Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My (Even-Though-It's-Not-Over-Yet-I'm-Still-Playing-Along) 2017 Reading Favorites


Even though the year isn't *quite* over yet—thank goodness, since I've still got 50 books to read to reach my goal of 200!—I'm going to play along today and talk about the best reads I enjoyed in 2017.  In the "Books Read in 2017" section at the bottom of my blog, you can see that I starred 22 books as favorites, so I'll have to narrow it down to my 10 most favorite. Before we get to that, though, I want to mention two things:

(1)  I'm hosting a fun giveaway that hasn't received a lot of entries yet.  This means your chances of winning a copy of Celebrate Every Season with Six Sisters' Stuff are really, really good!  Thick and glossy, this cookbook retails for $22.99.  It's full of yummy recipes, easy crafts, and fun ideas for every season of the year.  Whether you want this for yourself or for Christmas giving, you have to enter to win.  Take a look at this post for more details.  Good luck!

(2)  Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme.  It's a great way to discover new blogs, give some love to those you already visit, and, of course, add some intriguing new reads to Ole Mount TBR.  To join in, all you have to do is click on over to The Broke and the Bookish, read a few guidelines, make your own list, then have a good time hopping around the book blogosphere.  If you want to add some pizzazz to your Tuesday, TTT is the ticket.

Okay, here we go with my Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017:


1.  The Beautiful Mystery by Louise PennyI adore the Chief Inspector Gamache series, so it's not surprising that both installments I read this year made it to my favorites list.  All the books are excellent.  This one, eighth in the series, is an especially intriguing "locked room" mystery set in a remote monastery that does not allow visits by outsiders.  Until a monk turns up dead.  Gamache and his right-hand man are called in to find the killer.


2.  How the Light Gets In by Louise PennyThis mystery, ninth in the series, revolves around a dead woman who—Gamache is surprised to discover—is not just any old lady, but a celebrity with a very, very interesting history.  As he investigates her murder, Gamache also has to deal with personal and professional turmoil, all of which make this novel difficult to put down.


3.  The Forgetting by Sharon CameronThis was the first book I read in 2017 and boy, did it start my reading year off right!  This YA novel is unique and intriguing.  The less you know about it going in, the better.  Trust me, though, it's worth the read. 


4.  The Passion of Dolssa by Julie BerryI read this one, an even more unique YA novel, because it was nominated for a Whitney Award.  It ended up winning in the YA General category and also being selected as a Michael L. Printz Honor title, neither of which surprised me at all.  It's a lovely historical that's interesting, exciting, and well-written.


5.  Before We Were Yours by Lisa WingateAdoption stories always reel me in, and this one was no exception.  The novel tells a heartbreaking story based on the real-life antics of Georgia Tann, a money-hungry woman who basically sold babies for her own profit and gain during the 1930s and 40s.  Ultimately hopeful, it makes for an engrossing read.


6.  Worth the Wrestle by Sheri DewI loved this inspirational book about wrestling with your questions and doubts.  Dew writes in an uplifting, engaging way that just speaks right to my soul.  This is a life-changing book, which I absolutely adored.


7.  You May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee EllisI enjoyed this quirky MG novel set in a locale (Provo, Utah) with which I'm very familiar.  It's about a young girl living in a trailer park who dreams of winning the lottery and making a better life for herself, her mother, and her younger sister.  It's a sweet read about appreciating what you have—even, maybe especially, when it seems like you don't have much at all.


8.  Wool by Hugh HoweyThis dystopian chunkster may look intimidating, but it's actually very readable.  The world it introduces is complex and fascinating.  I loved immersing myself in this one.


9.  Lemons by Melissa SavageThis MG novel is as bright and enjoyable as it sounds.  It stars two Bigfoot hunters who make a startling discovery right in their own backyard!


10.  My Bonny Light Horseman by L.A. MeyerI've long been a fan of the irresistible Jacqueline "Jacky" Faber.  Her adventures never fail to make me smile.  Since her creator passed away suddenly in 2014, I am reading the series slowly, savoring each book, knowing there will be no more.  This one, sixth in the series, is just as delightful as all the rest.

There you go, my Top Ten.  You can see the other 12 books I enjoyed most this year by scrolling to the bottom of my blog and checking out the titles on my "Books Read in 2017" list that have asterisks.  So, what do you think of my list?  Have you read any of these?  What were the best books you read this year?  I'd love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor.

Happy TTT!        

Friday, December 08, 2017

Based on Real-Life Events, Historical Novel Tells a Fascinating, Moving Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tennessee, 1939—Life for the Foss family is hardly glamorous, but they get by as best they can.  Living on a shantyboat on the Mississippi, they take what the river provides, carving out a life among the colorful riverfolk.  Members of the makeshift community stick to their own.  It's only when Queenie Foss' labor goes awry, progressing beyond what the local midwife can handle, that the family has to seek help elsewhere.  With Queenie and her husband in a Memphis hospital, it's up to 12-year-old Rill to keep her four younger siblings in line until their parents return.  When several days pass with no word from her folks, Rill starts to worry.  Then strangers come to the boat, snatching up all five kids.  Thrust into an orphanage under the tyrannical rule of a woman both cunning and cruel, Rill is terrified.  How could Queenie and Briny have abandoned their children?  What will happen to Rill and her siblings now?

South Carolina, Present Day—The daughter of a wealthy, well-respected senator, 30-year-old Avery Stafford is poised to follow in her father's footsteps.  Not sure how she feels about the prospect or about her upcoming nuptials, she's already a bit rattled.  A chance encounter with a nursing home patient who calls her "Fern" leaves Avery feeling even more unmoored.  She's never questioned her place in the world, or the word of her highly regarded family, but now she's forced to ask a troubling question: Who is Avery Stafford, really?

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a fascinating novel based on the real-life antics of Georgia Tann, the woman who ran the Tennessee Children's Home Society from the 1920s through the 40s.  After brokering thousands of adoptions, Tann became the focus of a legal investigation that found her guilty of unethical and illegal behavior, which included fraud, kidnapping and child-trafficking.  Although the orphanage was shut down in 1950, Tann died before charges could be brought against her.  Through the fictional Foss family, Wingate brings the horrors wrought by Tann to vivid life.  What results is a riveting novel that is both compelling and touching.  Despite the disturbing subject around which the story rotates, it's a moving, hopeful tale with a predictable, but very satisfying ending.  I loved Before We Were Yours and I'm not the only one—the novel just won the Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction.  If you enjoy engaging historical fiction, you don't want to miss this one.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, scenes of peril, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Simple, No-Fuss Recipes and Ideas Make Newest Six Sisters' Stuff Cookbook a Must for Every Season (with a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although I get most of my recipes online these days, I still love flipping through old-school print cookbooks.  It's fun to explore the culinary possibilities inside their pages, marvel at the drool-worthy food photos, and imagine the ooohhs and aaahhs such delights are certain to elicit.  Who cares if I never actually make any of the recipes?  It's a joy just to think about making them!

I've long been a fan of Six Sisters' Stuff, a website run by—you guessed it—six sisters.  These LDS ladies offer recipes, craft ideas, home decor ideas, etc. that are easy, down-to-Earth, and family-friendly.  I appreciate their no-fuss recipes, especially, because they feature common ingredients that are probably already in your pantry.  The recipes come with clear instructions and glossy photographs.  Bonus: the ones I've tried have been delicious.

Celebrate Every Season, the sisters' newest cookbook, is another fun one.  As its title suggests, the collection is organized by month and focuses on traditional U.S. holiday/seasonal cuisine.  There's a variety of offerings, including snacks, desserts, non-alcoholic drinks, appetizers, etc.  At the end of each month/chapter is a section called "Traditions," which gives additional suggestions for fun ways to celebrate the season.  These include craft/gift ideas, recipes (food and non-food), party tips, and more.  I haven't had the time to try any of the recipes yet, but I've definitely got my eye on some (I'm looking at you, Christmas Tree Brownies!).  

If you haven't quite gotten the picture yet, let me just lay it out for you:  This is a thick, beautiful cookbook that's bursting with awesome.  You definitely want to snag yourself a copy.  It would also make a lovely Christmas or birthday gift for any home cook who digs simple, tasty meals.  What a grand coincidence!  It just so happens that I have an extra copy to give away, courtesy of the lovelies at Shadow Mountain.  I'm even willing to brave the post office in December to get it to the winner by Christmas, so be sure to enter the contest.  See the Rafflecopter below for details. 

(Readalikes:  The Six Sisters have published five other cookbooks, all of which should be available wherever books are sold.  Also, be sure to subscribe to their website for lots of free recipes and more.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


To the FTC, with love:  I received two finished copies (one to keep, one to give away) of Celebrate Every Season from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain.  Thank you!

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Want to win a gorgeous copy of Celebrate Every Season for your very own?  Use the widget below to enter.  Giveaway is open to readers with U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only.  Contest ends December 18, 2017.  Book will be mailed December 19, 2017—in plenty of time for Christmas giving 😀 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Steampunk-ish Alternate New York City MG Adventure Fun and Inventive

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

New York City has always been an exciting place full of life, energy, and mystery.  In the alternate city presented in York by Laura Ruby, it's even more so.  It's all thanks to the Morningstarrs, a set of twins who arrive in 1798 to create a technologically-advanced city full of wondrous marvels the likes of which the world has never seen.  The pair realize some of their ambitions, but disappear without a trace in 1855.  Their most enduring legacy?  The Old New York Cipher, a puzzle with clues based on the glittering city itself, ostensibly leads to untold wealth.  Now, nearly 200 years since the Morningstarrs vanished, no one has come anywhere close to solving the cipher.  Many doubt its existence, seeing the whole mess as a joke left behind by troublesome pranksters.

Tess Biederman doesn't agree with the skeptics.  In fact, the 13-year-old is determined to solve the cipher once and for all.  If she fails, her family could lose the home where Bidermanns have been living for one hundred years.  She can't let her beloved building, one of the original Morningstarr constructions, fall into the hands of some soulless developer.  Especially when he's about as sketchy as they come.  Along with her twin brother and their friend Jamie Cruz, Tess will solve the cipher.  She won't stop until she's able to save her home—and that will only happen when she has the Morningstarr treasure in her hands.  Of course, it won't be easy to solve a 200-year-old mystery, especially when you're not the only one hot on the tail of an answer that leads to wealth untold ...

From its striking cover to its action-filled plot, York—the first installment in a planned series—provides a fun, inventive adventure story that has timeless appeal.  It also offers a mystery that's intelligent and compelling.  Young readers will appreciate the nod to their acumen.  They might, however, be put off by the novel's length and detail, both of which do require some patience.  Their fortitude will pay off in the end as York really is an entertaining romp.  It definitely gets long, but it's worth it.  Mostly. True, I didn't absolutely love the book—I did enjoy it overall, though. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of York from the generous folks at HarperCollins.  Thank you!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Appalachian Snow White Retelling Inventive, Intriguing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Snow-in-Summer Martin lives an idyllic life in the lush mountains of Appalachia.  She frolics in the hills with her lovely mother and wraps herself in the magic of her father's abundant garden.  With a baby on the way, the Martins are all feeling especially content.  For them, life is simple but happy.

Everything changes when the infant and his mother die.  Paralyzed with grief, Lemuel Morton barely seems to remember that he has a daughter.  If it weren't for the kindly ministrations of Cousin Nancy, Snow-in-Summer would be completely forgotten.  Things get even worse when Lemuel marries a mysterious woman whom Snow is convinced must be a witch.  As life becomes increasingly difficult for the young woman, she makes a horrifying discovery—Stepmama, whose power feeds off the life force of others, has plans for her bewitching stepdaughter.  Very sinister plans, indeed ...

I find the people and culture of Appalachia endlessly intriguing, so when Lark recommended Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen to me, I knew I had to read it.  I've never been a big fan of Snow White, but the mountain setting with its natural beauty and magic, both charming and chilling, kept me riveted to the page.  The story is familiar, of course, but Yolen adds enough intrigue to make the tale interesting.  While I didn't absolutely adore the novel, overall I found it entertaining and enjoyable.  

(Readalikes:  A little like Fairest and Winter, both by Marissa Meyer)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Friday, December 01, 2017

Mobile Bookshop Rom-Com A Warm, Fun Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There's nothing 29-year-old Nina Redmond likes more than a swoony, satisfying happily ever after.  Whether that sweeping high comes from her own reading or from helping a hungry reader find the right book, it doesn't matter.  As a London librarian, Nina's greatest joy comes from seeing the perfect HEAs come to fruition.  If only she could find one for herself.

When Nina becomes redundant at work, she's adrift, wondering how to find meaning in her newly unemployed state.  Before she can talk herself out of it, she finds herself traveling to the Scottish Highlands to buy an old bus.  In her mind's eye, she can see what the rusty vehicle is truly meant to be—a mobile bookshop.  London has no need for such a thing, but the folks in tiny Kirrinfief do.  As Nina sets about turning her dream into reality, she becomes more and more comfortable in the tiny Scottish village.  Is it possible she's stumbled upon not just her life's calling, but also a place where she can truly feel at home?  Between her new business challenges, the attention of a handsome Latvian train driver, and the relationship she thinks she might be building with her enigmatic sheep-farming landlord, Nina's once humdrum life has taken some surprising, very intriguing new turns.  What's lurking at the end of that twisty road?  Could it be Nina's long-awaited, much sought-after happily ever after?  

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan is a warm, fun novel about the power of books to transform lives and communities.  It's also about the risk and rewards of taking a chance, even (especially?) a crazy one.  Nina's a lovable heroine whose passion will resonate with anyone who loves books.  Her antics are entertaining and it's easy to root for her happiness.  Perhaps Nina's HEA, especially with her business, comes without enough struggle (as was suggested by my friend Jenny in her recent review of this novel), but that doesn't bother me all that much.  I enjoyed this one, however far-fetched it may be.  This was my first foray into Colgan territory, but it certainly won't be my last.

(Readalikes:  I feel like I should be able to think of a million comparable titles, but nothing's coming to mind.  Help?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), sexual innuendo, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  The Bookshop on the Corner came from my personal library, although I'm not sure how it got there.  #bookhoarderproblems
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