Book Reviews · Recommendations

From Cradle to Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl

From Cradle to Stage:
Stories from Mothers who Raised Rock Stars
By: Virginia Hanlon Grohl

Book Cover

Published: April 2017
Published by: Hachette
Format Read: Audio book, Audible
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, Memoir

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Written by Virginia Grohl, the mother of Dave Grohl—former Nirvana drummer and current frontman for the Foo Fighters—From Cradle to Stage shares stories and exclusive photos featuring mothers of rock icons, the icons themselves, and their Behind the Music-style relationships

While the Grohl family had always been musical-the family sang together on long car trips, harmonizing to Motown and David Bowie-Virginia never expected her son to become a musician, let alone a rock star. But when she saw him perform in front of thousands of screaming fans for the first time, she knew that rock stardom was meant to be for her son. And as Virginia watched her son’s star rise, she often wondered about the other mothers who raised sons and daughters who became rock stars. Were they as surprised as she was about their children’s fame? Did they worry about their children’s livelihood and wellbeing in an industry fraught with drugs and other dangers? Did they encourage their children’s passions despite the odds against success, or attempt to dissuade them from their grandiose dreams? Do they remind their kids to pack a warm coat when they go on tour?

Virginia decided to seek out other rock star mothers to ask these questions, and so began a two-year odyssey in which she interviewed such women as Verna Griffin, Dr. Dre’s mother; Marianne Stipe, Michael Stipe of REM’s mother; Janis Winehouse, Amy Winehouse’s mother; Patsy Noah, Adam Levine’s mother; Donna Haim, mother of the Haim sisters; Hester Diamond, Mike D of The Beastie Boys’ mother.

With exclusive family photographs and a foreword by Dave Grohl, From Cradle to Stage will appeal to mothers and rock fans everywhere.

My Thoughts

While you may not know who Virginia Hanlon Grohl is by name, you will most likely know her son Dave Grohl, as one of the most influential musicians of the past 30 years. In her book From Cradle to Stage, she takes readers along as she learns about the familial and maternal influences behind some of the most successful musicians. Along with these stories are vignettes about her son, the early years of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters.

I admit that I decided to listen to this audio book specifically to learn more about the lead singer of one of my favourite rock bands; Foo Fighters. I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed all the chapters, ranging from those I was familiar with to the ones I had never heard of before.

Chapters I especially found intriguing were that of; Bev Lambert (mom of Miranda Lambert) and Mary Weinrib (mother of Geddy Lee).

Aside from learning about how these musicians got their start, readers and listeners will see the importance of a strong support system behind big dreams. As a mother this only makes me even more eager to help and support my own child to cultivate his strengths and talents.

Virginia Hanlon Grohl also stresses the importance of funding arts programs in schools and how the lack of this education can negatively impact the success of some children.

I highly recommend From Cradle to Stage to music lovers and mothers alike.

Book Reviews

Trouble and Strife by Johanne Levesque

Trouble and Strife
By: Johanne Levesque

Book Cover

Published: March 2018
Published by: Austin Macauley Publishers
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Sometimes the smallest voices make the deepest impact.

Josephine Hadley, a 1930s Canadian housewife, fills her days looking after her children, her indifferent husband and a stream of Depression-era visitors. Her contribution to her guests is a bowl of stew and an open heart.

Her small world, however, is soon shattered by a tragic event which forces her to become the breadwinner. Can she run a business without sacrificing herself? And is it possible to act on a long-buried desire without remorse?

Johanne Levesque’s first novel, Trouble and Strife, is a poignant and heartbreaking look at a woman’s life in a fast-changing time. With intimate details and a deft poetic touch, Levesque has captured the spirit of an age where war and economic hardship altered the workplace, home and women’s lives forever.

My Thoughts

Debut author Johanne Levesque, shares a tale of a Toronto housewife raising her family during the Great Depression.

I had the opportunity of meeting the author at a community event in my hometown, several years ago. Being a historical fiction fan and eager to help support a local talent, I scooped up a copy of Trouble and Strife.

Told in the style of diary entries, this book offers a day-in-the-life glimpse of a women who wasn’t accustomed to hardships in her married life and who, even in the depths of the Great Depression, still had more than most. Josephine was a privalaged woman, whose redeeming quality was her charitable work, assisting those hardest hit by the state of the world.

While I was grateful for the opportunity to read and review Trouble and Strife, I did not connect with the characters at all. There were times when I questioned the historical accuracy, found contradictions and inconsistencies in the storyline. Unfortunately in the end I rated this novel only 2 stars and wouldn’t recommend it to other readers.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

The Winter Sister
By: Megan Collins
Narrated by: Rebekkah Ross

Book Cover

Published: February 2019
Published by: Simon & Schuster Audio
Format Read: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Mystery

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: I was sent a copy of Megan Collins The Winter Garden, from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. This is my review of the audio book.

Synopsis

In this spellbinding and suspenseful debut, a young woman haunted by the past returns home to care for her ailing mother and begins to dig deeper into her sister’s unsolved murder.

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth really will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we really know the people we love most?

My Thoughts

Megan Collins debut novel follows a woman who reluctantly returns to her hometown to care for her ailing mother, meanwhile the death of her older sister, years before still haunts and riddles her with grief. Can she get to the bottom of what really happened on that winter night?

The relationships in this book were as cold as its title. The way the characters spoke to each other was terrible and set an uncomfortable tone to all their interactions. The narrator especially did a great job of portraying the mother as a miserable and unfeeling person.

I enjoyed the pacing of this novel and while I did like the mystery, I didn’t find it as thrilling or suspenseful as I anticipated.

Although I was able to predict the outcome, it was a good read that I would recommend to fans of the genre.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Devoted (The Bishop’s Family, 3) by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Devoted
(The Bishop’s Family, 3)
By: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Book Cover

Published: October 2016
Published by: Fleming H. Revell Company
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Christian Fiction, Amish Fiction

Rating: 4/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of Suzanne Woods Fisher’s The Devoted, from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Fan Favorite Suzanne Woods Fisher Offers Readers Tender Romance, Humor, and Plenty of Surprises
Bright, curious, and restless, Ruthie Stoltzfus loves her family but is stuck in a sea of indecision about her future: Should she stay Amish? Or should she leave? She’s done all she can to prepare to go–passed the GED, saved her money–but she can’t quite set her journey into motion.
Patrick Kelly is a young man on a journey of his own. He’s come to Stoney Ridge to convert to the Amish and has given himself thirty days to learn the language, drive a buggy, and adapt to “everything Plain.” Time, to Patrick, is of the essence. Every moment is to be cherished, especially the hours he spends with Ruthie, his Penn Dutch tutor.
Ruthie’s next-door neighbor and cunning ex-boyfriend, Luke Schrock, is drawn to trouble like a moth to a flame. Rebellious, headstrong, defiant, Luke will do anything to win Ruthie back–“anything”–and Patrick Kelly is getting in his way.
Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites readers back to Stoney Ridge for a story of dreams deferred and hopes fulfilled–complete with Fisher’s signature twists that never fail to leave readers delighted.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Devoted is the third and final book in Suzanne Woods Fisher’s The Bishop’s Family trilogy. In this installment readers follow the Bishop’s daughter Ruthie as she is trying to decide the right path to take in her life. As her troubled ex-boyfriend Luke unsuccessfully tries to win her back, a new young English man named Patrick comes to Stoney Ridge and catches her attention.

As with the previous books in this trilogy, The Devoted presented a story chalk-full of life lessons and profound messages. It has been some time since I read The Imposter (book1) and The Quieting (book 2), and the father David still remains one of my favourite characters. Even though his part in this third book was smaller, I appreciate how much growth he makes with each hurdle and moral dilemma he meets.

This story kept me interested through out. I was surprised that Luke’s troubles were depicted in a way that was as dark as it was, considering the Christian and Amish fiction genre. It really added an extra emotional layer to the plot.

I highly recommend Suzanne Woods Fisher, as she is one of my favourite auto-read authors. I suggest that those who may be interested in reading The Devoted, begin with the first book in the series, as there is quite a detailed backstory.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

A Royal Pain (Her Royal Spyness 2) by Rhys Bowen

A Royal Pain
(Her Royal Spyness, 2)
By: Rhys Bowen
Narrated by: Katherine Kellgren

Book Cover

Published: July 2008
Published by: Berkley
Format Read: Paperback, Audio Book, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

It’s 1930s London, and Lady Georgiana — thirty-fourth in line to the throne — has a lot on her plate, but little in her cupboards, in this national bestseller…

Baked beans and boiled eggs. That’s what my houseguest, the Bavarian princess, will have to eat if I don’t get help posthaste. The Queen of England has requested I entertain said princess, placing her in the playboy prince’s path, in hopes he might finally marry.

But queens never consider money, of which I have little. And which is why I moonlight as a maid-in-disguise. My plans:
1) Clean house in manner of palace.
2) Blackmail brother, Binky, into sending a few quid.
3) Unteach Princess Hanni English from gangster movies — lest she address the queen as “old broad.”
4) Keep eye on princess at parties, where she drinks like a fish.

Then there’s the matter of the body in the bookshop and Hanni’s unwitting involvement with the communist party. It’s enough to drive a girl mad…

My Thoughts

Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series follows 34th in line to the British throne; the fictional Lady Georgiana. She may be of royal relation, but like the majority of the world during the 1930’s she is struggling to make ends meet and live up to her social standing. In this second installment of the series, Lady Georgiana is tasked by the Queen to host a young Princess from Bavaria, in hope that she will win the heart of the Prince. Tie in a Communist plot, high society and three deaths, then you have A Royal Pain.

I had so much fun reading this novel. The situations Lady Georgiana gets herself in are always entertaining. The addition of an American gangster film loving Princess Hanni was hilarious.

I alternated between reading a paperback and listening to the audiobook. Katherine Kellgren’s narration of Lady Georgiana reminded me of Lady Mary Crowley from Downton Abbey, only less snooty and with a better sense of humor.

I highly recommend A Royal Pain and the Royal Spyness series to fans of humorous historical mysteries.

Book Reviews · Charlie's Corner · Recommendations

Charlie’s Corner: Waiting for Snow by Marsha Diane Arnold

Welcome to Charlie’s Corner, named after my little boy. Here I will share children’s product and book reviews.

Waiting for Snow
By: Marsha Diane Arnold
Illustrated by: Renata Liwska

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Published: November 2016
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format Read: eBook, Library book, Libby App.
Genre: Children’s fiction, Picture Book

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Badger cannot wait one more minute for it to snow. When his friend Hedgehog explains that everything comes in its time, Badger is as unconvinced and impatient as ever. But Badger’s friends have a few tricks up their sleeve to try to get the snow’s attention and distract their pal in the meantime. In the end, Badger sees there’s no trick—only waiting—until at last, it’s time. 

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Badger can’t wait for snow so he and his animal friends try to think of ways they can bring on the weather. In this cute picture books, children are taught the importance of patients. Waiting for Snow by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Renata Liwska is the perfect read for those little ones who can’t wait to get out and build a snowman or go for a sled ride.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

The Lieutenant’s Nurse
By: Sara Ackerman
Narrated by: Lauren Ezzo

Book Cover

Published: March 2019
Published by: Harlequin Audio
Format Read: Audio book, Audible
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Note: I was sent a copy of Sara Ackerman’s The Lieutenant’s Nurse, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. However I wasn’t able to read the eBook, so this is my review of the Audiobook.

Synopsis

November, 1941. She’s never even seen the ocean before, but Eva Cassidy has her reasons for making the crossing to Hawaii, and they run a lot deeper than escaping a harsh Michigan winter. Newly enlisted as an Army Corps nurse, Eva is stunned by the splendor she experiences aboard the steamship SS Lurline; even more so by Lt. Clark Spencer, a man she is drawn to but who clearly has secrets of his own. But Eva’s past—and the future she’s trying to create—means that she’s not free to follow her heart. Clark is a navy intelligence officer, and he warns her that the United States won’t be able to hold off joining the war for long, but nothing can prepare them for the surprise attack that will change the world they know.
In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eva and her fellow nurses band together for the immense duty of keeping the American wounded alive. And the danger that finds Eva threatens everything she holds dear. Amid the chaos and heartbreak, Eva will have to decide whom to trust and how far she will go to protect those she loves.
Set in the vibrant tropical surroundings of the Pacific, The Lieutenant’s Nurse is an evocative, emotional WWII story of love, friendship and the resilient spirit of the heroic nurses of Pearl Harbor.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Army Corps nurse Eva Cassidy is eager to get away from a difficult situation in her home state of Michigan and embarks on a journey to her assigned station in Hawaii. While aboard the S.S. Lurline, she befriends a Lt. Spencer and becomes accidentally privy to some classified information. However, it isn’t long after they arrive in paradise that the unimaginable happens; Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese.

I have been looking for a historical fiction set in Pearl Harbor for quite some time. When I read the synopsis for The Lieutenants Nurse, I jumped at the change to add it to my TBR list.

Not only was the island setting absolutely beautiful, but I really enjoyed Eva’s trip aboard the steamship as well.

Although I didn’t have any particular issued with the narration of this novel, at times my interest in listening to it waned and I found myself wishing I could turn to a physical copy or eBook version to read.

My final impression of The Lieutenants Nurse was that it was interesting and at times fast paced. I would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction with romance.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

The Lake of Dreams
By: Kim Edwards

Book Cover

Published: November 2010
Published by: Penguin Books
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Contemporary fiction, Literary fiction

Rating: 3/5

Note: I won a copy of Kim Edwards The Lake of Dreams from the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways. This is my honest review.

Synopsis

From Kim Edwards, the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, an arresting novel of one family’s secret history

Imbued with all the lyricism, compassion, and suspense of her bestselling novel, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards’s The Lake of Dreams is a powerful family drama and an unforgettable story of love lost and found.

Lucy Jarrett is at a crossroads in her life, still haunted by her father’s unresolved death a decade earlier. She returns to her hometown in Upstate New York, The Lake of Dreams, and, late one night, she cracks the lock of a window seat and discovers a collection of objects. They appear to be idle curiosities, but soon Lucy realizes that she has stumbled across a dark secret from her family’s past, one that will radically change her—and the future of her family—forever.

The Lake of Dreams 
will delight those who loved The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, as well as fans of Anna Quindlen and Sue Miller.

My Thoughts

Estranged from her Upstate New York home, Lucy returns after years spent abroad. After all the time that had passed the same animosities and grief remains. However the small lakeside town has advanced with the times, much to her dismay. While Lucy struggles with her guilt, she uncovers a missing link in her families history that might result in further upsetting changes.

The Lake of Dreams read (to me) like a literary fiction; a genre I don’t normally read. I feel that this contributed to why I struggled to connect with the main character. The tone of this novel was very melancholy, as was Lucy.

My favourite aspect was the uncovering of the Jarrett family genealogy. I thought the environmental storyline that was presented at the beginning of the novel could have taken the plot down an interesting path. Lucy even had to knowledge to stand up and fight more to protect the marshland from being developed. However I was disappointed that this potential was lost.

Although I wasn’t able to connect with The Lake of Dreams like I hoped, I would still recommend this book to those who like literary fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino

For the Love of Friends
By: Sara Goodman Confino

Book Cover

Published: August 2021
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Format Read: ebook, Net Galley, Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3/5

Note: I was sent a copy of For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino, from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A sharp and hilariously relatable novel about the business of weddings, the toll they can take, and the lengths one exasperated bridesmaid will go to for the love of friends.

Lily Weiss is her mother’s worst nightmare: thirty-two and single—the horror! She’s also a talented writer but hides behind a boring job at a science foundation. To her friends, she’s reliable and selfless, which is how she winds up a bridesmaid in five weddings in six weeks. Anything for her three best friends and two (younger) siblings, right? Even if her own love life is…well, she’d rather not talk about it. To keep her sanity, Lily needs a safe place to vent.

And so her anonymous blog, Bridesmania, is born. The posts start pouring out of her: all the feels about mom-zillas, her vanishing bank balance, the wicked bridesmaids of the west, high-strung brides-to-be, body-shaming dress clerks, bachelorette parties, and Spanx for days, not to mention being deemed guardian of eighty-eight-year-old Granny (who enjoys morning mimosas in the nude) for her brother’s destination wedding.

So far the blog has stayed anonymous. But as everyone knows, few things online remain secret forever…

When all is said and done, can Lily help all five couples make it to happily ever after? And will her own happy ending be close behind?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

32 years old, single and stuck in a job beneath her talent; that describes Lily, the main character in Sara Goodman Confino’s debut novel. Life was pretty uneventful until she agrees to be in, not one, but five different weddings! That’s five weddings in the span of only 6 weeks! Piece of cake, right? Wrong! Especially when you throw in numerous celebrations, commitments, bridesmaids from hell and a nearly non-existent budget.

Anyone who has ever planned or been in a wedding party can relate to the chaos that occurs in For the Love of Friends. I’ve had the pleasure of standing in two weddings to date and while it was an honor, they were anxiety inducing experiences for sure. I couldn’t imagine juggling five at once, like Lily. This was a character I was able to easily relate to.

The author did a great job of conveying the emotions Lily experienced including; feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Although the blogging of the mania would get her into hot water, I enjoyed reading about this aspect. Although this is a lighthearted contemporary, I appreciate and was able to relate to the inclusion of body shaming in the wedding industry. Sure, it sounds nice for all the bridesmaids to wear the same dress, but not every women has the same body type. Some of the demands the brides made in this story were way over the top. The hectic pace of this book reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.

I would recommend For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino to fans of humorous contemporaries with a dash of romance.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman

Inheriting Edith
By: Zoe Fishman

Book Cover

Published: January 2016
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks

Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3/5

Note: I won a copy of Inheriting Edith by Zoe Fishman, from the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways. This is my honest review.

Synopsis

A poignant breakout novel, for fans of J. Courtney Sullivan and Elin Hilderbrand, about a single mother who inherits a beautiful beach house with a caveat—she must take care of the ornery elderly woman who lives in it.

For years, Maggie Sheets has been an invisible hand in the glittering homes of wealthy New York City clients, scrubbing, dusting, mopping, and doing all she can to keep her head above water as a single mother. Everything changes when a former employer dies leaving Maggie a staggering inheritance. A house in Sag Harbor. The catch? It comes with an inhabitant: The deceased’s eighty-two-year old mother Edith.

Edith has Alzheimer’s—or so the doctors tell her—but she remembers exactly how her daughter Liza could light up a room, or bring dark clouds in her wake. And now Liza’s gone, by her own hand, and Edith has been left—like a chaise or strand of pearls—to a poorly dressed young woman with a toddler in tow.

Maggie and Edith are both certain this arrangement will be an utter disaster. But as summer days wane, a tenuous bond forms, and Edith, who feels the urgency of her diagnosis, shares a secret that she’s held close for five decades, launching Maggie on a mission that might just lead them each to what they are looking for.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Inheriting Edith follows a single hardworking mother who un-expectantly inherits a house, after the death of a former friend. The only stipulation is that she must become a caregiver for the woman’s elderly mother.

This was a quick contemporary fiction that I flew through. It was exactly the pace I was looking for at the time. I could easily relate to the main character Maggie, as she dedicated herself to making a better life for her child. Newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Edith was rightly frustrated with her situation and I thought that she was aptly depicted. The brief glimpses of her backstory were interesting as well.

The author presented a story with many points that covered difficult subject matter. Things that could have made for a very emotional reading experience. Unfortunately, in the end, I found this novel just fell flat in those aspects. Issues and potential storylines that could have been more deeply explored, were only briefly touched on. The ideas were there and I believe the author possesses the ability to craft a more in-depth novel, however this was not the case here.

While I enjoyed Finding Edith for the quick story it was, it did leave me somewhat unfulfilled. This book touches on the following topics that might triggers some readers; suicide, grief and mental illness. However they aren’t deeply explored and might not have the impact heavier books with the same topics, might have.