26 August 2018

Review: The Great Alone

The Great Alone The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Outstanding!!! Alaska is my favorite place on the planet and I felt like I was right back there in the place I love. I felt the wind, the cold, the endless daylight, the crisp air. You were immersed in the middle of nowhere in Alaska. LOVE that!! Not only did my favorite place have a starring role, but there was a captivating story to follow along. Characters I hated, characters I loved. A story that blew me away. I loved every word of ever page of this book. So much that I turned in my library book and went and bought my own copy because I will read again and again.

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Review: Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering

Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got this book while on my staycation. I immediately started making the recipes and loved every one that I tried. My fave was the ranch dressing, because I love RANCH!!! Some ranch dressing have a chemical taste, this is all natural and yummy. I made the walnut bread, buttered walnuts, JoJo's biscuits and I can't wait to make more. GREAT BOOK!

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Review: Next Year in Havana

Next Year in Havana Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I went to Cuba in October 2017 and part of this was just like my visions of seeing Havana for the first time. The story is riddled with politics that I learned about while there. My guide said some of the same things that were in this book. What was exciting was Chanel took those real life events, both in the past and in the present, and told a couple of wonderful stories with those events. I thought every page of this book was beautiful, just like Havana. I thought the families stories was brilliantly told. Marisol leaves the USA to return her grandmother's (Elsa) ashes to the homeland. She had never been there because her family left during the revolution. Marisol is introduced to a different world and love like she never imagined. The ending was so surprising.

I can't imagine a more perfect book.

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Review: The Rooster Bar

The Rooster Bar The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought this one was fabulous. Grisham writes a lot of good books, and somehow he manages to make each one unique, but this plot stood out as outstanding to me and I missed a couple of plotlines while guessing. (I always try to guess what will happen in his books).

Four kids are in law school together when one friend tells them they will never get out of debt, they will never up out on top and then he dies. The three remaining friends spiral out of control about their buddy and totally vanish. This is where it gets very good, where they are and what they are doing. I won't spoil it for you, but it is captivating. I had trouble putting this book down.

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Review: As Bright as Heaven

As Bright as Heaven As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am writing this after my second visit with this book. My original feelings remain true....this book is a knock out! I have read just about every book by Meissner and with every one she seems to get better and better. This subject thrilled me because I am curious about the pandemic flu of the early 20th century. She didn't just take us to the center of the flu storm, she took us through it, and complications that people experienced that either lived through it or lost family members because of it. Setting this book in a funeral home was a stroke of genius!!! We got a new detail that I had never though about while studying the flu.

Parts of this book broke my heart, but most of it will make you value FAMILY. Read it!

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Review: Love and Ruin

Love and Ruin Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of course I adore Hemingway and read any fiction that I hear about that is based on his life. I was intrigued by this one because of the setting. It is the time he moved to Cuba and he and Martha's stories competed against one another. I always wondered what their marriage might have been like. I have always read that Martha was the better writer of the couple and this doesn't do much to tell you she was or wasn't, but does kind of give you an idea that she was the go getter of the 2 at the time.

While not a perfect book, I did enjoy my time in between the pages while it lasted. I recommend for Hemingway fans as you can start to see the spiral begin.

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Review: The Room on Rue Amélie

The Room on Rue Amélie The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a perfect book! An American living in Paris with her young husband. WWII starts and he is caught up telling her secret and lies...then she realizes he was helping the Ally forces, but it is too late for them to mend. I love how she gets involved in the war effort. This is where the book sticks to how she assisted with the allies, while helping a Jewish family that lived across the hall. This book was unique, and captivating. I loved every word on every page. A must for WWII historical fiction fans.

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Review: Between Here and Gone

Between Here and Gone Between Here and Gone by Barbara Ferrer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of all, I loved the setting and the first few chapters were outstanding to me. Then the revolution came and I got a little confused and I didn't love it so much. Then she was in another place (name left out for spoilers) and I was lost and confused. I went on this roller coaster the whole book. I don't love it, I don't hate it. I guess I like it ok. Yes, that is it, it is just ok.

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Review: Yesternight

Yesternight Yesternight by Cat Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book 100% for the cover. What a gem! When I started reading this book I fell deeply into it's clutches and did not emerge until I had finished. This book deals with reincarnation, lies, deceit, marital relations and death. It is a little out of the norm for the kind of book that I read, but I enjoyed it very much. I gave it four stars instead of five because near the end I lost some of the fire I had at the beginning. I just thought it built up and then just hung around there. I had a different ending in my mind, but this one worked for me.

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Review: The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have loved every book that Fiona has written and I have been waiting for this one for months. I must say that it did not disappoint. It was nice to have a sitting in the art world, that is a place I love to be.....then that art world was set in New York City at the Grand Central Terminal. On top of that there was a mystery!! This was a great read and I had trouble putting it down and it ended perfectly. Now to wait for Fiona's next book.

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Review: The Prisoner in the Castle

The Prisoner in the Castle The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia MacNeal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WOW!!! WoW! WOW!!

Ok, I just finished this and I am a big ball of "I can't believe it". This book was outstanding. This series has gotten better and better with every book. Now, there is a lot of murder in each one, it is wartime and Maggie works for the government, lots of deaths.

In this one, the tables have turned and she knows too much government secrets so she is locked away in a castle off the coast of Scotland with many other agents.

You don't get much into the reading of the book before people start dying off. Who is doing the killing? Well, that will lead you through a maze of double crossers, and radio transmissions, a missing German U-boat and finally you will see how it was all done, and you will say, "wow, that ride was worth it".


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Review: Granny Bares It All

Granny Bares It All Granny Bares It All by Harper Lin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of Harper's and read every single book. Every book seems to me like it could be a stand alone. I thought this one was brilliant! Harper took this story to a completely new scenario. Granny (Barbara) gets deep into an unofficial undercover role in an unlikely place...a nudist colony. This was such a fun ride. I believe that it can act as a stand alone, but you won't be sorry if you read the whole series.

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18 August 2018

Michelle's Musings PopSugar Reading Challenge

Every year I do a Reading Challenge and in the last few years, it has been the PopSugar one.  They have fun lists that tend to challenge me to get out of my reading box.  I encourage you to Google "reading challenges" and see all the variety of lists out there.  There are some that are based on certain tastes, some to get out of your rut and even some off the wall lists.  PopSugar (to me) seems to be the perfect list.  They have a variety of book genres on their list....and more that suit what I can handle. I am never going to read that horror book but I will read a book based on the illustration on the cover!

 Here is my challenge list as of today.  I will update this by adding more books until December 31, 2018, when the list is closed.  Please share any books you know of that fit a category that I am missing as I am always looking for my next read.


A book made into a movie you've already seen

True Crime-Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (if you haven't given this a chance, this reads like a Grisham book, but it really happened)

The next book in a series you started-Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Ella MacNeal

A book involving a heist-The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Nordic Noir

A novel based on a real person-Shadow Queen by Rebecca Dean

A book set in a country that fascinates you-Between Here and Gone by Barbara Ferrer (Cuba)

A book with time of day in the title-Alaskan Dawn by Edie Claire (I am reaching a bit, but dawn is a time, kind of)

A book about a villain or anti-hero-

A book about death or grief-The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

A book with female author who uses a males pseudonym-Women and Children First by Gil Paul

A book with an LGBTQ protagonist-City of Myths by Martin Turnbull (this series is soooo good)

A book that is also a stage play or musical-The day the world came to town by Jim DeFede (play is based on the book)

A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you-Falling Up by Leslie Odom, Jr

A book about feminism-Room on the Rue Amelie by Kristen Harmel (she can do the same thing her husband did, just watch)

A book about mental health--This is Me by Chrissy Metz

A book your borrowed or what was given to you as a gift-Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines (this was soooo good)

A book by two authors- You can't spell America without me by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Anderson

A book about or involving a sport

A book by a local author

A book with your favorite color in the title

A book with alliteration in the title-Espressos, Egg Nogs and Evil Ex's by Harper Lin

A book about time travel

A book with a weather element in the title- The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan

A book set at sea-Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

A book with an animal in the title-The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

A book set on a different planet- William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awakens by Ian Doescher

A book with song lyrics in the title

A book about or set on Halloween

A book with characters who are twins Sister's First (nonfiction) by  Jenna and Barbara Bush

A book mentioned in another book

A book from a celebrity book club  Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

A childhood classic you never read

A book that was published in 2018-As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner-Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin Manual Miranda (2016)

A book set in  the decade you were born-The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis (some of it is set in 75)

A book you meant to read in 2017 but did not get to-Margot by Julian Cantor

A book with an ugly cover-The Lost Letter by Jullian Cantor (I have since seen a different cover that is much nicer)

A book that involves a bookstore or library-Alaska Skies by Debbie Macomber)

Your favorite prompt from 2015, 2016, 2017 PopSugar Challenges-A novel set during war time...The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston (beautiful book)

17 August 2018

Not all who wander are lost

My Kindle goes on every travel and always has its picture made with the scenery.  

Our ever-evolving travel wall in our living room.
 It features snapshots from all of our travels

The fluke shot from our first Alaska trip
The White House taken from the lawn in 1994
I have had a severe case of wanderlust since I got my driver's license. I would just get in the car and drive. I never traveled too far, I mean, these were the days before GPS and cell phones...I detested using a road map, so I just mainly traveled to places I had been with my parents.  Then I found a way to not only pay for my new car and car insurance, but I also found a way to travel and get paid for it!  I worked for Cracker Barrel and they were looking for people that worked in the restaurant that would travel to new store openings and train new staff.  The hours were long, but the reward was that I got to see the good ole USA.

All the while, I was dating this guy, who was the son of retired Air Force veterans...now he came along when they were older in life and had already traveled the world and were very content to stay in little Mayfield, KY.  He didn't know it yet, but he had wanderlust too.  We started taking day trips.  Then we married and the travel bug really bit us.....we would wake  up early on a day off and say, "let's go to Tennessee." We got a few days off and we would wake up and say, "Let's go to Florida".
PNC Park in Pittsburgh

Once my in-laws had no kids at home they discovered cruising and finally convinced us to go with them.  We had our little Hannah then, but they said they would babysit while we toured the island so in September 1998 the love of cruising was born. Our first cruise took us to The Bahamas...and it was just the beginning.  We have discovered that cruising can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it.  Since we found out how to do it cheap we have managed to take at least one cruise a year for about 20 years now.  It was perfect for us because you see many places but unpack once.

Places we have seen thanks to a cruise:
The Bahamas (Half Moon Cay, Nassau, and Freeport)
Turks & Caicos
Martinique (Port a Prince)
Puerto Rico (San Juan, El Yunque)
Barbados (Bathsheba)
Mexico (Progresso, Merida, and Cozumel)
Honduras (Mahogany Bay and Roatan)
Key West
Grand Cayman (Georgetown)
US Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and St. John)
Sint Maarten/St. Maarten/St. Martin
Belize (Mahogany Bay)
Jamaica (Ocho Rios)
Cuba (Havana)
Canada (British Columbia, Yukon)
From the WP&YR in Canada between Skagway and Whitehorse
Washington (Seattle)
and my all time favorite.......Alaska (Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm and interior tour to Denali, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Wasilla, North Pole, and Tok).  We love this one so much, we have been there 3 times.  For me, it was 28 days, my husband is only about 19 days.

Other places we have visited by land or plane:
New Mexico (Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Raton, and Santa Fe)
Colorado (Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Denver---I have also been to Estes Park, Cripple Creek, and Central City)
Kansas (Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City)
Missouri (St Louis, Mansfield, Branson, Springfield and Cape Girardeau)
Illinois-mainly southern part (I also worked in Chicago with Cracker Barrel)
Indiana (Evansville to Indy---We packed to move to Terre Haute and didn't go at the last second)
Kentucky-all over
Ohio (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Mason---I also worked in Lima)
New York
Virginia (Virginia Beach, Richmond, Newport News, Williamsburg and Hampton Roads---I lived in Newport News with Cracker Barrel in 1994 and we went back for John's work in 2016)
North Carolina (mainly driving through)
South Carolina (Charleston and Hilton Head)
Georgia (up the "beautiful" I-75, stopped at some Chick fil a's and a few bookstores)
Florida (all over except the panhandle---I lived in Jacksonville with Cracker Barrel)
Alabama (Huntsville to Mobile)
Mississippi (Tupelo to Starkville)
The John Hopkins Glacier
Louisiana (Baton Rouge---made this trip in 24 hours)
Texas (from Amarillo to Houston to Texarkana---I lived in Denton and Austin with Cracker Barrel)
Oklahoma I-40 all the way (maybe I-44 too because I remember a McDonald's over the interstate)
Canada (Ontario)
Pike's Peak 1998

Many visits to theme parts (many of these multiple times):
Walt Disney World
Universal Studios Florida
Six Flags (a few different ones)
Busch Gardens
Sea World Orlando (in addition I have been to San Antonio and the one that used to be in Ohio in Cuyahoga Falls)
Silver Dollar City
Magic Springs
Holiday World

Washington Monument
Garden of the Gods in Colorado

I am not sure where the next adventure will  take us, but I hope we have inspired you to see the world, from the monuments in your hometown to the mountains and glaciers of Alaska.

Hanging with Presidents

Michelle's faves
1. Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve
2. Denali National Park
3.  Havana, Cuba
4.  Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls, NY
5.  Universal Studios Florida/Walt Disney World
6.   Forbidden Beach, Bathsheba, Barbados
7.  Pike's Peak, Manitou Springs, Colorado
8.  Washington, DC
9.  Phillipsburg, St. Maartin
10.  Maegan's Bay, St. Thomas

In Havana

War Memorial on the road to Denali
Hall of Presidents at WDW

My favorite spot on the planet, the Marjorie Glacier
Glacier Bay National Park and Reserve

06 August 2018

Reading Journal/Book log

One day I purchased a very expensive writing journal at the West Little Rock post office and felt guilty for buying it, we didn't have the money and I didn't keep a journal.  Why would have have given in to such an impulse buy? I was reading a lot and never could remember, what book did I read that time and loved?  Have I read that author?  Didn't I read that book already?  So I turned this impulse buy into one of the greatest ideas I have ever had....a book journal.  My journal is in a box in the garage, so I can't feature it because it is 4am as I type this and I can't go out there :) Here is a photo from the internet.  The book was padded (squishy) and was easy to wipe off and featured lined pages.

I used that high priced kitty journal until every page was full.  I then tried new, dedicated book journals and was not happy.  I did many an internet search trying to find something that would be exactly what I wanted:

1. Title
2. Author
3.  Dates read
4.  Ranking
5.  A few notes on the book

I bought a few on Amazon and they had some components but not all, or were small or would not hold at least 100 books (I wanted each one to last one year).

Finally I found the Modern Mrs. Darcy page and it changed everything.    She will give you her book journal pages for free if you join her website.  I have loved the website.  She gives you book recommendations, time management, book challenges, a wonderful little store and is even an author herself.

I did have to tweak her book journal a bit, to suit the things that I had been tracking since 1996 and the things I wanted to add.  I am just going to include a picture since I did not create the original template,  I just perfected it for me.  I have 3 books per page and I copy on back and front.

In 2011, I started keeping a digital record too because I LOVE the reading stats!  I am trying to see how many books I read before turning 50 so there is a column for running total, for my self imposed challenges, the number of days it takes to read a book, did I like it and what material the book was (ebook, paper, or audio).  At the end of the year I total up the number read, challenges, rank the favorite books, average out the number of days it takes to read a book and total of ebooks/audio and paper.

The last thing that I use is a To Be Read shelf graphic that I made for fun.  I list all the books I want to read and color in the books as I finish.  There are other elements on the page you can color too.  Here is a link to my drawing and a little snapshot of what it looks like.  I like Presidents so there are a few Presidents hanging out on my shelf, along with a Carnival Cruise line whale fluke.


Happy day to you and read fast!

05 August 2018

2018 Books of the year (so far)

I am almost at the 50 books read mark for 2018.  I wanted to take a few moments of your time today to recommend my favorites reads of 2018 (so far).

1. Next Year in Havana-Chanel Cleeton
   I saw in October in searching for Cuba books that it was to be released in 2018 and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I wish I had it in October because that is when we went to Havana, I would have looked for more stuff that was featured in the book.

2.  As  Bright as Heaven-Susan Meissner
   I love every book of Susan's that I have picked up....her words and story are so creative.  This one is about the flu pandemic in the early 20th century.  It was hard to put down because the story sucked you into the life and death choices made by people and how one little cough could and would change a whole family.

3.  The Great Alone- Kristin Hannah
   There isn't a day of my life I don't long to live in Alaska.  I search for Alaska books all the time, and usually, they are sapping romance stories, so I didn't have high hopes.  Boy was I wrong!!!  I was taken right back to the place I love and there was a thrilling story to go along with it.  The dad is this book is a horrible human being and you will long to kill him, the state takes on a role of a character all on it's own (as Alaska tends to do).  I love the twists in the plot too!!

4.  The Room on Rue Amelie-Kristin Harmel
    I read a lot of WWII historical fictional and I had been told this one would be perfect for me. I waited for months for my turn for the digital book and when I got my turn, I finished it in a night.  This tells of an American woman in war-torn France trying to save the Allies and her Jewish friend.

5.  Margot-Jullian Cantor
   Another WWII historical fiction book, this time about the life of the sister of Anne Frank.  A nice creative read. I like books about people in history that we know little about and this one was written like that.

6.  My Dear Hamilton- Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
  I will never turn down a book about a President or a President's aide.  I also happen to be finishing my full second year of being obsessed with the play Hamilton.  I like that this story told how Eliza felt (well could have felt) about the events that happened solely on her account, not Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Angelica, just Eliza.

7.  The War Brides Scrapbook-Caroline Preston
  A book with tons of ephemera inside...it's a story that has tons of WWII memorabilia to go with it.  A graphic novel scrapbook with a great story!!! I loved this.  Visually it was thrilling, the pages were crammed full of information and lovely illustrations.  The story could have very well been written by a young bride who sends her man off to war while she worked the factories and her life when the war was over.

8.  The Rooster Bar-John Grisham
  I shall always be a Grisham fan, but this one was my favorite one in years.  Law students realize they will never pay off their debts and take matters into their own hands and try to stay out of the reach of the law.  Thrilling!!!

9.  The President is Missing-James Patterson and Bill Clinton
   I could not wait for this to be released!  I wasn't disappointed.  Too much ISIS or I would rank higher, but I thought it was great.  I loved the President and loved how smart he was and how he was willing to do whatever he needed to do to save America.

10.  The Wedding Date-Jasmine Guillory
   Not at all like a book that I would read, but I saw the cover and I was intrigued.  It was light and fluffy, but not all that mushy romance that keeps me away from those type of books.  This was about two professionals of different races, making it work, or are they?

There is the top 10 for the first half (ok, a little over) the year 2018.