News from Heaven by Jennifer Haigh

News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories

*coal makes family fires burn bright*

A series of stories set into a variety of historical time periods but all featuring the fictional denizens of coaltown Bakerton, Pennsylvania. Some of stories connect through specific characters -or families, some connect in time, and some are just connected through location, but each one has an unique perspective on life. This is a book filled with treasured moments, for both the characters and the reader. As the first book that I’ve read by this author, I’m glad to know there are already more books waiting for me! And you too!


Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Instructions for a Heatwave

*mother brother sisters wife husbands boyfriends*

Why this particular story was set in the English heatwave of 1976, I’m still not sure. There are brief mentions of the heat and laws that were enacted to curtail water waste, but it’s such a small part of the overall picture that it shouldn’t be the reason to select this book over another. Instead, readers who enjoy a good dose of family drama, punctuated by plenty of individual and sibling related secrets, will be more than pleased with this story. Gretta and Robert Riordain left Ireland for London, England in hopes of making a better future for their family, and when Michael, Monica, and Aoife are born -in that order- there isn’t any reason this shouldn’t have been the case. Yet each sibling has a personal struggle as well as how they are blending (or not blending) into the family dynamics, all adding a layer of tension when these adult children come home to rally around Gretta over a four-day period in July. Forced into close confines, issues that have remained dormant spring to life -and it’s the best thing that’s happened to this family in ages. Perhaps this isn’t a groundbreaking book, but it was -for sure- a nice way to experience a different place and time.

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

The Engagements

*twinkle twinkle pretty diamond engagement rings*

Built around the central idea of diamond engagement rings and Frances Gerety, the advertising genius behind A Diamond is Forever tagline, this book takes readers into five different stories set into five different time periods. Each story is told through one perspective and feel honest in their assessment of key relationships, both romantic and familial. The time frames change at a fairly rapid pace, but never feel rushed or confusing, and the author does an excellent job of bringing everyone’s piece of the puzzle together to make one solid, final picture. Great characters, interesting historical references, and intricately created relationships make this clever book so entertaining to read. You’ll come for the glitz but stay for the real, human emotions.

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife: Season One

Call The Midwife: Season Two

season 1 *and* season 2

Holy moly -what a fabulous series! I love knowing these stories are based on a real person, Jennifer Lee, and her actual nursing experiences in the East End of London during the 1950s. I love how completely easy it is to get sucked into each episode -even though you know there will be tears (happy and/or sad) at some point. I love that each time the beginning credits scroll past, I feel real anticipation over what new historical detail will be revealed or which relationships we might get to learn more about in the next hour! Plus? How can you not love getting to experience all the (now) classic fashions, music, and everyday objects that add that extra touch of realism to all of it -good stuff! The cast has great chemistry, the topics have social value in both historical and contemporary context, and it’s cinematically easy on the eyes… What’s not to love?! Watch this series -soon!- you won’t be sorry!!

Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter

Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave*learn important ideas with easy understanding*

Getting right down to business by introducing the idea behind the title in the prologue, it’s impossible not to be intrigued from the get-go. How can you not want to know more about using a particular shade of pink to subtly persuade angry people that they feel just a little weaker and much calmer than they did before they were surrounded by bright pink?! But there are so many other, equally enlightening ideas that provide good reasons to pause, consider, and learn something new about the world around us -and within us!- that makes this book fascinating. Plus?! The author does a wonderful job at keeping the explanations complete -but simple- so it’s easy to digest and decide if the idea is personally intriguing enough for further investigation. Anything that makes me stop and think? I like. This made me stop and think -a lot! I like it -a lot!

Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies by Chris Kluwe

Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities*football kicker scores multiple winning essays*

This is one smart, funny, insightful, funny, social aware, and funny set of essays! It’s easy to read a whole bunch in one sitting, but you can also space them out to prolong your enjoyment of the strange and wonderful inner-workings of Mr. Kluwe’s mind. Not afraid to call out professional sports stars as some of the most overpaid, overvalued members of our society, he also is proud of what he does and how he’s been able to use his celebrity for positive change. Mr. Kluwe supports marriage equality, using good manners and common-sense in his everyday life, and he loves his family without reservation, plus he does it all with a sense of humor. Who wouldn’t want use the phrase Beautifully Unique Sparklepony -as the author intended- after reading this?

A Jane Austen Education: How six novels taught me about love, friendship, and the things that really matter by William Deresiewicz

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me about Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

*delightful new friend with shared interests*

As a second-year graduate student in English, the author signed up for a class “Studies in the Novel” and found himself reluctantly reading Emma, his first Austen story. He had been confident Jane Austen and her writing would hold nothing of interest to a twenty-something man of the twentieth-century. Instead each novel had life lesson inside for him, just waiting to be discovered, pondered, and incorporated into the way he would now look at the world around him. How awesome is that?! How can you not enjoy a dude proudly declaring that woman writer -from over two hundred years ago!- had important ideas to impart *and* that he was willing to put his manly pride aside to learn them!! Good stuff! He is now a devoted Janite and Jane Austen scholar.

Sailor Twain: or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel

Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson

*beware mermaids on land or water*

This graphic novel mixes a little bit historical, fairy tale, and horror story onto its pages. Our adventure begins at the end of caused so many, so much misery. The 1887 as Sailor Twain is bribed by a mysterious lady into revealing the secrets that havemore he shares the stranger the tale and the more desperate his audience becomes, going from wanting to needing to hear the truth of what happened to her love. As the book draws to a close, readers have to wonder if “The End” is really the end after all.

How To Tell if Your Cat is Trying to Kill You by The Oatmeal

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You

*pages of offbeat unexpected original humor*

A must read for both cat owners and those rare, strange folk -cat haters. This graphic novel focuses mostly on the Bobs, two cats who have work cubicles and torture their co-workers. If you’ve never seen the author’s website? And you like a good laugh? You really need to check out Be warned that some of the content is mature and you might want to take a look at it at home or away from public until you decide where you might be most comfortable viewing the content.

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

A Spear of Summer Grass

*fear African wildlife less than society-types?*

In 1923 Delilah Drummond leaves her fabulous, scandalous flapper life in Paris to avoid bringing serious legal trouble to her family’s front door. Headed to her step-father’s homestead in Kenya, Delilah and her cousin-slash-chaperone Dora find the people, the place, and the land are all in dire need of a helping hand. Will that hand belong to Delilah or will she be headed back to the party life as soon as can be managed? Strong characters hold their own against a stunning setting and the intriguing descriptions tribal customs -as well as the exiled British community- are fascinating.