Tuesday, October 4, 2016

THEY WERE LIKE FAMILY TO ME by Helen Maryles Shankman - Book Blast

Critically praised, beloved by readers, In the Land of Armadillos has an evocative new cover and title, They Were Like Family to Me. Now in Paperback! Available October 4.

1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish citizens. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.

Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town. We meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the Jewish creator of his son’s favorite picture book; a Messiah who appears in a little boy’s bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker, struggling to survive.

Channeling the mythic magic of classic storytellers like Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer and the psychological acuity of modern-day masters like Nicole Krauss and Nathan Englander, They Were Like Family to Me is a testament to the persistence of humanity in the most inhuman conditions.

“One of the most original and consistently captivating short story collections to have appeared in recent years…(They Were Like Family to Me) is a singularly inventive collection of chilling stark realism enhanced by the hallucinatory ingredient of top-drawer magical realism, interrogating the value of art, storytelling, and dreams in a time of peril and presenting hard truths with wisdom, magic, and grace.” —Jewish Book Council

“Moving and unsettling…Like Joyce’s Dubliners, this book circles the same streets and encounters the same people as it depicts the horrors of Germany’s invasion of Poland through the microcosm of one village…Shankman’s prose is inventive and taut… A deeply humane demonstration of wringing art from catastrophe.” —Kirkus Reviews

“…by turns forthright and tender, oblique and intimate, brutal and ethereal…Though each story stands beautifully on its own, it is the completed tapestry of interwoven details that finally reveals the entire picture and provides the full emotional depth of the collected stories…The author’s greatest accomplishment is in leaving the horror to speak for itself, and instead giving voice to the enchantment.” —Historical Novel Society

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Inkspirations by Lorrie Bennett

Inkspirations by Lorrie Bennett

Inkspirations is a beautiful new adult coloring book by illustrator Lorrie Bennett, and when I was first offered the opportunity to review a coloring book for TLC Book Tours, I responded with an extremely enthusiastic "yes!" I love coloring books and have a healthy stack of them on my bookshelf and my nightstand.

I can tell you that the illustrations in this book are beautifully rendered and highly detailed, and that the first few pages of the book are filled with full color examples to spark your creativity, as well as some information about color families and theories.

However, Inkspirations is a Christian coloring book, which I hadn't realized until it arrived on my doorstep. Whoops! My being not a Christian, I thought I might not be the best person to review it, so I passed it along to a friend who is a Christian annnd enjoys coloring as much as I do and got her opinion on it, which I'll share below:

I'm a sucker for all things elephants, so I *had* to share a snap of this amazing illustration!

"This coloring book is gorgeous!! The artwork pairs perfectly with the scripture, and the details are wonderful! I can't wait to use it for myself, but also to help connect with my family and our faith in a such a creative and fun way. Thank you so much for thinking of me and for passing this book along to us, we're sure to enjoy every last bit of it!"

Thank you to Lisa at TLC Book Tours and the publisher for the review copy of this book! To see what my fellow tour hosts though, please click here.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


This Week I am Grateful For:

* Thunderstorms and the rainbows that follow them.
* Listening to my husband read our son bed time stories and sing him to sleep.
* A fresh haircut.
* Exercise.
* Taking care of myself again. Because that means this fucking fog is finally lifting again and maybe I'll be laughing more easily again soon.
* Music and Harry Potter re-reads.
* Huge hug tackles after Orion yells "hug!" and charges me down to jump up and wrap his arms around my neck.
* Lone long walks in the heat. This just ties back in to "taking care of myself".
* Being OK with what I do and don't get done. Knowing it's enough.
* Hard stable ground and strong winds whipping around.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams

The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams

From the Publisher:
The daughter of Jewish immigrants, Josephine shames her tight-knit family (her over-bearing mother begins to sit-shiva the minute Josephine walks out the door) when the 19-year-old follows the smooth-talking and attractive lawman, Johnny Behan, from San Francisco, California to Tombstone, Arizona. Hanging on the slim promise of a wedding, the naïve young woman eventually discovers the older man’s untrustworthy side. She also learns that divided loyalties and corruption plague the silver boom town—with her fiancé at the conflict’s heart. And she can’t pretend she hasn’t noticed the courageous straight-shooter Wyatt Earp who becomes Behan’s sworn enemy.
When Behan betrays Josephine, she leaves him—and immediately faces the harsh realities of being a woman on her own in the Wild West, a world where a lady’s every action depends on a man’s approval. Adams’s storytelling from a female perspective, and her rich and descriptive style, allow the reader to feel Josephine’s desperation as she realizes the only available options she has are prostitution or returning home. That is—until Wyatt Earp declares his love for her. As their romance blossoms and their bond deepens, Behan’s jealousy ignites a rivalry destined for the history books.

My Thoughts:
A well imagined romance set in the Wild West.

Admittedly, I wasn't terribly fond of Josie/Sadie through much of the book. Her vanity rubbed me the wrong way, and I had expected her to be a bit more plucky and self assured than a hot mess of emotions around attractive fellows.

That said, her interactions with the others in the story kept me reading, and I read it quite quickly. I'm a sucker for a decent western (completely my dad's fault) and the one thing Josie and have in common is enjoying some scenery - and the descriptions delivered! The other characters; Doc Holliday, his gal Kate, Mollie the photographer, Johnny the Scoundrel, Madam Moustache - were all entertaining and enjoyable in their own ways. Yes, even the cad. You need a good cad in these sorts of stories, and Behan was top notch.

Overall, an enjoyable read.

Find Thelma Adams and The Last Woman Standing around the web:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Woman-Standing-Novel/dp/1503935183?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28090852-the-last-woman-standing
Author's Website: http://thelmadams.com/wordpress/

Thank you to Lisa at TLC Book Tours and the Publisher for the review copy of this novel. To see what other readers on the tour thought, click the image above.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On the Farm

During our renovations, we took time to stop for play and rest. One of the things we did was take Orion to visit a local farm.

Growing up in farm country, farms were old hat to me. Half of my friends grew up on farms! But living in the suburbs, Orion's missing out on really seeing the animals he sees in his books. Luckily, there's a small farm about 3 minutes from my best friend's house that had an open house and tour last weekend.

So we loaded our little dude in to the car and drove across town to get our fill of farm fresh cheese and yogurt (from sheep and goats! No cows here.), touch all the wool blankets and skeins and roving that I wanted to throw all of our money at, and of course, visit with the animals.

There were some little lambs that we were able to get up close with and Orion was maybe a bit too excited about them; especially their tails! So I had to hold him back to keep him from hug/tackling them or trying to drag one home by its tail. Poor things!

We *do* have horses next door to us, so while he was incredibly interested, and even a little freaked out by, the sheep and goats he was completely comfortable around the horses. I laughed at how he gave this friendly old guy the brush off - "quit sniffing my hair, horse!"

We'll definitely go back when they have their next open weekend!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: Follow the River Home by Corran Harrington

Follow the River Home by Corran Harrington

From the Publisher:
Daniel Arroyo has suffered a lifetime of guilt over the sudden death of his infant sister, who died when he was eight years old. He now lives his middle years between that guilt and worsening episodes of PTSD from a Vietnam he left thirty years ago. When a violent encounter on a dusty highway forces Daniel to face what haunts him, he finds himself pulled back to the neighborhood of his youth, where old houses hold tired secrets. What really happened on that steamy August afternoon? The answer comes spilling from the old neighborhood, and Daniel begins to find his way home. Corran Harrington takes the reader along the Rio Grande, from its headwaters to the sea.

My Thoughts:
Spectacularly written, but quite a bit different than what I had anticipated.

I had expected one fluid story, but Follow the River Home is actually two parts - Daniel's story to uncover the truth about his past which is then followed by supporting short stories that flow back in to the main story - just like the tributaries of a river. I actually found that I enjoyed the short stories more than the main story; they were contained worlds that were richly explored and wrapped up neatly in just a few pages. Plus, I had been dead curious about some of the characters Daniel briefly encountered and was pleased that, for once, an author filled in their stories!

All of the stories were crafted with care, and it's definitely worth a read.

Find Corran Harrington and Follow the River Home around the web:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0985520027/ref=cm_sw_su_dp
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28194005-follow-the-river-home
Author's Website: http://www.corranharrington.com/

Thank you to Lisa at TLC Book Tours and the publisher for the review copy of this book. To see what others on the tour thought, please click the image above.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Veggies, Renovations, and Summer Scenes

There's been quite a lot going on here lately, and due to the relentless heat, I'm grateful that a lot of it has been inside or in the shade!

Orion's been super in to helping Joe and I out with every thing we do lately; when I'm in the kitchen he pulls out the folding step stool and drags it over for me to unfold so he can "help" with cooking dinner. Since he still tries to touch the stove or grab knives, he helps by standing at the edge of the counter holding the spice jars. And, if something is cool, putting ingredients in the bowl/pot and adding those spices.

Over the weekend, he helped me make two jars of fridge pickles. Then helped Joe mow the lawn while I started my very first batch of sauerkraut.

We've been prepping the house this past week for our first major renovation in the 5 years since we moved in. We're tearing up the carpet in the living room and 2 hallways and replacing them with high quality laminate, and changing the wall colors. Since we'll be replacing the floors, we need to move all of the furniture out, which means we needed to take all of the stuff off of it. We also had to take all of the pictures and paintings off the walls, which makes our home feel awfully naked.

Our poor cat, Molly, has been freaking out as things disappear, while Luna and Orion are unphased. Molly's moved enough times to know that usually when stuff gets packed away, it means he's going to get stuck in a crate in the car at some point. Poor thing.

When it's been cooler in the evenings, we've been pushing Orion on his swing and hanging in our hammocks watching the fireflies and bats and taking a reprieve from all of the work that's been or is waiting to be done.

I'm learning how to hold on to the to-do list a little less tightly and to chillax every now and then. Even in the midst of a major project.