Fabulous Author

I’ve been reading Ann Rinaldi’s historical fiction for over ten years. She has written countless novels about American history inserting a fictional character in a famous event, giving a fresh point of view. You have to respect the research that goes into doing this. That being said I have loved most of her work, some more then others. During this past library trip I realized there are a number novels I have yet to read, so I borrowed three.  The Civil War isn’t my favorite topic in American history but since I love Ann Rinaldi, I’ll read whatever she writes, which happens to be a lot of Civil War books.

In The Letter Writer, 11 year old Harriet is asked by her half brother to become the official correspondent for his nearly blind mother. To further her writing skills she is also required to write letters to her Uncle Andrew in England, to whom she shares her views on family, politics, and slavery.  When prominent slave Nat Turner comes for an extended stay on her family’s plantation to do some work Harriet finds herself charmed by the seemingly gentle preacher and decides to do him a favor by tracing a map of southern Virginia.  He assures her that it’s so he can preach to people in nearby farms.  Well if you know anything about Nat Turner then you are right to be suspicious. On August 22, 1831 Turner and his followers went on a murderous rampage and killed 55-65 white men, women and children in their homes. Rinaldi spares nothing in her gory account of the events of the night and attempts to unearth the motives of Turner, as even today historians are unclear on how the kind, genial preacher turned into a killer that summer night.

Rinadli had a good idea but her book fell short to me. I felt that parts of it were underdeveloped and could have used more time spent on Harriet’s life on the plantation and her relationship with Nat Turner. Before you know it, the rebellion strikes and violence is all over the pages. The ending also kind of has a cheese factor that the reader could have done without. What I did like was her Author’s Note because it explained why she wrote things the way she did and demonstrated her immense knowledge on the subject. It was exciting to her how calculated her story was and how she tried not to inflict her opinion of Nat Turner into the novel. Unfortunately this was the best part of her writing for me. If you’re a history fan, definitely read Ann Rinaldi, but save this one for later.




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An Italian Twist

Did you know that the earliest version of Romeo & Juliet comes from Siena, Italy? I sure did not!  Juliet by Anne Fortier was featured in People Magazine over the summer and at once knew I needed to get my hands on it. Although I’ve been reading it on and off since August, the time spent on this novel is not due to my indifference, but to other books I ordered from the library that took precedence time after time.

25 year old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her aunt Rose. The shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her estate to Julie’s twin sister Janice. Instead, Julie receives a key to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy. This key sends Julie on a remarkable adventure with tremendous history. She soon delves into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still traumatized from the murder of her family, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. The star crossed lovers tore medieval Siena apart and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, with the story reaching its culmination in Shakespeare’s tragic play. Julie begins to quickly discover that in the ancient city of Siena past and present intertwine and she is caught up in six centuries worth of superstitions and feuds among families.

I found this book to be extremely well researched. So much, in fact, that I was actually excited to read the Author’s Note at the conclusion of the novel! Anne Fortier certainly knows what she is talking about when it comes to the history of Romeo and Juliet. However, at times the plot seemed to be a little contrived and bordering on cheesy. Some parts were outstanding while others fell a little flat. But just when I felt like I was about to roll my eyes the author transports you into the past and are told detailed stories from the middle ages that illustrate beauty, tragedy and drama. In the end I’d have to give three cheers to Anne Fortier for coming up with this work of historical fiction.


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Top 10 Books About Thanksgiving in Literature

Ok so isn’t Thanksgiving yet. But here is a list of books you can start reading now to get you in the mood for the upcoming holiday of yummy-ness. Pick one that suits your fancy, as there is a wide array of choices!

1. An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott.

From the publisher: “Aheartwarming story set in rural New Hampshire in the 1800s. As the Thanksgiving Day festivities are beginning, the Bassetts must leave on an emergency. The two eldest children are in charge of the household–they prepare a holiday meal like they’ve never had before!”

2. Thanksgiving: An Investigation of a Pauline Theme by Davod W. Pao.

From the publisher: “In this comprehensive and accessible study, David Pao aims to rehabilitate this theme [of thanksgiving]… Thanksgiving functions as a link between theology, including eschatology, and ethics.”

3. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen.

From the publisher: “From the truth about Columbus’s historic voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders, Loewen revives our history, restoring to it the vitality and relevance it truly possesses.”

4. Book of Thanksgiving: Stories, Poems and Recipes by Jessica Faust, and Jacky Sach.

From the publisher: “Many people list Thanksgiving as their all-time favorite holiday, a time when the house smells of harvest delights, and family and friends come to share in the blessings of the year. This warm, inviting collection pulls together a bounty of Thanksgiving traditions, history, recipes, decorating tips, trivia, stories, prayers, and other advice for making your celebration a memorable one.”

5. The First Thanksgiving Feast by Joan Anderson.

From the publisher: “Recreates in accurate detail one of the most popular events in American history, with photographs taken at Plimoth Plantation, the living museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts.”

6. The Pilgrims and Pocahontas: Rival Myths of American Origin by Ann Uhry Abrams.

From the publisher: “By comparing two origin myths, investigating them in art, literature, and popular memory, Ann Uhry Abrams uncovers surprising similarities in traditions of remembrance as well as striking differences in the character of the myths and the messages they convey.”

7. William Bradford’s Books: Of Plimmoth Plantation and the Printed Word by Douglas Anderson.

From the publisher: “Far from being the gloomy elegy that many readers find, Bradford’s history, argues Douglas Anderson, demonstrates remarkable ambition and subtle grace as it contemplates the adaptive success of a small community of religious exiles. Anderson offers a fresh literary and historical account of Bradford’s accomplishment, exploring the context and the form in which the author intended his book to be read.”

8. Don’t Know Much About the Pilgrims by Kenneth C. Davis.

From the publisher: “With his trademark question-and-answer format and S. D. Schindler’s detailed artwork, you’ll get an insider’s view of the Pilgrims’ life. It wasn’t easy, but they helped make America what it is today. Now that is something to give thanks for!”

9. Turkeys, Pilgrims and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols by Edna Barth, and Ursula Arndt

From the publisher: “Edna Barth explores the multicultural origins and evolution of the familiar and not-so-familiar symbols and legends associated with our favorite holidays. Full of fascinating historical details and little-known stories, these books are both informative and engaging.”

10. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace, Plimoth Plantation Staff, Margaret M. Bruchac, Cotton Coulson  and Sisse Brimberg

From the publisher: “‘1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving’ exposes the myth that this event was the ‘first Thanksgiving’ and is the basis for the Thanksgiving holiday that is celebrated today. This exciting book describes the actual events that took place…”


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I’ve been meaning to read one of Stacey Ballis’s books for a while now because her BFF, author Jen Lancaster, often raves about her. I thought now would be the time since her latest, Good Enough to Eat just came out. Her other novels didn’t really peak my interest but the high rating of this book on the best website ever (Amazon) led me to order it from the library. When it came in, I dropped the other two books I’m currently in the middle of to give it a try. Quite frankly, how could I not with it being October and having a cover like this?   —————————————————->

The main character, Melanie, is shocked when after losing 145 pounds her husband leaves her for a woman her old size. Heartbroken, she throws her energy into the healthy-food café she founded, along with her quirky staff.  Soon after, she’s blindsided by a financial crisis due to her condo association. This leads Melanie to reach out to an eccentric 24 year old woman with a murky past and invite her into her home as a roommate. This creates an interesting dynamic due to the age difference, but the two women grow to become good friends. Woven into the plot are complications due to a new documentary film maker love interest and changes in the lives of her employees.

What a super easy read! It was exactly what I was looking for due to my other book choices as of late. No it wasn’t genius material but it was chick lit-y without being too predictable and the characters were multi-dimensional which can lack in this genre. I almost wouldn’t categorize this as chick lit, but it comes close. Upon finishing the novel, I checked out Stacey’s blog and realized why her and Jen Lancaster are such good friends. They are both freakishly hilarious! Yay Stacey Ballis, you’re a new author to my catalog and a bookmark on my blog folder. (Yes, I have a blog folder.)


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Book Club Worthy

This novel was voted to be the first read for my newly formed book club that has it’s first meeting in November.  Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas blended tragedy with redemption while also maintaining elements of joy and happy endings.

The storyline revolves around 86 year old Hennie and her young newly married friend Nit who has just moved to the Colorado mining town of Middle Swan. The year is 1936 and life is unyielding due to the Great Depression and the hazards of gold mining that affects everyone in the town.  Hennie and Nit form a close friendship due to common experiences in their lives, and Nit comes to enjoy Hennie’s many stories that fill the pages of this book with colorful characters, misfortune and alternatively, strokes of luck and blessings.  As a reader I was quickly drawn into the lives of the people in Middle Swan and it’s courageous heroines.

This was a great read because it lent itself for multiple sittings. Due to the many stories within a story you can read one chapter per night and feel satisfied enough to put it down until the next day. The characters are not only lovable but strikingly authentic. The harsh realities of living in a gold mining camp almost slap you in the face, since we are so far removed from such a dangerous lifestyle today. The twists, turns and surprises made this novel delightful. I really enjoyed it and believe Prayers For Sale leaves a lot for a reading group to talk about so I hope it’s a hit with the others in my club!


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Another Shopaholic?

I was a little surprised to find out that there would be a SIXTH shopaholic book. I thought the end of the series kind of sailed away after the third, but then there was a fourth, fifth, and now Mini Shopaholic. Let’s face it, the movie for the original book was horrible; It really was an injustice to the first few books. If you have been reading this blog for a while you will see a trend with me. I tend to keep reading books out of obligation to an author, because of so much time spent invested into previous novels. This is why I read Mini Shopaholic, knowing that it probably wouldn’t be in the top 10 books I read this year. I love Sophie Kinsella, especially her stand-alone novels, but to be honest we probably could have said goodbye to Becky Bloomwood Brandon a while ago.

This time Becky is getting into more trouble with her 2 year old daughter Minnie by her side. Minnie is somewhat of a terror, and the family is still living with Becky’s parents after one house purchase after another has fallen through. The plot is centered around planning a surprise birthday party for her millionaire husband Luke, Minnie’s misbehavior, and of course, a promise to stop shopping.

Her antics, as always, slightly mimic those in the “I Love Lucy” show. Quite honestly, I am over it. The character of Becky needs some more development as she ages and a sense of growth/maturity. Lack of this leaves me realizing that I really am reading nonsense. Harsh, huh? I knew it when I started reading it, I knew it while I was reading it, and I will know it when I pick up the SEVENTH novel. Yes, the ending leads the reader to believe there will be another. Who knows though, maybe this one will have more substance like some of the previous titles. I do have an undeniable amount of faith in the author who brought me so many other gems!


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Why do all my favorite chick lit authors stop writing chick lit and move on to young adult novels for girls, never to been heard from again? Let’s name a few, Sarah Mlynowski, Meg Cabot, Jennifer Sturman… UGH! How frustrating. I truly do not understand this. Do they get tired of the chick lit plot lines? Do they feel the young adult genre is a better market? Is it easier to write on a creative level when your audience are teens facing a plethora of life issues that are just way more interesting? Whatever the reason, I don’t like it. It’s disappointing as a reader and a fan. I feel like these writers give up on adult audiences.

Yeah, I am taking it personally. So what!



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