Saturday, March 30, 2024



Friday, March 29, 2024

REVIEW: Ready or Not by Cara Bastone


A surprise pregnancy leads to even more life-changing revelations in this heartfelt, slow-burn, friends-to-lovers romance of found family and unexpected love.

Eve Hatch is pretty content with her life. Her apartment in Brooklyn is cozy and close to her childhood best friend Willa, but far from her midwestern, traditional family who never really understood her. While her job is only dream- adjacent , she’s hoping her passion and hard work will soon help her land a more glamorous role. And sure, her most recent romantic history has consisted of not one but two disappointing men named Derek. At least she always knows what to expect…until she finds herself expecting after an uncharacteristic one-night stand.

The unplanned pregnancy cracks open all the relationships in her life. Eve's loyal friendship with Willa is feeling off , right when she needs her most. And it’s Willa’s steadfast older brother, Shep, who steps up to help. He has always been friendly, but now he’s checking in, ordering her surprise lunches, listening to all her complaints, and is… suddenly kinda hot? Then there’s the baby's father, who is supportive but conflicted. Before long, Eve is rethinking everything she thought she knew about herself and her world.

Over the course of nine months, as Eve struggles to figure out the next right step in her expanding reality, she begins to realize that family and love, in all forms, can sneak up on you when you least expect it.

My Thoughts
I didn't start this day thinking I'd be handing over a Dixie cup of my own urine to a woman in lavender scrubs.
I grabbed this book as a Book of the Month Club choice. One thing that I noticed when I checked reviews on this book before choosing it as a valuable “get me back into reading” selection is that people loved the cover! A colorful and softly romantic street scene, there is something almost Parisian-feeling about it, like a meet-cute between a hapless Frenchman and the American tourist looking for a restart. Or a Before Sunrise-vibe of two souls frozen in time as they explore a city and their budding relationship. There’s a sense that these two people are feeling each other out; that they’ve found themselves at a crossroads and are deciding which direction to go. Friendship is there, but is there something more? “Ready or not, here I come!”


Eve lives in a brownstone apartment in Brooklyn which she describes as being " perpetual audition for Better Home and Garden."
Brooklyn, NY
Attribution: Vaguynny own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Eve finds herself single and unexpectedly pregnant by a one-night stand by the name of Ethan. She decides early on to keep the baby, perhaps because she herself was a “surprise” baby. She’s initially pretty detached from her condition, not really thinking of the “baby” in her but rather her condition of “being pregnant”. Her best friend Willa, who has been her ride or die since childhood, isn't always the most supportive during the pregnancy given her own battles with fertility issues, but Willa’s brother Shep (who Eve has likewise known since childhood and who recently moved in with his sister and her husband) is there for Eve. He anticipates her every need, sometimes knowing what she needs before she does. This causes Eve to start seeing Shep through different eyes.
Back home in Westbrook, he was a clumsy, sweet nerd who played so many videogames in his basement that his skin was almost translucent. 

Now Eve has recently taken notice of his boyishly scruffy good looks as he continues his role as supportive friend and “big brother”. But then Eve begins to see Shep in a different light.

After a moment, he reaches up to loop his fingers around my wrist, puppeteering my still hand against his hair, making me pet him.

Do friends lean against each other and pet each other’s hair?

Initially I found myself a little annoyed by Eve. She felt a little self-centered and shallow in the beginning, and maybe even a little cold. Or maybe "preoccupied" would be a fairer description of her. But as time went on she warmed, or perhaps it was I who warmed up to her. Shep was likable, but there is a "too good to be true" feel to him. And Eve's best friend Willa is mostly absent during the story. The baby's father Ethan is in and out of the story as he sorts out just how involved he wants to be in the baby's life.

This book is a very easy read. I’m a very slow reader, but I found myself breezing through it effortlessly. It’s not a deep-think, but a lazy Sunday read. And that's what I needed right now as I ease back into reading.

The author has a very informal writing style that feels like a conversation between girlfriends, writing with a bit of a dry wit, a little tongue-in-cheek.

Some things felt over-simplified or required a fair bit of suspension of disbelief, but I think that is the nature of romance novels in general and probably why I don't read them a great deal, but what I needed right now.

Five words: funny, restrained, engaging, predictable, uncomplicated

My final word: I found this novel to be a lighthearted and fun read. Eve is dealing with her own internal turmoil and confusion, coming to terms with an unplanned pregnancy. But at the heart of it, this is a love story in every sense of the word. Not only a love story between a man and a woman, but a story of a woman falling in love with the child she carries and the life she lives. If you are a fan of contemporary romance, this is one for you! Or if, like me, you just like to dabble in a little romance every now and again, this is a light read to just get your feet wet. Despite the fact that the story was a bit on the predictable side, I still found it enjoyable.

Buy Now:


Mild sex and adult situations. Mild language.

Cover: A+

Writing Style: B

Characters: B+

Storyline/Plot: B

Interest/Uniqueness: B


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

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Introducing... The Gathering Girl by Amanda Irene Rush

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

It is early 2009. I am married to my second husband, Aaron. A man who won't rock the Ferris wheel car because he knows it scares me. A man who materialized in my life just weeks after my divorce was final in 2004, as though fate had him waiting in the wings. A man who still feels, to me, like a prize.

-- The Gathering Girl by Amanda Irene Rush

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

ARTICLE SHARING: 57 Jaw-Dropping Little Free Libraries

I know that I'm not the only reader who loves little free libraries! I would love to have one, if I could. 

People are so clever and creative!

So cool and a little creepy!

Check out more on

What's Releasing? (3/27/24 edition)

 What books will be released the week of April 1, 2024:

Just for the Summer by Abby Jimenez

Justin has a curse, and thanks to a Reddit thread, it's now all over the internet. Every woman he dates goes on to find their soulmate the second they break up. When a woman slides into his DMs with the same problem, they come up with a plan: They'll date each other and break up. Their curses will cancel each other’s out, and they’ll both go on to find the love of their lives. It’s a bonkers idea… and it just might work.

Emma hadn't planned that her next assignment as a traveling nurse would be in Minnesota, but she and her best friend agree that dating Justin is too good of an opportunity to pass up, especially when they get to rent an adorable cottage on a private island on Lake Minnetonka.

It's supposed to be a quick fling, just for the summer. But when Emma's toxic mother shows up and Justin has to assume guardianship of his three siblings, they're suddenly navigating a lot more than they expected–including catching real feelings for each other. What if this time Fate has actually brought the perfect pair together?

Rebel Rising: A Memoir by Rebel Rising

From the scene-stealing star of Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids comes a refreshingly candid, hilarious, and inspiring book about her unconventional journey to Hollywood success and loving herself.

For decades, Rebel Wilson had single-mindedly focused on her career, making a name for herself through her iconic roles in Pitch Perfect, Bridesmaids, and Isn’t It Romantic. Now, she’s ready to chronicle the emotional and physical lessons she learned, as well as her most embarrassing experiences. A malaria-induced hallucination? An all-style martial arts fighting tournament? Junior handling at dog shows? And this was all BEFORE she moved to Hollywood! Rebel Rising follows Rebel Wilson’s incredible journey of “making it,” constantly questioning, “Am I good enough? Will I ever find love? Will I ever change and become healthy?” Rebel writes for the first time about the most personal and important moments in her life—from fertility issues, weight gain and loss, sexuality, overcoming shyness, rejections, and, well...okay there’s at least one story thrown in about Brad Pitt! It’s all here. This memoir shows us how to love ourselves while making us laugh uncontrollably.

The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber

The fiercely-anticipated sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Once Upon a Broken Heart, starring Evangeline Fox and the Prince of Hearts on a new journey of magic, mystery, and heartbreak.

Not every love is meant to be.

After Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she'll never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.

But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.

Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can. . . .

The Reappearance of Rachel Price by Holly Jackson

From the author of the multimillion bestselling A Good Girl's Guide to Murder series and Five Survive comes a new true-crime fueled mystery thriller about a girl determined to uncover the shocking truth about her missing mother while filming a documentary on the unsolved case.

Lights. Camera. Lies.

18-year-old Bel has lived her whole life in the shadow of her mom’s mysterious disappearance. Sixteen years ago, Rachel Price vanished and young Bel was the only witness, but she has no memory of it. Rachel is gone, long presumed dead, and Bel wishes everyone would just move on.

But the case is dragged up from the past when the Price family agree to a true crime documentary. Bel can’t wait for filming to end, for life to go back to normal. And then the impossible happens. Rachel Price reappears, and life will never be normal again.

Rachel has an unbelievable story about what happened to her. Unbelievable, because Bel isn’t sure it’s real. If Rachel is lying, then where has she been all this time? And – could she be dangerous? With the cameras still rolling, Bel must uncover the truth about her mother, and find out why Rachel Price really came back from the dead . . .

From world-renowned author Holly Jackson comes a mind-blowing masterpiece about one girl’s search for the truth, and the terror in finding out who your family really is.

The Rule Book by Sarah Adams

College sweethearts meet again years later, in this highly anticipated romance and companion story to the viral TikTok sensation The Cheat Sheet.

Nora Mackenzie’s entire career lies in the hands of famous NFL tight end Derek Pender who also happens to be her extremely hot college ex-boyfriend. Nora didn’t end things as gracefully as she could have back then, and now it’s come back to haunt her. Derek is her first client as an official full-time sports agent and he’s holding a grudge.

Derek has set his sights on a little friendly revenge. If Nora Mackenzie, the first girl to ever break his heart, wants to be his agent, oh he’ll let her be his agent. The plan is make Nora’s life absolutely miserable. But if Derek knows anything about the woman he once loved—she won’t quit easily.

Instead of giving in, Nora starts a scheme of her own. But then a wild night in Vegas leads to Nora and Derek in bed the next morning married. With their rule book out the window, could this new relationship be the thing to save their careers?

Table for Two: Fictions by Amor Towles

From the bestselling author of The Lincoln Highway, A Gentleman in Moscow, and Rules of Civility, a richly detailed and sharply drawn collection of stories set in New York and Los Angeles.

The millions of readers of Amor Towles are in for a treat as he shares some of his shorter six stories set in New York City and a novella in Los Angeles. The New York stories, most of which are set around the turn of the millennium, take up everything from the death-defying acrobatics of the male ego, to the fateful consequences of brief encounters, and the delicate mechanics of comprise which operate at the heart of modern marriages.

In Towles’s novel, Rules of Civility, the indomitable Evelyn Ross leaves New York City in September, 1938, with the intention of returning home to Indiana. But as her train pulls into Chicago, where her parents are waiting, she instead extends her ticket to Los Angeles. Told from seven points of view, “Eve in Hollywood” describes how Eve crafts a new future for herself—and others—in the midst of Hollywood’s golden age.
Throughout the stories, two characters often find themselves sitting across a table for two where the direction of their futures may hinge upon what they say to each other next.

Written with his signature wit, humor, and sophistication, Table for Two is another glittering addition to Towles’s canon of stylish and transporting historical fiction.

Our Fight with Ronda Rousey

From New York Times bestselling author and trailblazing athlete Ronda Rousey, an unfiltered and entertaining chronicle of her last decade, tackling not only her explosive career transition but also parenthood, overcoming adversity, and finding meaning in life’s journey. 

From the moment she burst onto the MMA scene, Ronda Rousey was unbeatable. She repeatedly strung together back-to-back flawless victories, racking up a collection of records and forever changing the face of sports as the UFC’s first female champion. A superstar in her sport, she transcended athletics, appearing in blockbuster films and becoming a role model for women everywhere. Then, on November 15, 2015, it all came crashing down. 

In OUR FIGHT, Rousey explores the greatest challenge of her life and, ultimately, how she rebuilt her career into something better in the aftermath. She recounts how she replaced her pursuit of perfection with the pursuit of happiness and found a blessing in disguise amongst the wreckage. Following Rousey’s relatable journey, OUR FIGHT is a courageous narrative of career changes, marriage, motherhood, and facing your fears.

The Reaper Follows
by Heather Graham

Death comes for everyone.

Deep in the Florida Everglades, the body of a woman is discovered in pieces, presumably ravaged by an alligator. Upon closer inspection, it’s determined no animal could make such perfectly precise cuts. Only a blade could do that. Wielded by a human. Soon, dozens of oil drums emerge amid the river of grass. Each one packed to the brim with body parts.

FDLE special agent Amy Larson and her partner, FBI special agent Hunter Forrest, share a bad feeling that extends beyond the horrifying nature of the grim discovery. They’ve seen this kind of sadistic killing before, and when a small beige horse is discovered at the bottom of one of the barrels, they know exactly what it means. The fourth horseman of the apocalypse rides a pale horse—and his name is Death.

With so many bodies to identify, connecting one victim to the next is easier said than done. But finding a pattern in the chaos might be the only way Amy and Hunter can zero in on the killer, testing their skills as agents—and their relationship—like never before. And when the disturbing trail of clues signals these slayings are just the beginning, the agents will have to return to where it all started before it’s too late. The apocalypse is coming, and Hunter and Amy have only one chance to stop it, even if it means sacrificing each other.

She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica

An ICU nurse accidentally uncovers a patient’s frightening past in this chilling thriller.

Meghan Michaels is trying to find balance between being a single mom to a teenage daughter and working as a full time nurse. While on duty at the hospital one day, a patient named Caitlin arrives in a coma with a traumatic brain injury, having jumped from a bridge and plunging over twenty feet to the train tracks below. 

But when a witness comes forward with shocking details about the fall, it calls everything they know into question. Was Caitlin  pushed  and if so, by whom and why? 

Meghan has always tried to stay emotionally detached from her patients, but this time, she mistakenly lets herself get too close until she’s deeply entangled in Caitlin’s and her family’s lives. Only when it’s too late, does she realize that she and her daughter could be the next victims.

You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World by Ada Limon (Editor)

Published association  with the Library of Congress and edited by the twenty-fourth Poet Laureate of the United States, a singular collection of poems reflecting on our relationship to the natural world by fifty of our most celebrated contemporary writers.   For many years, “nature poetry” has evoked images of Romantic poets standing on mountain tops. But our poetic landscape has changed dramatically, and so has our planet. Edited and introduced by the twenty-fourth Poet Laureate of the United States, Ada Limón, this book challenges what we think we know about “nature poetry,” illuminating the myriad ways our landscapes—both literal and literary—are changing. You Are Here features fifty previously unpublished poems from some of the nation’s most accomplished poets, including Joy Harjo, Diane Seuss, Rigoberto González, Jericho Brown, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Paul Tran, and more. Each poem engages with its author’s local landscape—be it the breathtaking variety of flora in a national park, or a lone tree flowering persistently by a bus stop—offering an intimate model of how we relate to the world around us and a beautifully diverse range of voices from across the United States. Joyful and provocative, wondrous and urgent, this singular collection of poems offers a lyrical reimagining of what “nature” and “poetry” are today, inviting readers to experience both anew.

The Secret Book of Flora Lea by Patti Callahan Henry

When a woman discovers a rare book that has connections to her past, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed.

In the war-torn London of 1939, fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora are evacuated to a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the kind Bridie Aberdeen and her teenage son, Harry, in a charming stone cottage along the River Thames, Hazel fills their days with walks and games to distract her young sister, including one that she creates for her sister and her sister alone—a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own.

But the unthinkable happens when young Flora suddenly vanishes while playing near the banks of the river. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, and she carries that guilt into adulthood as a private burden she feels she deserves.

Twenty years later, Hazel is in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore to a career at Sotheby’s. With a charming boyfriend and her elegantly timeworn Bloomsbury flat, Hazel’s future seems determined. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing an illustrated book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. Hazel never told a soul about the imaginary world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years?

As Hazel embarks on a feverish quest, revisiting long-dormant relationships and bravely opening wounds from her past, her career and future hang in the balance. An astonishing twist ultimately reveals the truth in this transporting and refreshingly original novel about the bond between sisters, the complications of conflicted love, and the enduring magic of storytelling.

Never Leave the Dogs Behind by Brianna Madia

In this stunning and triumphant memoir, the author of the New York Times bestseller Nowhere for Very Long continues her a tale of a woman reckoning with the decision to live alone and unburdened in the desert Southwest, in a trailer without running water or electricity, with nothing to her name and no one for company except the four dogs in her pack. In her debut memoir, Nowhere for Very Long, Brianna Madia reflected on her solitary life as a nomad, free to roam some of the most beautiful land in America. In Never Leave the Dogs Behind, the van life adherent and nature enthusiast faces unfathomable darkness, her only solace the support of her dogs. Moving from her pared-down van into a pared-down trailer, Brianna reckons with her decision and what it means to be alone in the desert, living on a small patch of dirt on the dusty outskirts of a small town in Utah, accompanied by her four precious dogs, Bucket, Dagwood, Birdie, and Banjo, made famous on Briana’s social media posts. A powerful and poignant portrait of a life on the road less traveled, Never Leave the Dogs behind is about finding the courage to start over when the dream life you thought you were living collapses around your feet. Her remarkable insights on what is truly important in life hold profound meaning for us all.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Book Bingo 2024 with Cerebral Girl

As I am getting back into reading again, I was looking for some sort of challenge or something to inspire me or encourage me to read a wide range of things. I came across Romanceopoly by Under the Covers. What an amazing job they did with this challenge! However, as impressed as I was with the challenge, I found that (1) it was too many books for me, and (2) there were too many books in genres that I don't normally read. While I am looking for some diversity, I wasn't looking for that much reading outside of my comfort zone!

So, I decided to come up with my own challenge to push my reading this year. Enter Book Bingo!

Book Bingo is actually more like a literary treasure hunt than "bingo", but yeah. The goal is to read to earn points with a total of 50 points possible. For each box, you can EITHER read a book that satisfies the genre (red text) or the challenge (green text) aspect for 1 point, or you can read a book that meets BOTH of those qualities for 2 points. There are also three free spaces for a literary "free read" that will get you 2 points!

Want to join in? Download a PDF version of the bingo card here.

Let's get our read on! You can follow along with my progress here.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Spotlight Friday... The Gathering Girl by Amanda Irene Rush

The Gathering Girl by Amanda Irene Rush

When she was 12, Amanda’s best friend’s family gifted her a Christmas stocking stuffed with a carton of cigarettes. She was thrilled. The cigarettes meant she would no longer have to steal and smoke her mother’s uncool brand. And the stocking—though it didn’t have her name stitched along the top like everyone else’s—meant, for the moment at least, that she belonged. She hadn’t felt that way since before her free-spirited mother left her corporate-climbing father with 4-year-old Amanda and her older sister in tow. Before her father remarried a woman who never wanted children. Before her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Before Amanda and her sister were left to largely fend for themselves. More than three decades later, with the death of her parents as a catalyst, Amanda began sifting through the relics of her family’s fragile past. She wondered if the chance objects she and her mother and father had held on to—a faded doodle of a girl gathering apples, broken knickknacks, worn family photos and her parents’ journals—might unravel their long-standing and tightly woven narrative and tell a different story. Searching through the eyes of “The Gathering Girl,” Amanda Irene Rush discovers an alternate truth buried within the deepest roots of her family tree. She demonstrates how the untangling of a twisted past can be both beautiful and brutal, and how the journey can ultimately lead to forgiveness.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Introducing... Ready or Not by Cara Bastone

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

I didn't start this day thinking I'd be handing over a Dixie cup of my own urine to a woman in lavender scrubs.

"What's the verdict?" I ask about seven seconds after the nurse dips the stick into the cup on the other side of the exam room.

-- Ready or Not by Cara Bastone

Tuesday, March 19, 2024


 After a five-year hiatus (almost to the day), I am trying this thing once again. You can read my updated "About" for more on what's been going on since I last posted in 2019, but I'm officially trying to get focused back on reading and blogging again! 

I got the idea last week to get the blog up and running again, and a couple of days later I was working on it when I realized that my last post had been five years to the day when I got it in me to pick it up again.

Given the time of year, I thought it fitting that my blogging be reborn on the first day of Spring, and that I would share a few books I came across that made me think of Spring. And today also would have been my father's birthday, if he were still alive, so it sort of feels like my comeback has his blessing!

First, let's start with a book that represents what we're leaving behind as Spring is sprung...

The Frozen River 
by Ariel Lawhon

Format 432 pages, Hardcover
Published December 5, 2023 by Doubleday
ISBN 9780385546874 (ISBN10: 0385546874)

A gripping historical mystery inspired by the life and diary of Martha Ballard, a renowned 18th-century midwife who defied the legal system and wrote herself into American history.

Maine, 1789: When the Kennebec River freezes, entombing a man in the ice, Martha Ballard is summoned to examine the body and determine cause of death. As a midwife and healer, she is privy to much of what goes on behind closed doors in Hallowell. Her diary is a record of every birth and death, crime and debacle that unfolds in the close-knit community. Months earlier, Martha documented the details of an alleged rape committed by two of the town’s most respected gentlemen—one of whom has now been found dead in the ice. But when a local physician undermines her conclusion, declaring the death to be an accident, Martha is forced to investigate the shocking murder on her own.

Over the course of one winter, as the trial nears, and whispers and prejudices mount, Martha doggedly pursues the truth. Her diary soon lands at the center of the scandal, implicating those she loves, and compelling Martha to decide where her own loyalties lie.

Clever, layered, and subversive, Ariel Lawhon’s newest offering introduces an unsung heroine who refused to accept anything less than justice at a time when women were considered best seen and not heard. The Frozen River is a thrilling, tense, and tender story about a remarkable woman who left an unparalleled legacy yet remains nearly forgotten to this day.

And what are Spring flowers without bees and honey?

Mad Honey
by Jodi Picoult

Format 464 pages, Hardcover
Published October 4, 2022 by Ballantine
ISBN 9781984818386 (ISBN10: 1984818384)

A soul-stirring novel about what we choose to keep from our past, and what we choose to leave behind.

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father's beekeeping business.

Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely . . .

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.

This book cover had a popping Spring feel to it, even if the context isn't especially Spring-like!

The Great Divide 
by Cristina Henriquez

Format 321 pages, Hardcover
Published March 5, 2024 by Ecco
ISBN 9780063291324 (ISBN10: 0063291320)

A TODAY Show Read with Jenna Book Club Pick!

An epic novel of the construction of the Panama Canal, casting light on the unsung people who lived, loved, and labored there, by Cristina Henríquez, acclaimed author of The Book of Unknown Americans.

It is said that the canal will be the greatest feat of engineering in history. But first, it must be built. For Francisco, a local fisherman who resents the foreign powers clamoring for a slice of his country, nothing is more upsetting than the decision of his son, Omar, to work as a digger in the excavation zone. But for Omar, whose upbringing was quiet and lonely, this job offers a chance to finally find connection.

Ada Bunting is a bold sixteen-year-old from Barbados who arrives in Panama as a stowaway alongside thousands of other West Indians seeking work. Alone and with no resources, she is determined to find a job that will earn enough money for her ailing sister’s surgery. When she sees a young man—Omar—who has collapsed after a grueling shift, she is the only one who rushes to his aid.

John Oswald has dedicated his life to scientific research and has journeyed to Panama in single-minded pursuit of one goal: eliminating malaria. But now, his wife, Marian, has fallen ill herself, and when he witnesses Ada’s bravery and compassion, he hires her on the spot as a caregiver. This fateful decision sets in motion a sweeping tale of ambition, loyalty, and sacrifice.

Searing and empathetic, The Great Divide explores the intersecting lives of activists, fishmongers, laborers, journalists, neighbors, doctors, and soothsayers—those rarely acknowledged by history even as they carved out its course.

Speaking of Spring covers, has a book cover ever given more of a feeling of Spring? And quirky characters with names like Herself and Donkey, a fantastical feel. This might make an interesting intro to Spring!

The Waters
by Bonnie Joe Campbell

Format 400 pages, Hardcover
Published January 9, 2024 by W. W. Norton & Company
ISBN 9780393248432 (ISBN10: 0393248437)

A master of rural noir returns with a fierce, mesmerizing novel about exceptional women and the soul of a small town.

On an island in the Great Massasauga Swamp—an area known as “The Waters” to the residents of nearby Whiteheart, Michigan—herbalist Hermine “Herself” Zook has healed the local women of their ailments for generations. As stubborn as her tonics are powerful, Herself inspires reverence and fear in the people of Whiteheart, and even in her own three daughters. The youngest, beautiful and inscrutable Rose Thorn, has left her own daughter, eleven-year-old Dorothy “Donkey” Zook, to grow up wild.

Donkey spends her days searching for truths in the lush landscape and in her math books, waiting for her wayward mother and longing for a father, unaware that family secrets, passionate love, and violent men will flood through the swamp and upend her idyllic childhood.

With a “ruthless and precise eye for the details of the physical world” (New York Times Book Review), Bonnie Jo Campbell presents an elegant antidote to the dark side of masculinity, celebrating the resilience of nature and the brutality and sweetness of rural life.

And this cookbook just screamed Spring to me!

The Forest Feast Road Trip
by Erin Gleesen

Format 256 pages, Hardcover
Published March 22, 2022 by Harry N. Abrams
ISBN 9781419744259 (ISBN10: 1419744259)

Erin Gleeson, the New York Times bestselling author of the beloved Forest Feast, presents a love letter to travel and delicious vegetarian food from her home state of California.

For years, Forest Feast fans have loved Erin Gleeson’s effortless California-style vegetarian cooking, made in her beautiful cabin in the woods. Now, Gleeson takes an extended road trip around California, staying in unique cabin dwellings along the way and showing readers the beauty and incredible food of the Golden State she knows so well. From the grapes of the wine country where Gleeson grew up to the avocados of San Diego, California is known for its rich agriculture.

The Forest Feast Road Trip showcases 100 vegetarian recipes, all inspired by her family’s journey by car through a stunningly geographically diverse setting. Each chapter focuses on a different region of California, depicted in Gleeson’s signature aesthetic of atmospheric photography, charming watercolor illustrations, and mouthwatering recipes drawn from the fresh, local produce found in each location. Gleeson visits the giant redwoods on the coast of Mendocino, the desert of Joshua Tree, the mountains of Lake Tahoe, the tropical beaches of Santa Barbara, the cliffs of Yosemite National Park, and everywhere in between. In each location, Gleeson and her family stay in design-forward cabins, host dinner parties, and explore local attractions, providing tips for readers who may want to take a California road trip of their own.

With its sense of wanderlust and its fresh take on the vegetarian cookbook, The Forest Feast Road Trip is an essential addition to this bestselling series.

Okay, so I thought that this was a beautiful representation of the start of Spring. Unfortunately, I have no idea what is going on with the publisher's synopsis. I don't know whether it is a matter of poor translation, or if it is written by AI.

A Garden Eden. Masterpieces of Botanical Illustration
by H. Walter Lack

Format 728 pages, Hardcover
Published June 10, 2016 by TASCHEN
ISBN 9783836559423 (ISBN10: 3836559420)

"Heaven on earth: Botanical masterworks from the National Library of Vienna In the pursuit of knowledge of pleasure, the art of botanical illustration has always required not only meticulous draughtsmanship, but also a rigorous scientific understanding. To record the form, color, and details of different plant species requires both accuracy and aesthetic skill. From Byzantine manuscripts to 19th century masterworks, this Bibliotheca Universalis edition traces the botanical tradition with the finest botanical manuscripts from the National Library of Vienna. In exquisite color reproductions, it showcases the skill involved in portraying plants for scientific purposes, for the historical record of vanishing species, or for the simple celebration of the beauty and variety of the natural world. About the series: Bibliotheca Universalis Compact cultural companions celebrating the eclectic TASCHEN universe at an unbeatable, democratic price! Since we started our work as cultural archaeologists in 1980, the name TASCHEN has become synonymous with accessible, open-minded publishing. Bibliotheca Universalis brings together nearly 100 of our all-time favorite titles in a neat new format so you can curate your own affordable library of art, anthropology, and aphrodisia. Bookworms delight never bore, always excite! Text in English, French, and German "

Well, make of it what you will, the book is a beautiful Spring book despite the horrible synopsis!

Okay...I think I'm in love with this last book! This is going on my Wish List! And is there anything cuter than an axolotl??

World of Wonders 
by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Format 165 pages, Hardcover
Published August 3, 2020 by Milkweed Editions
ISBN 9781571313652 (ISBN10: 1571313656)

From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction--a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.

As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted--no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape--she was able to turn to our world's fierce and funny creatures for guidance.

"What the peacock can do," she tells us, "is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life." The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world's gifts.

Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.

Happy Spring, happy reading, and have patience while I get back into the flow of things! It's good to be back!