Melissa’s Review: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit The Hobbit
written by J.R.R. Tolkien
published by Harper Collins, 2012

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazoniBooks, Target, WalmartBook Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: 
I’ve read it before and enjoyed it. This time my husband and I decided to introduce it to our 5-year-old via audiobook on a road trip. I have two comments about what I think everyone agrees is an excellent book:

1 – I always forget how FUNNY this book is. I can’t tell you how many times I giggled.

2 – It’s super cool to watch your son fall in love with the same books you love.

 

Would I recommend it: Of course!

 

Melissa


About the book – from Goodreads: 
This is the story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected…

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further then the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag-End. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day, to whisk him away on a journey ‘there and back again’. They have a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon…

 

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Melissa’s Review: Kept In The Dark by J. Ronald M. York

Kept in the DarkKept In The Dark
written by J. Ronald M. York
published by St. Broadway Press, LLC, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazoniBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
This book is complicated, and not just because of the subject matter. I’ll try to be succinct.

Mr. York is a brave man to shout his family’s dirty secrets so loudly, and I applaud his courage. It must be heartbreaking and frustrating to have such important questions go unanswered, and I hope writing this book gives him a bit of the peace I’m sure he’s seeking.

However.

It’s often difficult to draw the line between what you are passionate about and what makes a good story, and while I mean no disrespect to Mr. York, his family, or the people he writes about, as an avid reader I have a few concerns. This story is riveting; I know why Mr. York wanted to tell it. His delivery, though, leaves me a bit disappointed. It must have been difficult for him to sift through his parents’ letters and choose the ones he thought most pertinent, but I think York’s narrative is a much better (and more interesting) perspective for this story. I would love to see this book reworked: York’s narrative interspersed with powerful quotes from the letters rather than the bulk of the letters themselves. Barring that (and hopefully this is a problem I experienced because I was given an Advanced Reading Copy), the letters ought to at least switch fonts with each writer. It’s a more distinct difference, and it would help a lot with those of us who tend to skip over headers and chapter numbers while reading. I would also have appreciated the character description at the beginning of the book so I could easily refer back to it.

I don’t know what to say about the subject matter. I want to say it would make a great movie, but I’m afraid that’s insensitive. I want to (and don’t want to) know the details of what happened so I can draw my own conclusions. The fifties were not kind to the LGBTQ. Is this an excuse? No. Could it be an explanation? Yes. On the other hand, molesting children is never, ever, EVER okay. I don’t know, and will never know, what actually happened, and so I feel some sense of the frustration Mr. York must deal with daily. This is not a happy story, but not every good story is.

 

Would I recommend it: I honestly don’t know.

 

Melissa

 

About the book – from Goodreads: The jail was located on the top 9 floors of the Dade County Courthouse in downtown Miami. The young father could look down from the 21st floor, to the street below. His wife and child would come each night, stand on the sidewalk and wave to him. They would flash the car lights to signal they were there and he, in return, would strike a match from his window to let them know he was watching. Although separated by just a few miles, they were only able to see each other each Sunday, for 2 hours, through glass and wire. Writing letters became their way of communicating and 100 letters were exchanged during an 8-week period.

This was a secret my parents, family and a few close friends took to their graves. No one ever told me and I was too young to remember. And yet, a box containing the letters, yellowed newspaper clippings, faded photographs and cards of encouragement from friends was left for me after everyone was gone.

Although the crime took place more than 60 years ago, it is still as current as today’s headlines. After much thought and reflection, I am ready to share this story. Controversial and uncomfortable, it is still deeply rooted in unwavering love. A horrific mistake was made leaving a family to heal, rebuild their lives and hopefully, forgive.

 

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It’s Raining Books: The Absence of Evelyn by Jackie Townsend (spotlight, giveaway)

 

The Absence of EvelynThe Absence of Evelyn
written by Jackie Townsend
published by Sparkpress, 2017

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazon, iBooks, TargetBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: Newly divorced Rhonda, haunted by her sister Evelyn’s ghost, travels to an old palazzo in Rome to confront Marco, the man who stole her sister’s heart–only to find out he’s vanished in the wake of Evelyn’s death. Meanwhile, Rhonda’s nineteen-year-old daughter Olivia, adopted by Rhonda at birth, travels to the mysterious and lush waters of northern Vietnam, where she’s been summoned by the missing Marco–a man she only knows from her parents’ whispers, a man she has never met or seen. Soon, truths are exposed and lives unraveled, and the real journey begins. Four lives in all, spanning three continents, are now bound together in an unfathomable way–and they tell a powerful story about love in all its incarnations, filial and amorous, healing and destructive.

AboJackie Townsendut the author: Jackie received her MBA from U.C. Berkeley and spent eight years on the fast track with a financial services consulting company before burning out. After coming to terms with what is important in life (being married to an Italian didn’t hurt!), she began writing and hasn’t stopped since.

A native of Southern California, she spends a lot of her time in places not her own. As the youngest of four children, she carries with her a strong sense of family to these places, often foreign, and writes about belonging (or not belonging), loss, and love. She lives in New York with her husband.

Find Ms. Townsend here: webblogFacebookTwitterGoodreads


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Book Blogger Hop – April 21-27, 2017

About the Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer from Crazy-For-Books in March 2010 and ended on December 31, 2012. With Jennifer’s permission, Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer relaunched the meme on February 15, 2013.

Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end on Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book related question. The hop’s purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers to your own blog.

This week’s question:

21st – 27th – Would you stop reading a book if an element of the plot strongly clashed with your personal beliefs, or would you continue reading until you finished the book? (submitted by Maria @ A Night’s Dream of Books)

 

Hmm . . . I guess that depends on the quality of the book. I recently DNF’d a book because a human character plotted to rape an animal character (you can read my review of Theo and the Forbidden Language here). I don’t think you’ll find anyone who looks favorably on rape; it was simply the proverbial straw for me in this case. The book had a number of other issues that weren’t sitting well with me–both plot and prose wise.  So while I like to keep my mind open, I remind myself often: there are more books in the world than you will ever have time to read. Don’t keep reading something if it’s not entertaining you, no matter what the reason.

 

 

What do you think about this week’s question?

 

It’s Raining Books: A Ring of Truth by Michelle Cox (spotlight, giveaway)

 

 

A Ring of Truth (A Henrietta and Inspector Howard Novel, #2)A Ring of Truth
written by Michelle Cox
published by She Writes Press, 2017

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazon, iBooksBook Depository, TargetGoodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: Newly engaged, Clive and Henrietta now begin the difficult task of meeting each other’s family. Difficult because Clive has neglected to tell Henrietta that he is in fact the heir to the Howard estate and fortune, and Henrietta has just discovered that her mother has been hiding secrets about her past as well. When Clive brings Henrietta to the family estate to meet his parents, they are less than enthused about his impoverished intended. Left alone in this extravagant new world when Clive returns to the city, Henrietta finds herself more at home with the servants than his family, much to the disapproval of Mrs. Howard and soon gets caught up in the disappearance of an elderly servant’s ring, not realizing that in doing so she has become part of a bigger, darker plot. As Clive and Henrietta attempt to discover the truth in the two very different worlds unraveling around them, they both begin to wonder: Are they meant for each other after all?

 

 

 

Michelle CoxAbout the author: Michelle Cox holds a B.A. in English literature from Mundelein College, Chicago, and is the author of the award-winning, A Girl Like You, the first in the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series. She is known for her wildly popular blog, “How to Get Your Book Published in 7,000 Easy Steps—A Practical Guide” as well as her charming “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” a blog dedicated to Chicago’s forgotten residents. Michelle lives with her husband and three children in the Chicago suburbs.

Find Ms. Cox here: webblog, FacebookTwitter, Goodreads

 

 

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It’s Raining Books: Jumping Over Shadows by Annette Gendler (spotlight)

 

Jumping Over Shadows: A MemoirJumping Over Shadows
written by Annette Gendler
published by expected publication April 2017, She Writes Press

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & NobleAmazoniBooks, TargetBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: History was repeating itself when Annette Gendler fell in love with a Jewish man in Germany in 1985. Her Great-Aunt Resi had been married to a Jew in Czechoslovakia before World War II–a marriage that, while happy, created tremendous difficulties for the extended family once the Nazis took over their hometown in 1938, and ultimately did not survive the pressures of the time. Annette and Harry’s love, meanwhile, was the ultimate nightmare for Harry’s family of Holocaust survivors.
Weighed down by the burdens of their family histories, Annette and Harry kept their relationship secret for three years, until they could forge a path into the future and create a new life in Chicago. As time went on, however, Annette found a spiritual home in Judaism–a choice that paved the way toward acceptance by Harry’s family, and redemption for some of the wounds of her own family’s past.

 

 

Annette GendlerAbout the author: I am a writer, photographer and blogger. I write literary nonfiction and focus on the photography of place. In 2014-15 I had the privilege of serving as writer-in-residence at the Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois.

My memoir Jumping Over Shadows, the story of a German-Jewish love that overcame the baggage of the past, is forthcoming in spring 2017 from She Writes Press. One essay excerpted from the manuscript, ‘Thrown Out’ of the Family Home, was published in the Wall Street Journal; another, Giving Up Christmas, was published in Tablet Magazine.

My essays have appeared in many literary journals, and links can be found under Writing. I regularly write for the Washington Independent Review of Books and the Jewish Book Council. My photography has been featured in Bella Grace Magazine and is forthcoming in the November 2016 issue of Artful Blogging.

I hold an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. After 15 years of working in consulting, I left the corporate world a few years ago. I teach memoir writing at StoryStudio Chicago and handle communications for my children’s former school. I live in Chicago with my husband and three children.

Find Ms. Gendler here: web, blogGoodreads, Facebook, Twitter

 

 

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Chrissy’s Review: The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty

The HousekeeperThe Housekeeper
written by Suellen Dainty
published by Atria Books, 2017

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Target, WalmartBook Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 
It is a well-written story with a bit of a twist at the end. But . . . I had to make myself finish it.

The back of the book says this is a “nuanced and nail-biting psychological thriller,” but I just didn’t get that at all. My nails are intact, and I wasn’t that shocked or gripped or thrilled by the story. I was expecting a book that was going to grab me, hold on to me, and not let me go until the very end. This book barely held on to me. I kept hoping for something exciting, some kind of major revelation, some unforeseen event to occur. It just didn’t deliver.

The characters weren’t worth rooting for either. Anne made no sense to me at all. I just didn’t understand why she left her career as a chef (I understand why she left her current job at the beginning of the book) to become a housekeeper. While she was working, I did understand her peace with it, the methodical aspect, and the family that she so desperately wanted to have. But I just couldn’t get on her side with it. I wanted her to show her ex-boyfriend that she could make it without him, be stronger. With regards to the whole family issue, I understand where she was with that. I really do. BUT . . . I wanted something more to come out of it. And the other characters just aren’t worth mentioning. They weren’t nice. They weren’t supportive. They weren’t who they thought they were or who the public thought they were. They had secrets, but they weren’t that surprising.

I felt let down after I finally finished this book.

 

Would I recommend it: Probably not.

Chrissy

 

About the book – from Goodreads: “[The Housekeeper] will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.” —Buzzfeed

“I am the housekeeper, the hired help with a messy past who cleans up other people’s messy lives, the one who protects their messy little secrets.”

When Anne Morgan’s successful boyfriend—who also happens to be her boss—leaves her for another woman, Anne finds herself in desperate need of a new job and a quiet place to recover. Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley (England’s answer to Martha Stewart), is in need of a housekeeper, an opportunity which seems too good to be true.

Through her books, website, and blog, Emma Helmsley advises her devoted followers on how to live a balanced life in a hectic world. Her husband, Rob, is a high profile academic, and her children, Jake and Lily, are well-adjusted teenagers. On the surface, they are the perfect family. But Anne soon finds herself intimately ensconced in the Helmsley’s dirty laundry, both literally and figuratively. Underneath the dust, grime, and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide and Anne’s own disturbing past threatens to unhinge everything.

For fans of Notes on a Scandal and The Woman Upstairs, The Housekeeper is a nuanced and psychological drama about the dark recesses of the human mind and the dangerous consequences of long-buried secrets.

 

 

 

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Winter Reading Challenge: Sweet Lake by Christine Nolfi (spotlight, giveaway)

 

 

Sweet Lake: A Novel (Sweet Lake, #1)Sweet Lake
written by Christine Nolfi
published by Lake Union Publishing, 2017

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book – from Goodreads: Linnie Wayfair knows just how many people are counting on her. But knowing doesn’t make doing any easier.

Everyone in Sweet Lake, Ohio, wants her to muster all her business sense and return the Wayfair Inn to its former glory. Her parents hope she’ll forgive her scoundrel of a brother and reconcile the family. The eccentric Sweet Lake Sirens want her to open the inn—and her heart—to new possibilities. And her hilarious lifelong friends Jada and Cat are dropping none-too-subtle hints for her to ignite a romance with Daniel Kettering, the sexy attorney who’s been pining for her for years…

Now a shocking turn of events will open old wounds and upend the world Linnie has carefully built. She has to make changes quickly—and the results, though not entirely what she expected, might be what she’s been yearning for all along.

 

 

 

About the author: Christine NolfiSome writers are gifted with an unusual life and I’m certainly one of those. I’ve lived in Ohio, Virginia, California, Utah and now South Carolina. In college I was featured on the front page of the Houston Post for a lark that erased all my debt. I met my four adopted children for the first time in the sweltering heat of the tropics. I helped build several companies and was lucky enough to earn a living doing what I love best–writing–in a PR firm I owned.

In 2004 I made the wisest and most irrational decision of my life–I began writing fiction full-time. All those years of hard work pay off daily in sweet notes and comments by readers. Please continue the mail, tweets and comments on FaceBook, GoodReads and other sites. I cherish your support and love chatting with readers.

Find Ms. Nolfi here: webFacebookTwitterGoodreads

 

 

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DNF: Theo and the Forbidden Language by Melanie Ansley

Theo and the Forbidden Language (The Book of Theo #1)

Theo and the Forbidden Language
written by Melanie Ansley
published by Melanie Ansley, 2014

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonGoodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Where I stopped reading: location 1016 of 3723 (27%) on my Kindle

Why I stopped reading: I thought the gory murder scenes contrasted a bit too much with the fluffy bunny characters, but when a human announced his plan to forcibly create an heir via a rabbit I slowly closed the book and backed away.

 

Melissa

What others have rated this book: According to Goodreads, the average rating for this book is 4.16 stars. It looks like a majority of readers gave this book 5 stars. 63% of the 38 reviews on Amazon were five-star ratings. There are no reviews posted at Barnes & Noble. Just because I didn’t finish this book doesn’t mean you won’t.

About the book – from Goodreads: In the isolated rabbit village of Willago, introverted Theo has a secret. Even though reading and writing were long ago outlawed as sorcery, Theo can’t resist the books hidden in the family cupboard. When a mysterious owl arrives with a priceless collar, all the rabbits try to unlock it, but fail. Theo is the only one to realize it’s a word puzzle, and rearranges the collar’s stones to form a sentence. When the village elders learn that Theo has broken the law yet again, they imprison him.

In the dead of night he is freed by Brune, an axe-wielding bear who believes Theo has a different destiny. They escape to Mankahar, a land where the human empire is robbing animals of speech using a poison called “pacification.” The empire will march to the furthest corners of the land, enslaving all animals to use on their farms, including the rabbits of Willago. The only thing standing in the empire’s way is the Order, a society of free animals determined to defend their way of life. Brune, a member of the Order, convinces Theo to join him in their fight.

But Brune’s cause proves dangerous. Whom can Theo trust, when the empire punishes those who read or write with death? Worse, his fellow animals view the written word as sacrilegious. As the battle for Mankahar’s fate looms, Theo must risk everything—including love—to learn the full power of the forbidden language, or be silenced forever.

 

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Winter Reading Challenge: Navigating Life by Margaux Bergen (spotlight)

Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told MeNavigating Life
written by Margaux Bergen
published by Penguin Press, 2016

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, TargetBook DepositoryGoodreads

About the book – from Amazon: An inspiring, piercingly honest user’s guide to life, written for the author’s daughter and given to her on her first day of college, reflecting tough lessons about family, work, and marriage.

You learn a few useful things at school–the three Rs come in handy, and it’s good to know how to perform under pressure and wait your turn–but most of what matters, what makes you into a functioning human being, able to hold your own in conversation, find your path, know what to avoid in relationships and secure a meaningful job, no teacher will ever tell you. This diamond-sharp, gut-punchingly honest book of hard-earned wisdom is one mother’s effort to equip her daughter for survival in the real world.

Margaux Bergen began writing this book when her daughter Charlotte turned nine and gave it to her right after graduation from high school, when she was setting off for her first day of college. “I am not writing this to groom or guide you to professional or academic success,” she writes. “My goal is rather to give you tools that might help you engage with the world and flourish. . . . Think of this as a kind of developing bath-time wisdom.”

Wise, heartbreakingly funny, and resonantly true, Navigating Life has invaluable lessons for students of life of all ages. It will challenge you to lead a more meaningful life and to tackle the bumps along the way with grace, grit, style, and ingenuity. What The Blessings of a Skinned Knee did for the early years of parenting, Navigating Life does for the next, far more perilous chapter, when new graduates are cast out on the high seas and have to learn to swim and find their way by themselves.

 

Margaux Bergen

About the author: Born in Paris and raised in London, educated at Edinburgh University and living in Washington D.C., Margaux Bergen is the mother of three Millennials. She has worked in international development and women’s leadership. And is still learning the extreme sports of raising three children.

Find Ms. Bergen here: webFacebookTwitterGoodreads

 

 

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