New Books

This is my monthly roundup of books that were added to my shelves in the last month. I also share an update with you on other things going on in my life.

Family and Life Updates

October began with celebrating my birthday. I chose to spend the day traveling along the Mississippi River looking at the beautiful fall landscape. We started at the Gravert’s Apple Orchard in Sebula, Iowa. We picked our own apples, trying a new variety to us, the Bonnie’s Best. Those apples truly made the best pie and crisp.

We then kept going north and stopped for lunch at Richman’s Cafe in Bellevue. It isn’t a birthday without ice cream, so a stop in Guttenburg at Joe’s Pizza rounded out our afternoon. We then headed back west with a stop at my parents before coming home. It was a great day for the three of us!

One of my gifts from my husband was this gas fire pit. We were able to use it a few times before it turned too cold here, but I can’t wait to bring it out next spring.

We closed out the month with my husband’s 50th birthday. We celebrated with our sons and their girlfriends and enjoyed time with close friends. I had this mini picnic table made so his squirrel friends that he feeds every day can dine in style.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram, HERE to see snippets of what I’m reading or what’s going on in my daily life.

If you have missed any of my recent book reviews, you can see all of them by clicking, HERE.  Or you can stay up to date with my monthly Quick Lit Roundup.

If you choose to make a purchase through any of the links I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.


By: M. Jonathan Lee

Published: November 30, 2020

Publisher: Hideaway Fall


Format: Hardcover

When the publisher approached me about this novel, they definitely piqued my interest. This is the promo they sent about the novel:

First, the book reads from both directions! It’s completely up to you to decide which way you’ll begin the novel. Number Two is that, to the best of our knowledge, 337 is the only book where everything you believe about each character is changed on the very last word. And finally, it is modern-day contemporary fiction at its best.

I’ve never read a book like this and I’m certainly anxious to see if this lives up to the hype! I love how one side of the book says 337 and if you flip it upside down it says LEE, the author’s last name.

337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note. While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby. Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realizing the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth. Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.


By: Barry Eisenberg

Published: September 24, 2020

Publisher: Vanguard Press


Format: Paperback

I like the premise of this one with a high school senior finding out his life isn’t at all what he thought. I would expect it to be a fast-paced, thrilling, coming-of-age type of book that seems different than what is out there right now.

While rummaging through the attic, high school senior, Jack Davies, is surprised to find his never-before-seen birth certificate, revealing a startling bit of information that changes his life. The story his mother told about his birth, he discovers, is revealed to be a lie, shattering long-held beliefs and the trust he had for her. Jack becomes obsessed with discovering the truth, leading him down a dangerous path. Faced with unanswered questions and confounding obstacles at every turn, Jack finds himself deeply enmeshed in an intricate world of national security and international intrigue. Relationships are tested as his every move is tracked by a group of mysterious people. Who are they? Whose side are they on? Who can he trust? And, most importantly, who will he ultimately become?


By: Elizabeth Berg

Published: November 19, 2019 (Paperback August 4, 2020)

Publisher: Random House (Paperback: Ballantine Books)


Format: Paperback

Well, I love Elizabeth Berg’s writing and have several of her books on my shelf. But, I didn’t know about this one. My BFF sent me this one for my birthday and it’s the third in the Mason series which starts with The Story of Arthur Truluv which I think I have on my shelf already. I love the premise of this one, but I’m not sure how critical it is to read the others in the series or not.

When a group of friends in Mason, Missouri, decide to start a monthly supper club, they get more than they bargained for. The plan for congenial evenings—talking, laughing, and sharing recipes, homemade food, and wine—abruptly changes course one night when one of the women reveals something startlingly intimate. The supper club then becomes Confession Club, and the women gather weekly to share not only dinners, but embarrassing misdeeds, deep insecurities, and long-held regrets.

They invite Iris Winters and Maddy Harris to join, and their timing couldn’t be better. Iris is conflicted about her feelings for a charming but troubled man, and Maddy has come back home from New York to escape a problem too big to handle alone. The club offers exactly the kind of support they need to help them make some difficult decisions.


By: Rumaan Alam

Published: October 6, 2020

Publisher: Ecco


Format: Hardcover

This book is already getting a lot of BUZZ, but I chose it as my Book of the Month choice before I had heard anything about it. I thought the premise was so fascinating, especially in the pandemic world we are living in. I’m not usually very interested in thrillers, but this one definitely has me curious.

Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older black couple—it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area—with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service—it’s hard to know what to believe.

Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple—and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another? 


Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out

By: Jim Burns

Published: March 26, 2019

Publisher: Zondervan


Format: eBook

This book caught my attention a few months ago and then I saw it on a Kindle Daily Deal and ended up getting it free with Kindle credits due to pushing my Amazon Prime deliveries to later when I don’t need them right away. I am new to this parenting of adult children and will take all the advice I can get.

If you have an adult child, you know that parenting doesn’t stop when a child reaches the age of eighteen. In many ways, it gets more complicated. Both your heart and your head are as involved as ever, whether your child lives under your roof or rarely stays in contact.

In Doing Life with Your Adult Children, parenting expert Jim Burns helps you navigate one of the richest and most challenging seasons of parenting. Speaking from his own personal and professional experience, Burns offers practical answers to questions such as these:

Is it OK to give advice to my grown child?
What’s the difference between enabling and helping?
What boundaries should I have if my child moves back home?
What do I do when my child doesn’t seem to be maturing into adulthood?
How do I relate to my grown child’s significant other?
What does it mean to have healthy financial boundaries?
How can I support my grown children when I don’t support their values?
Including positive principles on bringing kids back to faith, ideas on how to leave a legacy as a grandparent, and encouragement for every changing season, Doing Life with Your Adult Children is a unique book on your changing role in a calling that never ends. 


The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America

By: Hilary Levey Friedman

Published: August 25, 2020

Publisher: Beacon Press

Format: Hardcover and eBook

I first received the eBook for review and then the hardcover arrived in my mailbox. I had already started reading the eBook and am enjoying it. I loved watching all the pageants as a girl. I was even in a pageant at the age of 16 in my own state. I didn’t win, but learned a lot from the experience…frankly learning I knew nothing about the pageant world and was truly an outsider. But, I’m glad I tried it and had the experience.

Many predicted that pageants would disappear by the 21st century. Yet they are thriving. America’s most enduring contest, Miss America, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. Why do they persist? In Here She Is, Hilary Levey Friedman reveals the surprising ways pageants have been an empowering feminist tradition. She traces the role of pageants in many of the feminist movement’s signature achievements, including bringing women into the public sphere, helping them become leaders in business and politics, providing increased educational opportunities, and giving them a voice in the age of #MeToo.

Using her unique perspective as a NOW state president, daughter to Miss America 1970, sometimes pageant judge, and scholar, Friedman explores how pageants became so deeply embedded in American life from their origins as a P.T. Barnum spectacle at the birth of the suffrage movement, through Miss Universe’s bathing beauties to the talent- and achievement-based competitions of today. She looks at how pageantry has morphed into culture everywhere from The Bachelor and RuPaul’s Drag Race to cheer and specialized contests like those for children, Indigenous women, and contestants with disabilities. Friedman also acknowledges the damaging and unrealistic expectations pageants place on women in society and discusses the controversies, including Miss America’s ableist and racist history, Trump’s ownership of the Miss Universe Organization, and the death of child pageant-winner JonBenet Ramsey.

Presenting a more complex narrative than what’s been previously portrayed, Here She Is shows that as American women continue to evolve, so too will beauty pageants.


How to Let Go and Lighten Up About Parenting

By: Melanie Dale

Published: December 8, 2020

Publisher: Atria Books


Format: Paperback

I didn’t intend to have two parenting books in my line up this month. This one is more comedic and has wit and real-life wisdom. The “lighten up” message in this book is one I needed when our kids were younger and also one I can learn from still today.

Most of us thought we’d be amazing parents—and then we had kids. Now we spend what little free time we have comparing ourselves to other parents, comparing our kids to other kids, and panicking that everyone else is nailing it except us. Between constant social media postings to conflicting advice found in parenting books, we often have no choice but to freak out. But there is another way. We all just need to calm the h*ck down.

Melanie Dale—a special needs parent, adoptive parent, in vitro parent, and reluctant cheer mom—believes we are all putting too much pressure on ourselves and our kids to be perfect. Instead, she argues, we need to take a step back so we can actually enjoy this journey called parenting.

Calm the H*ck Down is filled with stories from Melanie’s own life, as well as real-life research for learning how to lighten up about every aspect of parenting—from poopy diapers and germs to family vacations and adolescent angst. She also discusses the pressure to knock it all out of the Pinterest park, the challenge of instilling some kind of faith into your kids, and worrying about their future while still trying to live in the present.

Infused with quirky humor, profound insight, and accessible advice, Calm the H*ck Down gives you the permission to finally relax and enjoy this ridiculous thing we do called parenting.


A Compassionate Guide for Making Wiser End-of-Life Decisions

By: Jeff Spiess, MD

Published: October 11, 2020

Publisher: Roman & Littlefield Publishers


Format: Hardcover

In my former career, I helped many patients with their end-of-life plans. The author is a retired Hospice Medical Director and former oncologist. Unfortunately, once someone is in Hospice, it can be too late to make these kinds of plans, but at least having a conversation now with your loved ones (spouse, aging parents, siblings) can make sure your wishes are carried out. No one wants to think about making plans for the end-of-life: wills, DNRs, and other wishes. It is certainly better to have a plan in place now rather than your loved ones not know anything about your wishes.

Death may be inevitable, but fearing the end-of-life is avoidable. Learn how to put your fear of your final days to rest.

We all know we are going to die, but live as though we don’t believe it. Rather than explore our options and consider the possibilities that can impact our final days, we ignore the idea altogether out of fear. By avoiding the topic of death, we increase the pain and grief we experience at the end of life and the suffering of those left behind.

After three decades of caring for the dying, Dr. Jeff Spiess argues that if we honestly face our mortality, we will make wiser decisions, die with less distress, and live the remainder of our lives, whether days or decades, more fully and with less anxiety. Using cultural and religious references alongside poignant narratives, this optimistic work informs, inspires, and challenges our cognitive and emotional understandings of our own lives and deaths.

Dying with Ease contains the practical nuts and bolts information about advance care planning, hospice, palliative care, and ethical and legal issues surrounding dying in America. Dr. Spiess answers such questions as:

How can I plan for the last part of my life?
What options do I have if my suffering is unbearable?
What do religion and spiritual philosophy have to say about dying? What does it feel like to die?
While dying can be difficult, it can also be beautiful. By learning to relax in the face of death at our current stage of life, we can make wiser and more authentic decisions throughout the rest of our lives– however long they may be.


By: Terry Pierce

Illustrated by: Suzy Ultman

Published: October 20, 2020

Publisher: Chronicle Books


Format: Board Book

This board book is so sweet. It has fun lift-the-felt features and adorable illustrations of all kinds of animals loving on their babies. Terry Pierce also wrote MOTHER EARTH’S LULLABY which I loved.

Love Can Come in Many Ways celebrates the many diverse ways animals, and humans, show their love.

Lift a swan’s felt wing to discover a baby cuddled underneath, then lift a felt speech bubble to discover the words “You are loved!”

Beneath each of the felt flaps is a wealth of snuggles, hugs, and loving engagement.


The Daring Tricks and Deeds that Won World War II

By: Jennifer Swanson

Illustrated by: Kevin O’Malley

Published: November 26, 2019

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books


Format: Hardcover

I’ve read other books by Jennifer Swanson and I highly recommend them. She knows how to share information with kids in a fun and informative way. This one on WWII definitely looks like something kids that love history would enjoy.

In the late 1930s, times were desperate. The world found itself at war again, less than twenty years after the first World War had ended. No one could quite believe it. And no one wanted it. The leaders of every country involved were left with no choice. They had to try to end the war as fast as possible, using whatever means they could.

That meant coming up with secret operations meant to deceive, deflect, and confuse their enemies. Poison the cattle that the Germans eat? Deliberately float a corpse dressed up as a spy across the water to have it wash up on Germany’s shore? Create a unit of top-secret commandos with a license to kill? These were all real tactics attempted with the ultimate goal of defeating Hitler. In this off-center look at history, readers will be captivated by the classified and covert efforts made by each side as they tried to gain the upper hand and win the war. Restricted access is lifted to give the reader a peek into the top-secret operations of the daring men and women who fought the war under a cloak of secrecy.


Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature

By: Jennifer Swanson

Published: June 23, 2020

Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books


Format: Paperback

Kids that love to learn how things are made or like engineering and robotics will love learning from this book.

Discover how the natural world inspires innovation in science and technology to create the latest and greatest breakthroughs and discoveries in this exciting book.

Did you know that scientists have developed a bionic tool shaped like an elephant’s trunk that helps lift heavy objects? Or that the needle-like pointed beak of the kingfisher bird encouraged engineers in Japan to change the design of the Shinkansen “bullet trains” to reduce noise? Across multiple fields of study and methods of problem-solving, scientists are turning to biomimicry, or engineering inspired by biology or nature, to make all kinds of cool technological advancements. From robots that protect people and gather information to everyday inventions, like reflectors on the roads and ice-proof coatings for airplanes, to new sources of renewable energy, this book dives into the ways that nature can give us ideas on how to improve our world. Discover more than 40 examples of technology influenced by animals, learn about some of the incredible creatures who have inspired multiple creations, and meet some of the scientists and the stories behind their inventions. 

Which one (or two or three) of these books will you be adding to your list?

To see all the posts featuring new books on my shelves, click HERE.

So many books, so little time!

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