Monday, April 30, 2018

Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore (TLC Book Tour Review and GIVEAWAY!)

Between Earth and Sky is a gripping historical fiction novel that kept me enthralled throughout the novel and left me in tears by the end.  It was a story that will have me thinking about this piece of history far into the future.

Alma Mitchell picks up a newspaper in Philadelphia in 1906 and sees a picture of an old school friend that is now accused of murder.  Asku “Harry” Muskrat has been accused of killing a federal agent on his reservation.  Alma convinces her lawyer husband, Mitchell, to travel to St. Paul to help in the case and determine how to free Asku.

Alma has not discussed her childhood in Wisconsin with her husband in much detail.  She flashes back to memories of her childhood moving to LaCrosse with her family to run the Stover School.  Native American children were taken from their families and sent to the school to be “civilized.”  Alma’s flashbacks have her growing up with the Native American children, trying to make friends and learn their culture, but never really being one of them.

As they turn into teenagers, the differences between them become more apparent.  Asku is very smart and earns a scholarship to Brown, but will he be accepted by the white world once he graduates?  Will he be accepted by his own people if he returns to the reservation?  Why does Alma no longer visit or talk to her parents?  What painful secrets does she have and will her marriage survive?
I was riveted by this novel.  It was a very interesting part of history that I have not read too much about.  Even better was by having the story told by alternating chapters between the “present 1906” and the past “1880s” the action and storyline were kept intense.  I can guess the ending of a lot of books, but this book took me for a spellbinding ride and I had no idea how it would end.  It kept on surprising me.

I enjoyed the characters in this story and how it opened up a dark period of American history.  I had a past student bring this up to me in our chats; how Native American students were sent away to these boarding schools in Wisconsin where they were basically stripped of their heritage. I liked the journey of Alma as she realized that what she had been told as a child that it was better for the Native children to be “civilized” may not have been the truth after all.  I do kind of wish the story could have actually been told by a Native American, but I will leave it to the reader whether they think this was a “white savior” story or not.  I don’t want to ruin the plot.

 I just watched a movie that I loved from my childhood, the old John Wayne movie, McLintock.  I was surprised in there after just reading this book that it had a lot of the same themes.  It was troublesome to my husband and myself to see how Native Americans were treated in cinema as well as what really happened to in real life as well.

Besides the heavy historical themes, I also like that this book took a look at love and marriage.  Can marriage survive when your ideals of what you think your partner is like are shattered?

Favorite Quotes:

 “Those days in the classroom, in the wood shop, marching around the grounds . . . Did you every stop and think what they were doing to us was wrong?’

“Perhaps it was best.  The distance.  There were too many ghosts between them tonight.”

“At Brown I was too Indian to fit in.  When I returned home, I was too like a white man.”

“The adoration she’d seen a million times was gone from his gaze.  Yet in its place was forgiveness.  Acceptance.  A love less perfect but more true.  He squeezed her hand and she returned to her seat.”

Overall, fans of historical fiction will love Between Earth and Sky.  It’s a great story that I’ve been telling everyone about. I’ve read a lot of good books this year and this is one of the best I’ve read.

Just to note, I’ve been a bit slow with posts lately and I apologize. We are moving two blocks away and things are not going as smoothly as we’d like.  We own the house, but the previous owners are still not out yet two weeks later.  We had plans for painting and moving but have had to keep redoing things.  I’m still reading and will be posting as I can!  Work has also been quite hectic as well.

Book Source:  Review Copy as part of the TLC Book Tour.  For more stops on this tour, check out the schedule at this link.


One lucky winner will receive a copy of Between Earth and Sky by Amanda Skenandore. If you would like to win this book, please leave a comment on what interests you about this book. Have you ever read any novels about the Native American experience?  If so, which ones did you enjoy or not enjoy?

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to addresses in the United States.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday May 11th!

Please make sure to check the week of May 14th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos

Sometimes life leads you to unexpected places that can be both thrilling and terrifying.  Cornelia Brown manages a coffee house in Philadelphia.  A lover of old films and books, she yearns for her own Cary Grant to make her romantic dreams come true.  Then one day, Martin Grace walks in.  He not only looks like Cary Grant, but shares his wit and charm.  Cornelia is smitten.  Will love’s path walk smoothly?

Claire Hobbs is also living in Philadelphia with her mother.  She has the best mother in the world until she doesn’t.  Now at eleven years old, Claire tries to keep her life together with a mother who seems to be losing her mind.  Using her favorite plucky orphan stories, Claire tries to figure out how she can make it and hide her mother’s conditions.  She needs help, but where can she get it?

Love Walked In was the April pick for the FLICKS Book & Movie Club (AKA Rogue).  I finished the book up sadly the day after book club, but knew enough of the story to have a good discussion.  What I enjoyed most about the book was all of the references to favorite old classic movies and books of mine.  The Philadelphia Story plays a large part in this book as does the Anne of Green Gables books and the book The Secret Garden.  I loved all of these little snippets and it made me want to check out movies it mentioned that I actually hadn’t watched yet.  I was a Turner Classic Movies addict until we cut the cable cord.  Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden were two of my favorite books growing up.

I also enjoyed that the story was different than most stories I’m used to – it ended up in a different place and moved along a different path to get there.  What is family and what is home were themes that were explored.  I really like a good character story and this was a great character story.  I loved the characters and wanted to continue with them on their journey.  Luckily, I found out at book club that this series continues on.

Favorite Quotes:

“Jimmy Stewart is always and indisputably the best man in the world, unless Cary Grant should happen to show up.”

“Especially since he was obsessed with her because he’d drilled holes in her sailboat and sent her dead body to the bottom of the sea.” – reference to Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier which is one of my all time favorite books and also one of my all-time favorite classic movies.

“I’m a fan of suggestion, obliquity, discretion, the cut to the morning after, the camera’s eye turning upward, outward – to the sky, to the cuckoo clock over the bed, to the rushing river, away.” – I feel the same way about movie love scenes!

“And then there are people whose deaths prevent the sun from rising, deaths that turn the walls black in every room you walk through, deaths that send storm clouds and a wail swirling through your head so that you can’t hear music and you can’t recognize your furniture or your own face in the mirror.”

“Like love was a habit you couldn’t break.”

Overall, if you are looking for a great story with unforgettable characters, Love Walked In is the book for you.

Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Movie Nights with the Reagans by Mark Weinberg

Title: Movie Nights with the Reagans
Author: Mark Weinberg
Read by:  George Newbern with an Introduction by the Author
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 6 hours and 29 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster.  Thank-you!

Author Mark Weinberg was the former Press Secretary and Special Advisor to President Ronald Reagan.  He was with him for all eight years of Reagan’s term and also worked for him in California after his Presidency had ended. Weinberg loved working for Reagan and especially loved their weekend trips to Camp David where they enjoyed movies nights together.

This book had a very interesting concept.  It discussed the Reagans and the presidency within the frame of different movies that the author watched with the Reagans on the weekend at Camp David.  It was unique and I felt a very enjoyable journey through the 1980’s in film and politics.  I also enjoyed when they would watch vintage Reagan films and discuss how they were made.

I loved hearing about how Reagan was so considerate and thoughtful of staff.  He would travel and celebrate Christmas the day after Christmas so the staff could all be with their family on the holiday.  He also would retire to the night with Nancy to allow staff to go home for the night.  He sadly also had to give up buying cards personally for Nancy and attending church weekly.  He didn’t want church goers to have to go through metal detectors and for the church to become a target.

Reading about Reagan’s common courtesy, thoughtfulness, and real love for the people made me very nostalgic for past times.  I know I probably think of the 1980’s with rose colored glasses as that was the time period of my childhood, but I wish that we could have such a president again.  I may not agree with all of his policy decisions, but Reagan was a great leader and a great man.

It’s been awhile since I had read anything about the Reagans and I had forgotten that the assassination attempt was so early in the Presidency.  It was a very scary experience and it was interesting to learn more about it.  I especially loved the author’s disregard for Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Reagan book which this author stated was full of inaccuracies.

I liked how the book talked about the love between the Reagans and the life that they had after the presidency.  The author had a very unique experience.

Narrator George Newborn was an excellent narrator and I really enjoyed the introduction by the author himself.  This was a great audiobook to listen to on my commute!

Overall, this was a truly enjoyable audiobook with a unique premise.  It ended too soon for me – I wanted to listen to more!