Welcome to Booking Through Thursday, the bookish event that spotlights our reading choices.

Today’s Prompt:

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s no question that it can make a difference!

What book(s) have your favorite covers? Something that’s perfect for the story, the tone, the colors, the mood…

And did you pick up the book BECAUSE of the cover? Or were you going to read it anyway, and the cover was just serendipitous?


To answer this one, I glanced over my list of favorites from 2011, and certainly there were some great covers in the bunch.

Like Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman. (Click to read my review)

Or The Violets of March, by Sarah Jio.

Then there was Never Knowing, by Chevy Stevens.  That cover seems to symbolize the tangled journey of the MC.


But I don’t really pick the book for the cover.  First I notice the cover, but then I read the inside flap.  And before that point, I’ve also read what others have written about the book.  Book recommendations have as much to do with my final choices as the cover, or even the blurb.

So it’s a combination of the cover, the recommendations, and hey, SERENDIPITY, since we’re at this blog.  What contributes to your book choices?



Welcome to some serendipitous fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

Today I’m sharing from One Breath Away, by Heather Gudenkauf.

Synopsis:  In the midst of a sudden spring snowstorm, an unknown man armed with a gun walks into an elementary school classroom. Outside the school, the town of Broken Branch watches and waits. Officer Meg Barrett holds the responsibility for the town’s children in her hands. Will Thwaite, reluctantly entrusted with the care of his two grandchildren by the daughter who left home years earlier, stands by helplessly and wonders if he has failed his child again. Trapped in her classroom, Evelyn Oliver watches for an opportunity to rescue the children in her care. And thirteen-year-old Augie Baker, already struggling with the aftermath of a terrible accident that has brought her to Broken Branch, will risk her own safety to protect her little brother. As tension mounts with each passing minute, the hidden fears and grudges of the small town are revealed as the people of Broken Branch race to uncover the identity of the stranger who holds their children hostage.


Beginning:  (Holly) – I’m in that lovely space between consciousness and sleep.  I feel no pain thanks to the morphine pump and I can almost believe that the muscles, tendons and skin of my left arm have knitted themselves back together, leaving my skin pale and smooth.  My curly brown hair once again falls softly down my back, my favorite earrings dangle from my ears and I can lift both sides of my mouth in a wide smile without much pain at the thought of my children. Yes, drugs are a wonderful thing.


P. 56:  Now I am beginning to become impatient.  “Dorothy,” I say, “if you have any information that will help us resolve what’s going on in there, you need to tell me.”


I’ve been wanting to read this book for quite awhile…so now I’m excited about these snippets.

What are you spotlighting today?  Come on by and share your comments and links!




Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Just grab your book and share the opening lines; then find another excerpt that “teases” the reader.

I’m sharing today from Keepsake, by Kristina Riggle.

Synopsis:  From the critically acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars and Things We Didn’t Say comes a timely and provocative novel that asks: What happens when the things we own become more important than the people we love?

Trish isn’t perfect. She’s divorced and raising two kids—so of course her house isn’t pristine. But she’s got all the important things right and she’s convinced herself that she has it all under control. That is, until the day her youngest son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It’s at that moment when Trish is forced to consider the one thing she’s always hoped wasn’t true: that she’s living out her mother’s life as a compulsive hoarder.

The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister, Mary—meticulous, perfect Mary, whose house is always spotless . . . and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish’s oldest child has. But now, working together to get Trish’s disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk, as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light.


Intro:  The stranger gave me an empty smile.  It was flat and mechanical:  the forced grin of someone who delivers bad news all day long.  She was holding out a business card, and I was refusing to take it.

Ayana Reese, the card said.  What kind of name is Ayana?  On her left hand, which was clutching her notepad, I saw no wedding ring.  I could bet every shingle on my roof that this girl was barely out of college and had no children.  She would have a pamphlet and a workbook and seminars, but she’d never pushed a child into the world and felt what I felt both times I did it:  that our bond was powerful and perfect and would not be broken.  By anyone.


Teaser:  If Ayana was disgusted by my messy house, she didn’t show it.  She probably dealt all the time with meth heads and gangbangers who had loaded guns on the coffee table and shit on the walls. (1%)


Are you intrigued? I know that I am…and I feel as though I’ve had a birdseye view of this world from the side of the “stranger,” due to my three decades in social work.

Now I can’t wait to see what the rest of you are excerpting today!


Welcome to some serendipitous fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

My book today is another “graduate” of my Old TBR stacks, dubbed “old” by their longevity on said stacks.  Which means that the book just got lost in the shuffle.  The Tender Bar, by J. R. Moehringer, is a memoir.

J .R. Moehringer grew up listening for a voice: It was the sound of his missing father, a disc jockey who disappeared before J.R. spoke his first words. As a boy, J.R. would press his ear to a clock radio, straining to hear in that resonant voice the secrets of masculinity, and the keys to his own identity. J.R.’s mother was his world, his anchor, but he needed something else, something more, something he couldn’t name. So he turned to the bar on the corner, a grand old New York saloon that was a sanctuary for all types of men-cops and poets, actors and lawyers, gamblers and stumblebums. The flamboyant characters along the bar-including J.R.’s Uncle Charlie, a Humphrey Bogart look-alike; Colt, a Yogi Bear sound-alike; Joey D, a soft-hearted brawler; and Cager, a war hero who raised handicapping horses to an art-taught J.R., tended him, and provided a kind of fatherhood by committee. When the time came for J.R. to leave home, the bar became a way station-from his entrance to Yale, where he floundered as a scholarship student way out of his element; to his introduction to tragic romance with a woman way out of his league; to his stint as a copy boy at the New York Times, where he was a faulty cog in a vast machine way out of his control. Through it all, the bar offered shelter from failure, from rejection, and eventually from reality-until at last the bar turned J.R. away.Riveting, moving, and achingly funny, The Tender Bar is at once an evocative portrait of one boy’s struggle to become a man, and a touching depiction of how some men remain lost boys.


Beginning (Prologue):

We went there for everything we needed.  We went there when thirsty, of course, and when hungry, and when dead tired.  We went there when happy, to celebrate, and when sad, to sulk.  We went there after weddings and funerals, for something to settle our nerves, and always for a shot of courage just before.  We went there when we didn’t know what we needed, hoping someone might tell us.  We went there when looking for love, or sex, or trouble, or for someone who had gone missing, because sooner or later everyone turned up there.  Most of all we went there when we needed to be found.


Already I feel the poignancy of this tale from these opening lines.  I know it will be sad, but I’m also hoping there will be joy somewhere in all this neediness.


p. 56:  My mother pulled me to her and said she felt horrible about frightening me, but she couldn’t help herself.  “I’m so tired,” she said.  “Tired of worrying and struggling and being so—so—alone.


What do the rest of you want to share today?  I hope you’ll stop in with your comments and links.


When children spend most of their formative years in the foster care system, and then are turned out because they’ve reached the age of eighteen (or nineteen in some situations), the results can be devastating.

On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System zeroes in on these issues in great detail, sharing facts, figures, and anecdotal stories of featured young people. How they came into the system, the experiences they had, and what happened to them during the transition out of care.

These stories were not new to me, having worked for many years in the system as a social worker; I could definitely connect with what happened to these young people, as I’d seen many of these events firsthand.

Throughout this chronicle, the authors talked about different programs that successfully helped young people transition, and also shared legislation that offers a hopeful future for children in this situation.

Most of us know from experience that children are not ready to be independent and fully functioning at eighteen, nineteen, or possibly even twenty-one. And when you factor in the scenarios experienced by children in care who are “protected” by law and not offered opportunities to experience independence, you compound the problem.

Budgetary constraints are often the obstacles that prevent more help for these children. Community support can turn these issues around when private agencies partner with governmental agencies.

The authors bring out some recent changes:

“The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is a national effort to help young people make successful transitions from foster care to adulthood. Formed by two of the nation’s leading foundations focused exclusively on child and youth well-being, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Programs, the Initiative strives to bring together the people and resources to help young people make the connections they need to education, employment, health care, housing, and permanent, family-like relationships.”

A probing, detailed illustrated journey that takes the reader right to the heart of the problem, I recommend this book to anyone who cares about the youth of our nation; especially those most vulnerable because of their life experiences. Five stars.


Anne Blythe is the kind of woman who believes in love. She wants the whole fairytale thing, even though, so far, none of her relationships have worked out. Something always goes wrong.

Meanwhile, she does have so many other good things in her life: a great job as a writer at a magazine; a potential book deal; and really good friends.

So why can’t she have it all? When her best friend Sarah announces her engagement, Anne does something completely out of character. She calls an agency that she believes to be a dating service and makes an appointment. But imagine her surprise when she discovers that the agency arranges marriages.

Who in this modern age would fall for something like that? But since nothing else has worked, why not?

Fast forward a few months. After doing some research, taking psychological tests, and undergoing the requisite counseling, Anne finds herself at a Mexican resort meeting her match, Jack H. Surprisingly, even though he isn’t her usual type, she finds herself drawn to him. He, too, is a writer and has gone through several unsuccessful relationships. And isn’t she trying to change her type? Isn’t this bold experiment all about finding a compatible friend?

The two are married and return to Manhattan to begin their lives: moving in together, finding their rhythm, and falling in love. Or so Anne believes.

But then something blindsides Anne when she discovers Jack’s secret work-in-progress.

What mysteries lie within the pages of Jack’s manuscript that turn her world upside down? What does she do next? And how will she go on after this bitter betrayal?

From this point until the end, this unique tale turns a bit predictable. However, Arranged: A Novel was one of those books that I had to keep reading, just because I wasn’t completely sure how it would end. And because I had really connected with the characters. Anne is the kind of woman often portrayed in books and movies: successful, attractive, and hoping to find love. The kind of character that could be a friend or family member. Jack is also the kind of character that attracts female readers with his mix of sensitivity and masculinity. And because her characters are so real, McKenzie kept my interest until the final page. Four stars.


In M.G. Lord’s new book, The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice, we explore, from a different perspective, the life of Elizabeth Taylor. Beneath the beauty and sexy sultriness is another kind of woman. A woman whose roles in her movies mirrored aspects seldom shown in beautiful women: independence, toughness, and the willingness to take on unpopular causes.

From her first big role in National Velvet to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and through all the roles in between, we can see the iconic Taylor inhabiting those parts that take on social injustice, as well as roles that showcase independence, rebellion, and, yes, feminism.

While Taylor would not have described herself as a feminist, according to those who knew her, she was definitely unafraid, independent, and a champion of unpopular social causes. All the qualities that could define a feminist.

From the first chapter to the very end, the author deconstructs the movies that made up Taylor’s career, and illustrates for the reader how each role could be construed as a “feminist” one.

Probably the most “conscious” gift the actress left behind, as part of her legacy, was her fight to fund research and treatment for HIV/AIDS. Like no other role in her life or in her movies, this role in real life was one that showed her true spirit.

Four stars.



Today I’ll be participating again in First Chapter First Paragraph, hosted by Diane, at Bibliophile by the Sea. 

I’ll also be spotlighting my excerpt in Teaser Tuesdays, at Should Be Reading.


Today I’m excerpting from The Accidental Feminist (How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness), by M. G. Lord.

Movie stars establish themselves as brands–and Taylor’s brand , in its most memorable outings, has repeatedly introduced a broad audience to feminist ideas. In her breakout film, “National Velvet” (1944), Taylor’s character challenges gender discrimination,: Forbidden as a girl to ride her beloved horse in an important race, she poses as a male jockey. Her next milestone, “A Place in the Sun” (1951), can be seen as an abortion rights movie–a cautionary tale from a time before women had ready access to birth control. In “Butterfield 8” (1960), for which she won an Oscar, Taylor isn’t censured because she’s a prostitute, but because she chooses the men: she controls her sexuality, a core tenet of the third-wave feminism that emerged in the 1990s. Even “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) depicts the anguish that befalls a woman when the only way she can express herself is through her husband’s stalled career and children….


Opening Paragraphs/Teaser: 

You could say it began in 1944 with National Velvet, when Elizabeth Taylor, age twelve, dressed as a boy and stole America’s collective heart.  By “it,” I mean the subversive drumbeats of feminism, which swelled in the star’s important movies over decades from a delicate pitty-pat to a resounding roar.

Feminism may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Elizabeth Taylor.  But it might if you share your definition with writer Rebecca West:  “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is.  I only know that people call me a feminist when I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”

Elizabeth Taylor has been called many things, but never doormat—not in life and not on screen.  (Except in Ash Wednesday, her 1973 movie, where that was the point).  The characters she played were women to be reckoned with.  And many of her roles—the great and the not-so-great—surreptitiously brought feminist issues to American audiences held captive by those violet eyes and that epic beauty.  While I know that writers and directors create movies, stars create a brand.  And the Taylor brand deserves credit for its under-the-radar challenge to traditional attitudes:  a woman may not control her sexuality; she may not have an abortion; she may not play with the boys; she may not choose to live without a man; she must obey her husband; and should she speak of unpleasantness, she will be silenced.


What do you think?  Will the author be able to hold your attention?

And what did you share today?  Come on by and share….


In a life filled with bookish treasures, is it really accidental, or even serendipitous when we stumble upon books we’ve been drooling over?  Or books by our favorite authors that we didn’t know about?

Not really…

I think we’ve set our course from the time we first lost ourselves in books.

At Snow Sparks today, we’re celebrating themes, and also bookish characters we love.

In the challenges I’ve chosen for this year, I’m exploring eclectic reading choices…which is how I stumbled upon a free book yesterday.

Yes, classics are often free when they’re e-books, and I downloaded one that will fulfill my classics genre for this challenge.

The Secret Garden is one I missed in childhood, so I downloaded this one…free!

And while I was visiting blogs yesterday…or maybe the day before, I discovered one from a favorite author from way back in the day; and with just a couple of clicks at Amazon, this one is wending it’s way to me.

Dance the Eagle to Sleep, by Marge Piercy, is a story ripped right out of my time.  The Seventies.

Originally published in 1970, Marge Piercy’s second novel follows the lives of four teenagers in a near-future society as they rebel against a military draft and “the system.” The occupation of Franklin High School begins, and with it, the open rebellion of America’s youth against their channeled, unrewarding lives and the self-serving, plastic society that directs them. From the disillusionment and alienation of the young at the center of the revolt to their attempts to build a visionary new society, the nationwide following they gain, and the brutally complete repression that inevitably follows, this is a future fiction without a drop of fantasy. As driving, violent, and nuanced today as it was 40 years ago, this anniversary edition includes a new introduction by the author reflecting unapologetically on the novel and the times from which it emerged.

How did I miss this one back then?

Was it serendipity that I discovered it?  The blog I visited was celebrating another of Piercy’s books, which led me to the author page…and you know the rest.

This week I received a book written by Beth Gutcheon, another favorite author, and in exploring her author page, found one I’d missed.

Good-Bye and Amen is a sequel to Leeway Cottage, which I’ve read.

Yes, the reviews say this sequel is “disappointing,” but I’m taking a chance on it anyway.

Do you ever find yourself starting at Point A and ending up somewhere else…and wondering what led you there?  Serendipity?  Fate?  Magic?


Good morning, Sunday Saloners.

Welcome to another day to talk books, chat about our blogs, and share snippets of our lives.

Today was a rainy day here, but not the stormy kind of day.  Just a light, gentle sprinkling that encourages me to curl up and read.

Noah was here, and curled up with his video games.  We watched a movie, too.

A Good Day to Curl up and Read

This past week, I finished my usual number of reads, but one of them was a chunkster from my TBR stacks!  How pleased was I.

Even more so, since it was a delightful read that seemed to breeze along.

I did a little blogging, too, in addition to the usual memes.  Here are some of the posts:





Here is my week’s reading-click titles for reviews:

1.   Unraveling Anne, by Laurel Saville

2.  Almost a Crime, by Penny Vincenzi

3.   Henry’s Sisters (e-book), by Cathy Lamb


Sunday will be more reading, a little writing, and some movie watching.  I’m curious about this movie that I saw on On Demand.

The Ides of March is available on DVD.

What are your plans today?  Any books that are really grabbing your attention?  Stop on by and let’s chat….