Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Reading Life (48) - Almost six months later...

Yes, it's a pattern with me. I never quite do what I say/what I set out to do. I have good intentions, but then real life gets in the way...and my poor blog, which I love so, is so neglected.

I've been doing a lot of reading, as always, but just not posting my thoughts as much. I just get bogged down and then I don't want to talk about what I read. Sometimes I think it's because I think my thoughts should go a certain way, or the review should be just so, according to some standard. I'm not reviewing as many books for authors. I've pretty much decided to only accept books from authors I know/have reviewed for before (and that's mostly horror authors at the moment so will be over at my sister blog, Castle Macabre). So, my thoughts on books from my home library, mostly older books, should just be my thoughts. Right? I guess I just need to get that through my head.

I've also been listening to more audio books. Here's what I've listened to since January:

American Gods, Neil Gaiman
Jaws, Peter Benchley
Little Girls, Ronald Malfi (reread)
The Plantagenets, Dan Jones
Black River, Dean Koontz
The Bear, Claire Cameron
The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro (currently listening)

I SO enjoy audio books, although I think my boys get irritated. I do find them getting into the stories sometimes though. I've also been listening to some writing podcasts, as I'm trying to focus more on my writing (now that I have a job that takes up more of my time...go figure). This below needs to be in my face constantly...

I wanted to share with you some changes to my two online book clubs (on Goodreads), TuesBookTalk and Lit Collective.

TuesBookTalk has always been a genre based book club in which we read a different genre each month (decided by voting). We also have three non-fiction months in January, May and September. Recently, I decided to set genres for specific months to cut down on the amount of voting we do, and to make it easier for members. Below is the graphic outlining what genres we read in which months. Come join us any time. We now do our chats on Slack (we have a "team" on there for TuesBookTalk) and it's so nice not to have to deal with a character limit. Of course, thoughts can also be exchanged in the Goodreads group at any time.

Our June read, which is Science Fiction, is Dune by Frank Herbert.

Lit Collective is what we call an online reading retreat which takes place in the Spring and end of Summer/Fall. We will nominate and vote on a theme for the Spring retreat and then choose a list of 2-3 books to read and discuss in March, April and May. For our end of Summer/Fall retreat, we will focus on selected works of a particular author which will also be chosen by vote. We will read 2-3 works by said author and discuss in August, September and October. We generally have our chats after we've read the whole book. So, at the end of its designated month. We're also going to have our chats on Slack (Slack is free to join, by the way...forgot to mention that). As mentioned above, thoughts can also be exchanged in the Goodreads group at any time.

We are currently finishing up The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (on which I'm seriously behind, although it is a reread for me) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Right now, it's looking like Sarah Waters is going to be our featured author for August, September, and October (I'm pretty excited if it does turn out to be her. I loved The Little Stranger).

Finally, I'd like to share with you two events coming up on June 1st.

The SciFi Summer Readathon, hosted at my readathon blog, Seasons of Reading, starts Thursday and runs until Wednesday June 7th. Details and sign up HERE.

The Summer of IT!!! In anticipation of the new movie coming out in September, I'm hosting a three month read-along of Stephen King's massive tome, IT! This will be hosted via my reading community site, Gather Together and Read (for schedule/sign-up/discussion) and I'll also have an event for discussions via the Gather Together and Read Facebook group. Check at Gather Together and Read later today to sign up and get the reading schedule.

Well, it's summer so dipping my toe back in the pool of this blogging thing. No promises, but I'm going to try. We shall see...

What's going on in your reading life?


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Thursday, May 25, 2017

#CatThursday - #Cats...doing what they want since the pharaohs

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)


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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ellen Meeropol's Kinship of Clover - Review

My thoughts
I'm a believer in global warming and climate change, but those of us who do believe don't often go beyond thinking of endangered species, deforestation, and pollution. Jeremy, the protagonist of Kinship of Clover, has a strong connection to plants due to family trauma suffered as a child. He feels a kinship with, and a need to save, plants that have become extinct, or are becoming extinct.

But this book is not just about environmental activism. It's a story about family. About the connections that make and break us. It's about how families choose to live can affect the children, and how secrets kept can cause a lot of heartache, and yet, lead to redemption in the end.

I loved every single character in this book. The author did a great job of illustrating a unique family dynamic and it really shines through. And, as a supporter of (peaceful) political activism, this book also spoke to me, especially considering the times and the events in which we are currently living. Some find books with a message off-putting. Not me. I like a story with a message. Even better if the message does not overwhelm the story. The balance is beautiful here.

Kinship of Clover is a book for those who like characters they can fall in love with, and for those who believe in fighting for what's right in the world. I highly recommend it.

About the Book
He was nine when the vines first wrapped themselves around him and burrowed into his skin. Now a college botany major, Jeremy is desperately looking for a way to listen to the plants and stave off their extinction. But when the grip of the vines becomes too intense and Health Services starts asking questions, he flees to Brooklyn, where fate puts him face to face with a group of climate-justice activists who assure him they have a plan to save the planet, and his plants.

As the group readies itself to make a big Earth Day splash, Jeremy soon realizes these eco-terrorists devotion to activism might have him and those closest to him tangled up in more trouble than he was prepared to face. With the help of a determined, differently abled flame from his childhood, Zoe; her deteriorating, once rabble-rousing grandmother; and some shocking and illuminating revelations from the past, Jeremy must weigh completing his mission to save the plants against protecting the ones he loves, and confront the most critical question of all: how do you stay true to the people you care about while trying to change the world?

About the Author
Ellen Meeropol is fascinated by characters on the fault lines of political upheaval. Previous work includes a dramatic script telling the story of the Rosenberg Fund for Children which has been produced in four U.S cities, most recently in Boston. Elli is the wife of Robert Meeropol, youngest son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Elli is a former nurse and independent bookstore event coordinator and the author of two previous novels, House Arrest and On Hurricane Island. She is a founding member of Straw Dog Writers Guild. Short fiction and essays have appeared in Bridges, DoveTales, Pedestal, Rumpus, Portland Magazine, and the Writer’s Chronicle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.


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Friday, May 19, 2017

Guest post - Genevieve Graham, author of Promises to Keep

Historical Fiction Bored Me to Death. Now It’s My Passion.

When I tell people that I used to despise history, they can’t understand why I write what I do. To me, it makes perfect sense.

Growing up, I fell asleep quite frequently during history class. In my mind it was nothing more than names, dates, and places I needed to memorize for exams. Only once was I fully intrigued by history during school. That was in grade ten, and the subject was the Holocaust. My teacher was passionate about the subject – in fact, he has gone on to be a university professor specializing in the Holocaust. Even more importantly, he was passionate about engaging us, in helping us see the true experience of humanity’s past. After that class ended, I read more about the subject ... but over time my fascination faded and I forgot the relevance and importance of history in our present day.

Around fifteen years ago, I was given a copy of “Outlander”, and everything changed. Here was adventure and romance like I craved, but it was combined with incredible facts both immense and trivial. The stories were about “real” people … which is ironic, because in a lot of historical fiction (including mine), characters are often the only things that aren't real in the story. I was completely swallowed up by the genre and spent a great deal of my time thinking, “I had no idea.” After reading the series seven times (as well as books of other historical fiction authors like Wilbur Smith, Sara Donati, Penelope Williamson, Susanna Kearsley, and more) I decided to try a little writing of my own. I started with 18th century Scotland, since that was where Ms Gabaldon’s stories put me, but the more I read, the more I became intrigued by the history of other places. I now am focused entirely on the history of my own great country, Canada.

My family and I moved from Calgary to Nova Scotia in 2008, and everything about this place was new to us. We'd never lived by the ocean, never known any lobstermen, didn't understand about the tides, the red clay, the fog that came in so thick you could cut it. And the people? Well, they were friendly and welcoming, but they were different from people we'd known before, too. Many of the folks along our Eastern Shore tell stories of their grandparents fishing the Atlantic, of their great grandparents building the original homestead out here. I started to wonder who else might have lived here … in a fictional sense.

One hundred years ago this coming December, 1900 people were killed in a blast that levelled the city. Hundreds were blinded by flying glass, and over twenty-six thousand were left homeless. The Halifax Explosion was the largest manmade explosion before Hiroshima, and it happened right here! How is it that no one in my family had ever heard of it? Not even my kids, who were attending school right here in Nova Scotia? What stories there must be! Everyone I asked had one about a great aunt who remembered the windows shaking miles away from the blast, or a grandfather who was supposed to be in Halifax that morning for work but who had stayed home for whatever reason. The busy port had been hopping that day, crowded with sailors and soldiers headed in and out of the war … and that grabbed my interest as well. Imagine surviving that war then having your home blown out from beneath you. What physical, mental, and emotional scars took over their lives? And what of the people they loved? Without all the technology and know-how of the 21st century, how did they live? From those questions was born “Tides of Honour”. One of that book’s greatest accomplishments (in my opinion) was being included in the Halifax Regional School Board’s “Teacher Recommended Reading List” for high schools. I hope teachers will choose to pick it up and share the story with our next generation.

A few summers ago, my husband and I took a two-hour drive to Grand Pré, Nova Scotia and went to the historic site to learn about the Acadian Expulsion. Once again, I knew absolutely nothing about this incredible event in our history, and it was not being taught to our children—or if it was, the lesson made no impact on them. They were sleeping through history just as I had. I walked through the Grand Pré museum and tour in a trance then returned home to dig deeper. Who were the Acadians? Why do so many people still celebrate them up here more than two hundred years later? Who were the British soldiers who ripped over 10,000 people from their homes and families? What happened after the bewildered and terrified Acadian people were dumped in the bowels of so many rotting, rented ships and sent adrift? From this came “Promises to Keep”, which was just published this April by Simon & Schuster Canada.

Canadian history is rich with little known or untold stories. America and Europe are the most prolific storytellers, and we have all read about their past, I am sure. But what about up here, in Canada? My next book (in final editing stages now) will return to the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, to the same family from “Tides of Honour” but twenty years later, during WWII. Our little corner of the earth was teeming with German U-Boats, spies, and secrets. As the busiest Canadian port, the Halifax harbour bustled with thousands of sailors, soldiers, the Merchant Navy, the WRENs (Womens Royal Navy Service), and more. So many stories! After that I will get back to work on three more books which are already partially written – the first features the beginnings of the Mounties and includes the Klondike Gold Rush. The next revolves around more than 100,000 children who were scooped off the streets of London and sent to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and given the promise of a better life—but most ended up living difficult, sometimes horrible lives as indentured servants. Do we know a lot about them? Unless you’re a historian, I imagine not. I promises that if you read my books, that will change.

My agent once told me the secret to successful publishing is to “write a really great book.” Well, I want more than that. I want to write a good book and I want to bring history back to life … so no one sleeps through class anymore.

--Genevieve Graham, April 2017
Tides of Honour


An enchanting and poignant story about the unfailing power of love in a world turned upside down by war—from the bestselling author of Tides of Honour.

Summer 1755, Acadia

Young, beautiful Amélie Belliveau lives with her family among the Acadians of Grande Pré, Nova Scotia, content with her life on their idyllic farm. Along with their friends, the neighbouring Mi’kmaq, the community believes they can remain on neutral political ground despite the rising tides of war. But peace can be fragile, and sometimes faith is not enough. When the Acadians refuse to pledge allegiance to the British in their war against the French, the army invades Grande Pré, claims the land, and rips the people from their homes. Amélie’s entire family, alongside the other Acadians, is exiled to ports unknown aboard dilapidated ships.

Fortunately, Amélie has made a powerful ally. Having survived his own harrowing experience at the hands of the English, Corporal Connor MacDonnell is a reluctant participant in the British plan to expel the Acadians from their homeland. His sympathy for Amélie gradually evolves into a profound love, and he resolves to help her and her family in any way he can—even if it means treason. As the last warmth of summer fades, more ships arrive to ferry the Acadians away, and Connor is forced to make a decision that will alter the future forever.

Heart-wrenching and captivating, Promises to Keep is a gloriously romantic tale of a young couple forced to risk everything amidst the uncertainties of war.

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 4 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1501142879
ISBN-13: 978-1501142871

Genevieve Graham graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in music in 1986 and began writing in 2007. She is passionate about breathing life back into history through tales of love and adventure, and loves the challenge of re-living Canadian history in particular. Her previous novel, Tides of Honour, was a Globe and Mail bestseller. When Graham is not writing, she can be found relaxing with her husband and two grown daughters, teaching piano to children in the community, or tending the garden along with a friendly flock of heritage chickens. She lives near Halifax, Nova Scotia. Visit her at GenevieveGraham.com.


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

#CatThursday - Do You Let Your #Cats on the Kitchen Counters?

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

My answer: Of course! My cats do whatever the hell they want. 😸😸😸

And now for something completely different.....

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

#CatThursday - #Authors and #Cats (62) Joseph Brodsky

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and Cats Thursday. Each time I will feature an author with their cat(s), or pictured with a cat(s).

Our author this month, Joseph Brodsky was born May 24, 1940 (died January 1996). As you can see from the images, he had a lifelong love of cats. 

Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky (Russian: Ио́сиф Алекса́ндрович Бро́дский, IPA: [ɪˈosʲɪf ˈbrot͡skʲɪj] was a Russian poet and essayist.

Born in Leningrad in 1940, Brodsky ran afoul of Soviet authorities and was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972, settling in America with the help of W. H. Auden and other supporters. He taught thereafter at universities including those at Yale, Cambridge and Michigan.

Brodsky was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature "for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity". He was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 1991. (from Goodreads)

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Janet Benton's Lilli De Jong - Book Blast #HistFic

Lilli de Jong
by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
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 unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Available for Pre-Order at
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell's

Praise for Lilli de Jong

"Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father's selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father's apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli's story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother's love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks." - Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it's a testament to Benton's skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist's struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It's not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it's also important . . . Lilli's life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

About the Author

Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton's website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, April 17

Tuesday, April 18
So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 19
Luxury Reading

Thursday, April 20
100 Pages a Day
The Never-Ending Book

Friday, April 21
A Book Geek
Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Saturday, April 22
History From a Woman's Perspective

Monday, April 24
Creating Herstory

Tuesday, April 25
The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, April 26
SJ2B House of Books

Thursday, April 27
A Fold in the Spine
One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, April 28
Just One More Chapter

Monday, May 1
Back Porchervations

Tuesday, May 2
Books & Benches
Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, May 3
The Lit Bitch
Unabridged Chick

Thursday, May 4
Beth's Book Nook Blog

Friday, May 5
Brooke Blogs
Trisha Jenn Reads

Sunday, May 7
A Dream within a Dream

Monday, May 8
Book Nerd

Tuesday, May 9
Broken Teepee
The True Book Addict

Wednesday, May 10
What Is That Book About

Thursday, May 11
CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, May 12
A Literary Vacation

Monday, May 15
Passages to the Past


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Monday, May 8, 2017

Bout of Books #Readathon - I'm in!

Bout of Books

From the Bout of Books blog:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 8th and runs through Sunday, May 14th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 19 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Here's what I will be reading (only portions of some books, as they are for book clubs):

Wish me luck...I always need it. 😉


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Thursday, May 4, 2017

#CatThursday - #Cats are so human

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

They really are like little humans sometimes. Agree? 😸

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- See more at: http://www.techtrickhome.com/2013/02/show-comment-box-above-comments-on.html#sthash.TjHz2Px9.dpuf