December 12

Top Ten Tuesday: My Best of 2017

December 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish in which they select a topic every week, and the rest of us get to make Top Ten lists based on that topic. This week’s topic: Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017. I read more books this year than in any other year prior. With over 100 to choose from, there is no way I can keep this list to 10. Not all of these were published in 2017, but if it’s a favorite, I need to share it with you! Here is what I most recommend for you (click on the book title to be taken to the Goodreads link):

Middle Grade Favorites:

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate: A great lesson on racial and cultural acceptance. This one warmed my heart!

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner: The story of a girl who learns of her sister’s heroin addiction and what it means for her and her family. So age appropriate, so real, and just so good!

The Sixty Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone: I love the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Miniatures Room is one of my favorites. You set a MG mystery/fantasy here, and I am definitely in on reading it!

Young Adult Favorites:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: One of the most important books I read this year that epitomizes this time in our country’s history. A teen girl witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend by a police officer. I cannot recommend this one enough!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: A great coming of age story about a boy who is coming to terms with his sexuality. What made this a home run was the fact that this audio book was narrated by Lin Manuel Miranda.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee: Set in the 18th century, this coming of age story had a totally unique premise! I loved following the adventures and growth of Percy and Monty as well as all the European settings!

Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena: I keep thinking about this one even though I finished it this summer. I loved the characters and setting, but even more I loved all of the life messages that were included.

Fiction Favorites:

The Mothers by Brit Bennett: This debut novel made me feel all sorts of emotions. Well written, vividly descriptive, this one will tug at your heart strings!

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips: I will never look at a zoo the same way again. You will read this thriller in no time at all. A page turner at its best!

The Two Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman: This is another one that has stayed with me long after I finished it. I loved the characters, but the character of Helen may be one of my favorite characters of all time. This multigenerational novel is a definite winner!

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal: Based on the title of this book, you might expect something that is completely different from what it actually was. Part mystery, part romance, part contemporary, with themes of diversity, cultural acceptance, feminism, grief, and more. The characters were well-developed, and I would love to hear more about them in the future.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: A longtime classic that I just read for this first time this year. I have a bit of an obsession for Plath, and I want to read more of her writing and learn more about her life.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford: I am a huge fan of Jamie Ford, and his newest novel does not disappoint. The story of a boy who is raffled off at the 1909 Seattle World’s Fair who ends up living in a brothel. Tell me you are not intrigued!

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: I almost didn’t include this one, because it has made so many “Best of” lists this year, but there is a reason for that. The character development, the depiction of rural life both past and present, even the somewhat paranormal elements all make for an outstanding and well written novel.

Nonfiction Favorites:

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah: I learned so much about South African history and life, and Noah is magical narrator to listen to if you check out the audio version!

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond: This book was such an eye opener on poverty, homelessness, and trying to live in this country when the odds are stacked against you. It definitely made me look at poverty in a new way.

What were your favorite books this year?

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November 30

November 2017 Wrap Up

November 30, 2017

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve done a monthly wrap up. I’m actually excited to put this together, because it has been so long since I’ve shared glimpses of my life with all of you. Here is what I am grateful for this month:

nov personal highlights

  • We celebrated a friend’s 40th birthday with a Three’s Company themThree's_Companyed party (which is also turning 40 this year). This is a great theme for a party if you are looking for one. We had themed apps (Reagle Beagles, Jack Dipper), a Three’s Company drink (vodka, cranberry, and pineapple), and we played a fun Three’s Company drinking game while watching old episodes of the show.
  • The following weekend, I celebrated another friend’s birthday party. This event was more low key but did involve holiday crafts and Hallmark holiday movies….things you can never go wrong with.
  • I went birthday shopping with my niece, which has become my favorite tradition with her. She is now 12 so I am making the most of these shopping trips because I know that soon she will probably choose the cash over shopping with her old aunt.
  • Thanksgiving this year was a low key affair with just myself, my parents, and my brother and his family. We watched football, stuffed ourselves silly, and played a couple of rounds of Clue (which I happened to win one round of).
  • Since I am in a new home this year, I was able to get a live Christmas tree for the first time in 12 years! It was so exciting to go through the process of selecting the tree and getting it all set up. I also had access to all of my holiday decorations that I’ve had stored at my parents house for years. This move has had many benefits, and the tree and decorations are high on that list.
  • My friends and I usually spend a day over Thanksgiving weekend kicking off the 12 Beers of Xmas at a local establishment. As a non-beer drinker, I’m never able to earn the free shirt for finishing……until this year. A different local establishment is doing 13 Beverages of Xmas which includes wine. This should be a slam dunk for me to finish before Christmas Eve! I’m so excited!

nov reading blogging

nov misc tidbits

  • I want to share so much about some of the gifts I’m going to be giving this year, but it might ruin it for the random friend who checks out my blog. I guess I’ll have to do it at the end of December….you just won’t be able to order these as gifts yourself. Maybe I’ll do a separate post at another time……still thinking on this one!
  • Someone at work started a Healthy Habits Challenge that started near the beginning of November and is running until December 20th. At first I was like no freaking way. But…..the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to do it. If nothing else, I hope to keep myself from gaining loads of weight at this time of year. I haven’t rocked out the exercise part as much as I wanted, but I have done well with the eating and losing weight piece.

What were the highlights of your month? Let me know what is going on with you!

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November 28

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR

November 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish in which they select a topic every week, and the rest of us get to make Top Ten lists based on that topic. This week’s topic: Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR. With cold weather making me want to hunker down, and a little extra time off of work, this is the time of year when I can get more then a typical amount of reading done. Here’s what I am most looking forward to (click on the book title to be taken to the Goodreads link):

HARRY POTTER SERIES

I made a 2017 New Year’s resolution to finish the Harry Potter series, and I am only 2 books away from finishing the original series. I currently have a bunch of library books in my possession, but I’m going to need to prioritize these two books to meet my goal!

LIBRARY BOOKS CURRENTLY IN MY POSSESSION

I’d like to think that I will read all of these before I need to return them, but the odds of that and finishing Harry Potter are slim. I guess we will see what strikes my fancy in the next few weeks!

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe: I am always drawn to books set during World War II, and this book looks like it is right up my alley…the story of a young teen who keeps the magic of books alive while in a concentration camp and at great personal risk to herself.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: This YA diverse romance has been getting rave reviews. It looks like a lighter read, and I can’t wait to dive in.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert: A teen has to make some hard decisions about her schooling so that she can care for her step brother who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Along the way, she begins to develop feelings for the same girl her brother is in love with.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware: I recently listened to The Woman in Cabin 10 on audio and enjoyed it. I knew I would read this one at some point. I love a good thriller, and I hope this one does not disappoint.

OTHER 2017 RELEASES THAT ARE POSSIBILITIES

I am very much a mood reader so I never make definite reading plans. Here are some books that are possibilities, but I am sure that I will also be reading books not on this list. We will have to wait and see what the winter holds :)

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine: This debut thriller has gotten RAVE reviews, and I currently have the book on hold at the library. I can’t wait for the hold to come in, because this one sounds like a winner.

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker: Another thriller that’s gotten great reviews. Apparently I am on some sort of thriller kick? This one is about two sisters who go missing, and what happens when one of them returns years later without the other one.

BOOKS I’VE BEEN MEANING TO READ FOR AWHILE

Mosquitoland by David Arnold: A girl takes a Greyhound to visit her biological mother who is sick, and she meets a host of characters along the way. I’ve had the opportunity to meet Arnold, and I love his personality, his love of music, and his Instagram account. I always love to read authors who have touched me in some way with what they’ve said.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven: I love Jennifer Niven….what more can I say. I’ve heard good things about this book, and I can’t believe I haven’t already read it!

Any guesses as to how many of these I will actually read? It’s hard to know!

What do you plan on reading this winter?

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November 5

Nonfiction November 2017

It’s that time of year. As we begin to hunker down under the blankets as the cold weather becomes the norm, it’s time to pull out those nonfiction books that we always mean to get to but never do. Although I am on a strong and successful fiction run, here are a few titles that are on my radar for this month:

Books Already Started But Haven’t Finished:

When I am on a trip, I love to buy a book that represents something significant about the area I’m visiting. I’m not sure what it means that both of these books are “trip souvenirs”, and I haven’t finished them!

deep down dark cover1 dead in attic

Deep Down Dark: This is the book I brought home from Chile this last summer. Although it is an in depth and fascinating look at the Chilean mining disaster, a fiction book always seems to be diverting my attention.

1 Dead in Attic: I brought this book back from a New Orleans trip a few years ago. I was drawn in by the individual stories of Hurricane Katrina at the time, but again, I think fiction drew me away. I’d love to finish it up this month!

Books On My Shelves:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: I’ve heard so many great things about this book about an African American woman who is used in the name of science without her consent. I’ve been told that I will love it, but I still haven’t quite gotten to it!

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War: I have always been drawn to Karen Abbott’s writing. She always reads more like fiction than nonfiction to me. I think the size of this one keeps me from reading about how women acted as spies in the Civil War.

Books on My EReader:

I am such a sucker for the daily deals on Kindle. I have so many books that will take me years to get to, but here are some that may come up this month:

Men We Reaped: I just finished a Jesmyn Ward novel, and her writing is stunning. I am intrigued by this memoir in which she discusses losing 5 men in her life in a short period of time.

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family: The story of a transgender girl and how her identical twin and the rest of her family cope with the changes the occur in Nicole.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House: I totally want to hear more about Barack Obama, his days before his presidency, what it was like in his White House. This book gets great reviews and is supposed to be quite entertaining!

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World: Who doesn’t want to gain some insight and wisdom from the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu? I know I’m open to the possibilities!

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House: I am so curious about what life is like in the White House behind closed doors. I love knowing details about the inner workings as well as the ins and outs of relationships that exist.

Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing: A collection of writing from both men and women behind bars and how they struggle to keep their humanity.

I could add even more books to this list, but this is a good sampling. I can’t possibly read all of these, but these are probably the most likely candidates. I will keep you all posted!

What are you going to read for Nonfiction November? Anything you think I’m missing out on that should be a must read for me?

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June 21

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Reads of 2016 So Far

June 21, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish in which they select a topic every week, and the rest of us get to make Top Ten lists based on that topic. This week’s topic: Top Ten Favorite 2016 Releases So Far This Year. I decided to feature my favorites reads of the year so far….not necessarily those released in 2016.

Middle Grade Reads:

George by Alex Gino – Such a great introduction to transgenderism for middle grade students. I love how this one can teach us so much.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley – An extremely heartwarming read with hints of fantasy. I love the message sent about love and family connections.

Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin – I cannot put into words how much I adored this book. I bought this one for my niece and ended up reading it before I gave it to her (how was I supposed to know that flipping through it quickly would read to a quick read of under 2 hours). It features a main character with Asperger’s Syndrome, family dysfunction, a dog as a prominent character, and a happy ending. What more can you ask for?

Young Adult Reads:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – A delightful read the promotes LGBTQ understanding. Simply a heart-warming coming-of-age novel.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman – Although I didn’t love this one quite as much as If She Stays (the first book in the series), I still loved the developing lives and love story of Mia and Adam. I found myself frustrated at points, but overall an enjoyable read.

Adult Fiction:

Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney – I just finished this one a few days ago, and I loved it so much more than I expected to. Amazing writing, strong character development, recent historical events used as a backdrop – I was drawn in the entire time. I’m planning to post a review soon!

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – This one I finished last night (I know…..it’s been an awesome week for reading). An excellent thriller that is face-paced and quick to read.

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica – I love Kubica’s writing and the ultimate twists and turns of her plots. This one did not disappoint, and I can’t wait to read her next book.

Adult Nonfiction:

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari –  Although this one can get dry at points with research and facts, Ansari is HILARIOUS and you will learn lots of interesting tidbits throughout. I listened to the audio on this one, and I highly recommend it as it is read by Ansari himself.

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold – This was an emotionally gut-wrenching book by the mother of one of the Columbine shooters. It can be unsettling, eye-opening, and informative all at once.

What books have you read this year that have topped your favorites list? I’m always looking for good recommendations!

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February 16

Top Ten Tuesday: Books and Music

February 16, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish in which they select a topic every week, and the rest of us get to make Top Ten lists based on that topic. This week’s topic: This week is all about music & books! I love books that have incorporate music as a major theme is some way. Many possibilities were offered for this one, but I’ve decided to just give you the music-related books I have my eye on reading with the hope that you guys will point me in the right direction as to what I need to read soon!

Books I Already Own But Haven’t Read:

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff – Sam’s friend Hayden is dead and he uses his friend’s playlist for clues as to the reasons behind his death. I’ve met Falkoff in person, and I also want to support her by trying out this very intriguing-sounding novel.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord – I’ve heard great things about this book, and I could check another book off of my list for the Clean My Reader Challenge as well. I also love the idea of two women on a country music road tour. How fun!

King Dork by Frank Portman – Another author I met and adored for his quirkiness. Catcher in the Rye references as the basis of several mysteries AND rock and roll. What more can you ask for in a book?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – I’ve heard so many good things about this book, and I totally want to check it out but just haven’t gotten to it yet. Maybe soon?

Books I Need to Get My Hands On

Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer – You have probably already heard me talk about this one! The title and cover sucked me in right away. A girl who thinks Kurt Cobain is her father and is still alive…..I feel this book call my name every time I see or read about it!

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino – A 9 year old who wants to make her debut at a famous jazz club after her mother dies. Intriguing, but I have definitely heard mixed review on this one. What did you think?

Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat – A teen turns to her beloved music to cope through the difficult times her family is enduring. This one isn’t calling my name as much as some of the others, but it is getting solid reviews.

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan – A boy and a girl meet during a performance of a church choir. Their families intertwine before tragedy strikes. I haven’t heard much about this one, but I do have some interest.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson – A bookworm and clarinet-playing band geek struggles to cope with the loss of her sister. I’ve heard so many great things about Nelson’s writing, but I have yet to read any of it!

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – No list highlighting books and music would be complete without High Fidelity. I’m not sure why I haven’t read this one yet!

Tell me what you think! Which book is a must read? What can I skip? Anything missing you think I should add?

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February 13

Book Review: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

February 13, 2016

From Goodreads:
Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed.

This book has been on the bestseller list forever, and it made sooooooo many “Best of 2015” lists that I knew I wanted to check it out. After waiting forever for my hold to come in from the library, here are my thoughts:

On the Plus Side:

  • Groff has a beautiful style of writing. If you enjoy language above all else, then you will appreciate her style.
  • I loved the home featured in the second half of the book. I could totally see myself living in a house like Lotto and Mathilde’s.

On the Minus Side:

  • I found this book to have a VERY slow start, and the action never really picked up for me. If you are a fan of language and writing, then maybe you will appreciate this novel more, but I need some action…..something to keep me hooked on a book.
  • Most of the characters were truly annoying and I found it difficult to really connect with any of them….maybe Rachel, but she was a relatively minor character.
  • I had heard that the second half is much better than the first, which is why I hung in there on this book, but alas this was not true. This book was pretty boring from start to finish.
  • The end wrapped up a little too tidily for me (which if you know my reading style is a pet peeve of mine). I didn’t find it believable or enjoyable.

This book has WAY more hype than it deserves. In my opinion, there are far better books out there for you to enjoy (just peruse some of my other reviews to find something that will meet your needs). I am a little frustrated that I wasted so much time on this one!

Have you read Fates and Furies? What did you think?

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February 9

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Characters I’d Be Willing To Date

February 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish in which they select a topic every week, and the rest of us get to make Top Ten lists based on that topic. This week’s topic: Valentine’s Day is next week…let’s do a Valentine’s Day themed freebie! Since I’m single and carefree, I decided to do a post on literary characters that I’d be willing to go out on a date with (let’s pretend that all of the characters below are the exact same age as myself to make this a not creepy post :)). Here’s who makes the list:

Jake from Happiness for Beginners

Who doesn’t want to date this adventurous, compassionate, patient, humble, forthright hottie! This guy is definitely at the top of my list!

Forney Hall from Where The Heart Is

A guy who will look out for you and take care of you no matter what!

Everett Coburn from Nowhere But Home

A wealthy home town hero, and a nice guy to boot. Sign me up!

Lincoln Mallory from Girl Before a Mirror

A man who is there to support your dreams, can show you the finer things in life, and treat you like a queen. I’m willing to give that a shot.

Levi from Fangirl

Oh, sweet, sweet Levi! He also can make a mean mocha for me when I need one.

Olly from Everything, Everything

A well read man who can turn the most mundane of moments into an adventure. Who doesn’t want to talk all things books with this guy?

Mac Chatham from St. Anything

Another hard worker that looks out for his girl.

A.J. Fikry from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Another man who not only knows his books but owns a bookstore! Hell yes I’m in. What a fun and quiet life this could be!

Daniel Cleaver from Bridget Jones’ Diary

I kind of adore his awkward demeanor. I also love how he is so very patient and kind and smart and successful.

Peeta from The Hunger Games

Who do you think I should add to this list?

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February 6

Let’s Celebrate Superbowl Weekend!

February 6, 2016

From nj.com
From nj.com

If you love football as much as I do, then this is one of the best weekends of the year! I love nothing more than hanging with friends and watching the Superbowl! Whether you are a football fan or not, I know you are a reading fan if you are here! For those of you who want to take part in the big weekend (whether or not you watch the big game or not), here are a list of reading suggestions to get your football fix. I have not read all of these books, but they do come highly recommended:

For Those Of You Who Won’t Be Watching The Game (Fiction Reads With A Little Football Thrown In):

Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer – I love Palmer and I highly enjoyed this gem that takes place in a small Texas town that loves its football.

First & Then byEmma Mills – This looks like the perfect YA read for this weekend with a main character who loves hanging out at football games.

Some Classic Football Reads You’ve Heard Of:

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis – You’ve all heard of this classic that is also an award-winning movie that you could watch as well!

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger – If you were a fan of the TV show, now is the best time to check out the novel!

Some Memoirs of Iconic Football Players To Inspire You:

Never Die Easy by Walter Payton and Don Yaeger – One of the greatest football heroes of all time, and a Chicago Bear to boot!

I Beat The Odds by Michael Oher and Don Yaeger – The memoir from the man behind The Blind Side. On a side note, I realized as I was typing this that both of these memoirs were cowritten by the same man!

What football books would you recommend? Will you be watching the big game tomorrow?

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February 2

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Historical Settings

February 2, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish in which they select a topic every week, and the rest of us get to make Top Ten lists based on that topic. This week’s topic: Top Ten Historical Settings You Love. For those of you who know me, you know I love historical fiction. I love learning about different times, different places, and different lifestyles. Below you will find some of my favorite time periods to read about with some of my favorite books I’ve read from those time periods:

America During The Civil War

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

The Late 19th Century/Early 20th Century

What the Lady Wants by Renee Rosen – A look at the life on Marshall Field and his mistress set in Chicago!

Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott – I cannot even tell you how much I learned about Chicago and prostitution and life at the beginning of the 20th Century. Fascinating!

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan – The story behind the illicit love affair that led to the end of the marriage of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Roaring 20’s

Dollface by Renee Rosen – Seriously…this book is the epitome of the Roaring 20’s for me. I so think I must have lived during this time period in a former life because I am so drawn to the stories from this time.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – A great read about the early marriage of Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

The Great Depression

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford – A story about an orphaned boy discovering his biological mother during the Depression.

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko – I just loved the setting of Alcatraz Island, and I also loved a character that had autism before autism was a thing. A great middle grade read!

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – If you ever want to learn a little more about circus life during the Great Depression.

Europe During World War II

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana DeRosnay

Japanese Internment During World War II

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – I learned so much about the Japanese Internment when I read this novel, and I am hoping at some point to pick up some more novels set during this time period.

America During The Civil Rights Movement

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Historical Fiction Novels That Span Time Periods

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline – I learned all about the phenomenon of orphan trains that existed during the year of 1854-1929. I had never even heard of the prior to reading this book!

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin – A novel of the life of the Lindbergh family set during the 1920’s-1960’s and told from the perspective of Charles Lindbergh’s wife Anne. Turns out that maybe Charles wasn’t the golden boy that everyone thought he was.

What time periods do you like to read about? Are there any historical fiction novels that you recommend?

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