Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: Some Luck By Jane Smiley

Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga #1

By: Jane Smiley

Published: October 7, 2014

Publisher: Knopf

Fiction/Historical Fiction

When I heard Jane Smiley had written a new book about an Iowa family covering several generations, I was anxious to read it.  I had read her book A THOUSAND ACRES years ago and remember really loving it.

Rosanna and Walter Langdon live in the small farming community of Denby, Iowa. They love the land and survive by using, eating, and selling what they produce. In 1920, Walter is just 25 and Rosanna is just 20. They are starting out on their own farm with their families close by offering advice and helping on the farm. As they are soon blessed with children, Rosanna and Walter find that each of their children has unique personalities but as they grow into adults, the values and traditions instilled in them by their parents will stay with them no matter where they go.

What I most enjoyed about this novel was the stories of life on the farm. Growing up on an Iowa farm myself, I could relate, even though it was in the 1970's rather than the 20's, 30's and 40's. These are the years my parents grew up and the Langdon's farm and family reminded me of how I expect my dad's life was like growing up. Walter and Rosanna had six children and instilled values of hard work, with even their children as young as five expected to help out on the farm. The stories of cutting the tales off of new lambs, shearing the sheep, and collecting eggs immediately transported me back to my own childhood.

Each chapter is a year in the Langdon's life, jumping from one story to the next oftentimes skipping months in between.  If you are looking for a book with a major plot and climax, this is not the book for you. Rather this is a diary of a family over 33 years. The Langdon's are like most other families in small town Iowa during this time. They suffer loss, they celebrate births, and they find themselves surviving droughts and depression. They find a way to survive, to love each other, and move into the next chapter of their lives.

I wish their had been more depth to the stories, but I found I cared about the characters and the lives they were creating. I didn't love SOME LUCK, but I did appreciate the story Smiley is telling.

SOME LUCK is the first in a trilogy.  EARLY WARNING, the second in the series, became available yesterday. I plan to give it a slot in my to-read list.

Jane Smiley - source

Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist. Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School. She obtained a A.B. at Vassar College, then earned a M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar. From 1981 to 1996, she taught at Iowa State University.  Her best-selling A Thousand Acres, a story based on William Shakespeare's King Lear, received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992. It was adapted into a film of the same title in 1997. In 1995 she wrote her sole television script produced, for an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. Her novella The Age of Grief was made into the 2002 film The Secret Lives of Dentists.

In 2001, Smiley was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters.
 For more on Jane Smiley, check out her website,

To purchase a copy of SOME LUCK, click the photo below:

To purchase a copy of EARLY WARNING, click the photo below:

I purchased this book on my own and read for my own enjoyment. If you choose to purchase the books through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Little Monday Inspiration - Family

With what pleasure do we look upon a family,
through the whole of which
reign mutual love and esteem,
where the parents and the children
are companions for one another,
without any other difference than what is made
by respectful affection on the one side,
and kind indulgence on the other...
Adam Smith

One of my favorite pictures of our family from July 2008. Taken in the Smokey Mountains

As our children have turned into a tween and teenagers right before our eyes, this quote has even more meaning for me.  The conversations we are having, the trust that we are building, and the love and laughter that is shared in our home reminds me of what a family is all about.

These cuties above have turned into strong-willed, intelligent, and funny young adolescents. I am amazed by their talents, their convictions, and their insights.  I have no idea what the future holds for them, but I do know whatever it is they decide to do, it will bring all of us joy!

Reagan, Patrick and Bennett on Easter 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Breathe, Laugh and Relax

I'm taking a few days off. 
I'm traveling to Denver and taking a few days 
to breathe, 
to laugh, 
and to relax. 

I'll be visiting one of my best friends as well as my niece.

I'm looking forward to sipping coffee in the morning and drinking wine at night.

I'm looking forward to catching up on life and sharing laughter.

I'm looking forward to seeing the mountains out the window and breathing the fresh air.

I'm looking forward to a little break from reality.

And when I return, I'll be refreshed and ready to tackle the next project!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: The Money Trader By Jerry Anderson


By: Jerry Anderson

Published: August 17, 2012

Publisher: Word & Image, LLC


A friend of mine asked if I would read a book written by a friend of his. I was a little skeptical because the topic of "corporate greed" isn't my usual choice in reading. But, I agreed to give it a look. I will admit that I struggled at times, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

Jake Buchanan has hit it big in the world of commodity trading. By getting lucky in the silver market in the 80's he set himself and his wife, Janet, up for a life of luxury. They had multiple homes and cars, took numerous trips, and held lavish parties.  His wife was also establishing herself as a business woman in the medical field, opening clinics all around the Twin Cities. But, Jake's luck soon ran out and he got a bit too big for his britches. Everything around him starts falling apart. His business is crumbling, his wife leaves him and he eventually has to start taking the bus to work, without even a penny in his pocket. When Jake begins to reflect on what's important, while he is at his lowest, he begins to see life in a whole new way.

While thinking how to describe this book to other readers, I would say it is a "Romance Novel for Men".  The book is full of money, corporate greed, big cities, cars and beautiful women. It's written from Jake's perspective offering a look into his thoughts during some of the best and worst days of his life. It's the story of a boy who grew up under the limelight of his father and in the shadow of his brothers. As an adult, he just wanted to make them proud. After losing his mother, he set out to prove to the world that he could make something of himself.  Once he became established in the construction business, he began to teach himself about commodity trading and he found that he could be successful. He earned the trust of his clients and helped many of them become millionaires, even becoming one himself. Until he started to lose money. Then the downward spiral was fast and brutal and even luck couldn't get him out of that mess.

The favorite part of the book for me included Jake's reflection on his childhood, college years and the early part of his marriage to Janet. I loved all the great tidbits about living in the Twin Cities. The only downside of the book was it was heavily detailed and didn't move along as quickly as I would have liked. Even when Jake takes a trip to Europe, I felt like it was more of a travelogue than part of the actual story. But, it does offer great tips for someone wanting to visit those countries.

I found Jake's emotions raw and real. I learned a lot about the business of trading and the highs and lows experienced in minutes, hours, and days on the floor.  Jake eventually has some big decisions to make regarding his career and personal life. I appreciated watching him change over the coarse of the novel, Jake learns the true meaning of success, which most of us know, has nothing to do with money.


Jerry Anderson is a commodity broker and trader, former stockbroker, writer, blogger, and the first time author. THE MONEY TRADER is his first published novel. He lives in Minnesota on Loring Park near downtown Minneapolis and he is still active in the markets. To read an excerpt from the book, click HERE. Visit his website, HERE.

If you would like to purchase a copy of the book on Kindle for just $2.99, click the photo below:

Thanks to the author for sending a copy of this book my way. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in anyway for this review. If you choose to purchase a copy of this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Monday, April 20, 2015


The winner of PIPSIE, NATURE DETECTIVE: The Disappearing Caterpillar by Rick DeDonato has been chosen. The winner has been emailed and has 48 hours to respond or I will choose a new winner.

The winner is............................................KRISTINA.

If you weren't chosen and want to purchase the book, click the photo below:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Children's Book Review: If You Were Me and Lived In Hungary By Carole P Roman

A Child's Introduction to Culture Around the World

By: Carole P. Roman

Published: November 17, 2014

Publisher: CreateSpace

Children's Non-Fiction

I knew very little about the country of Hungary before reading this book. Parents can learn right along with their kids while reading this wonderful series of books by Carole P Roman.

As in all this other books in this series, we learn about Hungary's cities, landmarks, language, sports, and food.  Did you know that Rubik's cube was invented there? I didn't. This landlocked country has a lot of offer and by sharing this book with your child, you are teaching them to appreciate other countries and their unique qualities.

I highly recommend this series for educators and parents and anyone who wants to learn more about this great world we live in.

Carole P Roman
Award winning author Carole P. Roman is a former teacher turned businesswoman. She has successfully run a family business with her husband that employs close to five hundred people. Her most favorite job is being grandmother to her many grandchildren. Roman has two wonderful sons and hit the jackpot in the daughter-in-law department. She currently lives on Long Island with her husband. For more on Carole P. Roman visit her website, HERE.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of IF YOU WERE ME AND LIVED IN...HUNGARY, click the photo below:

On Saturdays I link up with other bloggers in Booking Mama's Kid Konnection. To see other great children's and YA book reviews, click HERE.

Thanks to the author for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Children's Book Review: If You Were Me and Lived In Scotland by Carole P Roman

A Child's introduction to Cultures Around the World

By: Carole P Roman

Published: January 5, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace 

Children's Non-Fiction 

After reading a novel set in Scotland this week, I felt it was the perfect time to learn a bit about Scotland's culture as well. Both authors did a fine job of teaching all the wonderful things about Scotland. In fact, I even learned something while reading about this great country!

I had no idea that Scotland was made up of 790 islands. I am sure I learned this fact at some point in my education, but it never stuck with me. Of course, when you think of Scotland, the mystical Loch Ness Monster always comes to mind, but there is so much more to learn about Scotland.

Scotland is definitely on my list of countries I'd like to visit some day and this book just confirmed it. By sharing this book and others by Roman, you can teach your children about all the wonderful places that make up our world.  These books share their country's language, culture, food, and sports with the reader and offer a look into a country that is different from where we live.  You just might find that we have things in common too!

If you are looking for books to teach your children about other cultures, I highly recommend this series of books by Carole P Roman. They would make an excellent addition to a home or school library.

Carole P Roman
Award winning author Carole P. Roman is a former teacher turned businesswoman. She has successfully run a family business with her husband that employs close to five hundred people. Her most favorite job is being grandmother to her many grandchildren. Roman has two wonderful sons and hit the jackpot in the daughter-in-law department. She currently lives on Long Island with her husband. For more on Carole P. Roman visit her website, HERE

To purchase a copy of IF YOU WERE ME AND LIVED IN SCOTLAND, click the photo below:

On Saturday, I'll be linking up with other bloggers at Booking Mama's Kid Konnection to feature book reviews of children's and YA books. To see all the great book reviews, click HERE.

Thanks to the author for sending a copy of this book for review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Book Review: At the Water's Edge By Sara Gruen


By: Sara Gruen

Published: March 31, 2015

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau - Random House

Fiction/Historical Fiction

When I read that Sara Gruen was coming out with a new novel and it was set during WWII, I jumped at the chance to review it.  Her best-selling book WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is still one of my all-time favorite books. It was also adapted into a movie that was extremely well done, in my opinion.

AT THE WATER'S EDGE is mainly set in Scotland during the middle of WWII, but it begins in Philadephia. Maddie and Ellis are married. They and their friend, Hank, have just embarrassed themselves in front of Ellis's parents. They have officially written Ellis off and ended all financial ties. Ellis, Hank, and Maddie have been used to living a life of luxury which included shopping all day, partying all night, sleeping it off and starting over the next day. When Ellis makes fun of his father's attempt to capture the Loch Ness Monster, he realizes the only way to win back his affection, and more importantly, his money, is to hunt the Loch Ness Monster himself and restore his family's good name. Without much thought to what was going on in the rest of the world, Ellis, Maddie and Hank sail off on a ship to Scotland during the middle of a war. Each part of the journey offers a social awakening that neither of them can comprehend. Their arrival in Scotland is met with much judgment about the men not serving in the war and their lack of respect towards the people they expect to serve their needs.  Each day Hitler continues to rage war against the innocent while the two men are trying to find the monster, oblivious to other's needs and concerns. With Maddie left alone at the inn, she begins to realize this journey has been a huge mistake and she comes to learn what is really important in life.

I was quite frustrated with the three main characters and their lack of respect and empathy, as well as the ridiculous expectations they had toward those they viewed as their servants. I didn't like the characters which made me not want to read the book because they made me so angry. But, as I continued to read, I found I was drawn into the story as I saw Maddie changing before my eyes. Even with frustrating characters, Gruen skillfully writes with attention to historical detail, richly descriptive settings, and offers a bit of a scandalous romance to keep readers interested beyond flawed the characters.

I enjoyed that this was another WWII novel, with yet a different perspective on the war.  Even though Scotland wasn't directly affected, they were still suffering due to rations, lack of medical services, financial losses and buildings being bombed. Many of their family members also went off to serve and never returned. The novel shares a lot of history related to the Loch Ness Monster and the numbers of people who have attempted to capture a photo of it.

With Maddie left behind each day, she begins to befriend the women who work at the inn where they are staying. These friendships become valuable to Maddie and contribute to her new found courage and maturity. Her new friends, Meg and Anna, teach her skills and eventually allow her to help out around the pub. But, when Ellis sees that Maddie has crossed the line and has befriended "the help", Maddie gets herself in a bit of trouble with her husband and Angus, the proprietor. This all leads to a dramatic conclusion that is a bit too tidied up. I would have to say that overall, the novel was interesting, but nothing that kept me up late at night reading.  It won me over with the wartime setting and Scottish landscape but lost my interest a bit in the story. If you like historical fiction, you may want to check this out if you can get past whiny characters and a neatly-tied-bow of an ending.

Sara Gruen - source, Photo by Tasha Thomas
Sara Gruen is the bestselling author of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, APE HOUSE, RIDING LESSONS, AND FLYING CHANGES. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three sons, A devoted animal lover, they also enjoy the company of their dogs, cats, horses, birds and the world's fussiest goat.  For more on Sara, visit her website, You can also find Sara on Facebook, HERE and Twitter, HERE.

If you'd like to purchase a copy of AT THE WATER'S EDGE, click the photo below:

Thanks to Random House for sending a eBook copy for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase a copy of this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mini Book Review: Defending Jacob By William Landay


By: William Landay

Published: January 31, 2012

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Fiction/Crime Fiction

I'm pretty sure I'm one of the last people to read DEFENDING JACOB. It has been recommended to me over and over again and I just rarely find or make time to read books "for fun". When my cousin asked me to find her a good read to take on vacation, I gave her some links for cheap Kindle reads. You can see them all daily by clicking on my side bar link, Kindle Deals. Anyway, from the list, she chose DEFENDING JACOB since it was only $2.99 and luckily I had already purchased it on an earlier Kindle Deal. So, we decided to read it together during her vacation. Since she had a bit more leisure time than I did, she finished a few days before me.  We have since texted each other our thoughts about it.  So, even though it put me a bit behind in my review books, it was worth the read! We both loved it!

In DEFENDING JACOB, we meet Andy while he is being grilled in front of the Grand Jury. We don't know why he is being questioned, but we do know, based on the title, that it has something to do with his son, Jacob. As Andy takes us through the story, we learn he is the Assistant District Attorney and he was assigned to the case of a teenager who was murdered on his way to school. Laurie, his wife and Jacob, their son, seem to live the idyllic life in the suburbs, until this murder happens. Everyone is on edge and the pressure is on for Andy to find the killer. Until the day he finds out that his son, Jacob, is being charged with the murder of his fellow classmate, Ben. Everything stops for Andy and he makes it his mission to defend Jacob's innocence as his father, in their community and through the court system.

Landay gives the reader plenty to think about while reading and throws in lots of twists and surprises. I never knew what to expect and that kept me reading as fast as I could. Since I have a 14-year-old son, it was hard not to imagine what we would do in this situation. The characters, the community, and the reactions of their friends were all accurately portrayed and relatable. I promise you won't expect the ending.

If you like crime fiction, this is one you should definitely add to your reading list! For just $2.99 on Kindle, it is totally worth the price.

If you would like to purchase a copy of DEFENDING JACOB, click the photo below:

I read this for my own enjoyment. If you purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Children's Book Review and Giveaway: Pipsie Nature Detective By Rick DeDonato

The Disappearing Caterpillar

By: Rick DeDonato

Illustrated By: Tracy Bishop

Published: March 31, 2015

Publisher: Two Lions

I absolutely love books that teach children somcthing through the telling of a story. These were the kind of books I chose for our children when they were younger and the ones I go back to when giving gifts.

Pipsie is a sweet girl who, along with her pet turtle, Alfred, share lessons about nature. Pipsie and her turtle meet a new friend, Frannie the caterpillar, who suddenly disappears. They are determined to find out the mystery of what happened to Frannie. As Frannie and Alfred explore nature looking for clues about Frannie, children will learn about the wonders of nature.  Children will be excited to turn the pages and find out the mystery to Frannie's disappearance.

The illustrations fill the pages and are brightly colored. Pipsie, Alfred, and Frannie's personalities show not only in their conversations, but in the delightful creations on each page.

I have no doubt children will love following along with Pipsie and her detective excursions. This would be perfect for preschool-elementary aged children. I could also see teachers using this book in the classroom for a unit on insects.  I certainly hope that Pipsie continues to explore nature and share her stories with us.

Rick DeDonato
Rick DeDonato started writing and drawing storybooks for his two kids, Alexis and Matt, when they were little. They’re grown now, but Rick is still creating stories! When he’s not dreaming up adventures for Pipsie, he’s an award-winning creative director in advertising. Born in New Jersey, he now lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with Nancy McAleer; their two dogs, Tugger and Nacho; and their turtle, Alfred E. Turtle. For coloring pages and other fun activities, check out the website,  You can also find PIPSIE on Facebook, HERE

Tracy Bishop
Tracy Bishop won an art contest in kindergarten, and she’s been creating art ever since. A graduate of San Jose State University, she is also the illustrator of Not the Quitting Kind by Sarra J. Roth. She lives in San Jose, California, where she is inspired on a daily basis by her son, husband, and a hairy dog named Harry.


If you would like to enter to win a copy of PIPSIE, NATURE DETECTIVE, fill in the form below:

I will be linking up on Saturday with other bloggers for Booking Mama's Kid Konnection. To see other great children's and YA book reviews, click HERE.

If you'd like to purchase PIPSIE, NATURE DETECTIVE: The Disappearing Caterpillar, click the photo below:

Thanks to Blue Slip Media for sending a copy of this book for review and for sponsoring the giveaway. I was not compensated in any way for this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to purchase a copy of the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Book Review and Author Interview: Triumph Over Destiny By Peladija Woodson-Diers


By: Peladija Woodson-Diers

Published: December 2, 2014

Publisher: Peladija Woodson-Diers


Sunday my review and author interview of TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY were featured in the Cedar Rapids Gazette's "Sunday Insights and Books" section. To see it there, click HERE. The following is my full review and interview with the author. She has written this to share the story of her mother, but also to make sure this part of our history is not forgotten. I am always amazed by the tenacity and courage of those who suffered so greatly during WWII. I hope you find this book as inspiring as I did.

Peladija grew up hearing stories of her parent’s childhoods growing up in Austria and Yugoslavia. Both of them had very different upbringings and destiny brought these two people together during the tragedies of WWII while they were both living in Germany. Peladija, born in America, relates growing up in America as much different from the stories her mother and sister tell of growing up during WWII. As an adult, Peladija realized her mother’s stories needed to be told to more than just to their family. Not because her mother’s story is unique to others who suffered during WWII, but because it is part of our history. The atrocities of war are felt far and wide and innocent victims are forever changed, no matter the age. How the war affected her family is tragic, horrifying and unimaginable. But, without the war, Peladija’s parents would have never met. Choices and destinies have created her family history and this story is one to be shared. Peladija is the author of TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY, but in it she is telling the stories from her mother’s perspective.

Peladija recorded her mother’s stories over the span of a few years and then compiled them into this book chronicling her mother’s life. In the book she tells of growing up in Austria, being ripped from her family at the young age of 15 to provide forced labor in Germany, her marriage to a German soldier, raising their two daughters, suffering tragedies unimaginable (including her husband’s death) while living in Germany, marrying a POW from Yugoslavia after the war was over, and eventually coming to America sponsored by a family in Oelwein, Iowa.

Many books have been written telling the horrors Hitler’s regime inflicted on the people of Europe. Knowing, as you are reading, that these things truly happened to innocent victims, someone like you and me, and realizing how out of control the cruelty became will give you a new perspective on WWII. 

The story begins in Austria and takes us to Germany when Karoline, Peladija’s mother is forcefully taken from her family by soldiers. They had no idea where she was being taken, if they would see her again, and what would happen to her. Karoline was actually one of the “lucky” ones if you could even say that, because she was placed in a restaurant in Germany. She was able to live in a small apartment with another young woman, was fed and cared for, even though the work was long and hard and she was treated as an outsider and disgraced. During her time working in the restaurant, she was eventually treated with respect and given more freedoms which led her to meet her future husband, Hinrich, a German soldier. Their romance was quick and survived Hinrich’s long deployments during the war. Eventually they were married and Karoline was free from working as a forced laborer. 

Karoline and Hinrich's Wedding - photo courtesy of author

Living on his parents’ farm, raising their two daughters, and being well cared for, helped her to forget some of the tragedies of war, but the numerous restrictions on travel, danger along the roads, and fear of bombs dropping on them at any moment kept their lives in constant fear.

Peladija’s mother had a vivid memory and was able to recall in great detail the stories of their lives during WWII. The stories are emotional, tragic and horrific. I don’t want to mention them here to take away the telling of Karoline’s story. I wondered how Peladija was able to write them knowing they happened to her mother, father, and sisters. Peladija stated all of them were difficult to hear and every time she worked on the book, there were tears coming down her face and she was constantly wiping tears off of her computer. It was a highly emotional journey for her with some stories being more difficult to write than others, but in her heart, she knew these stories needed to be told. Oftentimes, her children were in the room while she recorded these stories. She believes these stories and her mother’s values made her and her sisters some of the strongest-willed women she has ever met. She even jokes that it makes life pretty difficult for their husbands. But, she said, if you would have known my mom, you would have seen her as a mild mannered, reserved, and quiet woman. You never would have guessed the atrocities she suffered in her life because she was a woman who was blessed and always found something to be thankful for. She said prayers with her children every night, thanking God for the basics of health and family, because, as she told them, if you didn’t have that, you had nothing.

I find every time I read a book set during WWII, I learn something new about the history and affects the war had on innocent people. In this book, I learned how the POWs were left to practically fend for themselves in Germany once the war ended. Many of them were starving and homeless and which, unfortunately, caused many of them to turn to violence to get revenge against the Germans. Germans became victims of the tortured POWs and Peladija’s family suffered greatly at their hands even after they had been kind to so many of them. Even when the war was over, it was just as dangerous for people in Germany, just a different kind of danger. They weren’t watching the sky for bombs, but instead looking out for intruders to harm them or steal prized possessions, as Peladija stated. The war may have been over but atrocities happened for years after.

Peladija ends the book once her parents arrive in Oelwein, Iowa. The reader is left with many unanswered questions about their assimilation into American culture and their life here. When I asked Peladija some of my burning questions, she hesitated and then replied, I’m planning a sequel.  “Our life in America is really a separate story,” she stated. “Even though we were in America, life wasn’t easy. I’ve had many people ask and want to know more about our family’s story and I plan to write a sequel soon.”

If you enjoy reading true accounts of people as part of the history of our nation and world, I highly recommend reading TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY. 

Peladija Woodson-Diers, photo courtesy of author

Peladija Woodson-Diers lives in a small town in NE Iowa and is a practicing social worker. But knowing that her mother's stories needed to be told, she found herself writing her very first book. TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY is the true account of her mother's life. Peladija plans to write a sequel based on their family's life after arriving in America. For more on the author or her book, check out the website, You can also follow her on Facebook, HERE

To purchase a copy of TRIUMPH OVER DESTINY, click the photo below:

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion. I was compensated by The Gazette for writing this review and conducting the interview. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Books That Came My Way in March 2015

My mailbox was very busy this month and I have a lot of great reviews coming up for you. Before we know it the lazy days of summer will be here. I know I am looking forward to afternoons and weekends spent reading on my porch! I had a taste of it last month and I can't wait to get back out there! 

As always, if I am choosing to read a book, then be sure that I truly think it is worthy of my time. Of course, some books just find their way to my mailbox without my previous knowledge. I am only going to spend time reading and reviewing books that I enjoy. If I'm not feeling it, I'm going to put it aside. I can't get to all these great books that come my way, but at least I can tell you about them here and I hope to review them just as soon as I can! 

If you would like to purchase any of these books, 
clicking on the photo of the book will take you directly to Amazon.  
If you choose to purchase, I will receive a small commission 
without you having to pay any more for your purchase.  
I appreciate your support of reviews.

The Deliberate Reader

I will be linking up with other bloggers sharing our stack of books for the month. 
Click HERE to see all the great Stacks of Books. 

Books for Review 

By Adam Pelzman
Published: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Trade

I'm really intrigued by this book. The reviews so far have been fabulous. I am anxious to see what this book is all about.

A young Cuban woman passes her nights dancing in a seedy Florida strip club; a Russian orphan loses everything, then builds a new and prosperous life for himself in New York; a woman struggles to maintain her dignity and hope after a life-changing accident—these are the three members of the troika whose story is told in this dazzling literary debut.

Their lives unexpectedly intertwined, Perla, Julian and Sophie discover a world—a way of life—that forces them to challenge their definitions of commitment, love and trust, a world that heals old wounds and inspires them to transform tragedy into beauty.

By: Jan Ellison
Published: January 20, 2015
Publisher: Random House

With reviews such as "astonishing", "delicious", and "impressive", I am sure this is going to be a favorite! I can't wait to dig in!

At nineteen, Annie Black abandons California for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and looking for love in the wrong places. Twenty years later, she is a happily married mother of three living in San Francisco. Then one morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, and an old obsession is awakened. 

After a return trip to London, Annie’s marriage falters, her store floods, and her son, Robbie, takes a night-time ride that nearly costs him his life. Now Annie must fight to save her family by untangling the mysteries of that reckless winter in Europe that drew an invisible map of her future. 

With the brilliant pacing and emotional precision that won Jan Ellison an O. Henry Prize for her first published story, A Small Indiscretionannounces a major new voice in suspense fiction as it unfolds a story of denial, obsession, love, forgiveness—and one woman’s reckoning with her own fateful mistakes.

By: Elene Ferrante
Published: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Europa Editions

I love historical fiction and this one sounds like one I will enjoy!

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

Medicine and What Matters In the End
By: Atul Gawande
Published: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Metropolitan Books

This book came in my Book Riot shipment. In my pre-mom life, I worked in Hospice as a social worker. This book definitely intrigues me and I am looking forward to reading it. 

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person's last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.

A Bone Street Rumba Novel #1
By: Daniel Jose Older
Published: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Roc

This came in my Book Riot shipment. It is not something I usually read, or frankly plan to read. I'll be passing this one on.

Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death. 

One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.

But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death.

By: Lisa Genova
Published: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books

I love Lisa Genova's writing. Her book STILL ALICE was made into a movie, currently showing now. STILL ALICE dealt with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease and this book deals with the devastating effects of Huntington's Disease. I'm sure it is going to be a memorable read. A few other bloggers have said it is one that you don't want to miss.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

By: Elyssa Friedland
Published: May 12, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

In light of our social media focused world and having to be available to anyone at any time, I think this will be an interesting and fun read!

This unforgettable debut novel asks us to look up from our screens and out at the world...and to imagine what life would be like with no searches, no status updates, no texts, no Tweets, no pins, and no posts

Evie Rosen has had enough. She's tired of the partners at her law firm e-mailing her at all hours of the night. The thought of another online date makes her break out in a cold sweat. She's over the clever hashtags and the endless selfies. So when her career hits a surprising roadblock and her heart is crushed by Facebook, Evie decides it's time to put down her smartphone for good. (Beats stowing it in her underwear--she's done that too!)

And that's when she discovers a fresh start for real conversations, fewer distractions, and living in the moment, even if the moments are heartbreakingly difficult. Babies are born; marriages teeter; friendships are tested. Evie just may find love and a new direction when she least expects it, but she also learns that just because you unplug your phone doesn't mean you can unplug from life.

By: Rick DeDonato
Published: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Two Lions

I will be reviewing this as part of a book tour on April 10, 2015. I love the cover and can't wait to read this story!

Pipsie loves everything wild—from dragonflies to oceans to tall, tall trees. She also loves solving mysteries. That’s why she’s a nature detective! When she and her turtle, Alfred, notice that their new friend, Frannie the caterpillar, has vanished, Pipsie is on the case. She grabs her magnifying glass, goes to her tree-house headquarters, and begins to search for clues. It’s time to make this mystery history!

Bursting with personality, this engaging story introduces a spunky new girl detective, a scooter-driving turtle who loves to eat, and a string of simple scientific clues that will keep kids turning the pages until the mystery is solved. Two pages of nature fun facts at the end of the story offer even more information for young nature detectives.

By: Anne Sawyer-Aitch
Published: December 19, 2014
Publisher: Magic Lantern Press

I read the first book titled NALAH AND THE PINK TIGER. You can see my review, HERE. So I was thrilled to check out her newest book. Look for this review in the next couple weeks.
The adventures of Nalah continue! One day Nalah finds herself bored and lonesome because all of her imaginary friends have gone away on vacation. But wait - not all. Mad Tooth, the little mouse who lives in her sock drawer, is still busy munching away on her knee-highs. When she finds out why Nalah is sad, she offers to take her down through the sock drawer into a mouse metropolis. The result is a tale of wild dancing, cousins and mice, taffy and a sock monster.


By: Jane Smiley
Published: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Knopf

I loved A THOUSAND ACRES and have been wanting to read her newest book ever since it came out.  I found it at Half-Price books so purchased it with my book cash. I'll be reading it and discussing it with some friends later this month. This is the first in a series that features an Iowa family. The next one comes out April 28, 2015, titled EARLY WARNINGwhich makes this the perfect time to read this one!

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different yet equally remarkable children: Frank, the brilliant, stubborn first-born; Joe, whose love of animals makes him the natural heir to his family's land; Lillian, an angelic child who enters a fairy-tale marriage with a man only she will fully know; Henry, the bookworm who's not afraid to be different; and Claire, who earns the highest place in her father's heart. Moving from post-World War I America through the early 1950s, Some Luck gives us an intimate look at this family's triumphs and tragedies, zooming in on the realities of farm life, while casting-as the children grow up and scatter to New York, California, and everywhere in between-a panoramic eye on the monumental changes that marked the first half of the twentieth century. 

By: Fredrik Backman
Published: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Atria Books

I've heard great things about this book and it ran as a Daily Kindle Deal this month so I snagged it.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him "the bitter neighbor from hell." But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

By: Denise J Hughes
Published: November 22, 2013
Publisher: Amazon Digital Books

I heard about this book from another blogger and wanted to check it out. I'm currently reading a few chapters a week and finding great reminders as well as it being helpful for general writing techniques. For just $2.99 on Kindle, it is a valuable resource for writers.

"On Becoming a Writer" answers thirty-four of the most important questions about writing that bloggers need to ask. What’s the difference between writing advice and editing advice? What if I hated English class? What’s the one metaphor every writer should know? Do I always show and never tell? How do I tell my story? What if I can’t remember the eight parts of speech? This e-book answers these questions and more. Each chapter also ends with an optional writing assignment to help writers put into practice the tools discussed.

The concepts shared in this e-book are valuable for every nonfiction writer—blogger and non-blogger alike. "On Becoming a Writer" will help you to:

• Improve your writing by understanding when to apply conventional writing advice and when not to.

• Gain confidence by identifying what kind of writing processor you are and how that affects your writing style.

• Cultivate your unique voice by establishing a writing routine that turns a writer’s perspiration into inspiration.

• Avoid the frustration of futile feedback by formulating the right kinds of questions.

• Embrace your life as a writer by overcoming prior fears about grammar and developing strategies to achieve the three characteristics of great writing.

A writer is someone who has something to say and wants to say it well. And this e-book will help you do just that.

By: Randy Susan Meyers
Published: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books

I snagged this on a Daily Kindle Deal since it was on my to-read list and several bloggers I follow gave it high marks!

Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. Married, and the father of two boys, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared, and she gave up her baby for adoption. 

Five years ago, Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, reluctantly adopted a baby to please her husband. She prayed her misgivings would disappear; instead, she's questioning whether she's cut out for the role of wife and mother. 

Five years ago, Juliette considered her life ideal: she had a solid marriage, two beautiful young sons, and a thriving business. Then she discovered Nathan's affair. He promised he'd never stray again, and she trusted him. 

But when Juliette intercepts a letter to her husband from Tia that contains pictures of a child with a deep resemblance to her husband, her world crumbles once more. How could Nathan deny his daughter? And if he's kept this a secret from her, what else is he hiding? Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. 

And before long, the three women and Nathan are on a collision course with consequences that none of them could have predicted. Riveting and arresting, The Comfort of Lies explores the collateral damage of infidelity and the dark, private struggles many of us experience but rarely reveal.

By: Wendy Mass
Published: October 1, 2008
Publisher: Little, Brown Books

My daughter is loving books by Wendy Mass right now. Since we had money to spend at Half-Price Books, she decided to pick this one up.

And as streams of light fan out behind the darkened sun like the wings of a butterfly, I realize that I never saw real beauty until now.

At Moon Shadow, an isolated campground, thousands have gathered to catch a glimpse of a rare and extraordinary total eclipse of the sun. It's also were three lives are about to be changed forever:

Ally likes the simple things in life--labyrinths, star-gazing, and comet-hunting. Her home, the Moon Shadow campground, is a part of who she is, and she refuses to imagine it any other way.

Popular and gorgeous (everybody says so), Bree is a future homecoming queen for sure. Bree wears her beauty like a suit of armor. But what is she trying to hide?

Overweight and awkward, Jack is used to spending a lot of time alone. But when opportunity knocks, he finds himself in situations he never would have imagined and making friends in the most unexpected situations.

Told from three distinct voices and perspectives, Wendy Mass weaves an intricate and compelling story about strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one's place in the universe.

By: John Butler
Published: May 11, 2004
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

I am a huge fan of John Butler's books, so I bought this one for a gift.

Renowned wildlife artist John Butler has created a wonderful way to introduce very young children to animals. Each right-hand page-on sturdy card stock-features a picture of an adorable baby animal with the question "Whose baby am I?" Turn the page and see the baby together with its parent. The guessing game format and the mix-and-match game at the end of the book encourage interaction and make this an ideal book to share with little ones.

The Graphic Guide for Finding the Perfect Job for You
Published: March 3, 2015
Publisher: DK Publishing

I purchased this after seeing it reviewed on another book blog. I thought it would be perfect for our kids and I tucked it in one of their Easter baskets yesterday.  It will be a useful book for our family over the next few years as we begin the college/career process.  When I was in high school I knew what I wanted to study in college and do for a career, but I think that is rare. Of course, I am no longer working in that career, but I still think those choices I made early on, made me into the person I am today. I hope this book can help give our kids some options they may not have originally considered.

It's never too early for your teen or tween to start thinking about a career, and Careers is the perfect way to do it. Inspiring and imaginative as well as practical, Careers has charts and tables that help young people gauge interest about possible careers — it's like having a personal career advisor by your side whenever you need it!

Speech pathologist? Check. Zookeeper? Check. Jewelry designer? Check.
Nurse? Architect? Chef? Check, check, and check.
Covering more than 400 jobs, Careers is organized in an easy-to-navigate, clear structure that helps guide teen and tween readers. Check at-a-glance summary panels for chosen careers to learn about salary, working hours, training, and career paths. Cross-referenced job matrix tables offer another way to learn about all the options. Tweens and teens with no idea of what kind of job to look for can start with their favorite school subjects or hobbies and find relevant careers from there. It may not be time for your teen or tween to prepare a resume and find a job, but the advice in Careers can help young people start thinking about the future!

Bookish Items 

These items also came in my Book Riot shipment. 

The Books and Booze flask is awesome. I'm not sure when I will have the opportunity to use it, but I'm betting I will have a chance this summer. Right now it is just sitting on my desk and it makes me smile! 

The Library Card Journal is very cool. I just wish it was spiral bound because it would make it more user friendly for me.  

That is my round-up of books and bookish items from March. Maybe you will find something that intrigues you. If so, feel free to share it below! Stay tuned for reviews of these books soon!