eyes… yep. You’ve got me in a nutshell. Except I don’t obsessively read cowboy romance novels.

What has been your most challenging project?

The research for Running Lean, as I mentioned above, was heartbreaking and terribly important. I think that book stands above all of my others for the significance of the issue. I believe that body image and self-esteem issues are at the heart of so many problems teenage girls face today. I feel that I barely scratched the surface of the problem of eating disorders, but when I receive an email or message from a young woman who says my book helped her in some way… that is my reward.

However, just from a writing standpoint, the Because… mysteries have proven to be a major challenge! I’ve had to adjust my ways of structuring a plot to accommodate all the subtle clues and miscues and red herrings. It’s a much more complicated method of plotting than I’ve done before!

On a personal level, having been through a battle with breast cancer and having that innate understanding of what Flannery’s mother and her family are going through, Running Strong is the novel that pushed me to dig deepest into myself.

But I think, in order to write compelling stories in any genre, the author has to get personal and find the character’s within herself. Revealing that bit of one’s heart is what connects the story with the reader’s heart.

 

*******

Thank you Diana!

 

Diana Sharples lives in north Georgia with her husband and daughter, and a house full of rescued pets. She wrote her first teen novel at the age of thirteen. Although she holds a degree in communication design/illustration from the Atlanta College of Art and has won awards for her science fiction and fantasy illustrations, she never lost her love for storytelling. Her debut novel, Running Lean, won several pre-publication awards and was released from Zondervan Books (a division of Harper Collins) in 2013. After a battle against breast cancer, she is resurrecting her career in 2018 with five new books being published. Diana is a motorcycle enthusiast and can be found riding her Harley around the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Visit her website for more news and samples of her artwork, www.dianasharples.com.

Click here to leave a comment

☕ Book Break ☕ |~Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman~

~Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman~

Eleanor is socially awkward. She lives alone, spending her time working, drinking vodka on the weekends, and taking phone calls from Mummy. Raymond is the typical IT guy from the office, sloppy and unorganized. After work one day, they witness an old man, Sammy, as he collapses on the sidewalk and they work together to help him. The three become friends.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
What a beautiful novel. Eleanor is wonderfully quirky, and the author so clearly draws this character that my sympathies were completely in Eleanor’s corner even when her behavior raised the ire of her coworkers. I adored Raymond, who is as clueless as Eleanor in his own way.

This book is entertaining, amusing at times, tragic, and completely worthy of any reader’s time. Eleanor has left little cracks in my heart, and at the same time restored hope. A must read.

Gail Honeyman had me from paragraph one all the way until the last word.❤
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
And did I hear this was going to be made into a movie? No way will it be as good as the book, but I’ll be watching, just in case.

Click here to leave a comment

Interview With Inspy Author Stacy Monson and Giveaway

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to CFloyd!

******

Mindy Lee “Minnie” Carlson’s dream job has dropped into her hands, but there’s a catch. She has four months to revive Open Circle, the town’s only Senior Adult Day Center, or the doors will close, leaving her beloved seniors stranded, and eliminating the only job she’s ever wanted.

Globe-trotting photographer Jackson Young documents the forgotten people of the world, focusing on the poor and elderly. After decades on the road, he’s stunned to learn his beloved Grandma Em is still alive in the small town he’d had to leave decades earlier.

Overjoyed, Jackson races back into town to reconnect with her and discovers she’s been Minnie’s adopted grandma for the past twenty years. When Grandma Em has a stroke, his ideas about her care pit him against Minnie’s determination and expertise. For Grandma Em’s sake, and the future of Open Circle, they’ll need to do the impossible—find a way to work together.

******

As you guys may know, it’s not my policy to agree to review books in exchange for a free copy, but something about this one caught my eye. I can’t say why that is, exactly. This book came to me a perfect time. I needed an inspy and this one fit the bill. As a bonus, I found a new writer friend!

After I read Open Circle, I asked Stacy if she would be willing to do an interview for us, and she said she’d be happy to!

I loved the idea of setting a story in an elder care environment. Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for choosing this particular setting?
I started writing Open Circle while my mom was in the midst of her Alzheimer’s journey. It’s such a terrible disease, and yet we experienced moments of joy, even humor through those years. I got to know caregivers, administrators, and other families on a similar journey. I also learned about the wide variety of programs available for families, research, and organizations committed to providing support, encouragement, and education for clients and family members/caregivers. As difficult as the journey was, watching my fiercely independent mother decline over nearly a decade, I was inspired by the people who cared for her, as well as the others like her. She’s been gone nearly 7 years now, which is hard to believe.

What are the main things you want readers to take away from Open Circle?
That everyone deserves respect no matter their age, mental capacity, illness, and that our elders have earned the right to age with dignity, and be loved unconditionally. All of my books have the underlying theme of who we are in Christ; our identity in Him doesn’t change just because we lose our memory, or our bodies get old.
I love the title. Can you tell us what the title means to you and why you chose to name the adult daycare center in your novel Open Circle?

It’s actually the name of an adult day program where my in-laws were involved. I co-facilitated a caregiver support group with Carol, the social worker of that program. I got to know the staff and was immensely impressed with all of them and their programming.

What can we look forward to reading about in your future work?

I have several ideas percolating! What I’m working on right now is a series called My Father’s House, about sisters who discover (as young adults) that they’re adopted. Two of them have been raised as twins. The stories (each book follows one of the sisters on her journey to discover who she “really” is) look at adoption, identity, family, consequences. After that, I’m focusing on a more lighthearted book, perhaps a novella, about online dating.  🙂

My question for all of YOU:  I’d love to know which genres are your favorites. Comment below and you’ll be entered for a chance to win an autographed copy of Open Circle.
My favorite is contemporary (obviously!) but I’ve also grown to love historicals as I know a number of historical authors and appreciate all the work they put into making their stories accurate as well as interesting!

About Stacy

Stacy Monson is the award-winning author of The Chain of Lakes series, including Shattered Image, Dance of Grace, and The Color of Truth. Her stories reveal an extraordinary God at work in ordinary life. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the MN Christian Writers Guild (MCWG), Stacy is the area coordinator for ACFW in Minnesota, past president of ACFW MN-NICE, and is the Events Director for MN Christian Writers Guild. Residing in the Twin Cities, she is the wife of a juggling, unicycling physical education teacher, mom to two amazing kids and two wonderful in-law kids, and a very proud grandma of 3 grands.

For news about upcoming books, contests, giveaways, and other fun stuff – stop by Stacy’s Author Website here. 

To learn about bringing Stacy’s speaking ministry, WINGS, to your event, visit her blog here.

She also on Facebook  Twitter  Instragram and  Pinterest.

Thank you, Stacy!

I struggle to pick a favorite type of fiction. It’s like asking me to go to the buffet and pick one favorite food. I love a good story that makes me laugh or cry. The best ones do both.

OK, ya’ll, we have TWO  Giveaways!

Giveaway ONE

Leave a comment below to enter Stacy’s giveaway for an autographed copy.

Giveaway TWO

As an EXTRA, sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win an ecopy of Open Circle. If you’re on my mailing list and provide a valid email, you are in. One chance for  an ecopy per email valid address, but you can enter BOTH giveaways one and two.

Both giveaways close on May 31.2018.

Linked up at Literacy Musing Mondays #LMMLINKUP.

Click here to leave a comment

2018 Book Goals and 2017 Favorites

This one wouldn’t be upset by a little thunder. She would probably scare any storm that dared to cross her path. Rain could picture her out in the middle of a tornado, commanding it to depart, her hair wild and swirling as the wind obediently blew its way right out of her path.

*****

I haven’t quite finished the rough draft I’m working on, but I am getting near the end at a word count of 66K. I did stop and delete a bit when the story wasn’t unfolding to my liking. As I near the end of this draft, another story idea has popped into my head so I am sure there will be no lack of novels for me to write. I hope to get one or two of these polished up enough to pitch in 2018.

Have you made any goals for 2018?

My reading goal for the next year is to post a book review every Wednesday. My current TBR list leans towards contemporary, southern, and women’s fiction, with a few others thrown in but that’s not to say it won’t grow and change as the months roll by. There is always room for more books, and all bookworms know that the book list is never complete, right?

When I find a book I think people might like, I have to share. And on that note, if you have a book you absolutely love, tell me about it. I read several books a week, usually. Most of my favorite finds come from friends’ recommendations.

From the books I reviewed on my blog this year, I have listed a few notables. There were many more books that I never reviewed, but I restricted myself to only those I posted about in 2017.

Two books made the most impact on me, one was The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer. This is a classic that I don’t recall reading before, and the simple language spoke to me in a profound way. I consider it worth rereading every year.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff was an eye opener. One of the first things I did while reading this book was to cut my goals in half. I did this and my productivity has vastly improved with higher word counts than I was able to reach before. This nonfiction book is chock full of good advice. If you haven’t read it yet, grab yourself a copy for the upcoming year’s goal setting.

If I have to pick one novel I reviewed that I liked the best, it would be  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. This book made me laugh and cry. Beautifully written characters and a heart-squeezing story. Loved it.

A new to me author who consistently delivers is Lisa Scottoline. While legal thrillers are not usually my first pick when I look for new reads, I enjoyed all of hers that I read. Every one I read was satisfying. It’s a rare author that can keep me coming back book after book. As much as I enjoy reading, I can be fickle and have a low tolerance for books that don’t grab me right away. I reviewed Damaged.

The best young adult I read this year was Free to Fall by Lauren Miller. Loved the premise, the characters, and the literary and Biblical allusions.

Lauren Graham’s memoir Talking As Fast As I Can was wonderful. If you are a Gilmore Girls fan you will probably like this small book.

One of the main reasons I read is for the comfort that a good story brings. I like action and mystery, but some days I simply want a good story. Books that fit into that slot for me were Like A Watered Garden by Patti Hill, an old favorite, and Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg, which I had not read or listened to before. I love that Fannie reads her own books. She has such a story teller’s gift.

I posted about a few shows and Netflix series, and the one I would like to mention is 13 Reasons Why. All the teens were watching this and talking about it. I also wrote a follow up post Talking With Your Teens about the series. The book was on my list, but I couldn’t bring myself to read it. I will probably try to get to it sometime this year.

So that’s my list for 2017. What were your favorite or most notable reads? Do you have any books you would like for me to review?

Wishing you a year blessed with many, many good books.

 

Click here to leave a comment

Confessions of A Hoarding Homeschooler

Confessions of a Hoarding Homeschooler donnajostone.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It all started when I went to look for a literary analysis book. One trash bag full and three boxes into the job, I started finding things. Treasures, really.

We must keep the carousal horse and other drawings, and the book Drawing With Children. I would be happy with only the drawings, but my daughter insists. What if she needs that book for her kids?

herfavsubject

This binder says right on the cover Mind Twisting Stories which means it is a titled work, so it cannot be discarded.

storiesinnotebook

Little sister even decorated it.

little sistercontribution

Most of our materials and assignments come with decorations of some sort, be they toddler explorations with marker, coffee rings, important reminders (reschedule dentist, pay water bill, need 27 styrofoam cups and toothpicks for gumballs) or even teeth marks. My youngest literally teethed on Shakespeare for Young People: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

book

I like to think that makes her sound smart.

I tossed that chewed on copy, but when my middle son came by to visit he noticed the boxes. “But mom, I was in this play! TWICE.”  Since he has his own house now he was welcome to dig through the boxes to his heart’s content.

When I was in the midst of the juggling act, I never realized how precious all those spills and scribbles would be someday.

We must keep the Book of Jokes. This is slap full of things nine year old boys find hilarious. Or HE-larry-US.

joke

punchline

haha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, these cannot be tossed out.

I adore reading his jokes and remembering that boy laugh. You know the one. The one that makes you laugh along even when nothing is funny. For a second I hear it again. I picture that grin and tousled up hair. It’s so present I can practically smell the little boy smell.

Also making the cut we have a songbook and cassette tape of Down By The Creekbank, a few original one of a kind, hand-designed space themed board games, and a smattering of materials we may actually need sometime next year.

I offered to keep the dissection kit (It’s in perfectly good shape) and order some extra specimens to do for fun.

The girl said, “No, thanks. I’m good.”

Party pooper. Truthfully, I am not so sad to say goodbye to that stage of my homeschooling mom career. Frog guts. Ugh.

Eventually, I loaded up boxes with a bunch of materials, some brand new. I think you may be able to discern why sometimes busy moms end up with duplicate unused workbooks.

My cabinet looks better now, but some old books are still firmly entrenched in the Stone Family Collection. Yes, those are ancient Abeka and National Geographic books. My kids loved them. Old books are friends.

2015-03-27_19-27-54_344

I did find the book I was hunting, but after I skimmed through it I discovered it was not exactly what I was looking for.

I found something better. Messy, hoarded memories and plenty of room for more.

Linked up at

Mama Moments Monday, Good Morning Mondays, Mondays Musings, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Waiting On Wednesday, Coffee and Conversation, Imparting Grace, Saturday Soiree, #AfterMyCoffee

Click here to leave a comment

Beyond Rain Man|Movies and Books for Autism Acceptance Month

ByondRaininMan Books and Movies

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a short list of movies and books for anyone who would like to learn more about ASD by watching movies or reading a good book. Read reviews for content advisories.

Adam(2009) Romance, Drama Rated PG-13 for thematic material, sexual content and language.

Adam, a young man with asperger’s, meets his upstairs neighbor, Beth, and they fall in love. Read a review from Common Sense Media here.

 

Temple Grandin (2010) TV PG Biography, Drama

A Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Awards Winner.

Based on the books “Emergence” by Temple Grandin and “Thinking in Pictures” by Temple Grandin.

 

Fiction

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork

My review of Marcelo in the Real World is posted here.

Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin (for younger readers)

Read my review of Rain, Reign here.

Memoirs-Personal Biographies

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison 

Read my review of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison here.

I also enjoyed Be Different: My Adventures with Asperger’s and My Advice for Fellow Aspergians, Misfits, Families, and Teachers by John Elder Robison 

Pretending to Be Normal by Liane Holiday Willey 

Do you have any to add? Please comment. Have you seen or read any of these? What did you think?

Linked up at

A Little R & R, Friendship Friday, The Book Nook, Literacy Musing Mondays, Waiting On Wednesday, Saturday Soiree

Click here to leave a comment