28 September 2020

Where do I start to find a great book?

 Good morning fellow readers!!!!


I have heard many people say, "I would love to read, but I just don't know where to start".  

 My friend Kelly was asked just the other day to help her friend discover that next great book.  In typical "Kelly" fashion, she went one step above the dilemma and created a "Find your next great book" starter pack.   You can download Kelly's guide here.

I would like to give you a  little back story on Kelly.  I am not sure where or when I met her, all I know it was an instant bond.  We began discussing books and have never stopped.  Our reading styles parallel in many ways, but then there are times when our style divert into complete opposite directions.  Kelly has encouraged me to think outside of the box and I am pretty sure she got me into WWII (and now I can't get out :) and I know she has made me read things I never would have had we not been friends. 

Recently (in the last few years),  Kelly started a Bookworms Facebook group, where all the members share bookish things.  Our little club, under Kelly's leadership, has started having bi-weekly book club meetings  (via Zoom) and we have even taken a field trip.  I have enjoyed our meetings, learned a lot, and made new friends.  Our book club is without a doubt the best thing to come out of Covid.  We have topics assigned to us, but not an assigned book.  Everyone just talks about what they are reading and what book we are loving right now.  We then discuss our topic and it is over (it is also the fastest meeting I have ever been a part of).  We get a list of the books discussed after the meetings is complete and we can then go add all the new books to our TBR list. 

P.S. I have added a few things too, in purple. 

Kelly’s Book Recommendations

Historical Fiction:

·        Anything by Susan Meissner---My favorite is Secrets of a Charmed Life, but most people’s favorite is The Fall of Marigolds. Also very good is As Bright as Heaven (about the Spanish Flu pandemic, very good). A Fall of Marigolds is my third favorite book of all time.

·        Anything by Fiona Davis---All of her books are set in an iconic building in New York City. I completely agree with this.  Fiona does an excellent job of capturing both today and yesterday's NYC. 

·        The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

·        The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

·        America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray

·        My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray

·        Anything by Kristin Harmel---When We Meet Again is my new favorite. Kristin is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. 

·        The Gown by Jennifer Robson Jennifer's books will transport you back to a time gone by.

·        If I Were You by Lynn Austin

·        Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

·        A View Across the Rooftops by Suzanne Kelman

·        Where the Lost Wonder by Amy Harmon

·        Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

·        The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

·        Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams

·        A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean

·        The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey WOW!! Just WOW!

·        This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

·        All the Flowers in Paris by Sarah Jio

·        The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

·        Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

·        The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

·        Annelies by David Gillham

·        The War Bride’s Scrapbook by Caroline Preston

·        A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

·        Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson

·        The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

·        The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

·        The Help by Kathryn Stockett

·        The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd



·        The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

·        Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

·        Me by Elton John I enjoyed this too!! I recommend it all the time :)

·        The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma

·        The Killing series by Bill O’Reilly (Reagan, Kennedy, Lincoln are all good)

·        Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

·        Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (the audio is great)

Young Adult:

·        “The Selection” series by Kiera Cass

·        Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

·        “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” series by Jenny Han

·        The “Divergent” series by Veronica Roth

·        Fault in Our Stars by John Green

·        Just One Day by Gale Foreman

·        Just One Year by Gale Foreman


General Fiction:

·        The Dutch House by Ann Prachett (I recommend this one on audio with Tom Hanks reading it. Ann Prachett is from Nashville and owns a bookstore there).

·        Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (I recommend this one on audio)

·        Camino Island by John Grisham

·        Anything by Kristin Hannah

·        Anything by Mary Kay Andrews (beachy reads)

·        The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald This book warms my heart.  Also try the illustrated version released in 2020. 

·        To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

·        The Brethren by John Grisham

·        The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah This book made Alaska a character.

·        A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

·        Me Before You by JoJo Moyes



·        The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

·        The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

·        Wonder by R. J. Palacio

·        The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

·        Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

·        Words on Fire by Jennifer Nielsen

·        The Sky at Our Feet by Nadia Hashimi

·        Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

·        Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde

·        The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley



Reading Podcasts:

·        He Read She Read

·        What Should I Read Next?

·        From the Front Porch

27 September 2020

October Book Pick

 Hello Reading Pals,

I promised myself I was not going to pick a WWII book for the October pick, yes I sure did, but it appears I have lied to myself.  I could not help it, this book is exceptional.  I did not expect to love it as much as I did, and since I did I had to share with you. 

The October pick is The Paris Secret, by Natasha Lester.  The book grabs your instantly when  a little girl named Skye shows off her underwear to a boy she just met.  They become good friends in their youth and are pulled apart because of Skye's upbringing.  Fast forward a few years and Skye is living a life that is different than her dreams and Hilter is trying to scoop up everything he can.  Skye is a talented pilot, but the problem is she is a girl so she can't fight in the war like a man would be able to.  

That is all I am telling you about the plot, what you need to know is Skye is awesome!!! She is tough as nails and an inspiration to every girl she meets, every girl but one that is.  The one who may be the key to her happiness or undoing.  

If you have never read any of Natasha's books you should give the others a try too, she is a brilliant writer who loves to set her stories in Paris.  

23 September 2020

Classic Hollywood reading guide---15 books that will make you love old timey Hollywood

 One of my favorite subjects to read about is old Hollywood.  I am talking anytime from the start of the talkies to maybe the mid to late '40s.  Hollywood could be vile and deceitful and the studios would cover all of that up in an effort to appear it's stars were perfect, just like a movie plot!  To me, the stars are classic, poised, graceful, but also conniving, and backstabbing (there lies the thrilling element for me).  I will pick up any book, fiction or nonfiction, about classic Hollywood, and below are some of my favorites, and I admit I had so much trouble trying to limit it to this number.

1.  This is more of an author and not a singular book, his name is Martin Turnbull and he seems to only write classic Hollywood and that is fine with me because he does it so well.  He has a series of books called The Garden of Allah that are must-reads if you like this genre. There are nine of them and I will list them for you, but only show you the cover of one, the first one, The Garden on Sunset.  Between these covers, we meet three young folks each trying to make it big in this new world called "Hollywood."  They are each traveling on their own career path, but those paths cross and they form friendships that will take us through the entire journey of nine books.   This series has been optioned for movie/tv rights, we will see what happens there, I personally think a series would be fabulous.  

Book 2--The Trouble with Scarlett
Book 3- Citizen Hollywood
Book 4- Searchlight and Shadows
Book 5-Reds in the Beds
Book 6-Twisted Boulevard
Book 7- Tinseltown Confidential
Book 8- City of Myths
Book 9-Closing Credits

2. All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani  

Oh, this one is fascinating!  Remember when you heard that Clark Gable and Loretta Young had a romance and that love produced a child?  This one features that event as the subplot.  You see the romance, the pregnancy, and the aftermath where she adopts the child and never tells Clark about her.  The main plot of the book features Loretta's personal assistant, Alda, and her romance with another on set member too.  I liked these two plots because they paralleled the stars' affair and the supporting player's romance.  

3. Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J Mann.

This book is a nonfiction, jaw-dropping plot (, almost unbelievable unsolved murder in early Hollywood.  William Desmond Taylor is murdered and everyone seems to be a suspect.  I have my theory of who did it, and I would be excited to see what you think too.  

4.  The Purple Diaries...there are two of these you need to try.  The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s by Joseph Egan and Mary Astor's Purple Diary by Edward Sorel.  I am not going to spoil this for you, but be prepared to be SHOCKED!!!  When I first read this I mainly knew Mary from the movie Meet Meet in St. Louis so I was in no way prepared for the real-life Mary.  

5.  West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan

This book is all about the last few years of the Great F Scott Fitzgerald's short life.  I think you might enjoy this even if you don't care for Scott because he is entertaining. 

6. Fireball-Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

This is a wonderful read.  Carole was at the height of her game, she had a wonderful, very attractive, famous husband (The King, Clark Gable) and she was selling war bonds because America had just entered WWII.  She made a decision to fly back home to Pa (her name for Gable) instead of taking a train because she missed him so.  We all know she died in a fiery plane crash, this book gives you the account before the crash, the possible cause, and poor Clark in his grief.  

7. Heart of the Lion by Martin Turnbull

I have to come back to Martin because I love this book.  Irving Thalburg was the Golden Boy of MGM.  You may not have heard of him, but if you are a classic film fan, he brought you a lot of movies and stars you know and love.  He was married to one of the biggest stars on the screen (and my favorite actress), Norma Shearer, but he had lots of health issues.  This book is one of the only ones I have seen on Thalburg's life, a man whose career is very much worth remembering.   

8. The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

Are you holding your phone right now?  If you are you need to say a "thank you" to the woman featured in this book.  Heddy Lamarr was a brilliant film actress, but she also had a brilliant mind.  She experienced a horrible marriage, having been married to a member of the Nazi party.  She was close to being "exterminated" but escapes.  Then she becomes a household name as one of the most beautiful people on the silver screen.  What's her connection to your phone?  She also was an inventor who helped create that wireless technology that we all so adore.  

9.  Stars on Sunset Blvd by Susan Meissner

For the Gone with the Wind fan, as this one takes place on the GWTW set.  Susan is a brilliant writer who doesn't disappoint. Audrey and Violet are the stars of the show, even though they aren't the stars of the film.  

10.  Marlene by CW Gortner

CW has a few wonderful books, but this one is probably my favorite of his. Maybe it is the subject, he paints Marlene in a light I never knew shone on her.  I thought it was just a spotlight, but she has some interesting backstories too.  

11. Goddess-The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers

One of the first Hollywood books I ever read (the first is coming up).  This one is written like a giant investigative report.  It tries to determine whether Marilyn died by suicide or murder and if she was murdered, who did it?  There are photos features, some with FBI censoring, and some autopsy photos (not for the faint at heart).  I have read this so many times just trying to determine how she died myself.  

12.  Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford

Every Hollywood list needs to feature this one even if you think it is more of a fiction read than nonfiction (I go back and forth).  This has more details than the film as it features all the children Joan adopted and all the backstories.  #nowirehangers

13.  Million Dollar Mermaid by Esther Williams

You will read this one and know all about the MGM Studio school of making you into a star.  Esther may have had talent before she joined MGM, but they finessed it and turned her into a bonafide movie star with star billing.  The only thing bigger than Esther's star was the pools MGM built for her, and only her!  Esther will leave nothing to your imagination, and I do mean nothing.  If you are curious about the star treatment school, or her lovers then you will love this book.

14. Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Angers

The first Hollywood book I ever owned or read, and it is a no holds barred book.  The photographs can get quite graphic so no squeamish should pick up this one.  This book is written in pretty much straight tabloid type of text, but it will give you some of the backstories, from here you can go research the stars you are interested in and learn the real truth.  

15. The Forgotten Flapper by Laini Giles

I found this one solely by accident, and I was thrilled to have discovered it.  This author writes books based on forgotten movie stars and they are all wonderful.  I had to choose the first one as my favorite because I have always been interested in Olive Thomas (even have a cat named for her). Olive was a beautiful silent film star who was married to Mary Pickford's brother, Jack.  They had a wild relationship and even wilder times.  Olive would die very early in her life, a shocking death that plays out near the end of this book in vivid detail of what the last bit of her earthly time might have looked like.


15.  The MGM Story: History of Fifty Roaring Years by John Douglas Eames 

A must for any MGM fan, this book leaves nothing out.  It is a perfect book for a classic film fan.  I bought mine years ago and used it for more of a checklist when I desired to see all the MGM classic films.  While this one is more of a research book it will entertain you because you get the movie title and a fabulous description.

Review: Lana's War

Lana's War Lana's War by Anita Abriel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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21 September 2020

Review: The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free

The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paulina Bren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Barbizon was a very interesting nonfiction read. It is a history of The Barbizon Hotel for women with a sprinkling of the history of Mademoiselle magazine too as a lot of the story intertwines with the magazine's history. The book takes us on a journey from the building of the hotel and its origins. Did you know it was built to fill a hole in the housing market, as there was not anything for single girls in the 1920's? A lot of famous women would reside within the hotel's walls, Margaret Brown (yes, the Titanic Molly), Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Sylvia Plath, and many more. I found that most of the book discussed the girls that were in the guest editor program of Mademoiselle magazine. I had no idea that was a thing as a guest editor program in those days.

I received a copy of The Barbizon in exchange for my honest opinion.

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