Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth

13547429 Title: Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society

Author: Amy Hill Hearth (
author website)

: Atria Books; Original edition (October 2, 2012)

ISBN 10: 1451675232

Pages: 272 pages

Format Read: NetGalley provided by the publisher

About the Book: (from

A brilliant debut novel from a New York Times bestselling author about a transplanted wife from Boston who arrives in Florida in the 1960s, starts a literary salon, and shakes up the status quo.

In 1962, Jackie Hart moved to Naples, Florida, from Boston with her husband and children. Wanting something personally fulfilling to do with her time, she starts a reading club and anonymously hosts a radio show, calling herself Miss Dreamsville. 

The racially segregated town falls in love with Miss Dreamsville, but doesn’t know what to make of Jackie, who welcomes everyone into her book club, including a woman who did prison time for allegedly killing her husband, a man of questionable sexual preference, a young divorcee, as well as a black woman.

Setting: Florida, 1962

hearth About the Author: Amy Hill Hearth (pronounced "HARTH") is a New York Times bestselling author and Peabody Award-winning writer who specializes in stories about the lives of women. She is the author or co-author of seven nonfiction books, including the oral history HAVING OUR SAY: THE DELANY SISTERS' FIRST 100 YEARS, a New York Times bestseller for 113 weeks which was adapted to the Broadway stage and an award-winning television film. Amy Hill Hearth attended the University of Tampa, graduating with a BA in creative writing in 1982. She worked as a reporting in the 1980s in Florida. She met her future husband, Blair, who was raised in Collier County, while reporting in Florida.

Her first novel, Miss Dreamsville and The Collier County Women’s Literary Society, is inspired by her mother-in-law, Jacqueline B Heart, who did create a radio show called Miss Dreamsville in Naples, Florida. This novel is set in Florida, 1962. Amy Hill Hearth moved to South Carolina in 1965 as a six year old child. This contributed to her understanding of the Deep South during that era.

My favorite tidbit about Amy Hill Hearth is that she and a childhood friend rescued turtles trying to cross the road as children. Amy still rescues turtles today, where ever she is.

Related Media: Amy Hill Hearth Reads from her book, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society

My Review:   Miss Dreamsville and The Collier County Women’s Literary Society is a novel which touches on issues such as racism, homophobia and feminism in a heart warming and humorous way.   Though these issues are heavy this story is entertaining and evokes real emotions about the various characters.  Jackie a housewife from Boston and her family move to the Deep South in the racial charged 1960s.   Jackie starts this controversial Literary Society when moving to Collier County.  This novel is narrated by Dora, one of the lovable misfits that make up the Literary Society.    Each member of the Literary Society bring something different to the table during a time in history when different was not a valued attribute.

The members of the Literary Society are colorful and lovable.  I can’t even chose a favorite character as I loved them all.  I especially would love to see a movie made of this book just so I can see Dolores, the alligator hunter.  My image of her in my mind is pretty entertaining!!  The Literary Society is a group of people who are different, but develop a real friendship despite their differences.  Change is possible when people look beyond their difference and find their common ground.  For this group one common ground discovered was reading/books.    Jackie, the Literary Society originator had good intentions and wanted to change the injustices she saw in her new home, Naples. She didn’t always approach the issues in the best manner and was not always successful, but her intentions were good.

After this group has an incident with the Ku Klux Klan, it looks like all was for naught.   Can things really change??  But everything turns around for the group and the ending is very satisfying.  The group leaves a lasting impression on Naples, Florida.  I loved the ending!
Miss Dreamsville and The Collier County Women’s Literary Society is a debut novel by Amy Hill Hearth and will be available for purchase on October 2, 2012.  If you enjoyed The Help by Kathryn Stockett, you will love Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society.  The characters really make the story!!

My Rating: 4 – I really liked Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society – The story flowed well and the characters were wonderful!   I still smile thinking of the image in my head of each character.  A wonderful debut novel that kept me up a few nights later than a girl who needs to get to work on time should stay up!

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

Other  Bloggers Reviews:

A Chick Who Reads
Silver’s Reviews
The Book Garden
Mysteries Etc

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Advance copy received from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Rules of Civility–Amor Towles


Title:  Rules of Civility

Author: Amor Towles (author website)

Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 26, 2012)

ISBN 10: 0143121162

Pages: 352 pages

Format: Audio Book – Borrowed from Library

Reading Guide

About the Book:  (from Good

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Condé Nast--rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne'er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is a ahead of her time,and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our regrets.

Setting:  New York, 1937


About the Author:

Born in 1964, Amor Towles was raised in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale College and received an M.A. in English from Stanford University where he was a Scowcroft Fellow. He is a principal at an investment firm in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children. He is on the boards of the Library of America and the Yale Art Gallery.

Mr. Towles is an ardent fan of early 20th century painting, 1950’s jazz, 1970’s cop shows, rock & roll on vinyl, manifestoes, breakfast pastries, pasta, liquor, snow-days, Tuscany, Provence, Disneyland, Hollywood, the cast of Casablanca, 007, Captain Kirk, Bob Dylan (early, mid, and late phases), the wee hours, card games, cafés, and the cookies made by both of his grandmothers.

His novel, Rules of Civility, was published by Viking/Penguin in July 2011 and reached the bestseller lists of The New York Times, the Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times. The book was rated by The Wall Street Journal as one of the ten best works of fiction in 2011. The book’s French translation received the 2012 Prix Fitzgerald. The book is being published in 15 languages. 

(from author’s website)

Related Media: – Book Trailer

My Review:  Rules of Civility by Amor Towles was the selection of the month for my book group, Books & Babble.  I really didn’t have an notion of this book before starting the audio book.  At times I wished I would have had the book instead of the audio.  Towles has a way with words that had me wishing I could highlight the descriptions to share at a later time!   One of my favorite things about Rules of Civility is the language or prose of Amor Towles.  On the flip side, listening to Rules of Civility was wonderful to listen too. The language was elegant and flowed very well.  The audio was well performed and I felt like it was 1938!

The cast of characters were many and even minor characters were well developed.  Mostly the Rules of Civility revolves around three friends, Eve, Katey and Tinker.  Katey was intelligent and witty. She was a hardworker, but knew how to have fun.  And oh how fun New York City was in the 1930’s!  The boarding houses, jazz clubs and restaurants were so lively. Towles really has you feeling like you are experiences the city in the 1930’s. 

Rules of Civility is a love story that bridges social class and is tested by many events.  In order to climb the social ladder the characters of Rules of Civility are willing to risk everything for wealth. Katey was my favorite character with her love for books, her persistence, determination and spunk.  Will the characters find love and happiness in the end??

My Rating: 4 – I really liked Rules of Civility – The 1930’s in New York was very entertaining and fun to experience through the lives of Eve and Katey.   I loved the audio and would recommend it to others.  In discussing Rules of Civility at book group there were many details in the book that not everyone caught.   In discussing the book your understanding and appreciation of Rules of Civility grows.

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

Other Bloggers Reviews :

Literate Housewife

1776 Books

Bookworm Meets Bookworm

Booking Mama

Literary Inklings


Happy Reading!

Monday, September 3, 2012

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading – September 3rd


It’s Monday! What Are you Reading? is hosted by Shelia of
Book Journey.  It is a chance
to share what you have read and what you plan on reading in the upcoming week. I enjoy seeing what everyone’s reading plans for the week. I always find some titles that I just *had to add to my TBR list.

Accomplishments Since Last Posting:
Making of Us – Lisa Jewell (Review)

Such a Pretty Face – Cathy Lamb (Review)

Library Loot – Sept 1st Edition - see my loot from our weekly visit to the library.

Reading Plans for This Week:

Finish Reading:
 secret_keeper_thumb The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton 1959 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.

Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths some people go to fulfill them, and the strange consequences they sometimes have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers and schemers, play-acting and deception told against a backdrop of events that changed the world. (from

Listen To:
 7826803 Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (Audio Book)
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
(from Good

Next Up ?? –
 untitled1_copy2 Ten Days - Janet Gilsdorf
In a riveting debut novel infused with uncommon insight, Janet Gilsdorf draws readers into an unforgettable story of love, heartache, family, and renewal.

After six years of marriage, Anna and Jake Campbell have settled into a routine of daily responsibility and familiar comforts. The demands of raising two small children—three-year-old Chris and baby Eddie—take a toll, especially combined with Jake’s schedule as an orthopedic surgeon. But together, cautious Anna and calm, optimistic Jake negotiate, sometimes gracefully, sometimes not so much, every obstacle that comes their way. Until the night Eddie gets sick.

When Anna phones Jake at work to seek advice, he reassures her that Eddie has just caught her cold. But with the morning light comes the terrible realization that her baby is seriously ill. Guilt-ridden, deeply angry, and shell-shocked, Anna spends bottomless hours alone in the ICU where Eddie teeters on between life and death. In the days that follow Eddie’s diagnosis, grief gives way to recrimination and accusations. Anna, focused only on her younger son, ignores Chris’s need for attention, while Jake is drawn to an old temptation. And the six steady years Anna and Jake have spent together—years of give and take, hope and hardship, inside jokes and shared memories—seem suddenly fragile and fleeting.

Ten Days
is a beautifully written and compelling story of the simple, momentary choices that come to shape our lives, of love tested to the limit, and of the myriad small triumphs that can become our greatest joys.

These are my reading plans for the week. What are you reading plans for the week??? Join in with Shelia at Book Journey and share your reading plans for the week!!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Book review: The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell


Title:  The Making of Us

Author:  Lisa Jewell

Publisher: Atria Books; Original edition (August 14, 2012)

ISBN 10: 1451609116

Pages: 416 pages

Format: Galley from

About the Book: (From

From the internationally bestselling author of After the Party comes a delightfully funny, brilliantly poignant novel about three strangers who are brought together by the father they never knew. Lydia, Dean and Robyn don’t know one another. Yet. Each is facing difficult challenges. Lydia is still wearing the scars from her traumatic childhood. Wealthy and successful, she leads a lonely and disjointed existence. Dean is a young, unemployed, single dad whose life is going nowhere. Robyn is eighteen. Gorgeous, popular and intelligent, she entered her first year of college confident of her dream to become a pediatrician. Now she’s failing her classes. Now she’s falling in love for the first time.

Lydia, Dean and Robyn live very different lives, but each of them, independently, has always felt that something was missing. What they don’t know is that a letter is about to arrive that will turn their lives upside down. It is a letter containing a secret—one that will bind them together and show them what love and family and friendship really mean.

“So good that I practically inhaled it,” praised the Daily Mail (London). The Making of Us is a literary gem that will remind readers of the miracles that happen when we bring life into the world and share our lives with those we love.

Setting: London

Lisa Jewell

About the Author:  (from Good

Lisa Jewell (born 19th July 1968, Middlesex, London) is a popular British author of chick lit fiction. Her books include Ralph's Party, Thirtynothing and most recently 31 Dream Street. She lives in Swiss Cottage, London with her husband Jascha and daughters Amelie Mae (born 2003) and Evie Scarlett (born 2007).

Related Media: – Lisa Jewell on Creating Characters

My Review:  This was the first galley I have read and I was so pleasantly surprised.   Making of Us is the story of three children born of the same donor father.  All raised in different homes with different moms and different experiences.  But moms who wanted them so much and went to the clinic to have the child then so deeply desired.   Many issues are brought to mind in this story, the rights of the children to know who their father is, the right of the sperm donor to remain anonymous.  The bond of family and wanting to feel like you belong and able to see yourself in your family.  The desire to not feel alone in the world but connected in a meaningful way to others. 

The Making of Us is emotionally charged and very believable. I loved the characters and how they change throughout the book, especially Lydia.  She really blossomed once she gained confidence,  felt she belonged and had family.   It was good to watch Dean mature and grow as a person/father. I enjoyed how the author wrote each chapter with a different narrator.  This allowed you to know the characters thoughts as well as their thoughts about the other characters as well.   This technique lead to very strong character development, though this was confusing the first few chapters to get the characters straight.  Luckily, I always take notes to help me get a solid understanding of the characters early on.  It takes away form the story if the confusion lasts too long!

I finished Making of Us a few hours ago and I have been trying to figure out why I was so struck by this book.  I think I was most struck by the emotions of the children wanting to belong or feeling like something was missing for them.  But they each felt like something was missing and that was all brought together when they met their siblings. People that were like them and looked like them.  The sense of belong and being a part of “Us”.  The emotions of the characters are right on – a donor father or absent father the emotions to belong and be a part of “us” is so strong.  It is amazing to me how siblings raised by different mothers can have so much in common – but they can, I have seen it!   Making of Us is a great story about finding family and importance of family.

My Rating: 4 – really liked it! – I could have devoured Making of Us in one sitting if I didn’t need to sleep!  A great emotional read about families and our need to belong.

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

Other Bloggers Reviews :

Girly Scribbles’ Book Reviews

International Chick Lit Month

Quirky Bookworm

Curious Book Fans


Happy Reading!


Galley received from publisher via in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Library Loot: September 1st Edition


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

New this week from the White Bear Lake Public Library:

index The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Acclaimed, award-winning author Margot Livesey delivers her breakout novel: a captivating tale, set in Scotland in the early 1960s, that is both an homage and a modern variation on the enduring classic, Jane Eyre.

Fate has not been kind to Gemma Hardy. Orphaned by the age of ten, neglected by a bitter and cruel aunt, sent to a boarding school where she is both servant and student, young Gemma seems destined for a life of hardship and loneliness. Yet her bright spirit burns strong. Fiercely intelligent, singularly determined, Gemma overcomes each challenge and setback, growing stronger and more certain of her path. Now an independent young woman with dreams of the future, she accepts a position as an au pair on the remote and beautiful Orkney Islands.

But Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin . . . a journey of passion and betrayal, secrets and lies, redemption and discovery that will lead her to a life she's never dreamed.


This week Claire from The Captive Reader is hosting Library Loot. Stop by to check out what treasures others have found at their local libraries!

Happy Reading!!

Book Review: Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb


Title:  Such A Pretty Face

Author:  Cathy Lamb

Publisher: Kensington; 1 edition (August 1, 2010)

ISBN 10: 0758229550

Pages: 352 pages

Format: Paperback – borrowed from the library

About the Book:   In this warm, funny, thoroughly candid novel, acclaimed author Cathy Lamb introduces an unforgettable heroine who's half the woman she used to be, and about to find herself for the first time...Two years and 170 pounds ago, Stevie Barrett was wheeled into an operating room for surgery that most likely saved her life. Since that day, a new Stevie has emerged, one who walks without wheezing, plants a garden for self-therapy, and builds and paints fantastical wooden chairs. At thirty-five, Stevie is the one thing she never thought she'd be: thin. But for everything that's changed, some things remain the same. Stevie's shyness refuses to melt away. She still can't look her neighbors' gorgeous great-nephew in the eye. The Portland law office where she works remains utterly dysfunctional, as does her family - the aunt, uncle, and cousins who took her in when she was a child. To top it off, her once supportive best friend clearly resents her weight loss. By far the biggest challenge in Stevie's new life lies in figuring out how to define her new self. Collaborating with her cousins to plan her aunt and uncle's problematic fortieth anniversary party, Stevie starts to find some surprising answers - about who she is, who she wants to be, and how the old Stevie evolved in the first place. And with each revelation, she realizes the most important part of her transformation may not be what she's lost, but the courage and confidence she's gathering, day by day.   (from – About the Book)

Setting:  Ashville & Portland Oregon  - 2005


About the Author(from –Author Page)

Cathy Lamb was born in Newport Beach, California. As a child, she mastered the art of skateboarding, catching butterflies in bottles, and riding her bike with no hands. When she was 10, her parents moved her, two sisters, a brother, and two poorly behaved dogs to Oregon before she could fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a surfer bum.

She then embarked on her notable academic career where she earned good grades now and then, spent a great deal of time daydreaming, ran wild with a number of friends, and landed on the newspaper staff in high school. When she saw her byline above an article about people making out in the hallways of the high school, she knew she had found her true calling.

After two years of partying at the University of Oregon, she settled down for the next three years and earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in education, and became a fourth grade teacher. It was difficult for her to become proper and conservative but she threw out her red cowboy boots and persevered. She had no choice. She had to eat, and health insurance is expensive.

She met her husband on a blind date. A mutual friend who was an undercover vice cop busting drug dealers set them up. It was love at third sight.

Teaching children about the Oregon Trail and multiplication facts amused her until she became so gigantically pregnant with twins she looked like a small cow and could barely walk. With a three year old at home, she decided it was time to make a graceful exit and waddle on out. She left school one day and never went back. She likes to think her students missed her.

When Cathy was no longer smothered in diapers and pacifiers, she took a turn onto the hazardous road of freelance writing and wrote about 200 articles on homes, home décor, people and fashion for a local newspaper. As she is not fashionable and can hardly stand to shop, it was an eye opener for her to find that some women actually do obsess about what to wear. She also learned it would probably be more relaxing to slam a hammer against one's forehead than engage in a large and costly home remodeling project.

Cathy suffers from, "I Would Rather Play Than Work Disease" which prevents her from getting much work done unless she has a threatening deadline. She likes to hang with family and friends, walk, eat chocolate, camp, travel, and is slightly obsessive about the types of books she reads. She also likes to be left alone a lot so she can hear all the odd characters in her head talk to each other and then transfer that oddness to paper. The characters usually don't start to talk until 10:00 at night, however, so she is often up 'til 2:00 in the morning with them. That is her excuse for being cranky.


My Review: I read Such A Pretty Face for my book group, Wine, Women and Words.  My group had previously read Henry’s Sisters by Cathy Lamb and really enjoyed it so we were excited to read, Such a Pretty Face.  I found myself really connecting and caring about many of the characters, especially, Stevie Barrett.  She was a great character, unsure of herself and slowing gaining confidence.  You could not help rooting for her to have a better life and come to terms with her own personal demons and insecurities.  Stevie was fun to watch develop and blossom throughout the story.  Such a Pretty Face shows what family secrets can do to a family and how they can keep you prisoner.  While Stevie was my favorite character in Such A Pretty Face, all the characters were very well developed.  Many of the characters were quirky in nature, but were dealing with their own issues, and I likes most of them!  I did not have must sympathy for Stevie’s Uncle, Herbert.  He is a character you love to hate!  

Stevie and her two cousins Lance and Polly were great characters and their relationship was great.  I found myself sneaking to read a few more pages of Such A Pretty Face, I thought about the three cousins when I wasn’t reading the book and wanted to get back to see what they were up to.    You could not help but have sympathy for Stevie’s mother, Helen who suffered from Schizophrenia.  She was quirky in a different, sadder manner.  Each character was overcoming their own demons.  It was great to see them gain the confidence and strength to address their individual issues and become stronger people through out the story.

The story would not be complete without Zena, the wonderfully inappropriate friend of Stevie’s that will make you laugh out loud with the things she says . She is great!  Such A Pretty Face addresses themes of love, family, acceptance and overcoming the pain and reality of family secrets.  Such A Pretty Face is told in the voice of Stevie with the use of flashbacks to her childhood and present day.

My Rating:  - 4/5 stars – really liked it – I found the characters exceptionally likeable and cared a lot about them.  I continued to read wanting to know what would happen my new friends.  Powerful read addressing many issues.  Worth the read and I actually enjoyed Such a Pretty Face more than Henry’s Sisters also by Cathy Lamb.

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

Other Bloggers Reviews :

Readers Café

Crowded Leaf

Curled Up With a Good Book

Maniac Readers

Happy Reading!