Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Wrap-up: July 31, 2016

Hello fellow book lovers,

Last Sundays post (July 24, 2016) was the first wrap-up I had done in a few weeks due to personal reasons. Thankfully things are starting to slowly look up. This past week was pretty busy with a lot of appointments, but today was much more slow paced. I enjoyed a concert in the park earlier today, which featured local musicians. Its always nice to support small town business and artists.

 Here is my Instagram picture of the week:

My Reading Progress:

I finally finished reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.

It took quite a lot longer to read through than I expected. Unfortunately I wasn't as captivated by this one as I was by the other Kate Morton books I've read. I gave it a 3/5 rating. 

I was making good progress listening to the audio version of this book, but then I had to return it to the library. Hopefully the wait list to take it out again isn't too long. 

Recent Posts:

Upcoming Posts:

Monday: Monthly Wrap-up: July 2016
Wednesday: Book Review: The Distant Hours

Hosted by: Book Date

Hosted by: Caffeinated Book Reviewer 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Haul: June 2016

I don't accumulate a lot of books throughout the months (like other bloggers do), so for me it makes sense to just wait until I have gathered up a decent amount before I share them here with you all. Today I have some books I accumulated over the month of June.

Last month I donated a big bag full of books to my local library. Click here to see my un-haul post. And well, you know I couldn't leave without checking out the used books they had for sale. Here's what I found:

He Sees You When You're Sleeping by Mary Higgins Clark & Carol Higgins Clark
The Christmas Thief by Mary Higgins Clark & Carol Higgins Clark
Titanic: The Long Night by Diane Hoh 
The Siren Song (The Cronus Chronicles, Book 2) by Anne Ursu 

Next up are two books I purchased at my local grocery store for less than $6 each:

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki 
Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin 

This last group includes books I have been sent in exchange for honest reviews:

Blaming the Wind by Alessandra Harris
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
A Beauty Refined (Sapphire Brides #2) by Tracie Peterson  

Thank you Alessandra Harris, Edelweiss and Bethany House!

Have you read any of these books? If so what did you think of them? Leave me a message in the comments. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Guest Post: Phyllis Edgerly Ring (Author of The Munich Girl)

Today I am honored to welcome to my blog the author of one of my favourite books from 2016, Phyllis Edgerly Ring.

Thanks so much, Melissa, for inviting me to share a bit about The Munich Girl and what the process of researching and writing it was like.

When I reconnected with Germany as an adult after living there in the early 1960s, I wanted to understand more about that nation’s experience during WWII. I was given a biography about Hitler’s mistress – later wife -- Eva Braun, written by British-German writer Angela Lambert. I knew I needed to read more about Hitler and the Third Reich in order to understand more about Germany and the war. Eva Braun seemed a likely place to start. I just never expected how close that would bring me to Hitler’s living room.

While she’s a main character, Braun is not the novel’s protagonist. (That’s Anna, born just as the war came to an end in Germany.) But Braun’s 33-year life provides a metaphorical motif for exploring the effects of self-suppression in many lives, especially those of women.

For research, I immersed in reading about her life, and the time period (120+ books), and that “inner circle” that Braun moved within as part of Hitler's life. I spent hours watching the films she had made, and looking at many of her photographs. Eventually, I made two trips to the National Archives here in the U.S., where photo albums of hers that were confiscated by the Allies after the war have been stored ever since. Looking at those probably provided my closest sense of connection with her life, and with her as a “character.” As with most of my research, I was looking to read between the lines of what was known to be factual. I was looking for more of the emotional story that her life showed, that the pieces of her experience pointed to.

Among the discoveries my research turned up is the little-known (or infrequently shared) information from testimony given at the Nuremberg Trials that shows how an action she took in the last week of her life saved tens of thousands of Allied prisoners of war. She likely did this to protect Hitler’s reputation – he was going to have them all killed. Among those who were saved were British members of my own family. That discovery stunned me when I unearthed it, and was definitely a turning point for me, as a novelist.

While she is famous because of someone infamous, Eva Braun came from what would be perceived both then and now as an extremely “ordinary” life. Lambert’s biography revealed how much of what was believed about Braun was inaccurate, right down to frequent misidentification of her in photos. Lots of assumptions and judgements about her have masked key information that her life could provide about Hitler. Paradoxically, although much of what has been conveyed about her was based on presumed understanding about him, it’s a more complete picture of her that can provide the most accurate view of Hitler.

She loved him, I have no doubt. Yet, in many ways, she gave up both her sense of self and of self-determination to “prove” that love, show her loyalty. (Loyalty was very important to Hitler, who trusted so poorly, if at all. But he trusted her.) I think the distorted self-denial she showed is still cultivated in collective culture today in ways designed to keep inequality in place. Many, especially women, give up the freedom of their own wholeness for the sake of proving love, and loyalty. I think the false value this behavior is given is a big part of what allows oppression and repression to continue, along with the imbalance of power that always accompanies them.

I suppose it’s natural that people might assume this novel aims to exonerate or redeem Eva Braun, but that’s never been its goal. She came to represent, for me, the many things that we can form conclusions about without ever delving deep enough to uncover the whole story, in order to genuinely find truth. If the story aims to convey any sort of message, it’s that no human being is all good or all bad, and human circumstances are always more complex than they appear. If we’re not willing to accept and understand this, we’re unlikely to learn from history.

This is also a story about outlasting the chaos and confusion of war and other kinds of violence and destruction by valuing -- and protecting – all of the good that we are willing to build together in our world. Many Germans did this, though until recently, their stories have remained unknown. The novel is also about the eventual homecoming we must all make to our truest self, and the role that others often mysteriously play in that process.

Novel Summary: Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third Reich family history is entwined with Anna’s. Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged. As Anna's journey leads back through the treacherous years in wartime Germany, it uncovers long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her heart to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war.

Bio: Phyllis Edgerly Ring lives in New Hampshire and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. She has studied environmental and plant science, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergarteners in China, and frequently serves as workshop facilitator. Her newest novel is The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War.

Twitter: http://
Information about all books by Phyllis Edgerly Ring:


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Wrap-up: July 24, 2016

Hello fellow book lovers,
Long time no update, I know. Life just seems to just keep throwing me difficult times this year. Something has got to give sooner or later because to be honest I'm exhausted. Judging by the sate of the world lately it seems like life is in turmoil all over, unfortunately. But tough times, make the good moments even more special. I'd like to share one of those moments with you now..  Yesterday I enjoyed a nice walk around the lake and the park that surrounds it.

It has been quite hot here lately, so I've been trying to stay inside and cool. The lack of rain has resulted in fire bans all over the county and even water restrictions. The vegetable garden is doing well though. I picked some yummy green peppers a couple of days ago. Soon the tomatoes will be ripe enough to pick.

My Reading Progress:

Life has derailed my reading progress this month. I had high hopes to have a productive reading month, but it hasn't quite gone as planned. 

Since my last update (July 3) I have finished 3 books:

Rating: 4/5

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
Review to come.
Rating: 4/5

Yes, I'm still plugging away at The Distant Hours. I'm having trouble motivating myself to pick up and read this one though.

This is only my second time reading (listening actually) to The Chamber of Secrets and I think I'm enjoying it more this time around, than I did all those years ago. 

Recent Posts:

Hosted by: Book Date

Hosted by: Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3) by Rick Riordan

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #3)
By: Rick Riordan

Published: 2007
Published By: Listening Library
Format Read: Audio-book
Genre: Middle-grade, adventure, fantasy
Date Read: July 4, 2016

Rating: 3.5/5

 Unlike the first two books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympian's series, The Titan's Curse begins in December, before the winter solstice. Not only has the Goddess Artemis gone missing, but Percy's good friend Annabeth has as well. It is up to him, Grover, Thalia and some newly introduced characters to save the day and the fate of Olympus too.

After being less satisfied with The Sea of Monsters, I was glad to welcome back my enthusiasm for this series again.

The winter time setting was a nice change from the usual summertime. I enjoyed learning more about Greek mythology with the addition of some more familiar names.

The way Rick Riordan weaves popular American landmarks and locations into his books make for great visualisations. I look forward to seeing where he will take Percy and his readers next.

Apart from my issues with the narration of these audio-books, I have one other slight annoyance. That is with Percy's lack of education about the Greek mythology that has consumed his life, ever since he discovered he is a half-blood. I would have thought he would want to better prepare himself after all that he has been through already. Hopefully the next book will bring some growth to this character.

Those two quips aside, I enjoyed The Titan's Curse and look forward to book 4. I would recommend this series to fans of middle-grade adventure stories.  

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Blaming the Wind by Alessandra Harris

Blaming the Wind
By: Alessandra Harris 

Published: May 2016
Published by: Red Adept Publishing, LLC.
Format Read: PDF, Kobo, eBook
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Dramatic Fiction
Date Read: July 11, 2016

Rating: 4/5

I was sent a copy of Blaming the Wind by Alessandra Harris, from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

 Blaming the Wind follows two couples as they deal with their own individual life crises'. As neighbours they turn to each other for support and guidance. Sophia Douglas lost her high-paying job and discovers she is pregnant, something she is dreading sharing with her husband Terrance. With money already tight, he has some news of his own to tell. Meanwhile next door, Josh Fisher has taken on the role of stay-at-home dad, after a devastating work accident ends his construction career. His wife Tara becomes the sole bread-winner while fighting demons of her own.

This book came to me at just the right time, as it was exactly what I was in the mood for. My initial reaction to the cover was that this would be a darker suspense story, so I was surprised to discover that it read more like a contemporary. In fact I was reminded of Emily Giffen, an author who I just recently started reading. But don't let that contemporary comparison fool you, because Blaming the Wind does touch on some very serious subject matter.

Alessandra Harris offers a bit of a role reversal with her characters by portraying the male leads in a more compassionate light. This was a refreshing point of view as men are often made to look like the bad person. I actually preferred Terrance and Josh over their wives due to the decisions they made throughout the story.

The bonds of friendship was a strong link between the four characters. I loved how they supported each other during the turbulent events they all faced.

I really enjoyed this story, although it was slightly over-dramatic at times. By the final section I was glued to the pages and couldn't put it down due to a surprising turn of events.

I would definitely recommend Blaming the Wind by Alessandra Harris to fans of dramatic contemporary fiction.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

My Top 12 Favourite Songs from 1971 (As inspired by 1971- Never a Dull Moment: Rock's Golden Year by David Hepworth)

Last month I had the opportunity to read and review 1971- Never a Dull Moment: Rock's Golden Year by David Hepworth. (To read my review click on the title link) I learned a lot about the early years of Rock and listened to some great music along with it. I thought it would be fun to share with my readers some of my favourite songs from that year.

Originally I had planned to share my top 5, but that would leave out too many. Instead here are my top 12 favourites, with one song representing each month of the year.

January: Your Song by Elton John

February: Just my Imagination by The Temptations

March: Black Dog by Led Zeppelin 

April: What's Going On by Marvin Gaye

May: Tiny Dancer by Elton John

June: Bridge Over the River Ash by Fairport Convention

July: Without You by Harry Nilsson 

August: What is Life by George Harrison 

September: Imagine by John Lennon

October: Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton 

November: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

December: American Pie by Don Mclean 

Honourable Mentions: Working Class Hero -John Lennon, Amazing Grace -Judy Collins, Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo -Johnny Winter, Acoustic Medley -Bob Marley, Jeepster -T. Rex, I am..I said -Neil Diamond, Will the Circle be Unbroken -Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Baba O'Riley by The Who, Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan. 

To listen to the entire playlist of songs mentioned in 1971- Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth, please check out my Youtube playlist here.

What songs from 1971 are your favourite? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a message in the comments. 

I was sent a copy of 1971 -Never a Dull Moment: Rock's Golden Year from the publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

From this Moment (From This Moment. #1) by Elizabeth Camden

From this Moment (From this Moment, #1)
By: Elizabeth Camden

Published: June, 2016
Published By: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: ARC. eBook, NetGalley
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction
Date Read: June 28, 2016

Rating: 3.5/5

I was sent a copy of From this Moment by Elizabeth Camden from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

When Romulus White, his cousin Evelyn and good friend Clyde took over a small scientific magazine years before, he never would have imagined the success it would reach. Now the only thing that could make their publication better would be bringing on board talented illustrator Stella West. When he discovers that she is in town, he jumps at the chance to make her a job offer. Unfortunately Stella isn't in Boston for work or even pleasure. She is working undercover at city hall trying to solve the mystery behind her sisters death. During a time where corruption runs rapid through city hall and the top law-makers, Boston is working to become the first city in the United States with a subway. Having a prominent businessman on her side may just get Stella the answers she is looking for. So she begins illustrating for the magazine in exchange for Romulus's contacts with the local medical examiner and the top attorney in the city. Sparks fly and trouble ensues in Elizabeth Camden's latest historical fiction.

Initial Impression:
I was initially intrigued by the mystery surrounding the death of Stella's sister Gwendolyn. The mention of corruption in city hall had me geared up for some suspense and the high ratings from previous readers added to my expectations.

High Hopes:
Unfortunately I must have set my hopes too high, because I wasn't quite as captivated as I anticipated. It took me quite a while to become immersed in the story and to warm to Stella and Romulus.

Too vain: 
I didn't particularly like the main characters, although I thought that they were perfect for each other. Their vanity and personalities were so well matched and their banter flowed naturally. The humour of their banter was a welcome addition to the story, but at times I found it to take away from the seriousness of the murder investigation.

High Society 
While Camden's writing about high-society was believable, I had trouble suspending my disbelief with Stella's situation. I had a hard time believing that a woman of her class would have been travelling and living unchaperoned like she did during that time period. 

Clyde and Evelyn:
My favourite part was the side-story of the secondary characters; the estranged married couple, Evelyn and Clyde. Despite their own personal troubles, I found them to be much more likeable and I was glad to hear that there is a prequel novella that tells more of their story.

My final impression was that From this Moment was a decent story. The time period and its inclusion of the subway construction was interesting. I also found the scientific elements to be well researched by the author.

Final Thoughts: 
Closer to the end my interest began to pick up and I decided on a 3.5 rating. Although I do plan to read the prequel novella, I am undecided if I will read the second instalment for this series. I would recommend From this Moment to fans of Christian historical fiction.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mid-year Review: 2016

I have been seeing a lot of mid-year posts around the blogging world lately and I think its a great idea to look back on reading progress for the year. So I have decided to jump in and share my own progress. I have modelled this post on Grace's recent Top 10 Tuesday Post on her blog Rebel Mommy Book Blog.

Biggest Surprise

I didn't expect to enjoy this series as much as I have. I've been listening to the Percy and the Olympian's series in audio format, but I hope to purchase the series in trade paperback. 

Book I want to Reread the Most:

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was a wonderful and heartwarming story that I would like to revisit.

Prettiest Cover:

Wouldn't you just love to sit here with a good friend and just relax?

Favourite Debut:

 Favourite New-to-me Author:

Rick Riordan

Book that made me laugh:

Favourite Bookish Boy:

David Stoltzfus. but he is a man not a boy. 

Best Non-fiction

This book follows the events of 9/11 and how the town of Gander, Newfoundland came to the aid of the stranded plane passengers. 

Biggest Disappointment:

Best Book I've Read So Far:

I'd love to know: what is your favourite book of 2016 so far? Also which book was the most disappointing? Leave me a message in the comments.