Sweet readers, it’s been many moons since I last wrote a Title Talk post. That is a disappointment to me because one of the reasons I began to blog was in hopes of sharing reviews of the books I read in this season of life. I had also hoped to share lesson plans and activities for some of my favorite children’s books from my days as an elementary school librarian. While I have done a little bit of both, it’s been 4 months since my last book review post. Maybe I should aim for quarterly book reviews?
Joining all the girls for the “What’s on Your Bookshelf?” this month: Deb from Deb’s World, Sue from Women Living Well After 50, Donna from Retirement Reflections and Jo from And Anyways. But coming in a bit fashionably late with my post.
Title Talk 06.2023
You might remember I host an online book club called “Come Read With Me” on Facebook with whom I read at least 1 book a month. At the end of each month, I email the members summaries for about 8 books and a voting link on Survey Monkey. They have about 4 days to vote before I announce the winning title in our Facebook group. I very rarely vote because I don’t want to sway things. And the group has selected some books that might not have been my first choice but I am never disappointed. We are reading The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise. I always explain that I am a slow reader – and many times it takes me the whole month to get our book read. This month is no exception. Only about 80% finished but many of the gals read this one in record time.
Aside from those ‘reads’, I try to keep up with nonfiction books that cross my path, some of the books recommended by bloggers I follow and the children’s books recognized by the Texas Library Association.
Books I am Currently Reading
These are the books I am reading right now.
by Colleen Oakley
4.40 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.13 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
Twenty-one-year-old Tanner Quimby needs a place to live. Preferably one where she can continue sitting around in sweatpants and playing video games nineteen hours a day. Since she has no credit or money to speak of, her options are limited, so when an opportunity to work as a live-in caregiver for an elderly woman falls into her lap, she takes it.
Thus begins the story of a not-to-be-underestimated elderly woman and an aimless young woman who—if they can outrun the mistakes of their past—might just have the greatest adventure of their lives. ~ Goodreads
I am about two-thirds of-the-way through this book. It is a fun read! According to all the gals in my book club who have finished, there are some unexpected twists before all is said and done. Eighty-five-year-old Louise Wilt is sarcastic and funny and has a comeback for everything and everyone. Oh, to be so witty and with it at her age. The dialogue between Louise and college-aged Tanner, her new caregiver, is authentic and works well to move the story along. I am anxious to see where we end up as I finish this book.
by Joyce Maynard
4.60 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.32 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
Enter the magical world of La Llorona with New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard.
The Bird Hotel is a big, sweeping story spanning four decades, offering lyricism as well as whimsy. While the world “New York Times” bestselling author Joyce Maynard brings to life on the page is rendered from her imagination, it’s one informed by the more than twenty years of which she has spent a significant amount of her time in a small Mayan indigenous village in Guatemala. ~ Goodreads
This book caught my attention because I am taking a CreativeLive course taught by the author, Joyce Maynard. I read a memoir by Maynard earlier this spring, At Home in the World. It was very interesting. As a freshman in college, she pen paled with renowned writer JD Salinger, more than 30 years her senior, and wound up dropping out to move in with him.
I’ve just started reading The Bird Hotel but like it very much so far. At the beginning of the book, Maynard aptly describes the setting and the climate in which the story unfolds. With mentions of the Vietnam War, Woodstock, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez – all a nod to my youth. I am anxious to see how La Llorona = the name of the hotel but also a reference to a popular Hispanic folktale – plays into the story.
I try to read a balance of nonfiction and fiction. Most of the nonfiction I’ve been reading lately has been about writing. Earlier in the season, I listened to The Power of Writing It Down. It offered so many helpful tips for aspiring writers, and useful exercises to give writers practice at honing their craft. I am listening to a second book about writing currently.
by Ruta Sepetys
4.70 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.29 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
You: The Story is a powerful how-to book for aspiring writers that encourages you to look inward and excavate your own memories in order to discover the authentic voices and compelling details that are waiting to be put on the page. Masterfully weaving in humorous and heartfelt stories from her own life that illustrate an aspect of the craft of writing (such as plot, character development, or dialogue), Sepetys then inspires readers with a series of writing prompts and exercises. ~ Amazon
Sepetys is a successful writer of historical fiction. My book club has read 2 of her books. Salt to the Sea and I Must Betray You. Although this book is a kind of guide to help encourage hopeful writers, it is also a very entertaining read. Each chapter offers writing encouragement and suggestions, ideas for research experiences, and a handful of writing prompts. For the chapter on setting, Sepetys asks readers to consider the setting of vacation. What does that look like? Writers are asked to incorporate all of their senses in describing this setting. I am going to share that prompt with my writing group next time we meet.
by Donna Cameron
4.50 out of 5 stars on Amazon
3.80 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
In A Year of Living Kindly ―using stories, observation, humor, and summaries of expert research―Donna Cameron shares her experience committing to 365 days of practicing kindness. She presents compelling research into the myriad benefits of kindness, including health, wealth, longevity, improved relationships, and personal and business success. She explores what a kind life entails, and what gets in the way of it. And she provides practical and experiential suggestions for how each of us can strengthen our kindness muscle so choosing a life of kindness becomes ever easier and more natural. An inspiring, practical guide that can help any reader make a commitment to kindness, A Year of Living Kindly shines a light on how we can create a better, safer, and more just world―and how you can be part of that transformation. ~ Goodreads
I’ve only just started listening to this book on Audible. In the chapters I’ve read, Cameron makes a good case for being kind. Not just because it is the right thing to do but because it is healthier for our bodies and minds to be kind. One of the passages I am trying to commit to reads, ““Your past mistakes are meant to guide you, not define you.” ―
The writing book I mentioned above, You: The Story suggested a prompt where writers think about a particular mistake or misstep they have made and write about how things might have turned out if they hadn’t made that mistake in the first place. Maybe I will do that in my journal.
**It has taken me several days to get this post published and in that time I have almost finished this book. it offers lots of great ideas for being kind for lots of good reasons. But it makes me sad that we aren’t all doing this stuff without a book suggesting we should. Waving in your rear-view mirror when someone lets you pull in front of them. Holding the door open for someone. Sending a thoughtful message now and then. Complimenting a stranger. What is our world coming to?
Books I have Recently Finished
I am generally trying to balance and make sense of about 3 books at a time. Which is quite a trick for my 65-year-old brain. Factor in a TV series or two, and I can’t be sure which character belongs where. Sadly, even the books and series and movies I’ve loved most are quickly become faded memories.
It’s no secret that I am very interested in reading about World War II. And I have been that way since I was in about 5th grade and first learned of Anne Frank. Thankfully, many of the members of my book club like reading historical fiction, too. So, there are always one or two pieces of historical fiction on each month’s consideration list.
by Martha Hall Kelly
4.50 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.25 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
American Josie Anderson and Parisian Arlette LaRue are thrilled to be working in the French resistance, stealing so many Nazi secrets that they become known as the Golden Doves, renowned across France and hunted by the Gestapo. Their courage will cost them everything. When they are finally arrested and taken to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, along with their loved ones, a reclusive Nazi doctor does unspeakable things to Josie’s mother, a celebrated Jewish singer who joined her daughter in Paris when the world seemed bright. And Arlette’s son is stolen from her, never to be seen again.
A decade later the Doves fall headlong into a dangerous dual mission: Josie is working for U.S. Army Intelligence and accepts an assignment to hunt down the infamous doctor, while a mysterious man tells Arlette he may have found her son. The Golden Doves embark on a quest across Europe and ultimately to French Guiana, discovering a web of terrible secrets, and must put themselves in grave danger to finally secure justice and protect the ones they love. ~ Amazon
The word that keeps bouncing around in my brain to describe this book is saga. I can envision this book being played out on the silver screen. Or at the very least on our 55″ TV at home. One of my all-time favorite books, Lilac Girls, is written by this same author. I’ve broken one of my cardinal book-reading rules by reading a second book by an author I like. Invariably the sequel or even just the author’s next book is not as satisfying a story. Although the book opens here in El Paso, at Ft. Bliss, where PC was stationed before retiring and where he works for the government today, I didn’t feel a connection with either of the female main characters. That set grabbed my attention but the setting quickly changed. And the voice bounced between Josie and Arlette. There were points when I felt like the story dragged but I am glad I stuck with it. Overall, a lengthy but good read. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Another Historical Fiction
by Laura Spence-Ash
4.50 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.31 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
As German bombs fall over London in 1940, working-class parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make an impossible choice: they decide to send their eleven-year-old daughter, Beatrix, to America. There, she’ll live with another family for the duration of the war, where they hope she’ll stay safe.
Scared and angry, feeling lonely and displaced, Bea arrives in Boston to meet the Gregorys. Mr. and Mrs. G, and their sons William and Gerald, fold Bea seamlessly into their world. She becomes part of this lively family, learning their ways and their stories, adjusting to their affluent lifestyle. Bea grows close to both boys, one older and one younger, and fills in the gap between them. Before long, before she even realizes it, life with the Gregorys feels more natural to her than the quiet, spare life with her own parents back in England.
As we follow Bea over time, navigating between her two worlds, Beyond That, the Sea emerges as a beautifully written, absorbing novel, full of grace and heartache, forgiveness and understanding, loss and love.
This book had a little bit of everything. History…or as I like to say, herstory. Family relationships. And a happy ending. I chose to read it because the story is told from 8 different voices or points of view. All of the characters are richly developed. The dialogue is believable. I kept holding my breath for something horrible to happen, not that being set during World War II isn’t horrible enough. But the story remained sweet and offered a look at the war from a different perspective than that of a soldier or a Holocaust survivor. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Just One More Historical Fiction
I told you I like historical fiction. Wasn’t kidding!! This last book is really historical fiction for children written in a graphic novel format. I just realized that it was a graphic novel because I listened to the book so didn’t see the actual pages and text. I might have passed it up had I not had the choice to listen to it. Not a fan of trying to read graphic novels. I applaud their success at drawing in reluctant readers to reading but I can’t figure out where to read first on each page. When I saw this trailer for White Bird at the movies, I knew I needed to read the book first.
The movie opens 08.18.2023.
by R.J. Palacio
4.70 stars on Amazon
4.52 stars on Goodreads
Inspired by her blockbuster phenomenon, Wonder, R. J. Palacio presents an unforgettable story of the power of kindness and unrelenting courage in a time of war.
In R. J. Palacio’s best-selling collection of stories, Auggie & Me, which expands on characters in Wonder, audiences were introduced to Julian’s grandmother, Grandmère. Here, Palacio presents Grandmère’s heartrending story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II; how the boy she and her classmates once shunned became her savior and best friend.
Sara’s harrowing experience movingly demonstrates the power of kindness to change hearts, build bridges, and even save lives. As Grandmère tells Julian, “It always takes courage to be kind, but in those days, such kindness could cost you everything.” With poignant symbolism that brings Sara’s story out of the past and cements it firmly in this moment in history, White Bird is sure to captivate anyone who was moved by the book Wonder or the blockbuster movie adaptation and its message.
PC and I started listening to the book on our recent road trip to Balmorhea. But PC didn’t seem terribly interested so I decided to turn the book off and listen to it on my own at a later time. So glad I returned to listening to it because White Bird is a gift. Another gift from children’s author R.J. Palacio.
You might remember the book Wonder and the movie by the same name that was released in 2017. This is a continuation of the stories of one of the characters from Wonder. White Bird has an important message about being kind and treating all people with respect and love. Please grab your favorite young person, your favorite ‘tween and share this book with them. Then treat them to the movie in August. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
In these dark times, it’s those small acts of kindness that keep us alive, after all. They remind us of our humanity” -Vivienne”
I never forgot their many kindnesses to me. You might forget many things in your life, but you never forget kindness. Like love, it stays with you…forever.” -Sara (Grandmere)”
This book caught my attention at the mention of coconut cake. My all-time favorite desserts have coconut – coconut creme pie tied with German chocolate cake, and these irresistible magic bars coming in a close second. A book with the words coconut cake in the title promised to be good.
by Amy E. Reichert
4.20 out of 5 stars on Amazon
3.71 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
In downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lou works tirelessly to build her beloved yet struggling French restaurant, Luella’s, into a success. She cheerfully balances her demanding business and even more demanding fiancé…until the morning she discovers him in the buff—with an intern.
Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.
The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future?
Set in the lovely, quirky heart of Wisconsin, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together.
Another book that started out kind of slow until the characters began talking FOOD!! While visiting all the locals’ favorite eating spots. I got mixed up a time or two about who was whom. Didn’t care for the name of the female main character – Lou. I know people are moving away from traditional gender-specific names but at the beginning of the book, I kept thinking Lou was a guy. And the male lead’s name was Al, which looks like A-1. Picky points but they affected my comprehension and reading. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a light, delicious read for summer. ⭐⭐⭐.5
I hope you have a stack of enticing titles on your nightstand to get you through the summer. If not, you might try one of these books I have mentioned above. Or visit the blogs of the gals hosting the What’s On Your Bookshelf link-up. It’s a fine Saturday morning and I am off to paint and Facetime with my sissy. Hope you are doing something equally enjoyable.
Will just leave you with this.
Hugs and kisses,