Wednesday, March 21, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos


The New York Times bestselling author revisits the characters from her beloved novels Love Walked In and Belong to Me in this captivating, beautifully written drama involving family, friendship, secrets, sacrifice, courage, and true love for fans of Jojo Moyes, Elin Hilderbrand, and Nancy Thayer.

On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming, yet overly possessive, fiancé.

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.

Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by William Morrow
ISBN 0062431935 (ISBN13: 9780062431936)

About the Author
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. 

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My Thoughts
It was what she would remember always: how the second she stepped inside, before she'd so much as taken her first full breath of new air, she was struck by the feeling-- the understanding, the certainty-- however improbably, that the house was Joseph.
In the days leading up to her marriage, bride Clare is conflicted. She loves her fiance, but she is having doubts. Everyone reassures her that it is perfectly normal to have doubts as your wedding day looms.

Then a fortuitous meeting with Edith changes everything. An elderly woman, there is something wise and yet youthful about Edith that strikes Clare. It feels as if Edith knows her-- sees inside her. Their meeting is relatively brief yet profound, and quite literally changes Clare's life.

Weeks later Clare learns that Edith has died and left her a house at the beach.While exploring the house, Clare soon find her and her close family and friends working to solve a mystery pieced together from neighborhood stories, hidden ledgers and old news stories.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, March 6th: Openly Bookish
Wednesday, March 7th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, March 8th: bookchickdi
Friday, March 9th: The Sketchy Reader
Monday, March 12th: BookNAround
Tuesday, March 13th:
Wednesday, March 14th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, March 15th: G. Jacks Writes
Monday, March 19th: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, March 20th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, March 21st: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, March 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, March 23rd: Into the Hall of Books

My final word: This is my introduction to the author. To be honest, I actually have Love Walked In, but I still haven't found the time to read it. I'm glad that I found the time to read this one! There's good character development, and while the story has the old "someone leaves someone else a house" storyline and romance mingled in, there is a parallel mystery storyline to give it a fresh twist. I especially enjoyed the playful and intuitive relationship between Clare and her best friend /ex-boyfriend Dev. I would happily recommend this one to my book club!

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: In Praise of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo


From Frida Kahlo and Elizabeth Taylor to Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher, and Lena Dunham, this witty narrative explores what we can learn from the imperfect and extraordinary legacies of 29 iconic women who forged their own unique paths in the world.

Smart, sassy, and unapologetically feminine, this elegantly illustrated book is an ode to the bold and charismatic women of modern history. Best-selling author Karen Karbo (The Gospel According to Coco Chanel) spotlights the spirited rule breakers who charted their way with little regard for expectations: Amelia Earhart, Helen Gurley Brown, Edie Sedgwick, Hillary Clinton, Amy Poehler, and Shonda Rhimes, among others. Their lives--imperfect, elegant, messy, glorious--provide inspiration and instruction for the new age of feminism we have entered. Karbo distills these lessons with wit and humor, examining the universal themes that connect us to each of these mesmerizing personalities today: success and style, love and authenticity, daring and courage. Being "difficult," Karbo reveals, might not make life easier. But it can make it more fulfilling--whatever that means for you.

In the Reader's Guide included in the back of the book, Karbo asks thought-provoking questions about how we relate to each woman that will make for fascinating book club conversation.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by National Geographic Society
ISBN 1426217749 (ISBN13: 9781426217746)

About the Author

KAREN KARBO is the author of multiple award-winning novels, memoirs and works of nonfiction. Her best-selling “Kick-Ass Women” series includes The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman, which was an international bestseller. Karbo’s short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, Esquire, Outside, the New York Times, Salon, and other publications. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a winner of the General Electric Younger Writer Award. Karbo lives in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to kick ass.

Check out the author's website
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My Thoughts
The book you hold in your hands is about women who insisted on being difficult.
We've all heard the old adage about how "well-behaved women seldom make history", and this book is about some of those misbehaving women. The author shares stories and background of 29 women who wouldn't be constrained by societies boundaries and expectations. 

Women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wasn't afraid to embrace motherhood and marriage in the age of rising feminism while being a career driven, independent woman. A woman who for years was the lone voice for women and equal rights on the supreme court. The term "gender discrimination" started with her (well, actually with her secretary). She has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to countless women, proving you can be strong yet feminine, powerful without overpowering, that you can fully commit to a relationship and yet maintain your independence and self-identity. As the author states:'s hard to believe a woman so genteel and soft-spoken is such a mighty litigator. Her mother-in-law once advised her that the key to a happy marriage was sometimes pretending to be a little deaf; Ruth has said the same applies to being a female Supreme Court justice. "When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best to tune it out," she observed. "Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one's ability to persuade."
...Proving, in case there was any doubt, that you don't need to possess the strapping badass countenance of Xena Warrior Princess to be a truly, deeply difficult woman.
And did I mention that the woman is  85 years old and still works out at the gym twice a week doing things like side-planks and one-legged squats? The woman is amazing!

And women like Helen Gurley Brown, who did things by her own book, becoming one of the first female copywriters at the age of 30, married when she was 37 (in the age of spinsters, she eschewed marriage until she found someone interesting enough with whom to settle down, but had fun playing the field in the meantime), made the conscious choice to not have children (*gasp*), and at age 40 wrote Sex and the Single Girl, which was rife with "wisdom" she'd picked up regarding dating as a single woman in the 50s (dating single and married men alike. She found work to offer a large supply of men).
She came to learn from her life as a single girl that when it came to men, as long as you were naked and smiling, they were happy. In the era of No Sex Before Marriage, this attitude was societal high treason.
Or there is my idol and oh-how-I-wish-she-was-my-mentor Jane Goodall, who pioneered the study of chimpanzee behavior. As a young woman, Jane had graduated from secretarial college in 1952. Later she went to visit friends in Africa, and while in Nairobi she had a fortuitous meeting with archaeologist and paleoanthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey. He saw something in her and invited her to join him on an archaeological dig. Impressed with her patience and meticulous method, he offered her the opportunity to go setup camp in Gombe to study the chimpanzees there. And Jane, in a world where unmarried girls live with their families and get jobs as secretaries and teachers, didn't hesitate to jump at the opportunity. Jane shook the scientific community with her observations, her findings causing them to redefine man. I think that may constitute as being "difficult"! Then to make things worse, she anthropomorphized the chimps, "attributing human traits" to them, which is taboo in the scientific community. She came under fire many times, but she didn't back down. Much like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane was soft-spoken and genteel, but strong and determined. In regard to an uncomfortable interview where comedian John Oliver attempted to get Jane to play along, the author says:
It's a terrific, awkward moment of television where a woman refused to smile, become giddy and jokey to relieve a tense moment and make everyone feel better. It would have been so easy for her to go along with the joke, to make light of her life's work. But being difficult, she wasn't about to give in. Difficult women aren't all swashbuckling extroverts who shoot off their mouths and shout down their adversaries. Sometimes they just sit quietly and refuse to pretend to be agreeable.
Sorry, but I so identify with this passage!

I enjoyed this book. I liked the profiles, I liked the relaxed and approachable writing style that didn't leave me feeling as if I were reading a text book biography. The author chose a great selection of women to represent the "difficult" woman. And visually I really liked the use of red ink to contrast with the deep black ink, as well as the sketches of each woman at the beginning of each chapter.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, February 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, March 1st: A Bookish Affair
Monday, March 5th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, March 6th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, March 7th: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, March 13th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, March 14th: Doing Dewey
Thursday, March 15th: Bibliotica
Friday, March 16th: bookchickdi
Monday, March 19th: Openly Bookish
Monday, March 19th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
TBD: 5 Minutes For Books

My final word: The author does a great job at presenting us with 29 glorious examples of difficult women.They were chosen for all sorts of reasons: for speaking their minds, for bucking the system, for being fearless, for setting new standards and shattering glass ceilings. For leaving footsteps that we may follow in, and for encouraging us to go off the beaten path and find our own track.And encouraging all of us to be at least a little bit difficult. Love this book!

Buy Now:
National Geographic
Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

REVIEW: Jefferson's America by Julie M. Fenster


The surprising story of how Thomas Jefferson commanded an unrivaled age of American exploration—and in presiding over that era of discovery, forged a great nation.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation.

Responsible for orchestrating the American push into the continent was President Thomas Jefferson. He most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, but at the same time there were other teams who did the same work, in places where it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike—all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier and keep up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findings.

But they weren’t always well-matched—with each other and certainly not with a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. These tensions threatened to undermine Jefferson’s goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West. Deeply researched and inspiringly told, Jefferson’s America rediscovers the robust and often harrowing action from these seminal expeditions and illuminates the president’s vision for a continental America.

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by Crown (first published March 25th 2014) 
About the Author

Julie M. Fenster is the author of many works of American history, including The Case of Abraham Lincoln, Race of the Century, the award-winning Ether Day, and, with Douglas Brinkley, Parish Priest, which was a New York Times bestseller. She also cowrote the PBS documentary First Freedom, about the Founders and religious liberty. She lives in Upstate New York.

My Thoughts
John James Audobon, the orinthologist and painter, left his family at home in Ohio in October of 1820 and traveled in a slight state of desperation to New Orleans, a well-worn city newly vibrant and very rich.
A couple of years ago I read a fictional account of the life of Jefferson's oldest daughter Patsy, and it really piqued my interest about her father. So when the opportunity came to read this accounting of Jefferson and the exploration of The Louisiana Purchase I jumped at it.

Jefferson was rather forward thinking and was determined to "go west" and expand the US from sea to "shining sea". In pursuit of this dream, he made The Louisiana Purchase from the French in 1803.

This book is made up of the tales of the infamous team of Lewis and Clark, as well as lesser known explorers like Pike, Freeman and Custis and Dunbar and Hunter, whom Jefferson sent to explore The Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark's main objective was to follow the Missouri River west and find whether it would offer a route to the Pacific. They were also expected to watch for opportunities of trade, resource availability, and document wildlife and native peoples encountered along the way, all of which was logged in detail in their diaries.

The book includes a handy map of the US in 1803-1804, pictures of the explorers, photos of things they encountered during their adventures, and excerpts from the explorer's diaries as well as editorial articles.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My final word: Providing a good overview of both the expeditions and the politics of the time, I rather liked this book, although it could get a little too detailed at times for my tastes. Recommended for lovers of history.

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a nearing-fifty blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through Blogging for Books, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Friday, March 2, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Promise by Minrose Gwin


In the aftermath of a devastating tornado that rips through the town of Tupelo, Mississippi, at the height of the Great Depression, two women worlds apart—one black, one white; one a great-grandmother, the other a teenager—fight for their families’ survival in this lyrical and powerful novel

“Gwin’s gift shines in the complexity of her characters and their fraught relationships with each other, their capacity for courage and hope, coupled with their passion for justice.” -- Jonis Agee, bestselling author of The River Wife

A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a massive funnel cloud flashing a giant fireball and roaring like a runaway train careened into the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, Mississippi, killing more than 200 people, not counting an unknown number of black citizens, one-third of Tupelo’s population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.

When the tornado hits, Dovey, a local laundress, is flung by the terrifying winds into a nearby lake. Bruised and nearly drowned, she makes her way across Tupelo to find her small family—her hardworking husband, Virgil, her clever sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Dreama, and Promise, Dreama’s beautiful light-skinned three-month-old son.

Slowly navigating the broken streets of Tupelo, Dovey stops at the house of the despised McNabb family. Inside, she discovers that the tornado has spared no one, including Jo, the McNabbs’ dutiful teenage daughter, who has suffered a terrible head wound. When Jo later discovers a baby in the wreckage, she is certain that she’s found her baby brother, Tommy, and vows to protect him.

During the harrowing hours and days of the chaos that follows, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and to battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them. Drawing on historical events, Minrose Gwin beautifully imagines natural and human destruction in the deep South of the 1930s through the experiences of two remarkable women whose lives are indelibly connected by forces beyond their control. A story of loss, hope, despair, grit, courage, and race, Promise reminds us of the transformative power and promise that come from confronting our most troubled relations with one another.

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by William Morrow
ISBN 0062471716 (ISBN13: 9780062471710)

About the Author

Minrose Gwin is the author of The Queen of Palmyra. She has written three scholarly books, coedited The Literature of the American South, and teaches contemporary fiction at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

Check out the author's website.

My Thoughts
Too still out there.
An F5 tornado hit Tupelo, Mississippi during the night hours of April 5, 1936. It left death, devastation and confusion in its wake. This is a fictional account of that event.

Dovey is a black laundress who lives on The Hill, which is the "colored" side of town. For many years she has done the laundry of many of the white townfolk. One of the families she works for is that of town judge Mort McNabb. Mort's son "Son" McNabb raped Dovey's young granddaughter Dreama and left her pregnant. 

I found Dovey to be quite likable if abrasive. She's hardworking, focused, loyal and protective of her family. After the storm, she hobbles along injured in search of her missing husband, granddaughter and great-grandson Promise.

The storm also leaves Jo McNabb, teenage daughter of Mort McNabb, injured and responsible for the care of her injured mother. She also finds what she believes to be her baby brother in a tree out in front of the house and he becomes her main focus. Dovey comes across Jo and her mother while searching for her own family. And so begins the odd entanglement of Jo and Dovey.

Jo has become tough and determined since the storm, and totally focused on caring for her little baby brother Tommy. She in part seems to be sort of trying to "win" her mother's love by taking such good care of her mother's youngest son, in a family where the only daughter feels somewhat overlooked.

Dovey's granddaughter Dreama is a beautiful and spirited young girl and passionately loves her son Promise, despite his harrowing beginnings. It wasn't always this way, but she's come around and now adores her son something fierce!

I enjoyed the author's writing style, which is very approachable and restrained, and descriptive without being too heavy or trivial. I liked the characters, and the central storyline. I liked the way that the story would show you one side to a person, and then show another side to them, making you reassess your view of them (or making a character reassess their view of them). And having recently gone through a major hurricane myself, and now having just lost my father a few weeks ago, I have a little understanding of what the characters in the story are going through-- the exhaustion and uncertainty and loss.

However I was also left feeling a little "blah", and I'm not sure why. I liked the characters. Maybe it had to do with the story being rather mundane much of the time. It's people laying around injured and exhausted, walking in search of family or help, hungry, confused, but for the most part felt sort of like watching a camera follow around a mother for a week: mother feeding kids, bathing kids, lulling them to sleep, doing laundry, picking up toys. Day after day the same mundane things interspersed with moments of devout humanity.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, February 27th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, February 28th: The Sketchy Reader
Thursday, March 1st: Readaholic Zone
Friday, March 2nd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Monday, March 5th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.
Tuesday, March 6th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, March 7th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, March 8th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_
Monday, March 12th: Literary Lindsey
Tuesday, March 13th: Into the Hall of Books
Wednesday, March 14th: Broken Teepee

My final word: What makes this story especially uncommon is the viewpoint of a black family after a natural disaster like this. Especially from this era in the 1930s when the black community went "uncounted". This is "their" story, when history didn't deem them important enough to even count among the dead. The characters are fleshed out, and they are characters with whom you can identify. It's a moving story, but at times can get a little wearisome. And the ending came up fairly abruptly. But overall I liked this story and would recommend it. For lovers of historical fiction.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.