Saturday, August 5, 2017

Review: The Nearness to You by Amanda Eyre Ward



Title:The Nearness to You
Author: Amanda Eyre Ward (Facebook)
(Website) (Twitter) (Instagram) (Goodreads)
Genre: Literary
Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books (January 31, 2017)
Length: 7 hours and 45 minutes
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About the Book: (From Goodreads)

In this profound and lyrical novel, acclaimed author Amanda Eyre Ward explores the deeper meanings of motherhood—from the first blissful hello to the heart-wrenching prospect of saying goodbye.

Brilliant heart surgeon Suzette Kendall is stunned when Hyland, her husband of fifteen years, admits his yearning for a child. From the beginning, they’d decided that having children was not an option, as Suzette feared passing along the genes that landed her mother in a mental institution. But Hyland proposes a different idea: a baby via surrogate.

Suzette agrees, and what follows is a whirlwind of candidate selections, hospital visits, and Suzette’s doubts over whether she’s made the right decision. A young woman named Dorothy Muscarello is chosen as the one who will help make this family complete. For Dorrie, surrogacy (and the money that comes with it) are her opportunity to leave behind a troubled past and create a future for herself—one full of possibility. But this situation also forces all three of them—Dorrie, Suzette, and Hyland—to face a devastating uncertainty that will reverberate in the years to come.

Beautifully shifting between perspectives, The Nearness of You deftly explores the connections we form, the families we create, and the love we hold most dear.

My Review:  3/ liked it – The initial story line of The Nearness of You starts with Suzette a heart surgeon.  She is very career orientated and does not want to have any children.  She is afraid her upbringing has not prepared her to be a good mother.   Suzette is also concerned that her mother’s mental health problems will be passed on.  Hyland is an architect and changes his mind.  He now wants to have a baby, even though he agreed to this arrangement previously. 

Suzette and Hyland do decide to start a family through surrogacy.   This is where 21 year old  Dorrie, looking to escape her current life, comes into the story.  Dorrie agrees to be Suzette and Hyland’s surrogate.  She plans to use the money from being a surrogate to escape her life with her mother and attend college.  Nearness to You by Amanda Eyre Ward is told in alternating view points.  The view points of Dorrie, Suzette and Hyland are very well conveyed in regards to their feelings about having a baby, their fears and concerns about surrogacy. 

Dorrie decides to keep the baby.   She has to live a life of fear and makes many poor decisions to keep her baby.   Later, the baby, is raised by Suzette and Hyland.   She is named Eloise, after Hylands sister.   Eloise struggles with feelings  of not belonging as a teen and seeks answers.  She goes down a scary path, which leads her to some surprising information.  The pace of the story is good and keeps you engage.  There are twists and turns to keep you interested.   The ending leaves far too many loose ends, felt rushed and did not give me closure with the characters and their stories.   It felt like the author just stop writing before the end.  The journey to the end was wonderful, the ending just fell flat for me.

Nearness to You is a emotional read dealing with surrogacy, the bond of motherhood and difficult childhood experiences  and how those experiences affect us. 

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – The Nearness to You by Amanda Eyre Ward was received from The Audiobook Jukebox reviewer program in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Coming Soon to a Bookshelf Near You: August 2017

Book Shelf

Loving this warm weather!   I can’t believe it is August already.   Summers in Minnesota go by so quickly.   We have been pretty busy in July.  Hubby and boys have been going to all the MN United Games (soccer).   They certainly are getting good use of their season tickets.  The remodel of the basement room is done.   Just waiting for the carpet to arrive and be installed.   Than we will be working on moving our youngest son to that room.  Next week they will be here to install new kitchen flooring.   I read a few books in June, but as you can see, I haven’t been writing many reviews. 

This week, I am sort of on vacation.   I am only working a few hours a day from home, while I am home caring for my father in law.  I hope to get some reading and reviewing done as well as just organizing in the house.   I also need to start walking again each evening,  which will have me listening to more audiobooks.   Never enough hours in the day!  

Currently Reading: 

Home Sweet Home by April Smith (set in South Dakota)


In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero (very timely, deals with immigration)


To help with your August reading,  I thought I would share some books that have caught my eye.   These books will be available in August.  If you like, maybe even get on the waitlist at the library for these upcoming titles.  As a book blogger, I am able to request, read and provide feedback on upcoming titles.   I love being able to do this, but some months my ambitions are larger than what time allows.  I still have a full time job which interferes regularly with my reading/blogging schedule.  So I decided to share with you some upcoming releases that have caught my eye.    I would hate for you to miss an upcoming title due to my lack of time!!

Here are some books which will be available in bookstores in August 2017, that caught my eye!

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Happy Reading!

*Note – if you would like to keep up with book reviews on Reading in White Bear Lake, please take a moment to like us on facebook!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg


Title:  Practicing Normal
Author: Cara Sue Achterberg
(Facebook) (Website) (Twitter)
Genre: Woman’s Fiction
Publisher: Story Plant (June 6, 2017)
Length: 336
Source: Providence Book Promotions



About the Book:

The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.

The Turners know in their hearts that they're anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors' homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger's who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by.

And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett's secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face.

Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That's what happens when you're practicing normal.

Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

untitled Author Bio:

Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a national bestseller, as was her second, Girls’ Weekend. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for liv- ing a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at


My Review:  4/5 Rating – Practicing Normal, don’t we all do that?  Going through life doing the best we can and telling ourselves it is alright.  Kate wants to believe her marriage to Everett is good, though in the back of her mind are those thoughts that contradict that belief.  Teenage years are hard, Jenna is only going through “typical” teenage stage of life.   As with many families, mine included, add the caring for an aging parent while raising your own children and you are just trying to make it through the day.   Kate’s life is busy from morning to night caring for her family.  As we all know, life isn’t always what it seems or what we want to believe it is.   Kate gets a wake up call that is hard to deny, which changes the course of her family and life.  

Cara Sue Achterberg skillfully intertwines into Practicing Normal, the story of a father who abandoned his family and all the emotions associated with the discovery of that story.  In addition the author addresses, very well I might add, the struggles of raising a child on the spectrum in combination with caring for an aging parent.  This really resonated with me as this is an actual struggle in my own life. Cara Sue Achterberg captures the emotions is such a real way, that really touched me. 

Cara Sue Achterberg does a remarkable job with character development.  Each character is well defined and you feel a real connection with them. I felt a real connect with Kate as well as her mother.  The secondary characters such as Cassie (hospice nurse) and the retired Doctor are also so well developed and play an important part in the story.   Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg is told from three perspectives, Kate (mom and wife of Everett), Jenna (daughter) and Everett.   I liked this as each perspective was different and helped you to understand that character better, as well as the dynamics between the main characters.  

I found myself sitting down on Sunday morning meaning to read for an hour, only to get up 4 hours later having finished the book.  I found myself immersed in the lives of Kate and her family and just lost track of time.  I have never really had an opinion on a title of a book, but Practicing Normal is the perfect title!! 

Practicing Normal is a authentic portrayal of the complex lives many of us lead and the desire to hold it all together and be perceived as normal.   If you enjoy stories of family dynamics, Practicing Normal will not disappoint.  I think you will enjoy spending a Sunday afternoon with the Turner family as I didl!

Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg is currently only $1.99 in the kindle format and free with kindle unlimited – don’t miss out on this great read! 

Click here to view the Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg Book Tour Participants
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg was received from  Providence Book Promotions in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Coming Soon to a Bookshelf Near You: July 2017

Book Shelf

Loving this warm weather!   I can’t believe it is July already.   Summers in Minnesota go by so quickly.   We were pretty busy in June with starting a remodel project and work projects.  I read only a couple of books in June.  I am walking again each evening, which has me listening to more audiobooks. 

Currently Reading:  To Siri with Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son and the Kindness of Machines by Judith Newman (available in stores, August 2017)


Currently Listening:  The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers


To help with your July reading,  I thought I would share some books that have caught my eye.   These books will be available in July.  If you like, maybe even get on the waitlist at the library for these upcoming titles.  As a book blogger, I am able to request, read and provide feedback on upcoming titles.   I love being able to do this, but some months my ambitions are larger than what time allows.  I still have a full time job which interferes regularly with my reading/blogging schedule.  So I decided to share with you some upcoming releases that have caught my eye.    I would hate for you to miss an upcoming title due to my lack of time!!

Here are some books which will be available in bookstores in July 2017, that caught my eye!


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Happy Reading!

*Note – if you would like to keep up with book reviews on Reading in White Bear Lake, please take a moment to like us on facebook!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: The Child by Fiona Barton

The CHild


Title:The Child
Author: Fiona Barton
(Facebook) (Website) (Twitter)
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Berkley (June 27, 2017)
Length: 384
Source: First To Read Reviewer Program/Netgalley


About the Book: (From Goodreads)

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell

About the Author: (From Author Website)

fionaFiona’s career has taken some surprising twists and turns over the years. She has been a journalist - senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards, gave up her job to volunteer in Sri Lanka and since 2008, have trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world.

Fiona and her husband are still living the good life in south-west France, where Fiona writes in bed, early in the morning when the only distraction is their cockerel, Titch, crowing.


My Review: I was very excited to have the opportunity to read, The Child by Fiona Barton.  I had read Fiona Barton’s debut novel, The Widow and love it!  In the beginning of The Child, there are a lot of characters and the narrative switches between them frequently.  It took me a little bit to get all the characters straight and feel a connection to them.   Three women are the main characters.   Katie is a journalist wanting to dig deeper into the story of a infant’s body found at a building site.  Emma is an Editor, she has some difficulty/anxiety.  She become very interested/obsessed in the infant.  Angela and Nick are parents of baby Alice who was abducted from the hospital shortly after birth. 

The character develop is great.  You have a good sense of each character and their inner thoughts while the story switches between past and present.  The Child by Fiona Barton starts off slow with giving you a glimpse into each woman’s life and you are also introduced to people in their lives as well.  Just as I began to feel like this story wasn’t going anywhere, my interest was peaked.   The small connections between the women’s life start to be skillfully revealed.  Ok, Ok…Fiona Barton you got me!  I am hooked.   Each connection brings you closer and closer to understanding the memories that haunt the women, with a few twist to keep you on your toes.

The suspense builds and builds.   I am reading the last few chapters in the morning before going to work.  Ok….I will have a second cup of coffee and read one more chapter.  Ok…. I will read one more chapter and work late tonight.  Ok…I am sitting on the edge of seat and on a total emotional roller coaster – tears and all!  I will finish this book before going to work.  Yes, I was late for work, but The Child by Fiona Barton was totally worth it.    Fiona Barton sure knows how to build the suspense and deliver a memorable ending! I give The Child by Fiona Barton 4 star – could I have a note for being late for work??

The Child by Fiona Barton is being released today,  June 27, 2017.

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – The Child by Fiona Barton was received from The First To Read Program at Penguin Random House and Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Menu Plan Monday– June 19, 2017



Sunday 18th – Grilled Chicken with Savory Summer Vegetable – Strawberry Salad with Greens and Feta Cheese – Steamed Sweet Potatoes with Butter (Tree House)

Monday, 19th – Salmon Oriental – Broccoli and Sweet Potato  (Tree House)

Tuesday, 20th  – (Mom out of Town) – Chicken Pot Pies

Wednesday, 21st – (Mom Out of Town) – Hot Dogs

Thursday, 22nd – (Mom Out of Town) – Simek’s Lasagna

Friday, 23rd -  Grilled Hamburgers – Waffle Fries

Saturday, 24th – Leftovers

Sunday, 25th – Super Juicy Pork Chops – Crisp Green Salad – Simple Steamed Broccoli (Tree House)

Monday, 26th – Lemon-Herb Fish – Simple Springtime Salad with Raspberry Dressing – Baked Potatoes (Tree House)

Tuesday, 27th – Italian Skillet Frittata – Simple Roasted Asparagus (Tree House)

Wednesday, 28th – Broiled Tilapia Parmesan, House Salad, Grilled Pineapple (Tree House)

Thursday, 29th -  Leftovers

Friday, 30th -

Saturday, July 1st – Chicken Caesar Salad (Tree House)

Potato & Egg Burritos
Blueberry Muffins

Strawberry, Feta & Almond Salad : 

2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
¼ red onion, minced
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar ⅓ cup olive oil salt & pepper
4 oz spinach ½ head iceberg lettuce, chopped
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 quart strawberries, hulled— small berries halved, large ones quartered
1 cup almonds, chopped

1. In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, honey, onion and vinegar. Stir in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 2. Put the spinach & lettuce in a large bowl. Add the strawberries, feta and almonds.
Avocado Tuna Salad

For more Menu Planning inspiration stop by and visit Laura at Organizing Junkie and participate in Menu Plan Monday. 

Wishing you a wonderful week!!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

  32148570._SY180_Title:  Before We Were Yours
  Author: Lisa Wingate (Website)

  Genre: Literature/Fiction
  Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 6, 2017)
  Length: 352 pages
  Source: First To Read Reviewer Program


About the Book: (From Goodreads)

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancĂ©, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation . . . or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

About the Author:

WingateHeadshot1-WebResLisa Wingate is a former journalist, inspirational speaker, and bestselling author of more than twenty novels. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, The Carol Award, the Christy Award, and the RT Booklovers Reviewer’s Choice Award.

The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with six others as recipients of the National Civics Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. Booklist summed up her work by saying, “Lisa Wingate is, quite simply, a master storyteller.” More information about her novels can be found at


My Review: I love books that are based on actual real-life events.  I had never heard of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and Georgia Tann.   Ms Tann ran an adoption organization that kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families.  From 1924 to 1950 Georgia Tann used deception, manipulation, threats and force to obtain children from poor families and single moms.   The children were than sold to families of means.  Notable celebrity, Joan Crawford used Georgia Tann’s services to obtain her twins.   The treatment of children at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society resulted in many children dying during their time there.  It is hard for me to believe that this continued for 30 years without detection or intervention.

Knowing this historical context, makes Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate all the more powerful.  Lisa Wingate provides amazing character development.  Many of the characters have stayed with me long after finishing Before We Were Yours.  The story takes place in two time periods.   In present day we meet Avery Stafford, the senator’s daughter and successful lawyer.  Avery as a character grows throughout the story and begins to understand what is really important in life.  She takes a journey through her families history and brings the truth forward, even though she is unsure if her Grandmother, Judy wants the truth known.  I love how Avery kept after the truth even though it could change her family.   As she grew, her life priorities changed and she found happiness.

In 1939 the Foss children lived on a shantyboat in Memphis with their parents.  They are a very happy family of limited means.  A medical emergency takes the parents away from the shantyboat.  During their absence, their 5 children (Rill, Lark, Fern, Camilla and Gabion) are kidnapped and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.  The children are slowly separated as some are adopted. Georgia Tann changed all the children’s names when they came to the orphanage and tricked families into signing papers to legal surrender their children.  Some of the legal paperwork were completely fabricated. 

The oldest daughter Rill, feels she is to blame for not keeping her siblings safe.  Rill is an amazingly strong young girl in a no win situation.  She does the best she can to take care of her siblings.  I have so much respect for all she did for her siblings.  Rill gave up a great deal to stay with her sister, Fern and build a life with her.

I don’t want to give too much away, but Before We Were Yours is an very emotional journey.  Lisa Wingate skillfully weaves together the past and present to drive the plot.   I absolutely loved the ending.  There is freedom in the truth for the eldest of the characters.   I think the ending perfectly brought both story lines together, allowing a lost family to be found.   Before We Were Yours is about deep love and family secrets.   I have had a hard time starting another book since I finished Before We Were Yours, as I keep thinking about these characters and their lives.  

I rate Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate a 5 (it was amazing) due to the depth and development of the characters as well as my love for books based on real-life events.  I know this story and its’ characters will stay with me for a long time.   The images of the Tennessee Children Home Society and the events that happened there are forever with me.

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate was received from The First To Read Program at Penguin Random House in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.