Monday Musings

Hello dear book friends and blog readers!

Putting together these blog posts takes time; more time then you would think. I am a busy homeschooling, hard-working momma with kids in a lot of activities. Time has a way of passing by quickly when you’re in the trenches of motherhood.

When I started this blog, I thought I would be able to create a whole community of readers that use my reviews as a source for new books to add to their bookshelves.
Then, I realized that blogs are somewhat a thing of the past. Not many people read blogs regularly anymore and they may soon become as relevant as MySpace.

As I worked on growing my blog, I started an Instagram account and I discovered there is a ginormous, amazing, fantabulous community of bibliophiles there. I have had a lot more interaction and built many new relationships in the Bookstagram community. Despite it’s member size, it is as tight-knit a community as you can get on social media.

With all that, I am going to be moving my book reviews to Instagram. They will still have the same characteristics and I will still be giving a quality review of each book. However, it is easier and quicker to write up a review and post it on Instagram then it is to go through the blog writing process and getting a post ready to go. I will still have the reviews post to Facebook as well so you can find them either way.

I will give it a trial time to see how it goes, but I have high hopes that my reviews will do well there. When I post, I always use hashtags for the book, the author and the publisher so it will be searchable on Instagram. Or, you can just be sure to go on over and follow me on Instagram. 🙂 If you want to use Facebook to follow my reviews, you will need to mark my page so that it shows up in your newsfeed first so you don’t miss any of my posts.

Links to find me and my book reviews.
I hope to see y’all over there! 🙂

Instagram~ reviewsandmusings

Facebook page~ Reviews and Musings

GoodReads~ Missy Reviews

Email~ reviewsandmusings@hotmail.com

 

Lone Wolf

Lone Wolf
By Jodi Picoult
Published: 2012, Emily Bestler Books
Genre: Literature, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

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Cara
Seconds before our truck slams into a tree, I remember the first time I tried to save a life.
I was thirteen, and I’d just moved back in with my father. Or, more accurately, my clothes were once again hanging in my former bedroom, but I was living out of a backpack in a trailer on the north end of Redmond’s Trading Post & Dinosaur World.

Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. I have read almost every single one of her books. I love how she takes the hard stuff of life and meets them head on within the pages of a novel that represents some real life struggles. So when I saw this one on the shelves of Half Price Books, I realized that I hadn’t read it yet and knew that I needed it.

I felt that this one had quite a different feeling then her usual books. I liked the main story line, but the secondary story line was odd and I did not particularly care for it. This was not what I thought of as being one of her better books, but it could just be my own personal tastes.

The main story line is about the hard topic of letting your loved on stay on life support or deciding to end their life. It is entwined around the story of a broken family and how each of the mans’ children believes that their decision is the right one. The author delves into family relationships, a patient’s wishes, and what is defined as the value of a person’s life. It was a wonderful story that makes you think about your own family and their future decisions and plans in case of unexpected circumstances.

I ended up skimming the secondary story line and flipping past their pages and enjoyed the main story line. I do not know if it detracted from the story or not, but I still somewhat enjoyed the book; although it is most definitely not my favorite novel of hers to have read.

I used to believe everything my brother told me, because he was older and I figured he knew more about the world. But as it turns out, being a grown-up doesn’t mean you’re fearless.
It just means you fear different things.

Lone Wolf

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A Spool of Blue Thread

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel
By Anne Taylor
Published: 2016, Ballantine Books
Genre: Literature, Family Life

 

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Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny. They were getting ready for bed at the time.

I grabbed this book from Half Price Books because the cover intrigued me and the price was right. I had high hopes for it because it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and it was a Pulitzer Prize winner.

I thought this novel was very soap opera like. To me, it felt like the characters and the story had no depth, that it was very much just a surface skimming novel. As I continued through the pages, I kept waiting and hoping for the author to dig in just a bit more and flesh out the characters, but alas, it never occurred. I felt that the pages were full of fluff and not enough meat.

It was certainly not all bad. It had its good moments. If you’re looking for a very easy, beachy, soap opera type of book, then this is certainly it. I was looking for a Pulitzer Prize winning book and I felt that it did not live up to that.  The ending did not leave me satisfied either.

Perhaps someone else out there has read this novel and has a different perspective? Please share in the comments if you do.

…… When he reached Linnie’s side he took hold of her hand, and the four of them climbed the steps. They crossed the porch. He unlocked the door. They walked into the house. Their lives began.

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel

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The Westing Game

The Westing Game
By Ellen Raskin 
Published: 2004, Dutton Children’s Books
Genre: Children’s Literature, Mystery

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The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east. Strange!
Sunset Towers faced east and had no towers. This glittery, glassy apartment house stood alone on the Lake Michigan shower, five stories high. Five empty stories high.
Then one day (it happened to e the Fourth of July), a most uncommon-looking delivery boy rode around town slipping letters under the doors of the chosen tenants-to-be. The letters were signed Barney Northrup.

And so the mystery begins……

I will be teaching a literature class next fall at my homeschool co-op for 6th-8th graders and I was in search of some “unknown” books to present; this book came as a recommendation to me by a couple of people, so I thought I would give it a read and see what I thought.

I was a little leery at first about a book that revolved around a murder mystery but I was pleasantly surprised with the plot. Ellen Raskin did a great job and kept everything in the book quite clean. Some of the mystery was predictable to me, as an adult, however I did think that the author kept us guessing in a few ways and did a fabulous job of dropping clues through the pages.

I enjoyed how the author wrote from each suspects perspective throughout the book so that we could delve into each of the characters and make our own conclusions. I loved the word puzzles and “games” throughout the book as well. I felt that she also did a great job of tying up all of the loose ends in the final chapters so that you weren’t left guessing or wondering about the characters or the story.

It was a fun mystery novel to read. I definitely recommend it and I have decided to use it in my literature class next year.

I gave it to my 14 year old son to read and see what he thought and he enjoyed the book as well. He said he would certainly recommend it to people and that I should use it for my class next year.

The Westing Game

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the Undoing of Saint Silvanus

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus
By Beth Moore
Published: 2017, Tyndale House Publishers
Genre: Literature, Fiction

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Sergeant Cal DaCosta glanced at the digits on his dashboard as he threw the car into park. “Sheesh. Eighty-four degrees and barely daylight. That body’s going to be ripe.” Several patrol cars were already at the scene, zigzagged all over the pavement.

My book club decided that this month we were going to read Beth Moore’s first publication of a fiction book. I was not all that excited about this choice because I am not a fan of Beth Moore. However, there have been books chosen for book club that I would never have given a second glance had I not had to read them for book club, and I ended up enjoying them quite a bit. I went into this book dragging my feet, but determined to read it.

I will start off by saying, since this was a book from Beth Moore, I was expecting quite a bit. However, there is a huge difference between writing non-fiction and bible studies and trying to write a fictional mystery suspense book.

The book begins with a subplot and then moves forward with the actual basis of the novel. As I started reading through the book, I wondered what this subplot really had to do with the main story line. It somewhat fit within the book, and yet it just didn’t quite fit into the puzzle. I found the subplot pretty boring and unnecessary; and the manner in which it was written did not really fit within the pages of the novel.

As the author works us through the family history of Jillian, we meet a few characters along the way that influence how she moves forward. I quite enjoyed some of the secondary characters of the book, especially Adella, who added a bit of humor and spice to it all.

I thought the majority of the story line was somewhat predictable; more so then the usual mystery suspense novel. As I was reading through it, I had the feeling that I get when I am watching a “B” movie; the thoughts and the effort was there, but it just wasn’t quite working.

I was also disappointed in the spiritual aspect of the novel. Seeing that it was written by Beth Moore, I was expecting a beautiful spiritual journey that would lead Jillian through the mystery of her family’s past. It just wasn’t there. The spiritual journey was hardly there, we didn’t get to see how God worked through Jillian’s troubled past or how he healed her brokenness. It just sort of happened. I expected a lot more and was left dissatisfied with this aspect of the book.

I tried really hard not to have high expectations of this book, however, it IS Beth Moore and you cannot just go into reading one of her books without some sort of anticipation of greatness. If you are hoping for excellence, you will be greatly disappointed.

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This next section was added after my book club met and includes some thoughts and opinions of others on the book and how the discussion may have changed my perspective of the book. 

There were some mixed reviews between the ladies which caused quite a bit of quality discussion. Some of the ladies enjoyed the book, some thought it was just okay, while others didn’t particularly care for it.

The ladies decided that while the subplot didn’t completely fit in with the rest of the novel, it did give a history of the building and it did have a tiny minuscule of significance in the book. However, it was not a necessary part of the book.

For the most part, we all agreed that Adella was a favorite character, that much of the writing was very “southern” and “Beth Mooreish”.  Many also thought that there were a lot of unanswered questions and many characters and story lines that needed to have more added depth to them.

As far as the spiritual aspect, the fact that I was expecting more, there were a couple of other ladies that had the same feeling. However, one of the ladies made a good point; perhaps the author was writing a book that introduced Christ and a spiritual journey in an easy, not overly religious way so that she could reach the unreachable.

While there was not a consensus that this was a wonderful work of literature, what we could all agree on is that it was a wonderfully light-hearted, easy introduction to Jesus for someone who may be seeking or open to hearing about Him.

If you know someone looking for an easy read, that has a lightweight introduction to Jesus, then this is a great book to give them.

If you are interested in giving Beth Moore’s very first work of fiction a try, you can grab it using my link below. Who knows, seeing that it is her first, it may be worth some money in the future. 😉

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

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If I Run

If I Run
By Terri Blackstock
Published: 2016, Zondervan
Genre: Christian Fiction, Mystery & Suspense

There’s blood on the bottom of my shoes. I rinse the soles, knowing the police will trace the impression of the rubber pattern and determine they’re Skechers. They’ll find the charge for the shoe store on my credit card, proving they’re mine.

It has been a while since I’ve read a good, clean mystery novel so I was excited when this was the book club pick for the month.

“Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talk to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested….or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.”

After her best friend is murdered, Casey makes a split decision to go on the run because she feels that it is her only option. Dylan Roberts, newly discharged veteran, is hired to find Casey and bring her back; and he seems to be the only one interested in finding out the truth about the Casey and the murder.

As we follow Casey on her journey eluding capture, we learn bits and pieces about why she chose to run and not stay; a story steeped in the past and wrapped up in Casey’s family.

I would not classify the writing within the book as literature, but it definitely was a well written mystery that kept me flipping the pages to find out what happens next.  And the book has an open ending and you will definitely want to read the next book in the series, If I’m Found, just as I did. Once you read the second book, you can pre-order the final one in the series, If I Live

I had hoped there would be a little more of a spiritual journey throughout the book then there was. There were bits and pieces of mention here and there, but I felt like it was just maybe barely enough to place it in the Christian category. Perhaps there will be a little more in the next book. (Which there was; there is definitely a spiritual journey developing throughout the series. I look forward to reading the final book once it is published to see how Casey’s walk finishes.)

Knowing that Jesus will not be disheartened or crushed, that he won’t feel the need to shout in the streets or rail against anything, that he will bring forth justice in the twinkle of an eye, encourages me. Things look grim, but God is still in control.

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This next section was added after my book club met and includes some thoughts and opinions of others on the book and how the discussion may have changed my perspective of the book. 

The majority of the ladies in my book club enjoyed the book as well and a couple had even gone on to read the second book as well. There was also consensus that we had hoped for a little more of a spiritual aspect to the book, but that perhaps it is just the genre of the book or maybe it would develop as the series went on.

We all agreed that we may not be able to do some of the things that Casey did or to put ourselves in her place. Many of the things that she did throughout the book were quite courageous and knowledgeable.
There was also an interesting subplot within the book that some felt was added to just prolong the book and the series, while others felt that it helped to develop Casey’s character traits.

Overall, we agreed that it was a decently written book and we enjoyed reading something out of the “normal” Christian genre.

I recommend the book, as well as the series if you are looking for a good, clean murder mystery.

If I Run

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The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living: A Novel
By Louise Miller
Published: 2017, Penguin Books
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Fiction

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The night I lit the Emerson Club on fire had been perfect for making meringue. I had been worrying about the humidity all week, but that night, dry, cool air drifted in through an open window.

I do not typically read a whole lot of romance books, but I have seen this one recommended by a few people on Bookstagram, and I have been reading some more intense books lately, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I don’t normally read this genre because I find it predictable and cheesy. While it was a little bit predictable and cheesy, it is written in a fun, lighthearted way that I was able to still enjoy. It also helped that the main story line of the novel was not the aforementioned romance.

In The City Baker’s Guide, we meet Olivia Rawlings, a pastry chef, who inadvertently causes a fire with her latest creation. Running from embarrassment, she ends up in the small town of Guthrie, Vermont. Growing up with virtually no family around her, Livvy becomes overwhelmed with the small town, everyone is family kind of life.

“With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small-town life.”

As we watch Livvy begin to fall in love with the town and people of Guthrie, we learn that despite living in the city her whole life and having a career as a well-known pastry chef, Olivia just yearns for a family and a home to call her own.

There are only a few moments in my life that I have ever wanted to bask in—driving up the coast of Maine beside my father on an autumn afternoon, when I pulled my first chocolate souffle out of the oven, the first time Salty rested his muzzle in my lap and sighed. And now this. I would have given anything to pause time right here.

This is a very light read, the writing is done quite well and the characters are lovable. I recommend it as a wonderful “beach type” read.

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living: A Novel

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The Alice Network

 The Alice Network: A Novel
By Kate Quinn
Published: 2017, William Morrow – Harper Collins
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

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1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Claire is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy.

Thirty years, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. That is until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth….no matter where it leads.

This novel is phenomenal. I cannot say enough good things about this book.
Kate Quinn does a wonderful job weaving the stories of 2 strong women in and out of the past and the present. The author has created a book hugely based upon real characters and events while creating fictional characters and events to expand the story and still staying true to the actual history on record.
I loved how Kate Quinn interlaced the French and German languages within the novel; it gives the reader a rich, authenticity to the history and era of the story-line.

Lili already was extraordinary, Eve thought. Not like me. The thought held no envy–it was what made them both good at what they did now. Lili’s job was to be anyone, to shift with a few tricks of posture or grammar from one persona to another, whether seamstress or laundress or cheese seller. And if Lili’s job was to be anyone, Eve’s was to be no one, to be unobserved and unnoticed at all times.

I knew of spies, women spies, within the Great War, but I had no previous knowledge of The Alice Network. It was interesting to read about the courage and bravery that these women had. They wanted to be able to make a difference in the war and fight for their own country, but were not allowed to because they were not men. Instead, they helped create a network of women spies in an effort to do their part to fight against the Germans. It is an incredible peek into a sliver of historical events and heroes that often went unnoticed and unappreciated.

I would love to give you more details of the book, but I don’t want to ruin this unique work of historical fiction. You just need to purchase it and read it for yourself. Trust me.

NOTE* There is some language in the book but it leads to the authenticity of the characters and the time era of the story. There is also some adult content as well as a couple of scenes that can be a bit gruesome if you are sensitive to those things. 

The Alice Network is a work of art with words. I highly recommend this extraordinary piece of literature to everyone, especially to those that love historical fiction.

The Alice Network is up for voting as Best Historical Fiction Book of 2017. You can vote for it here.

The Alice Network: A Novel

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The Road to Paradise

The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Parks Novel
By Karen Barnett
Published: 2017, WaterBrook
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance

The Road to Paradise was the book that won the most votes for my monthly book club; and it did even come down to a tie breaker. It was not my vote and I was not very interested in reading it, but I am glad to be a part of a book club that helps introduce me to books I probably would have never read otherwise.

The promised view of the mountain peak waited, cloaked in mist like a tissue-wrapped gift not ready to be unveiled. Margie Lane drew a small, leather-bound journal from her pocket and braced it against her knee to jot down the words flooding her mind. The lush treetops to the valley below inspired her.

The Road to Paradise is not in a genre I usually particularly care for but it did have a lot of positive elements within its pages. It was a wonderful light book to read after some of the more deeper novels I have read lately.

The writing in the novel was beautiful. The descriptions the author created of the scenery and outdoor environments surrounding Mt. Rainier were breathtaking and gave you a feeling of being right there in the shadow of the mountain. Karen Barnett  weaves her obvious love of God’s nature throughout the story, giving a rich depth to her novel.

The romance aspects in the book were somewhat predictable and cheesy, as most romance novels are (which is why I don’t usually particularly chose this genre).
I did enjoy watching the unfolding of one of the main characters and their faith journey.

It was quite refreshing that the lead character, Margie, had such a deep love for God and that she was not willing to waver on that, even for the love of a man. I relished that the antagonist received consequences for his behaviors in the story rather than just having it brushed aside.

The ending was a wee bit foretold, however it was pleasant to see that the story turned out how it should have.

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This next section was added after my book club met and includes some thoughts and opinions of others on the book and how the discussion may have changed my perspective of the book. 

Many of the ladies in my book club agreed that the book was beautifully written and that it was refreshing to read a book with a minimal story line. It delightful to read a book that had descriptions about places that the majority of us had visited at some point in our lives. Yes, some of the romance was cheesy and some of the story was a little bit predictable, but we enjoyed reading a book that wasn’t deep and did not require a whole lot of brain function. 🙂

The majority consensus was that the book was a decent read that most of us enjoyed.

The Road to Paradise: A Vintage National Parks Novel

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The Last Magician

The Last Magician
By Lisa Maxwell
Published: 2017, Simon Pulse
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Science Fiction

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I have seen a lot of chatter about this particular book on Instagram in the Bookstagram community, so I wanted to see if it lived up to its expectations. I also wanted to give it a pre-read to see if it would be appropriate for my 13 year old son to read since this is a genre he greatly enjoys.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic–the Mageus–live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark, energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power–and often their lives. 

Lisa Maxwell does a phenomenal job of weaving together the stories a modern-day New York with the past history of the city.
I was concerned as the story began jumping back and forth from the perspective of many characters that I would have a difficult time keeping track of all the characters and where each one fit into the story.
However, as you travel through the pages, you will see how all of those characters intertwine and relate to each other and they each become well-known in your memory.
The author created rich characters that add depth to the story as well as giving them background and relevance to the current situation in New York.

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The book is quite long (498 pages), yet I got so wrapped up in the story that I could not put the book down nor did I notice the length of the book. The pages are packed with mystery, adventure, fantasy, futuristic science fiction and characters that you will grow to love and/or hate.

The Magician had pulled a vanishing act, because the boy before her could have been any factory worker, any laborer in the city…….He looked more unbuttoned and human than she’d ever seen him. 

Along with the mystery and science fiction within the book, the author weaves through some points of social injustice in a way that is relevant to the story but prompts you to think about the current situations in our own country.

 He wasn’t sorry for using their fears and their hopes, their prejudices and their sense of righteousness against them. For distracting them from the truth. He was simply surviving in a world that hated what he was.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the fantasy fiction or science fiction genre. I greatly enjoyed it.

The author left an undetermined conclusion to the end of the story so I hope that there are going to be future books and continue it as a series.

**Note** There is some innuendos to adult content. There is a kiss and some other small innuendos within the book. I personally think my 13 year old is too young to read it, but it would certainly be fine for an older teenager to read.

The Last Magician

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