The Girls With No Names @serenaburdick

I finally understood what my fortune meant….I was bone and skin and earth and sky. Death was not literal, Time was infinite, my Existence..eternal.

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Set in the early 1900s, a time of great change and social reforms, The Girls With No Names is the story of young girls, some wealthy and other travelers or from among the working poor. It is a brilliant example of all that was wonderful and horrific about “the gilded age.”

Luella and Effie Tildon are children from a wealthier family. Their lives are spent in school, wandering the land around their home and obeying the strict rules set forth by their parents. They know that if they don’t obey these rules they will be sent to the House of Mercy, a work house wayward girls. The institution was meant to be home for young women without support or who were unmarried and pregnant. What it became was a place for men to send women and girls who didn’t conform to the “rules.” A house of horror, hunger, torture and worse, the House of Mercy was used as a cautionary reminder for all females to obey. When Luella discovers a secret her father is hiding, she begins to rebel against him to the point that, when she disappears, Effie immediately assumes Luella has been banished to the House of Mercy. Effie, who has a debilitating heart condition, decides she will find a way to get sent to the house so that Luella will not be alone. What transpires is a horror show for the young girl and for all of the girls held captive within those walls.

Serena Burdick has woven together a story of the rich and the poor, of the Suffragette movement, of work houses run by “the church”, of an age that glorified the male while subjugating women. The stories of these young women is one of friendship, love, bravery and hope. It is, by far, one of the most remarkable stories I have read and, sadly, it is based on the true stories of the House of Mercy in Innwood Park.

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The Girls With No Names is a cautionary reminder about how new and how fleeting our rights as women actually are or could be, a wake up call for women around the world.

#Netgalley, #Harlequin-ParkRow and @SerenaBurkick – thank you!

 

The Little Engine That Could – NINETIETH Anniversary Edition

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Seriously! How is it possible that this delightful, inspirational tale is NINETY years old!?! Well, it is and to celebrate there is a brand new edition just waiting to be read and added to your library!

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Everyone knows the story of the little engine, right? I think I can…. I think I can…. and soon she absolutely could! By far this was my favorite story as a child. I was small and so often there were things I was told I was “too little” to do. This engine became my hero, her mantra became mine. When I was a Weight Watchers group leader the members in my group used it as their mantra as well. If you think you can, you will do!

The text in this updated version is the same heart felt prose we always adored but the illustrations are new and absolutely gorgeous. They will make you fall in love with them! Just look at the colors in this one:

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This anniversary edition features the original text, all-new re-imagined artwork and an introduction from Caldecott Medal-winner Dan Santat and a special letter from Dolly Parton, award-winning singer-songwriter and founder of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Every child and adult alike should have a copy of this inspiring tale on their shelves to read when self-doubt rears its head. It’s perfection.

 

(Thank you to #Edelweiss, #PenguinPublishingGroup, #Grossett&Dunlap for my copy of The Little Engine That Could)

Romantic Two for Tuesday: Husband Material and Been There, Married That

Happy Tuesday! I had hoped to bring you two delicious romances for the Tuesday of Valentine’s Week. Strangely enough, neither of these books were what I was expecting, one for the better and one, well… not so much.

Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie, promised to be a humorous look at a celebrity marriage gone wrong. I truly thought it would be a funny take on a woman who was rebuilding her life after a celebrity marriage. What I got, instead, was a book about nothing. The characters were flat, there really wasn’t a plot other than a lot (a LOT) of attempts at humor. In fact, that appears to have been the goal of the author – to see how many laughs she could get, many of which fell very flat. I love a good Rom-Com but this was neither a Romance or a Comedy. It was like watching a really bad movie where there is one pratfall too many. Basically, I skimmed three-fourths of the book to finish. So, no romance or recommendation here for Been There, Married That.

On the flip side, I had small expectations for Husband Material. But then I read the first page, and the second, and found I couldn’t stop until I was completely finished with the book. I honestly don’t want to say too much about the plot because I want you to be as surprised as I was. The main character wants you to believe this is simply her search for the perfect husband. What we discover instead is that she is much less detached and aloof than she appears and her heart is in need of serious mending. Husband Material had me laughing, crying and cheering and then I wanted MORE. It is a wonderful book that is far more than a romance. It is wonderful story of resilience and strength. I highly recommend Husband Material for all who love an exceptionally written story.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think of them? Was I totally off the mark with Been There, Married That? Let me know….

Sunday Morning for the Kids! Featuring King of the Tightrope by Donna Janell Bowman, Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)

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Good morning! I love Sunday mornings because I adore reviewing Children’s books. I always manage to learn something new and different when I read this genre. Does that mean I’m still a child? Hopefully, it means you are  never too old to learn!

KING OF THE TIGHTROPE: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara by Donna Janell Bowman, Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)

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I love all things related to the circus and being a mom of a circus performer, I have heard a lot about the kings of the tightrope – those daring men, and a few women, who boldly did (do) what others could not or will not do. Blondin is one of the most famous of these dare-devils because he was the first in many areas, particularly the first to actually walk on a rope across Niagara Falls, a feat that many considered his death sentence. They were wrong. Not only did he do it, he went on to even greater stunts. But how does a young boy decide this is what he will do when he is older? That is the story given to us here with Bowman’s wonderfully written, beautifully illustrated book: King of the Tightrope.

This is the story of how a boy who was born into a performing family – as many are – became bored with the acts he was doing and began challenging himself to do bigger, greater, more daring acts that he and others never had done before. What is so fascinating about this is that he had to use physics and mathematics to figure out how to accomplish these feats without falling. It is both an art and science to all of these types of performances. Kids reading this book are subtly made aware of how important being knowledgeable and well rounded is for success.  In addition, the illustrations are marvelous! Using bold, bright colors, the illustrator creates images that stimulate the child’s imagination, as well as those of an adult. This is a book that opens up new possibilities for kids of all ages. My own son had a such an “aha moment” experience when he was quite young and it led him to be a circus performer for the largest circus in the world – Cirque du Soleil. You never know what being introduced to magical performances will bring.

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My son, Toby, during a recent performance of the “O” show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

King of the Tightrope is the perfect book for children ages 6-11ish. I hope they will love it as much as I did!

 

 

 

Let’s Get Cooking! The Botanical Kitchen The Secret Garden Cookbook

I have been on a cooking/baking spree since the holidays and now I’m venturing out to recipes and cookbooks that are a bit different or new to me. Thanks to great cookbooks that I’ve been able to download for review, I have had plenty of marvelous new treats to try!

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The Botanical Kitchen by Elly McCausland is a stunningly illustrated book full of recipes using natural ingredients. Since I’m trying my best to use locally grown produce and herbs from my own garden, I thought this would be a treasure. Sadly, while the recipes all revolve around healthy, beautiful foods, most of them are imported from all over the world. My point in having a “botanical kitchen” is to avoid excessive transportation costs for my food and to use primarily, if not wholly, locally produced ingredients.  Make no mistake, the recipes are very good, very beautiful and quite healthy but the title is a bit misleading. It does, however, make a gorgeous coffee table book!

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Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing another cookbook by Amy Cotler, The Little Women Cookbook. This series of cookbooks is based on recipes and foods that the characters of these books might have eaten or that the book mentioned. The Little Women Cookbook was a finalist in the Goodreads’ Choice Awards for 2019. Now we have The Secret Garden Cookbook full of new and delicious recipes to try – and try them I did!!

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I’ve been baking “biscuits” since I was a tiny girl – young, not skinny, I’ve never been skinny. These, however, are far and away the best that I’ve ever made or eaten!! Okay, so their official name is “Savory Muffins Spiked with Cheese,” but I call them AMAZING. If you live in the US and have eaten the Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits then you will love this recipe! I’ve tried every “knock off” recipe on Pinterest and they all failed. We baked these and TADA – the best cheddar cheese biscuit – ever!

There are recipes for a Proper Pot of English Tea, Cucumber Sandwiches for your garden party and so many puddings among them Sticky Toffee Pudding and Yorkshire pudding. Some of you may bake these on a regular basis but just try finding a good recipes for these here in the US. It can’t be done! My favorite, however, was The Best Sticky Gingerbread Parkin! My friends, you have not tasted a proper gingered bread until you have tasted this! It is was to die for and absolutely perfect for cold winter nights!

Isn’t it gorgeous? The parkin, not my son, although he is gorgeous as well! There are simply too many recipes to name them all but I can assure you, as someone who owns a Bed and Breakfast, this is a must own cookbook for those who love to bake as well as anyone who loves The Secret Garden!

Thank you to #QuartoPublishing, @Netgalley and #BloomsburyPublishing for these delicious cookbooks!

First Cut by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

First Cut is the first book in an exciting new series featuring Dr. Jessie Teska (don’t even ask what her first name really is!) She is brilliant, thorough and very flawed, exactly the type of character I love in books.

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Dr. Teska has newly arrived in San Francisco where a drug epidemic seems to be washing through the city. A new, highly volatile version of heroin has hit the streets causing overdoses among the most hardened users. Dr. Teska begins to see a pattern, however, in those who are ending up on her slab and the results of her investigation leads a little to close to home – the ME’s office!

The writing in First Cut is taut, precise and it is obvious the author knows her craft – Melinek is, or was, an ME. The computer stuff was a bit over my head but still easy to follow and actually quite fascinating. The characters were interesting and, while I didn’t like them all and some of them made me physically ill to imagine their existence in my world, they were exceptionally well written. I can’t wait for the next in this series!

Sunday Morning For the Kids #AWarmFriendship #TempleGrandin

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Good Morning! Each Sunday Morning, okay some Sunday mornings, I like to share with you some wonderful kids’ books that I’ve read the previous weeks. These are books that meet my very high standards. Naaahh, I like books with pretty pictures, that teach a lesson or don’t put me to sleep. I share them with a kid or two and if they agree then I share them with you. I don’t get overly picky because kids aren’t – or shouldn’t be – overly picky about what makes them happy.

A WARM FRIENDSHIP – by EllenDeLange, Illustrations by Jacqueline Molnar

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The creatures in the forest have made a friend with Mr. Snowman but he is very cold and shivering. They decide to bring him scarves to keep him warm but, of course, soon he is too warm and begins to melt. The animals are so sad that that they have lost their friend but they are reminded that they always will have the joy and memory of their friend with them forever.

This is a very short story, brilliantly illustrated and beautifully written about friendship, caring, empathy and, ultimately, loss. These are emotions that young children often struggle with understanding and to see it illustrated in this book so basically is just wonderful. I shared it with two children who were 5 years old and it was perfect for them. They easily grasped the concept of losing a loved one but holding on the joy you are left with. I think this book is perfect for a family bookshelf.

TEMPLE GRANDIN by Rachel Castro

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This is part of a new series of STEM Superstars. Hopefully you are aware that the STEM program is one that is in the US public schools to encourage Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. The fact that they began the series with one of the greatest human minds in recent history is amazing – Temple Grandin. You see, Grandin is profoundly autistic. Her mother never gave up hope that her child could learn, was brilliant and would be able to contribute to society and, wow, was she ever correct! Temple Grandin revolutionized the way in which modern agriculture operated. She now is a THE leading spokesperson on Autism, teaching children with Autism, and an expert on all that we now refer to as “the spectrum.” As a mother of an adult son who is on the spectrum who is a leading performer with Cirque du Soleil, Temple Grandin is my hero!

Yes, as critics have pointed out, there are other books that offer more information about Temple Grandin, including her own. This book is for younger students, most likely Middle School students, who are interested in the STEM program. Hopefully it will interest students who are on the spectrum themselves and GIRLS who will be interested in the STEM program. Sadly my town’s STEM program is all male – not what it was meant to be.

If you have a younger, middle school aged child or are the parent of a child who has been diagnosed on the spectrum, I highly recommend this book. If you are a teacher in these fields or a homeschool teacher, please get this STEM series in the hands of your students.