The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

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The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is the story of a twenty-eight year old women just learning how to live. Born with a heart defect Ailsa Rae has just had a life saving heart transplant. She has lived her life carefully, always aware of her heart defect. Now that her heart is perfect she discovers she has to take chances in order to really live this new life she has been given

QUICK GLANCE

Setting in Scotland

Organ transplant

Relationships

Hope

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The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae was a fun read that moved quickly yet also dealt with difficult themes. We come to know the story of Ailsa Rae through her blog, emails, flashbacks and 3rd person narration. We meet her right before she receives her new heart and so are with her as she navigates what it means to be given a second chance at life. I did not know a lot about organ transplant and enjoyed seeing the impact they make for those needing them. Ailsa Rae is cute and funny and while having the maturity of a twenty-eight year old also had a naiveness to her. Now that she knows she will be around for a long time she learns more about relationships and begins forming deeper ones while also taking time to learn about herself. 

My copy of The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

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The story of a group of women known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. During The Depression these women rode horses through the Appalachian wilderness delivering books to those living in the hills who would have no other way of obtaining books. 

QUICK GLANCE

Strength of women

Friendship

Love

Kindness

Community

Emotional

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I loved The Giver of Stars! 

The characters quickly pulled me in and I found myself very attached to them. Each character was unique and complicated and I could not pick a favorite. I felt like I knew them and I felt like I lived in that small community.

There were so many themes shown that are favorites of mine. I loved the friendship that these women who begin as coworkers develop. I loved the examples of kindness and love that are shown. This is the story of strong women but it is also the story of a community. A community that is not perfect and makes mistakes and does awful things to others. But it is also a community that rises above that and helps one another. 

For me a great book is not only a good story but writing that engages me and makes me feel. This was a great book. 

Eva’s Eye by Karin Fossum

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Eva’s Eye begins with Eva walking with her young daughter by the river where they spot a body. The first part of the story follows Inspector Sejar’s investigation into the dead body. The second part details the events leading up to the murder of the man found in the river. The story is told from the alternating points of view of Eva and Inspector Sejar. 

QUICK GLANCE

1st book in the Konrad Sejar series a Norwegian

Book in translation

Crime mystery

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I found Eva’s Eye to be a good book. The characters were interesting and the plot was engaging. I liked the format of the book. Following the inspector as he worked to solved the case and then going back to the events leading up to the murder. The way everything unfolded at the end was a shock and I was pretty stunned by something that was revealed. 

The book had a slow feel to it. While I enjoyed reading it, I didn’t feel a huge push of momentum. I felt like a kept waiting to be left breathless. 

Death On The Downs by Simon Brett

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Carole out exploring comes upon the bones of a human skeleton. Once again she and her friend Jude take up their own sleuthing. 

QUICK GLANCE

#2 in the Fethering Mystery series

Cozy mystery

Friendship

Odd couple vibe

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I loved the character development more than the mystery in Death on the Downs. There were a lot of characters introduced briefly and I didn’t get a strong handle on who they were. So when they reappeared I couldn’t remember who was who and who had which background. As the mystery is coming to an end Carole and Jude are coming up with answers that they aren’t sharing with the reader. I knew they knew, but just weren’t sharing and I’m not sure how I felt about that. 

I loved the continued look into the friendship of Carole and Jude. For me, the book was about friendship and the mystery was just a way to show this friendship. Friendship isn’t always easy . Especially new friendships with their insecurities and I liked that look into friendship.  Carole and Jude are both growing individually in this book and I really liked watching that development. It’s also interesting to me that Carole seems like such an open book and Jude is very much a mystery. Though there were times in this second book where they surprised me. 

Stress-Free Small Talk by Richard S. Gallagher, LMFT

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A guide to managing social anxiety and making conversation

QUICK GLANCE

Nonfiction

Easy to read

Exercises to practice

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Sometimes engaging in conversation can be hard. Though this book deals more with those who struggle with social anxiety and therefore struggle with conversation, I felt that many of the  skills taught benefit all. Though I don’t suffer with social anxiety I have had my share of conversations that have not gone well. Often it is the small talk conversations that seem the most difficult for me and I found the suggestions very helpful. 

The book discusses what small talk is, why it is important and how it is used in society.

Explains shyness, introversion and anxiety.

Includes skills and exercises to prepare for social situations

Includes skills to handle social situations where small talk takes place. Even includes small details like how to stand and where to look. Lots of exercises are given to practice and use when in social situations.

Author includes personal experiences and experiences of other people to help show skills.

My copy of Stress-Free Small Talk was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

A Shared Grandmother’s Journal by Marianne Waggoner Day

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Writing prompts for a grandparent and grandchild to share stories, feelings, likes, dislikes, dreams, etc. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Colorful pages
  • Easy to respond to prompt

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I really love the idea. I think the prompt ideas were all great and it could be a great way to learn more about one another. However, as I think about it, I think I would have trouble finishing it. I can see myself starting off great and being excited about it but as life happens I can see it getting pushed to the bottom of things to do. I also think a grandparent would like this a lot more than a child. Though I loved the prompts, I think they are pretty similar to prompts kids are writing in school and I can see kids not being very excited for yet another writing assignment.

My copy of A Shared Grandmother’s Journal was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

 

The Mindfulness Journal for Teens by Jennie Marie Battistin,MA, LMFT

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Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment. It means being aware of what you are doing and how you are feeling. This is a book that teaches mindfulness with a teenage perspective through prompts and journal ideas. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Prompts are quick and easy
  • Book is easy to understand
  • Beautiful pages

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Even though I am an adult I have really enjoyed reading through this book. Even though this is a journal for teenagers I felt it could easily be applied to any age. In fact I plan on going through the journal more slowly and really thinking through the ideas and prompts. The prompts dealt with everyday issues like self-esteem, personal growth and relationships.

My copy of The Mindfulness Journal for Teens was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Celine by Peter Heller

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Celine is a private eye who specializes in finding missing people. When Gabriela comes to Celine to find her father who went missing over twenty years ago in Yellowstone National Park, Celine is off to Yellowstone with her husband Pete, hoping to be able to reunite father and daughter. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • Great descriptive setting
  • Older main character
  • Slower descriptive read
  • Mystery
  • Teenage pregnancy 

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As a reader who is nearing into the older side, I have started to love books with older main characters. Celine was a great older character. She had so much complexity that I think comes with a longer life. She was a compassionate woman who has one of those personalities that people find themselves comfortable around and opening up to. Yes, this is a mystery and we follow Celine to Yellowstone to go with her as she researches and hunts for clues to find what happened to this missing man. But, the story felt not so much about a mystery but about Celine. The mystery was the way for us to get to know Celine and understand her. I really loved this flip on a mystery and I found myself wanting to know more about Celine and wanting to observe her as much as I wanted to know what happened to Gabriela’s father. 

Before going to Yellowstone Celine flies to Colorado, were her son lives, to borrow his camper which she then drives to Yellowstone. I grew up in Colorado and as a child we took many family vacations camping in Yellowstone. Author, Peter Heller, brought all those memories alive for me with his descriptive writing. I could see The Colorado Rockies and I could picture that drive to Yellowstone as you travel through sparse Wyoming. Then to arrive in Yellowstone and see the animals everywhere, the trees, the people, it was all as I remembered it. 

This book had me with an older main character, Colorado and Yellowstone. And it kept me hooked with the mystery, Celine and the descriptive writing. 

The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg

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Dr. John Watson, his son Dr. John Watson Jr, along with the help of Joanna Blalock, the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, solve the mystery behind a man Joanna and her young son saw falling from a building. 

QUICK GLANCE

  • #1 in The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries
  • References to cases of Sherlock Holmes
  • Light reading

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This was a book I was excited to read. I thought a mystery with the daughter of Sherlock Holmes was a great premise. It is a great premise and it is a good book for light, easy reading. I was hoping for a bit more substance and found myself rolling my eyes often. My first eye roll occurred when I realized that all of the original characters’ children went into the same careers as their parents. Even Detective Lestrade’s son is a detective and the murderer is a son of a murderer from Sherlock’s time. As the detective work progressed everything came so easily to the trio. Every person they interviewed gave them the information they needed and they didn’t really seem to come against any obstacle. I found these characters lacked substance and I found myself not interested in them at all. 

His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal

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After going through training Maggie is ready to start her first assignment as a spy where she will be dropped into Germany and gather information from top Nazis. But is she really as prepared as she thought she was? 

QUICK GLANCE

  • #3 in the Maggie Hope Mystery series
  • World War ll
  • Historical mystery
  • Woman spy
  • Nazis euthanasia of those they saw as defective, including children
  • Ongoing storylines from past books in the series

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I had about an even amount of things that I loved about this book and things I didn’t.

I had trouble connecting with the characters even though this is the third book in the series. Many of the characters, old and new, seemed to do things out of the blue that didn’t really fit with the rest of their actions and there wasn’t any explanation for it. There was also a storyline with a very side character that didn’t really fit with the rest of the book and I’m not sure what the point of it was. The plot moved a bit slowly for me and when it would pick up something would very conveniently happen that then slowed it back down. 

I did really love the historical aspects of the book. I had no idea the Nazis were killing children that were ill. There were many other mentions of things the Nazis were doing that had me doing research to see if it was true. I love learning about things I didn’t know before especially with the many World War ll books there are. I enjoyed the unique looks into some of the things happening. 

The things Maggie experiences in Germany leave her broken. I do look forward to the next book to see how, and if, Maggie recovers.