Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Oh, this is such a great topic. Of course, I am sure there are more than ten on my list. 

Are any of these books on your list? Did you read any of these? What did you think about them? 

Monday, January 18, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday - Jan 18

Welcome to It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

My, my how time flies. Here we are at Monday again. Hope you had a great weekend. I worked most of it and started to take down the Christmas decorations. I have to do it in phases since I have so much. Besides, I was late in getting the last two trees up, so I haven't wanted to take them down. Maybe I will put together a Valentine's Day or a Spring tree. 

I had a nice announcement to make this weekend, too. I was named Best Book Editor in this annual poll. The second edition of A Christmas Kindness came in second place in the Best Children's Book category as well. Little chuckle because they spelled my name wrong on the Best Book Editor award. 

When it comes to reading, I am happy with how January is starting out. My review of this coloring book/gratitude journal will appear at my children's book blog on Wednesday. 

I am also reading these two. 

Next are these other books for virtual book tours. 

Did you see I snuck this new one onto the list? So much for not requesting more books to review for virtual book tours. LOL! 

Next up will be this one, but not sure what I will read after that. Of course, it's probably going to be one of the two new books that arrived. 

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog.

I am trying to be really good about not ordering or requesting new books, but it is so, so hard. My physical mailbox had two new treats last week.

Israel: A drone-based terrorist attack kills dozens on a sun-splashed beach in Caesarea.

Washington: America awakens to the shattering news that Vice President Stephanie Davenport has died of an apparent heart attack.

That same morning, a chance encounter on the Washington Metro results in international private investigator Robert Brixton thwarting an attempted terrorist bombing. Brixton has no reason to suspect that the three incidents have anything in common, until he's contacted by Kendra Rendine, the Secret Service agent who headed up the vice president's security detail. Rendine is convinced the vice president was murdered and needs Brixton's investigative expertise to find out why.

In Israel, meanwhile, legendary anti-terrorist fighter Lia Ganz launches her own crusade against the perpetrators of that attack which nearly claimed the lives of her and granddaughter. Ganz's trail will ultimately take her to Washington where she joins forces with Brixton to uncover an impossible link between the deadly attack on Caesarea and the attempted Metro bombing, as well as the death of the vice president.

The connection lies in the highest corridors of power in Washington where a deadly plot with unimaginable consequences has been hatched. With the clock ticking toward doomsday, Brixton and Ganz race against time to save millions of American lives who will otherwise become collateral damage to a conspiracy destined to change the United States forever.

The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a long cold spell, warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota territory to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats--leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. At just the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard struck without warning. Schoolteachers as young as sixteen were suddenly faced with life and death decisions: keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn't get lost in the storm?

Based on actual oral histories of survivors, the novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers--one who becomes a hero of the storm, and one who finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It's also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It is Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed immigrants to settle territories into states, and they didn't care what lies they told them to get them there--or whose land it originally was.

At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents' choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today--because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.

I cannot wait to dive into these novels. Margaret Truman was one of my favorite authors when I was in my early twenties. I'm familiar with the story of the Children's Blizzard and I enjoy Melanie Benjamin's work, so I have high hopes for this novel.

I'm really glad that I decided to focus on only two blogs this year. While I miss my mom blog, I am glad not to have to worry about content for that site on top of this blog and my children's book blog. I might go back to all my other blogs one day when my schedule is less hectic, but it's not practical right now.

How many blogs do you have? Have you read any of the books I featured this week? What book are you looking forward to reading next?

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Friday 56 - Jan 15

Maybe this meme is a once a month experience for me. :) The last time I participated was December 18. 


  • Grab a book, any book.
  • Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
  • (If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
  • Find a snippet, short and sweet.
  • Post it and add the url to your post in the Linky on Freda's post. If you don't link up, we may not know to visit.
  • Also join in the fun on Instagram using the hashtags #Instagram56 #Friday56

If you love travel, beauty, history, fabulous food, and genuine old-fashioned fun, you’ll love this amazing paddle wheel adventure along the mighty Mississippi River.

From a vibrant New Orleans’ Jazz concert at famous Preservation Hall, to the largest plantation mansion on the Mississippi (Nottoway Plantation), to eye-opening Civil War battlegrounds, this lively travel memoir brings American history and Southern culture to life.

The paddlewheeler itself is an enchanting antebellum masterpiece. Period furnishings. Tiffany lamps. An authentic steam calliope. And a huge front porch with comfy rocking chairs where you can relax and enjoy the natural wonder of America’s greatest waterway.

Riverside cities offer their own unique attractions, steeped in history and plantation grandeur.

In this warm and personal travel memoir you’ll learn things about America you never knew before.

When we walked into the Front Porch Cafe, aglow with late-afternoon sun and fragrant with fresh-baked cookies, I knew we'd arrived in paradise. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Top 5 Tuesday - Top 5 Anticipated Books of 2021in Genres I Don't Usually Read


Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme that explores different topics. Originally created by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm, it is now hosted by Meeghan at Meeghan Reads. For a list of January topics you can click here. To participate, link your post back to the weekly post.

I put together a version of this for Top Ten Tuesday last week, so I am going to choose five book releases in 2021 in genres I don't usually read. 

Top 5 Anticipated Books of 2021
in Genres I Don't Usually Read

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity--and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki--near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire's greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she's ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be--not even Deka herself.

My thoughts: This is not a me book at all, but I am so drawn to this cover and the strong young person Deka will be in this story that I want to read it.

It's been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don't do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what's waiting for her in the woods.

My thoughts: Cinder made me realize I could like unique retellings of fairytales, so I am drawn to Lost in the Never Woods. Though I have to admit I was late in enjoying Peter Pan and Wendy's original story. 

Emma loves her life. She’s the mother of a precocious kindergartener, married to her soulmate—a loyal and loving police detective—and has a rewarding career as a doctor at the local hospital.
But everything comes crashing down when her son, Josh, is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Determined to save him, Emma makes the risky decision to sell opioids to fund the life-saving treatment he needs. But when somebody ends up dead, a lethal game of cat and mouse ensues, her own husband leading the chase. With her son’s life hanging in the balance, Emma is dragged into the dark world of drugs, lies, and murder. Will the truth catch up to her before she can save Josh?

My thoughts: I don't do cancer stories. I don't do parents trying to save their kids stories, because they usually involve depressing topics. There is really no reason I would want to read this one, but it shows a character pushed to her limits, so I find it appealing.

Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.

Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.

As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.

The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years.

My thoughts: This one seems a bit too creepy for me, and I don't do evil well, but this one is intriguing.

In this stirring, reflective collection of short stories, Joyce Carol Oates ponders alternate destinies: the other lives we might have led if we’d made different choices. An accomplished writer returns to her childhood home of Yewville, but the homecoming stirs troubled thoughts about the person she might have been if she’d never left. A man in prison contemplates the gravity of his irreversible act. A student’s affair with a professor results in a pregnancy that alters the course of her life forever. Even the experience of reading is investigated as one that can create a profound transformation: “You could enter another time, the time of the book.”

The (Other) You is an arresting and incisive vision into these alternative realities, a collection that ponders the constraints we all face given the circumstances of our birth and our temperaments, and that examines the competing pressures and expectations on women in particular. Finely attuned to the nuances of our social and psychic selves, Joyce Carol Oates demonstrates here why she remains one of our most celebrated and relevant literary figures.

My thoughts: I am not a huge short story fan. I can't write them. I rarely read them. Alternate destinies, however, are an interesting concept. 

What do you think of this list? Do we share any books this week?

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Resolutions/Hopes for 2021 (Bookish or Not!)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

As I mentioned last week, Top 5 Tuesday would help me with this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic. I shared the following Top 5 Bookish Resolutions last Tuesday:
  • Complete this year's Goodreads Reading Challenge (40 books)
  • Reduce the number of virtual book tours I participate in (fingers crossed)
  • Write two First Chapter Reviews a month (love these)
  • Purge my TBR pile (it's time)
  • Read more nonfiction this year (writing craft and business books here I come)
To these 5, I am going to add 5 Non-Bookish Resolutions. 

Increase my sales volume by 50% - This is the first year I feel it is attainable. Last year's sales increase was 24% over 2019. I am more committed to real estate than I have ever been; the housing market is strong; and my role in the local real estate industry is increasing. I've been making changes to how I do things and am looking at starting a team. That last item will take a ton of planning, so it might be a 2022 agenda item.

Increase my editing volume - In addition to editing two manuscripts for my publisher, I edited several manuscripts for other authors. I'm good at it. I am working on one now, too. Though the projects need to be on the smaller side considering my other commitments, I would enjoy working on one a month. My eventual goal is to start my own publishing company.

Exercise twice a week - I still hate exercising, but I really need to do it. If I start small, I might be able to increase from two to three days a week. 

Engage in better self-care - We moms take care of everyone and put ourselves last. I've got too much to do and to many dreams to follow not to take care of myself. 

Choose one writing project to finish - I am working on two. I'm sure both won't be finished this year. I'm thinking it's a middle grade novel that will get my attention. I want to decide by the end of January. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday - Jan 11

Welcome to It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

We are back to Monday. I hope you had a nice weekend. I worked most of it, but I had fun spending time at a small baby shower. Only ten of us were there, and the rest were on Zoom. I also read a manuscript to consider for publication. I enjoy working in acquisitions.  My hope is to open my own publishing house one day. That is probably at least three years away, but I am tossing it around in my head. 

As far as reading goes, I reviewed the second book in Hubbard's The Maidels of Morning Star series on Wednesday. You can find that review here.

Since I was in a mystery mood, I started this one during the week. 

I will be starting this travel memoir soon. 

Next are these other books for virtual book tours. 

Then I want to dive into the second book in this series.

If I am smart, I won't sign on for any additional book tours. That way, I might be able to tackle one of these. 


Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia of To Be Continued. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. It now has a permanent home at the Mailbox Monday blog.

My physical mailbox was empty this week, but I downloaded a bargain e-book that I'm sure I will enjoy.

The heartwarming true story of the family made legendary by The Sound of Music—as told by Agathe, the eldest von Trapp daughter.

The Sound of Music has captivated generations with its inspiring story of courage, love, music, and familial devotion. Audiences the world over have taken the von Trapp family into their hearts, joyfully celebrating their many triumphs and their daring escape from the Nazis.

In this charming, poignant, and unforgettable memoir, Agathe von Trapp, the eldest daughter, shares the true story of her family, the events that inspired the internationally beloved musical and film, and what happened to the von Trapps in the years after. Blessed with impeccable recall, Agathe shares her vivid memories of a childhood spent in an idyllic Austrian home with her brothers, sisters, and gentle, loving father; of the tragic loss of their mother; of the arrival of Maria; and of the bonding of a close-knit group of siblings who achieved great fame and endured great hardship.

Beautifully adorned with Agathe von Trapp's sketches and personal photographs, Memories Before and After the Sound of Music transports readers to a bygone time as it tells the intimate, loving story of a renowned and truly remarkable family.

Have you read this book? Are you a fan of the movie? 

Hope you have a blessed week. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Book Review: First Light in Morning Star by Charlotte Hubbard


First Light in Morning Star by Charlotte Hubbard is a touching story of love and forgiveness. 

The school board members are surprised when maidel Lydianne Christner applies for the teaching job at the new Morning Star school, but she seems sincere and no one else has even applied. Thrilled at the chance to teach, Lydianne knows the new life she has created can all come crashing down if anyone discovers her secret. 

Bishop Jeremiah, a widower, admires how Lydianne manages her classroom and students. He is also curious about her past and the burdens she seems to carry with her. When his attempt to court her is rebuffed, he feels lonelier than ever. 

An unexpected crisis finds Lydianne confessing to him, leaving Jeremiah with a choice that will require all his faith and understanding. 

You know how much I love Hubbard's books, but this one has to be one of her finest. I love everything about it from beginning to end. I enjoyed this story so much that I stayed up late into the night reading regardless of the fact that I had an early morning meeting. I felt tired all day, but it was well worth the exhaustion.

The secret that brought Lydianne to Morning Star now presents some of the biggest challenges she has faced. By applying for the job as the new teacher, everyone at the school board is suddenly interested in her past and why she has applied despite having no previous teaching experience. 

Then there is Bishop Jeremiah Shetler, who has been content living with his mother since the passing of his first wife. Though she has nudged him to find love again, he didn't feel much reason to and busied himself with looking after the spiritual needs of the residents of Morning Star. His sudden romantic feelings toward Lydianne perplex him, but when she rebuffs him he is determined to figure out what burdens her.

This second book in Hubbard's The Maidels of Morning Star series is even better than the first. Filling each page is the author's trademark compassion and grace as she weaves stories about residents of her imaginary communities and how they find love. It is a rare gift to be able to touch the heart the way Hubbard does with her novels. I can't tell you how much I admire and respect her talent. I highly anticipate the third book in this series, Christmas Comes to Morning Star, due out in August. 

I don't hold on to many books these days after reading them, but I have kept every one of Hubbard's books. They are special treasures I cherish and hope to read again. 

If you enjoy Amish fiction, First Light in Morning Star is a must read. 

Publisher : Zebra (December 29, 2020)
Mass Market Paperback : 320 pages
ISBN-10 : 1420151827
ISBN-13 : 978-1420151824

I received a paperback copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.