What I Read in August


beach reads

As summer winds down (it’s not over! it’s not over!), so does my reading list. I tried to cram in as much beach reading as I could this year, trying to balance reading with writing. But as edits and revisions took over my life for this new novel, I was only able to read five books. Still, they were good ones:

summer 69 Elin Hilderbrand (Queen of the Summer Beach Read) released this one in June, just in time for a summer beach read. As the author herself turned 50 in July, she tells a story about four siblings (sisters Blair, Kirby, and Jessie, brother Tiger) who each experience that memorable summer in different ways. The moon landing, Woodstock, and the Chappaquiddick incident on ‘the other island’ are all featured. Definitely a must-read. I bought my copy at Ink Fish Books

before I stopped by my other favorite local bookstore, Stillwater Books, and found this one. Looked good, so I picked it up. OMG. This book! As soon as I finished it, I told my husband he had to read it. He’s really into it. It’s a novel based on a real-life scandal, involving the kidnapping of poor children and selling them to wealthy families. Heartwrenching but ultimately hopeful.

blessings She’s probably my favorite author, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read this book. It was part of my library’s big book sale (yes, I filled a giant tote bag!). It took me a little longer to be invested in this one, but Quindlen never disappoints me. This book was first published in 2002, and delves into family secrets and why they’re kept. Beautifully crafted, with rich descriptions and characters you can almost feel sitting next to you.

Winter This one I downloaded through my library’s program (I don’t think Hilderbrand needs the money, so why not spend on local and indie books?). Maybe I missed it, but this is part of a series. The ending left me feeling unsatisfied, but that was because there’s a sequel coming. Apparently the sequel drops in early October. Still a good book, but if you’re a fast reader like me, maybe it’s better to wait until all the books are out.

kitchen yarns I also downloaded this one through my library. It’s a collection of essays, with recipes. Unfortunately, I knew most of these stories already, and they seemed somewhat disjointed (introducing us to her grandmother Mama Rose once was sufficient). The recipes were fine, although a chapter devoted to butchering a pig was, to me, revolting. Still, Hood can write, and many will find this book charming.

 

So, no more “What I  Read” posts for a while. I need to get this book done!

However, if you love reading as much as I do, and if you’re on Facebook, we’ve got a great event coming up November 18. It’s a Rhode Island Authors Showcase featuring a variety of authors. Each one will have something to give away, and the Grand Prize is a $250 Amazon gift card, just in time for some serious shopping. You can find the link HERE and it’s all online. I hope you’ll join us!

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What I Read in July


beach reads

 

 

Even though I’m still not finished with rewriting and revising my new novel (I know, I know! But it will be ready for late November, I promise), I’ve been reading as much as I can this summer. So here’s what I’ve read in July:

Just Keep Going I worked with Judy Davis, and when I discovered she’d written a book about her cross-country bike journey, I grabbed a copy. You can get a copy HERE.

Starting at the Pacific coast in Oregon, Judy rode all the way to Providence, Rhode Island, and raised over $70,000 to fund a swimming program for children. Along the way, she kept journal entries and took photographs, which make for a most interesting book.

MAID I was attracted to this book by the cover, and I thought it was terrific. Stephanie Land writes a true-life depiction of poverty in America. It’s real and it’s difficult. And the author is remarkable – through determination and willpower, she does everything she can to keep her daughter. You can buy it at your local bookstore (do that first!) or here.

Crawdads My husband picked this one up at one of our favorite bookstores, Stillwater Books in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. And while he was reading it, he’d say “Martha, you’re going to love this book.” My reply? “Well, then, hurry up and finish it!” He did. I did. We both loved it – all of it, even the ending! Can’t wait for the movie.

Perfect Couple There’s a reason Elin Hilderbrand is called the “Queen of the Beach Read.” Here Hilderbrand ventures into murder mystery, but still set on the island of Nantucket, and still with a cast of memorable characters. I haven’t yet read all of her books, but I’m working on it! Pick up a copy here.

a piece of the world Did you love Orphan Train? I did, and it introduced me to the marvelous Christina Baker Kline. I also read Sweetwater and grabbed this book when I found it. If you’re familiar with Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World,” then this is the book for you. Described as “stunning and atmospheric,” A Piece of the World is a fictionalized tale of Christina, the subject, and Andy, the painter. Meticulously researched and written so beautifully, I loved this book. You can purchase it here.

Cliff Walk This one was fun. As a native Rhode Islander, I could relate to the names and places DeSilva sprinkles throughout his story. But even if you’re not familiar with Little Rhody, you’ll enjoy this ‘hard-boiled mystery.’ I picked up the hardcover at Stillwater Books.

The Identicals More Hilderbrand! And why not, I’ve been slathered up with SPF50 and reading on the beach (when I’m not jumping waves or walking the coastline). Loved this one, too. Reminiscent (slightly) of “The Parent Trap,” this book visits both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (locals have strong ideas about their favorite island!). Although you can buy it online or at  your favorite indie bookstore, I actually downloaded this one from my library (shout out to the West Warwick Public Library!)

pumpkin Yes, it’s summer, and you may not be ready to think about autumn. But this book was a true delight! Set in New Hampshire and smack in the middle of fall, Beth Labonte has written a sweet and endearing romance. Loved it. Get yours here.

Islanders To finish out the month of July, I visited my other favorite Rhode Island bookstore, Ink Fish Books in the lovely small town of Warren, Rhode Island. Have you been there yet? Don’t you LOVE it? I picked up this one on the recommendation of a woman who was in the store, and I’m so glad I did! Set on Block Island (Nantucket and the Vineyard may belong to Massachusetts, but we have Block Island), Meg Mitchell Moore has woven together the stories of three individuals. I couldn’t put this one down, it was so good. Looking forward to reading more by MMM.

So, how about you? I’ve got six hardcovers and tons of digital books in my ‘to-be-read’ pile, but edits are calling to me. So, it’s back to my work-in-progress for now, but I always make time for reading in the afternoon.

See you soon for updates! Keep reading!

What I’ve Read So Far – June 2019


As usual, I’ve been spending a good part of this year writing, not reading. That’s what happens when you hold yourself to releasing a new novel every December! But reading is important, too. I’ve managed to get through a few books since the beginning of the year. Here’s what I’ve read so far:

Fly

Hurt by the people closest to her, Julia decided long ago love isn’t worth the pain. When she meets Will, she fights her attraction to him, unwilling to risk her heart, but is unable to resist their passionate connection – until a ghost from Will’s past surfaces and forces them apart. Two hearts shattered, Julia and Will’s paths diverge – until fate steps in one sunny September morning, offering them a second chance at true love. But is love enough? Can they break free of their painful past and allow their love to take flight?

This was a fine first effort by a local (Rhode Island) author. Looking forward to reading more from her.

Robin

Robin— twenty-five, lonely, aimless— is drifting through summer in Providence. It’s the worst recession in generations, but she’s got bigger problems. For starters, her father is losing his mind to dementia. (He also might be falling love, which is nice, but begs the question: is it adultery if you can’t remember you’re married?) 

There’s more, a lot more, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Multiple typos distracted me, and I do wish the author had hired a professional copy editor, but the story is very, very good.

German Girl

Berlin, 1939. Before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now the streets of Berlin are draped in ominous flags; her family’s fine possessions are hauled away; and they are no longer welcome in the places they once considered home. A glimmer of hope appears in the shape of the St. Louis, a transatlantic ocean liner promising Jews safe passage to Cuba. At first, the liner feels like a luxury, but as they travel, the circumstances of war change, and the ship that was to be their salvation seems likely to become their doom.

This book was released in October 2016, and I’d heard a lot about it. It’s well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of WWII fiction. I was drawn in to the dual story lines, and the fact that this is based on true events was all I needed. Wonderful!

Im Fine

Wife. Mother. Breadwinner. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is doing it all—and barely keeping it together. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, appears to be sailing through life. As close as the two women are, Jenny’s passionate marriage, pristine house, and ultra-polite child stand in stark contrast to Penelope’s underemployed husband, Sanjay, their unruly brood, and the daily grind she calls a career.

The title alone grabbed me (right??), and the story inside held me captive. Loved it, all of it. I don’t want to give anything away, but this book grabs you early and keeps you reading.

RoisinBehind the brightly colored doors of Miller’s Avenue live people with very complicated lives…

Do they ever! From possibly my new favorite author (it’s pronounced “Ro-SHEEN”) comes one of her earlier books. I just couldn’t get enough of these characters and can’t wait to read more from Roisin.

becoming Finally! My husband gave me this book for Christmas and I just finished it this past weekend. It’s easy to set aside and easy to pick back up. Kudos to this remarkable, brilliant woman for her honesty and inspiration.

And what I’m in the middle of now:

Far Field My good friend Lisa Valentino of Ink Fish Books recommended this book, and I just started it yesterday. Read the first hundred pages without taking a break. Yes, it’s that good. And how about that gorgeous cover?!

 

So, how about you? Summer’s here – what’s on your must-read list?

What I Read this Year


Not enough! So many books, not enough time. But perhaps there are a couple of books on my list that didn’t make it onto yours, and maybe you’ll want to add them to your TBR pile:

fire and fury Fire and Fury – Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff lived up to its hype. I don’t know that there was anything startling in it, because this administration has been reported on every day. And by now, there’s just so much more…

Galway Stories Galway Stories by Kevin Barry and Mary Costello really helped me understand more about Galway, the setting for my most recent novel. Sometimes gritty, sometimes delightful.

No Excuses No Excuses by Yolanda Alvarez. Let yourself be uncomfortable as you read this stark memoir. My bet is that your upbringing was very different from the author’s. Still, in spite of all the negatives that can be associated with Alvarez’s childhood, she survived. And thrived. And succeeded. Her story will fill your heart.

The Paris Wife The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This book is about Ernest Hemingway’s wife Hadley Richardson. Written mostly from her perspective, this is a must-read.

This Unfamiliar Road This Unfamiliar Road by Jill Fague. Fague’s first-person account of her battle with breast cancer will move you. With clear and honest writing, she details not only the procedures but all of her emotions.

Thirteenth Star Under the Thirteenth Star – an anthology of writing by Rhode Island authors is the Association of Rhode Island Authors’ second annual anthology. Inside you’ll find a variety of selections from some of Rhode Island’s best.

corey I’m Still Here by Corey Calligano. Another young woman who battled breast cancer. Calligano writes in an honest voice, holding nothing back. A brave and compelling journey.

Damiani Il Bel Centro by Michelle Damiani details her family’s year abroad in the small town of Spello, Italy. Written with humor and introspection, you’ll follow the Damiani family from their home in Virginia to their new home in Italy.

Whitman Have Mercy by Barbara Ann Whitman. Using her extensive knowledge as a family support counselor, Whitman created a novel based on a young girl in the foster system. You’ll feel as if you know Mercy as she navigates the complex road to adulthood.

Matilda Messing with Matilda by Cat Lavoie. Lavoie is one of my favorite romantic comedy authors, and for a sweet escape, pick up this one. Actually, read everything Cat has written!

How to Walk Away How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. Give me a book about hope and despair and I’m hooked. This one ticks all the boxes, with wit, raw emotion, pain, heartache, and ultimately, love and acceptance. Probably the best book I read this year.

North Haven North Haven by Sarah Moriarty. I’ll admit, I picked up this book because I lived in North Haven (Connecticut) for a short time as a small child. This story, however, has nothing to do with Connecticut and everything to do with an island in Maine and a family vacation home. It’s a great summer read.

Hood The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood. Hood’s early works are magnificent, but like The Obituary Writer and An Italian Wife, this one left me less than thrilled. It’s somewhat autobiographical, and the ending was so far-fetched I was left disappointed.

Stranger Stranger or Friend by Silvia Villalobos. This thriller will grip you from the beginning. The writer uses tension skillfully in her scenes, and if you’re a murder-mystery reader, grab this one.

Mai Crossing the Bamboo Bridge – Memoirs of a Bad Luck Girl by Mai Donohue. You’ll find it difficult to pause your reading of this riveting memoir. From her forced marriage in a Vietnamese village to her escape and survival, against extreme adversity, you’ll come to admire this remarkable woman.

truth The Pendulum’s Truth by Leigh Brown and Victoria Corliss. The writing team of Brown and Corliss make team-writing work so well, you’d think they were just one person. They convey emotion with excellence and tell a great story that you’ll truly enjoy.

How Hard How Hard Can it Be? by Allison Pearson is a laugh out loud funny, brutally honest account of how women of ‘a certain age’ find themselves being pulled from both directions. So relatable to women dealing with work, kids, aging parents, and marriage.

Fear Fear by Bob Woodward. I probably didn’t need to read another book about the chaos in the White House, by the chief chaos creator, but it’s Bob Woodward. This account of the Trump presidency is spot-on, but it’s not like you’re going to feel any better after reading it.

print A Printer’s Choice by W.L. Patenaude. I’m not typically a reader of science fiction, but I was thoroughly engrossed in this well-written novel about the classic battle between good and evil.

A Place of Springs A Place of Springs by Hannah Colby. Colby’s big book was years in the making, and her dedication to scene and detail is evident. An epic tale of love and loss, despair and hope, against a backdrop of the horrific Bosnian War.

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen. How I missed this one is beyond me. No wonder she’s one of my favorite authors.

Well, that’s it! How about you? What was the best book you read in 2018? What book are you looking forward to?

It is the heat. And it is the humidity.


Nearly September. 95 degrees today. Heat index 104. Just like yesterday.

So who else is cranky? I know (at least) three people who live without air conditioning. I don’t know how they live, though. Our thermostat is set at 74 and I’m hot. But I’m grateful for A/C, especially at night.

I’ve never liked summer best. Fall is my favorite. How about you? Depending on where you live, you might not experience four distinct seasons. But by September, the sun rises later and it’s dark by 8:00 now, so I want that cool air to follow.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the second round of edits for my new novel, so now it’s off to my trusted readers, who give me honest feedback. I sometimes can’t see a plot hole or a character who uses repetitive language, but they can! I’m still on track to have this book ready by December 1 – the day I’ll be at the Rhode Island Authors Expo!

Until then, I’m reading a lot (what are you reading?). I loved How to Walk Away by Katherine Center and Crossing the Bamboo Bridge by Mai Donohue (her memoir of growing up in Vietnam – you won’t be the same after reading it). I’m almost done with How Hard Can It Be? by the hilarious Allison Pearson, just started Alternate Side by the wonderful Anna Quindlen, and The Pendulum’s Truth by the very talented writing team of Leigh Brown and Vikki Corliss. Vacation next week means lots of reading!

Autumn will get here, eventually. You won’t hear me complain about the cold. Not me.

November is RI Authors Month! (well, at least on my blog)


Again this year, as a lead-up to the Fifth Annual Rhode Island Authors Expo, I’ll be featuring a different RI author on this blog. (The Year of Living Minimally posts will continue on Fridays, too.)

Here’s an opportunity to learn more about an author you may or may not know. Many of the authors are also giving away a book, and all you need to do to enter is comment on the post! Here in tiny Rhode Island we have hundreds of authors – some with one book written, some with many. Genres include romance, history, horror, literary, memoir. There’s something for everyone.

So I hope you enjoy the coming month’s posts and get to know some fabulous authors!

Book-a-Day #Giveaway! Bosom Buddies by Mary Jane Condon Bohlen


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The author writes:

In the spring of 1993, I was drawn to a magnificent tree over 400 years old, standing 90 feet high, with a circumference of 26 feet. It had been declared dead in 1969 due to damage by gypsy moths. In its younger days it was a sacred place where Native Americans would come to decide tribal issues. Taking many photographs, I returned home to develop and print my images. I began seeing a one breasted figure that inspired me to create an etching titled “BOSOM BUDDY.” Although gnarled and broken, I discovered the soul that lived on in this timeless beauty. In 2009, a new oak was planted in its shadow as the old lady needed to be taken down, her life having been an inspiration for all those who chanced to meet her.

In the spring of 1992, I too, had found myself gnarled and broken when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and treated with a radical mastectomy. The Ledyard Oak became my “Bosom Buddy.” After being cancer free for sixteen years, I discovered in May of 2008 that cancer had returned and I again went through surgery to remove my remaining breast.

For over twenty years I have had the dream of creating a book of photos and essays showing the scars and reconstructions, the thoughts, fears, inner spirit, and especially the hopes of those brave enough to bare their bodies and show their beauty, all inspired by this magnificent tree.

The women depicted in this book  are representative of the many thousands of brave warriors who battle this dread disease called breast cancer. They have taken their bravery one step further by allowing themselves to be photographed in subtle and delicate settings. Meet these women, read their stories. They are survivors.

“I wanted you to know just how beautiful and meaningful I found the book. Indeed, it is a masterpiece.” ~ Sr. Joan Rohan, DW

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Like the Bosom Buddies Facebook page here and find out where to purchase the book at this link https://books.google.com/books/about/Bosom_Buddies.html?id=6YAUswEACAAJ

You can WIN a copy of this book! Just leave a comment below. One winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after publication.