Happy New Year


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My Favorite Books

Fav Books 2015

When I looked back at all the books I’d read this year, I learned I’d given exactly ten of them a rating of A+. Amazing, right? This has been one of my best reading years ever, but then I read very few duds. As you can see by my list below, I read a variety of books. I like books for children and young adults. I let my two granddaughters suggest those books. I also like first-rate nonfiction, literary fiction and the best of mysteries and thrillers. Not all my books were first printed in 2015. And, half my books were borrowed from the library. So, out of all the 101 books I read this year, here are the ones I liked the best. (Click the title for my review.)

My Favorite Children’s Books:

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: An autobiography written in verse form. The author made me understand what it was like to actually be her. Her experience as an African American girl in the Sourh in the sixties and in New York in the seventies were painful to hear, yet at times made me laugh.

GraveyardThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: You would never imagine a book about a baby being raised by ghosts in a graveyard as my kind of book, but I loved it. The writing is so superb and the story took my imagination to a whole new world – literally. On top of that, it seemed as if it really could happen!

My Favorite Young Adult:

I'll Give You the SunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: A heart-wrenching story of teenage twins who compete with each other over everything. Their relationship becomes complicated as they move through issues normal to teens as well as those with divorcing parents. It won the Printz Award.

My Favorite NonFiction:

Resiliant InvestorThe Resilient Investor:  I love this book and not just because my son is one of it’s co-author. It’s smart, logical and both thought and action-provoking. The authors help you pinpoint your assets – the personal/social, tangible and financial. Then they help you see how those assets align with the various investment strategies. Their nine-block “Map” is extremely helpful.

QuietQuiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain: It’s nonfiction, but it reads like a story as the author helps us understand what it is to be an introvert in our culture. Since one-third to one-half of everyone we know is one, it behooves us to value the strengths they possess.

My Favorite Fiction, Including Mysteries:

All the LightAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer: This is the story two young people during World War II – one in France and one in Germany. One is the teenaged blind girl hiding out in Nazi occupied France. The other is of a smart young man forced to join the army. The two stories are told in parallel, but will they ever meet?

SilkwormThe Silkworm by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling: The first book in this smart detective series was very good, but this second book took it over the top. A gruesome murder sets Strike and his assistant Robin down a dozen trails, thinking and analyzing all the way. A surprising ending capped it all off in style.

Belong To MeBelong To Me by Marissa de los Santos: Brilliantly drawn characters and intelligent dialogue, verbal and internal, me want to read everything the author has written. It’s one of my 2016 goals.

Godforsaken DaughterThe Godforsaken Daughter by Christina McKenna: Ruby Clare is a young Irish woman who has always allowed her mother and sisters to mistreat her and put her down. A mysterious box of “things” in the attic push Ruby Clare to exert herself. It finally changes her life. I pulled for Ruby Clare all the way.

ATreeGrowsA Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith: A book I hadn’t read since my teen years. It was still just as good. It’s set in the early 1900s. We follow Francie and her family as they try to eke out a living. In spite of their circumstances, Francie manages to find some joy and hope in her life.

I hope you can see why I feel my year has been one of my best years. I’m very thankful to the authors, the publishers, and everyone involved in the book-selling process. Since 51% of the books I read came from here, I’m most grateful to my local library. Thanks for all the many enjoyable hours you gave me.


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Merry Christmas to All

Wishing you and  your family

a warm and happy Christmas

filled with love, laughter, good food, and



I’m off the internet for a while. The whole family has gathered at my eldest daughter’s home in Portland. I’ll post my favorite books of the year next week and perhaps a New Year’s greeting. Otherwise, look for me again after the calendar changes.

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Reading Challenges For 2016


Ta-Da! It’s time to round up the chickens!  Those crazy Reading Challenges are out there teasing and enticing me to join in. How can I resist?

The truth is that Reading Challenges are one of the reasons I started a book blog way back when. Every December I love the idea of joining the challenges and then, when the new year hits, I’m off on something else. Half-way through the year I think of those challenges again. Then I have to scramble. It’s really bad if I joined too many challenges. I moan about never joining another challenge.

But — I’m off to do it again. It’s fun. I have a tendency to go overboard and join too many challenges. Next  year is going to be a light year. My plan is to join four or five year-long challenges and then a few short seasonal challenges throughout the year. Here are the main challenges I’m joining now:

Love Libraries 2016I Love Libraries Challenge
Goal: 50 books

Every year I join the library challenge. I don’t join because I need the push to get more books from the library. I join because I love libraries and what they represent. I like knowing that my simple blog proclaims my stance. In addition, I love sitting in a library and letting all my senses obsorb the books. The fact that they let me take home some of those books, audios, cds, dvds, and magazines is super nice too.

In 2015,  51% of the books I read came from the library and I suspect 2016 will be a similar feat. Therefore I’m joining Bea’s challenge at the highest level – 50 books. If you too are a library-lover or really want to use the library more, join this challenge here: I Love Libraries 2016


What's In A Name 9What’s In a Name?
Goal: 6 books

No way can I skip this challenge. The reason being — it’s really a CHALLENGE. When I look at the six categories for which I have to have matching book titles, I know I will have to scramble. I always do, but that’s part of the fun. I alreadty have one idea. Here are the categories for this 2016 challenge:

1. Country: (The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende)
2. Item of Clothing:
3. Item of Furniture:
4. A Profession: Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica
5. A Month of the Year:
6. A Title with the Word ‘tree’ in it:

For more information and to sign up for this challenge, go here: What’s In a Name?

Foodies Read 2016Foodies Read 2016 Challenge

Goal: Sous Chef 9 to 13 books

The very first reading challenge I joined within months of starting my blog was “Books About Food.” Since then I’ve enjoyed various food related challenges and even started one myself — Foodies Read. I’m happy to see that the challenge has been carried forward first by X at I’d Rather Be At the Beach and now by Heather at Based On a True Story.

I’m going to participate at the Sous Chef level. That means I’ll read 9 to 13 food related books this year. If food books are your thing, visit here: Foodies Read 2016

Cloak and Dagger 2016Cloak and Dagger 2016 Challenge

Goal: Special Agent – 31+ books

There’s not doubt about it – I love to ready any form of mystery. I participated in the Cloak and Dagger Challenge last year and enjoyed seeing what other mystery lovers were reading. I surprised myself by reading 42 books rather than the 30 I thought I would. For 2016 I’m going to sign up for the highest level – the Special Agent which means 31+ books.

If mysteries, thrillers, or crime fiction is a genre you enjoy, you can find more information here: Cloak and Danger Challenge

Triple Dog DareTriple Dog Dare Challenge

Goal: No new books read until April 1st

As I come to the end of this year I see that I have an embarrassing high number of unread books. Ever since I retired I’ve been religious about not accumulating excess books — up until the last six months. I’m not sure why, but I now have enough books to read for a long time without adding one additional book. I need to regain my usual willpower to read what I have. I’m going to do that via the Triple Dog Dare Challenge.

The challenge requires me to read only those books in my possession prior to January 1st. The challenge extends for three months, an ample amount of time to make a good dent in my pile. I’ve agreed to read and review two book-tour books during that time, but I already have the ecopies.

If you feel the need to get control of your book pile, I suggest the Triple Dog Dare Challenge. Information is here: Triple Dog Dare 2016

I have two perpetual or long-term challenges I’m still working on. I’ve slowed down on both of them, but I do need to get going again. I am only halfway through the Agatha Christie Challenge and only one/third of the way through my Classics Club challenge. I am nor quitting, however. I’m going to keep going.


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Book Tour and Review: The Precious One

Precious OneBy Marisa de los Santos

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; December 1, 2015)

Last week I shared with you that my daughter has been encouraging me to read books by this author. Finally, I read Belong To Me and absolutely loved it. I am now on a quest to read every single book the Marisa de los Santos has written. So now to The Precious One. Here’s the publisher’s summary:

In all her life, Eustachian (Taisy) Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary – professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk – her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter, Willow, only once.

Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister – a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?

The story is told in first person from the perspective of Taisy and Willow. I met Taisy first. I have to tell you I bonded with Taisy immediately. Her background, with that horrible father, would make anyone feel sorry for her. But, Taisy doesn’t require or want anyone’s sympathy. She’s created a life for herself and is doing quite well with plenty of good friends and a successful career as a best-selling ghost writer.

Taisy really didn’t want to go back to her old hometown and to her father and his replacement family. She just couldn’t say no. She was prepared to be treated badly by all of them. She found her father just as nasty as usual, although he was sick and his wife, Caroline the gifted artist, was actually very kind. It was Willow, her sixteen-year-old sister who was hostile.

When I met Willow and heard her side of the story it took me a while to warm to her. It was obvious that she was naive and not very savvy about the outside world. Up until three months before Willow had been home-schooled and closely sheltered. The only information she had had been filtered through her father. No cell phone, no internet, no fiction prior to the 1800s. Can you imagine? At first she resented Taisy. She didn’t want anyone to come between her and her father.

When Willow and Taisy began to interact, things began to change. Willow began to see Taisy as she really was and not what her father had told her. Taisy saw right away that Willow needed help maneuvering the social maze of high school. Willow was extremely smart and at the core she had a good heart. But, she was naive! Because of her naivete, Willow didn’t know that her English teacher was behaving inappropriately until it bordered on the dangerous.

As I discovered in her previous book, the author is absolutely gifted when it comes to character development. None of the characters in this book were perfect. They were flawed just like normal people are. The dialogue, both internal and external, was natural and complete. I have focused on the two main characters but, I’m happy to say, there was a nice compliment of supporters, including a love interest for both Taisy and Willow.

The Precious One was not as complex a story as Belong To Me. I can still recommend it as heartily as I did Belong To Me. If you are a fellow Marisa de los Santos fan, don’t miss this one.

Marisa de los Santos

About Marisa de los Santos

A New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing, Marisa de los Santos lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her family.

Connect with Marisa on†Facebook†and Twitter.

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Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: Marisa de los Santos Book Tour Schedule

tlc tour host

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Wondrous Words #329

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

One of the groups my husband and I belong to was having a potluck brunch. My contribution was to bring some kind of bread. I decided to do muffins and scones. I thought a mixture of orange and blueberries would make a good morning muffin.

Orange Blueberry MuffinsI don’t have a recipe like that so I simply googled it and had plenty of options. The recipe I chose had a new word for me – a nice little bonus.

insouciance: “These muffins offer nothing but cheerful insouciance and the promise of a blood-sugar crash come mid-afternoon.”

Insouciance, pronounced inˈso͞osēəns, means casual lack of concern or indifference. I don’t know if the author meant to use that word in this sentence. To me cheerful and indifference don’t really go together. Can anyone help me here?

By the way, the muffins were delicious.

My Wondrous Words will be on leave for  the next few weeks. I’ll see you again after the new year. Don’t forget to keep looking for those new-to-you words.

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First Paragraph: The Precious One

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

I’m on a Marisa de los Santos reading roll. Last Sunday I shared my thoughts on Belong To Me. This week I reading her latest novel – The Precious One. It’s a very moving story. Here’s how it begins:

Precious One.


If I hadn’t been alone in the house; if it hadn’t been early morning, with that specific kind of fuzzy, early morning quiet and a sky the color of moonstones and raspberry jam outside my kitchen window; if I had gotten further than two sips into my bowl-sized mug of coffee; if he himself hadn’t called but had sent the message via one of his usual minions; if his voice had been his voice and not a dried-up, flimsy paring off the big golden apple of his baritone; if he hadn’t said “please,” if it had been a different hour in a different day entirely, maybe—just maybe—I would have turned him down.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

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Fantastic Characters: Belong To Me by Marisa de los Santos

Belong To MePublisher: William Morrow 2008

My daughter, Candice, suggested I read this book several years ago, but I put it off. The book stayed on my to-read list until Heather from TLC Book Tours asked if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing the author’s newest book, The Precious One. I said yes and then determined to read Belong To Me first.

I wish I had paid attention to my daughter’s urgings because this book was fantastic. I absolutely loved the characters in this novel. I swear these are real people. They had problems many of us can identify with. I hated to leave them after the last page. Let me give you the gist of the story:

“A devoted city dweller, Cornelia Brown surprised no one more than herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to leave urban life behind and head for an idyllic suburb. Though she knows she and her beloved husband, Teo, have made the right move, she approaches her new life with trepidation and struggles to forge friendships in her new home. Cornelia’s mettle is quickly tested by judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt. Perfectly manicured, impeccably dressed, and possessing impossible standards, Piper is the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she would find in suburbia. A saving grace soon appears in the form of Lake. Over a shared love of literature and old movies, Cornelia develops an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman who has also recently arrived in town, ostensibly to send her perceptive and brilliant son, Dev, to a school for the gifted.” — from the publisher

There’s a wonderful cast of characters here, but three of the characters took turns telling their side of the story. First was Cornelia who told her story from the first person. She tells us of desire to make new friends and connect with others. She’d also love to have a baby, but it’s been a problem.

We also see the story from the point of view of Piper, Cornelia’s snooty neighbor. She’s like a few women I’ve known. She expects perfection and wants to control everyone and everything. She manages to intimidate everyone into doing what she wants. But there’s more underneath that crusty exterior and Cornelia manages to see the real Piper.

The third character is Dev, a 13/14 year-old boy I loved. He’s very smart as well as intuitive when it comes to people. His single mom, Lake, has just moved them to town because of a special school for gifted kids. Life is so much better for Dev now as he makes some good friends and is treated respectfully by his teachers. I particularly liked Dev’s internal voice. His mind wanders around all sides of an issue with the exception of one emotional issue that occurs near the end of the book.

When Dev’s mom, Lake, hooks up with Cornelia, the whole interconnection of all the characters begins. One of the best things about these people is their intelligence. They’re well read, witty, understanding, and X. These people really touched my emotions. I cried and laughed and shook my head and sometimes my finger – at Piper.

These characters are a credit to this amazing author. Marisa de los Santos has now become one of my must-read authors. I never should have put off reading her books. I’m going to go full-speed ahead to read the rest of what she has written. I think you too should read at least Belong To Me.

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Wondrous Words #328

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog. I found a couple of new words while roaming about on the internet.

This first word I saw on a first paragraph of a new novel coming out in January: Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian:

1.  bacchanalian: “What she does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, her husband sharing a dangerously intimate moment in the guest room, and two women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night.”

Bacchanalian is something characterized by or given to drunken revelry or riotously drunken or an orgy.


I found this word in a New York Times article about Dear, the Colorado Springs alleged killer:

2.  screed:  “He frequented marijuana websites, then argued with other posters, often through heated religious screeds.”

Screed is a long speech or piece of writing, typically one regarded as tedious.

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

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First Paragraph: Belong To Me

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

I’ve been meaning to read Belong To Me by Marisa de los Santos for quite a while. This month was the perfect time to read it since I am reading another book by the author for a book tour. So far I am loving the characters in this book. Here’s how it begins:

Belong To MeONE


My fall from suburban grace, or more accurately, my failure to achieve the merest molehill of suburban grace from which to fall, began with a dinner party and a perfectly innocent, modestly clever, and only faintly quirky remark about Armand Assante.


What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

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