Thursday, March 31, 2011

Between Shades Of Gray

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

When I started to read the outstanding reviews for this book I knew I had to read it. This was a part of history I had never heard of. Stalin had anyone who he thought was anti-communist deported and hauled off to Siberia where they endured some horrible conditions. Some of those deported were lawyers, teachers, bankers..just every day people living their lives. The story is told by Lina, a 15 year old Lithuanian girl. The year is 1941 when the NKVD or Secret Police stormed into Lina's childhood home and rounded up Lina Vilkas, her brother Jonas, and her mother Elena. Her father was feared to have been arrested and taken to prison. They were led away in cattle cars and taken to a prison camp. Conditions there were extremely harsh. Eventually they are taken to basically a piece of land north of the Arctic Circle where conditions were unfit for animals let alone humans. The group of captives had to band together and become family to survive. Lina, being an artist kept track of their captivity by drawing pictures. I could feel Lina's hope throughout the story and found myself amazed at her will to survive. I'm not sure I could be as strong or as brave as she. The book is beautifully written. The subject matter can be uncomfortable at times but I think it is an important part of history that must be told. At one point the family is almost separated and Lina's brother is bought back by giving up a family pocket watch.

"Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch."

When I read that I couldn't stop the tears. To think this went on and the world had no clue it was happening was just shocking to me. Why hadn't I been taught about this in school? I would like to thank Ruta Sepetys for opening our eyes and our hearts to this story. The story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. If you read only one book this year, let it be this book. It is an emotional but an important read. This is a book that will stick with me forever.

I found this clip on the books website and wanted to include it. I hope you will be as moved as I was.

Ruta Sepetys discusses her upcoming novel, Between Shades of Gray from Penguin Young Readers Group on Vimeo.

I read this book (which I purchased for my Nook) for my March read for the 2011 Just For Fun Challenge

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday March 28

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia at the Printed Page. Mailbox Monday is now on tour and this month's host is Laura at I'm Booking It. Thank you Laura for hosting this month.

I have three new books this week, all e-books for my Nook. Two were books I saw on other blogs. I saw so many amazing reviews for Between Shades of Gray so I had to have it. I also saw someone had downloaded Millie's Fling for free so I downloaded that too. The covers on Jill Mansell's book are so fun looking and since I had never read any of her books I decided to check her out. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had three new books, all in a matter of minutes. Kind of fun!

I am going to try and visit and comment this week. Last week I discovered after typing many comments that wordpress comments weren't publishing. I hope this week things will go smoothly. Sorry about the different book cover sizes here today. I seem to be having issues of epic proportions today on the computer. It's Monday!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell

He's the best thing that ever happened to her. He's also the worst. He's Millie's Fling.

From one of the premiere contemporary authors in the UK, here is a fun and romantic tale that proves the road to matchmaking hilarity is paved with good intentions.

Bestselling novelist Orla Hart owes her life to her friend Millie Brady, whose rotten boyfriend has just left her. So Orla invites Millie to Cornwall, where Millie looks forward to a summer without any dating whatsoever. But Orla envisions Millie as the heroine of her next novel and decides to find Millie the man of her dreams. Except the two women have drastically different ideas about what kind of guy that should be.

With Orla and Millie working at cross-purposes, and a dashing but bewildered hero stuck in the middle, the summer will turn out to be unforgettable for all concerned...

What wonderful books made their way into your home?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

It's spring! Well trying to be spring anyway and you know what that means? Yep, time for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon! It is on April 9th so mark those calendars! I have told everyone in this house I am participating and will be on Mom strike! I am waaay overdue for a day to myself. I will plan meals and have them prepared ahead of time. I love picking out which books I will tackle, which yummy snacks will be on hand and what comfy outfit I can wear. Seriously, I have a pair of comfy socks I got at Christmas that have been saved for just this occasion! I love the read-a-thon and can't wait! Go on over to the website and check it out! It is so much fun and it is a good way to get some reading done also. At this point there are over 250 participants signed up. Join in on the fun! I will post my book list and snack list when we get closer to the date.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Get Lucky

Get Lucky by Katherine Center

Summary from Goodreads

Sarah Harper isn’t sure if the stupid decisions she sometimes makes are good choices in disguise—or if they’re really just stupid. But either way, after forwarding an inappropriate email to her entire company, she suddenly finds herself out of a job.

So she goes home to Houston—and her sister, Mackie—for Thanksgiving. But before Sarah can share her troubles with her sister, she learns that Mackie has some woes of her own: After years of trying, Mackie’s given up on having a baby—and plans to sell on eBay the entire nursery she’s set up. Which gives Sarah a brilliant idea—an idea that could fix everyone’s problems. An idea that gives Sarah the chance to take care of her big sister for once—instead of the other way around.

But nothing worthwhile is ever easy. After a decade away, Sarah is forced to confront one ghost from her past after another: the father she’s lost touch with, the memories of her mother, the sweet guy she dumped horribly in high school. Soon everything that matters is on the line—and Sarah can only hope that by changing her life she has changed her luck, too.

My Thoughts

I won this book from Mary at Bookfan last May! I'd say I'm a bit behind in my reading, wouldn't you? I needed a quick, light read last month for the Just For Fun Challenge hosted by Dollycas's Thoughts and this book practically jumped off the shelf into my hands! The picture on the cover had me thinking of summer while winter seems to be hanging on to us here in the Midwest. I had previously read Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center and loved it. The covers on her book are really adorable and the stories are fun and light. I entered a giveaway for Get Lucky and was thrilled to win it. Thank you Mary!

I enjoyed this book so much! When Sarah loses her job because she sends a highly inappropriate email to her entire company, I was ready to really dislike her. It just seemed like such an immature thing to do. By the end of the book I decided Sarah had redeemed herself and while I didn't always agree with her actions, I found her to be very likable. Sarah goes home to Houston to visit her sister for Thanksgiving to think of what her next move should be. While there she learns her sister, Mackie (love that name!)can not have the baby she so desperately wants. So Sarah offers to carry a baby for her. I kind of felt like she offered on a whim and I was afraid this could turn out to be a disaster. Along the way Sarah deals with many ghosts from her past and by facing her past grows and learns that she can be lucky in life. This was a nice light book but it also has some substance to it. It deals with subjects that can sometimes be a challenge in life while at other times I found myself laughing at some of Sarah's antics. I highly recommend this book and Everyone is Beautiful. I am hoping to find and read Katherine's other book, The Bright Side of Disaster.

This was my February read for the Just For Fun Reading Challenge

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mailbox Monday on Tuesday

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia at the Printed Page. Mailbox Monday is now on tour and this month's host is Laura at I'm Booking It. Thank you Laura for hosting this month.

I am a bit late posting my mailbox this week. I received one book as a surprise. It always feels great to go out to the mailbox and find a book. This book was packaged inside a neat slipcover that makes it look like the story and it's secrets are all locked up inside. I like some of these new ways books are being packaged. I find it interesting.

Mothers & Daughters by Rae Meadows

Summary from Goodreads

A rich and luminous novel about three generations of women in one family: the love they share, the dreams they refuse to surrender, and the secrets they hold

Samantha is lost in the joys of new motherhood—the softness of her eight-month-old daughter's skin, the lovely weight of her child in her arms—but in trading her artistic dreams to care for her child, Sam worries she's lost something of herself. And she is still mourning another loss: her mother, Iris, died just one year ago.

When a box of Iris's belongings arrives on Sam's doorstep, she discovers links to pieces of her family history but is puzzled by much of the information the box contains. She learns that her grandmother Violet left New York City as an eleven-year-old girl, traveling by herself to the Midwest in search of a better life. But what was Violet's real reason for leaving? And how could she have made that trip alone at such a tender age?

In confronting secrets from her family's past, Sam comes to terms with deep secrets from her own. Moving back and forth in time between the stories of Sam, Violet, and Iris, Mothers and Daughters is the spellbinding tale of three remarkable women connected across a century by the complex wonder of motherhood.

I received this book from Henry Holt and Company

What wonderful books made their way into your home?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Southern Plate

The Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food That Makes Everyone Feel Like Family by Christy Jordon

Summary from Goodreads

With thirteen living grandparents at the time of her birth, Christy Jordan grew up in a family that knew how to make a lot from a little and always put a homecooked meal on the table, even when times were tough. She also inherited one heck of a recipe collection from her large Southern family (who have lived in Alabama for the last nine generations) which gave birth to in 2008. The site has a dedicated fan base, pulling in an average of 3.5 million page views a month, and nearly 6 million in November 2009 alone. In the short time since its inception, the site has grown from 18 million to 43 million page views a year. "Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food That Makes Everyone Feel Like Family" will contain 125-150 family recipes, all time-honored and passed down through several generations of the Jordan family. Recipes will be accompanied by brief stories about where they came from, who made them, and why they are special. Along with gorgeous, four-color photography, the book will include old family photographs and other historical snapshots. Ultimately, "Southern Plate" is a book about love, nostalgia for simpler times, and the unpretentious comfort food that came from Christy's Grandmother's kitchen and went straight into her heart. You won't find fancy food or new fangled recipes in this cookbook; just easy, no fuss Southern favorites because at the end of the day most folks want to come home to a meal just like Mama used to make, prepared by someone who loves them.

My Review

When I saw this cookbook as a pick for the Okra Picks Challenge, I knew I would be purchasing it. Truth be told, I had been looking for an excuse to purchase this book. I found Christy's website, Southern Plate and I love it! What could be better than to have her cookbook on hand? This cookbook is fabulous! The recipes are ones every cook can tackle easily. I have made several recipes from the book, my favorite being Aunt Looney's Macaroni Salad. It's the perfect salad for a warm summer day. There are two killer has brown casserole recipes that are now staples in our families menu rotation. There are great pictures in the cookbook which I find is a must in a cookbook. Chrisy has intertwined stories about her life and family in the book. I loved the story of her wedding ring. It brought tears to my eyes. After you finish reading the book you will feel like you are part of the family! You can feel the love in Christy's family when you read the stories that accompany the recipes. Thank you Christy for writing a fun cookbook full of recipes for real people and families. I thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook and highly recommend it! Be sure to check out Christy's website and her cookbook.

I purchased this book for my cookbook library and read it as part of the Okra Picks Challenge.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mailbox Monday March 14

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia at the Printed Page. Mailbox Monday is now on tour and this month's host is Laura at I'm Booking It. Thank you Laura for hosting this month.

I can't believe it is Monday again. The weeks are just flying by. I am so glad that winter is trying to leave us. I am sure there will be more cold days to come but having some warmer days now and then sure helps the spirit. I received two books this week. One I ordered awhile ago and forgot about and one is an e-book for review.

The Union Quilters: An Elm Creek Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini (purchased)

With The Union Quilters, Chiaverini delivers a powerful story of a remarkable group of women coping with changing roles and the extraordinary experiences of the Civil War.

In 1862 Water's Ford, Pennsylvania, abolitionism is prevalent, even passionate, so the local men rally to answer Mr. Lincoln's call to arms. Thus the women of Elm Creek Valley's quilting bee are propelled into the unknown. Constance Wright, married to Abel, a skilled sharpshooter courageous enough to have ventured south to buy his wife's freedom from a Virginia plantation, knows well her husband's certainty that all people, enslaved and free, North and South, need colored men like him to fight for a greater purpose. Sisters-in-law Dorothea Nelson and Charlotte Granger wish safe passage for their learned husbands. Schoolmaster turned farmer Thomas carries Dorothea's Dove in the Window quilt with him. Charlotte's husband, Dr. Jonathan Granger, takes more than a doctor's bag to his post at a field hospital. Alongside the devotion of his wife, pregnant with their second child, Jonathan brings the promise he made to his unrequited love, Gerda Bergstrom: "My first letter will be to you."

Together with the other members of the circle, the women support one another through loneliness and fear, and devise an ingenious business plan to keep Water's Ford functioning. That plan may forever alter the patchwork of town life in ways that transcend even the ultimate sacrifices of war.

The Moment by Douglas Kennedy

From the New York Times bestselling author of Leaving the World comes a tragic love story set in Cold War Berlin.

Thomas Nesbitt is a divorced writer in the midst of a rueful middle age. Living a very private life in Maine, in touch only with his daughter and still trying to recover from the end of a long marriage, his solitude is disrupted one wintry morning by the arrival of a box that is postmarked Berlin. The name on the box—Dussmann—unsettles him completely, for it belongs to the woman with whom he had an intense love affair twenty-six years ago in Berlin at a time when the city was cleaved in two and personal and political allegiances were frequently haunted by the deep shadows of the Cold War.

Refusing initially to confront what he might find in that box, Thomas nevertheless is forced to grapple with a past he has never discussed with any living person and in the process relive those months in Berlin when he discovered, for the first and only time in his life, the full, extraordinary force of true love. But Petra Dussmann, the woman to whom he lost his heart, was not just a refugee from a police state, but also someone who lived with an ongoing sorrow that gradually rewrote both their destinies.

A love story of great epic sweep and immense emotional power, The Moment explores why and how we fall in love—and the way we project on to others that which our hearts so desperately seek.

I received this E-book from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

Now for the best part of Mailbox Monday...seeing what everyone received in their mailbox.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship

The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship by Lisa Verge Higgins

Summary from Goodreads

Rachel Braun was the inspiration to her group of friends, the one who lived each day to the fullest - and the one whose life was cut tragically short. Upon her untimely death, Rachel left letters for her three best friends challenging them to face their biggest fears.

Sarah, an international relief worker, must travel half way around the world to track down the only man she ever loved. Stay-at-home mom Kate must confront her fear of heights by skydiving and soon finds that her new hobby is affecting her once-tranquil marriage. And Jo, a media mogul voted "least likely to breed," is given the most terrifying assignment of all: caring for Rachel's orphaned and grieving little girl.

Even as these women mourn Rachel's passing, her legacy lives on and their lives are enriched by a friend who, in many ways, knew them better than they knew themselves.

My Thoughts

Looking at the cover of this book I was expecting a light chick lit type of book but there was much more to this book. Before Rachel dies, she leaves each one of her friends a letter asking them to do a special task. Each one is different and each one takes the recipient out of her comfort zone and will really test each woman in ways even I didn't see coming. Rachel wanted to help each woman grow and help them even if she could no longer be there. The characters are well developed and the story flowed wonderfully. I was worried it might be choppy and jump around a bit being about three women going in different directions but it was written very beautifully. I loved how Rachel was very much a part of the story even though she wasn't really there. I loved the book. If you like to read books about friendships than I think you will enjoy this book.There is a reading group guide included. It would be a great book for a book club. These women are so different and there would be much to discuss.

I received this book for my honest review from the publisher

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mailbox Monday March 7

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday was started by Marcia at the Printed Page. Mailbox Monday is now on tour and this month's host is Laura at I'm Booking It. Thank you Laura for hosting this month.

My mailbox was empty last week. I am behind in my reading and reviewing so it is all good. I haven't been requesting much at all these days since I am behind. I did get some books reads last week so I am hoping to get some reviews posted this week. I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else received in their mailbox and adding to my overloaded wish list! I am hoping that before too long we get some nice weather so I can get outside and read. I love to read outside while the birds are chirping around me! I think I have a bit of cabin fever!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Amaryllis in Blueberry

Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum

I must confess that the title and the cover of this book intrigued me. I knew it was a book I would have to read. This book is about the Slepy family. They are as dysfunctional as a family can get in my opinion. Dick and Seena are married to each other but they don't seem to be much of a couple. Dick is involved in his religion and Seena seems to live in mythical dream world. When Dick decides to move Seena and his 4 girls- Mary Grace, Mary Tessa, Mary Catherine and Amaryllis to Africa to practice medicine in the bush, I got the distinct feeling some in the family were running from something. Boy was that an understatement! As you can see Amaryllis has a very different name from her sisters. She was born in a blueberry patch and has blueberry eyes to match her birthplace. Amaryllis seems to be her mother's favorite, even though her mother is not exactly the mothering type. The story begins at the end with Seena on trial in Africa for Dick's murder. The story then goes back and forth between their life in Michigan and how the family ended up in Africa and what happened after they arrived in Africa. When the family lived in Michigan, they had problems. Dick and Seena didn't seem to notice what was going on in any of their daughter's lives right under their noses. When they arrived in Africa, all hell really breaks loose and the two find out that they really should have been paying more attention to their children as well as each other. The book is well written and riveting. If I hadn't been so busy, this is a book I would have read in one sitting. Starting the book with the ending was brilliant! The ending was a big surprise for me with many twists and turns. All I could say when I finished it was, "Wow!" I hate to say too much about the story as it is one you should really experience. There are many surprises in this book! I highly recommend this book. It is also a great book for discussion which would make it an excellent choice for book clubs and groups. This is a book that I be thinking about for a long time.

Christina Meldrum has written one other book so far, a young adult novel titled Madapple. I look forward to seeing more stories from Christina. She tells a story that keeps you guessing until the very end.

I received this book for review from Inkwell Management.