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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

I Owe You One
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Love, Hate & Other Filters
The Wartime Sisters
The Belles
The Gilded Wolves
Hey, Kiddo
Blackberry and Wild Rose
Queen of Air and Darkness
Firestarter
The Retribution of Mara Dyer
The Evolution of Mara Dyer


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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #127 & Sunday Post #91




I am combining two great blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves (a Saturday feature by Team Tynga's Reviews), and Sunday Post (a Sunday feature by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer).  Both of these features give people a chance to post about what books they received and also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what others are excited about.  I really enjoy seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me via Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, GFC, or by email subscription.  If you leave a comment and tell me you are a new follower, I will follow you back! 


Strangely, I did not have any blog posts for this past week.  But I have been reading and planning for our vacation to Ireland. I finished two books and have just one must that I must read for a review before we leave.  Then I can read for just pleasure.

This book haul is really two weeks worth of books.  So, yes, I totally disregarded my book buying ban.  But I pinky-promise to refrain from buying any books in July...

                   
via GIPHY


New Books:

Public Library:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33911349-prairie-fires?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16085517-transatlantic?ac=1&from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36329818-legendary?ac=1&from_search=true

For Review:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36104544-smothered

Bought:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35230429-invisible-ghosts?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/338798.Ulysses?ac=1&from_search=true

That's it for this week.  Any recommendations for things to do or restaurants to try in Ireland?  Let me know.  

Thank you!
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

ARC Review: Ayiti by Roxane Gay

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36739756-ayiti
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
The debut collection from the vibrant voice of Roxane Gay is a unique blend of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, all interwoven to represent the Haitian diaspora experience.

Review:
Roxane Gay has a literary voice like no other.  In Ayiti, her book about the Haitian immigrant experience, the prose are raw and unapologetic.  This collection of short stories is filled with characters in the midst of powerful small moments.  I could have easily read a longer novel about any of these people.

What I Liked:
Characters:
Each character is fully formed and I would be happy to read a longer novel about any of them.  I was especially drawn to the characters in the story called In The Manner of Water and Light.  Three generations of women in a family deal with a traumatic history.  I wanted to know more about each of these women and how (or if) they could find peace.

In Sweet on the Tongue, a woman and her husband, must come to terms with a terrible event that happened on their honeymoon in Haiti.  The pain and shame felt by the characters bubbles just beneath the surface of every interaction.

Stories:
Each character is having some kind of interaction with an American.  While a few of these are positive moments, most have a undertone of racism.  As a person who is not Haitian, it is sobering to read that these are immigrants experiences people are having right now.

I was also very moved by complicated relationship Haitian immigrants had with their culture.  Even though they loved their country, it was so dangerous in Haiti that the people felt they had no choice but to leave.

Sexuality:
I am normally not a fan of explicit sex in books, but this was an important component of Ayiti.  The inclusion of these scenes was not gratuitous.  Each sex scene had a purpose to show the intense emotions of the characters.  But if you want to stay clear of this kind of writing, this book would not be for you.


Trigger warning for scenes of rape.

Rating: 




Release Date:  June 12th, 2018

Author:  Roxane Gay

Publisher:  Grove Press

Genre:  Fiction Short Stories

Pages: 320 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  This is a powerful book about Haitians and the immigrant experience, and well worth taking the time to read.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ARC Review: The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35133924-the-madonna-of-the-mountains?ac=1&from_search=true
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A sweeping saga about womanhood, loyalty, war, religion, family, motherhood, and marriage, The Madonna of the Mountains is set in Italy during the 1920s to the 1950s, and follows its heroine, Maria Vittoria, from her girlhood in the austere Italian mountains through her marriage to a young war veteran to the birth of her four children, through the National Fascist Party Rule and ending with a decision that will forever affect her family. Maria must ensure that her family survives the harsh winters of the war, when food is scarce and allegiances are questioned. She can trust no one and fears everyone--her Fascist cousin, the madwoman from her childhood, her watchful neighbors, the Nazis and the Partisans who show up at her door. Over the decades, as Maria's children grow up and away from her, and as her marriage endures its own hardships, the novel takes us into the mind and heart of one woman who must hold her family together with resilience, love, and faith, in a world where the rules are constantly changing.

Review:
The Madonna of The Mountains is a richly drawn portrait of life from the 1920's to the 1950's.  


What I Liked:
Historical Details:
I loved all the details the author used to describe life at that time, from the type of food people ate, all the way down to the texture of clothing.  I felt immersed in this era and how it might have been like to live in these characters lives.

Characters:

Although the main character of the novel, Maria, was hard to like, she was definitely a product of the times she lived in.  Maria was raised to believe women were in need of guidance from men, were less valued then men.  This led her to be complacent as her father chooses her husband, never questioning the expectation that she would marry a stranger.  This passivity continued throughout her life.  Men used her, abused her, and blamed her when something went wrong.  Some of this was hard to read.  But I could understand that she was raised in a society that didn't value women, so she didn't feel like she ever could have needs, and wants for herself.

Maria's daughter, Amelia, was a very different person.  She was also raised with this deep oppression.  But Amelia saw the injustice of it and was defiant.  This, of course, created huge conflicts between Amelia and her mother.  Old values versus new ones, an age-old battle!  

Food:
The role of food in this book went well beyond some mouth-watering descriptions.  Food, and its meaning in the characters lives, was used to illustrate the state of the village, the Italian economy, the way a mother shows her love for her family, and so much more.  There were also many authentic period recipes at the end of the book helped the reader to be immersed in the era.

What I Was Mixed About:
Story Pacing: 
It took a while for the action to start up, with the first 20% of this book showing what everyday life would have been like.  While this was fascinating, it did make for a slow beginning.  I felt that Maria wasn't evolving in any way.  But that changed with the onslaught of WWII.  

Then Maria had to use all her strength to keep her family alive during tremendous hardships.  The choices she made were questionable, but showed how much she loved her family.  The guilt she felt manifested in her internalized dialogue with her devotional statue, The Madonna of the Mountains. 
 

The book finished strong as the war's survivors pick up the pieces of their lives. 

Trigger Warning for Domestic Violence

 
Rating: 




Release Date:  June 12th, 2018

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Author:  Elise Valmorbida

Publisher:  Spiegel & Grau

Page Length: 368 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A detailed look at Italy before and during WWII.  This will appeal to lovers of historical fiction. 

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Monday, June 11, 2018

ARC Review: The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier by Rosalind Brackenbury

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36987724-the-lost-love-letters-of-henri-fournier?ac=1&from_search=true
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Seb Fowler has arrived in Paris to research his literary idol, Henri Fournier. It begins with an interview granted by a woman whose affair with the celebrated writer trails back to World War I. The enchanting Pauline is fragile, but her memories are alive—those of an illicit passion, of the chances she took and never regretted, and of the twists of fate that defined her unforgettable love story.

Through Pauline’s love letters, her secrets, and a lost Fournier manuscript, Seb will come to learn so much more—about Pauline, Henri, and himself. For Seb, every moment of Pauline’s past proves to be more inspiring than he could have imagined. She’s given him the courage to grab hold of whatever life offers, to cherish each risk, and to pursue love in his life.

Intimately epic, The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier spans generations to explore every beautiful mystery of falling in love, being in love, and losing a love—and, most important, daring to love again and discovering just how resilient the human heart can be.
 


Review:
Until I read the author's notes at the end of the book, I didn't know that the central characters in The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier were actual historical figures.  I had never heard of Henri Fournier (aka Alain-Fournier) or the apparent French classic Le Grand Meaulnes.  But reading this novel makes me want to add Le Grand Meaulnes to my TBR pile.

While I wish there had been much more historical detail, there is so much to like about this book. The characters and various love stories evoke strong emotions of love and loss.  Vivid scenes of French country life add to the novel's charms.  The story itself alternates between three different time periods, and three unique stories.  

What I Liked:

Characters:
The three time periods each focus on various characters, but at different times in their lives.  

In 1914, the story is about Pauline, and her intense love affair with Henri Fournier.  She begins the novel seeing marriage as a necessary business transaction.  There is no thought that love will be part of the deal.  That all changes when she meets Henri, the newly-hired secretary for her husband.  I love Pauline for how she embraces life on her own terms. She will not be content to fall into a more traditional role as a wife or as a mother looking after children.  Even when she falls deeply in love, she keeps to her goal of being an actress.

Seb is introduced in the second time period of the 1970's.  He starts out rather wimpy, letting the girl of his dreams, Annie, get away.  But he also has ambition.  When he interviews Pauline for a book he is writing, he learns he must be single-minded in his pursuit of Annie, if he is to win her heart.

In modern times, the focus is on Isa, who is Henri Fournier's great-niece.  After her divorce, she shuts herself off from love, so as not to get hurt again.  Seb, now a man in his sixties, has been asked by Isa to look over some of Henri's papers.  What will Isa learn from him?

Love Stories:

In each time period, there are the themes of love and loss.  I am usually not a fan of books that glorify extramarital affairs.  But Pauline's circumstances in the early 1900's were of a loveless marriage where both parties found love somewhere else.  Divorce was not an option.  I didn't feel that Pauline was having an affair to get back at her husband, or because she wanted some excitement.  She genuinely fell in love.  The tragedy for Pauline was due to the times she was living in.  Even if the war had not happened, I think the couple was doomed due to Henri's traditional expectations of women in relationships (hint: It's supposed to be all about him).

For Seb, he finds love, after almost losing it, but has to now find a way to live on after his beloved Annie suddenly dies.  How can he do that?  After a wonderful marriage, would it be disloyal to perhaps find love again?

French Country Life:
While I didn't think there were enough historical details, the descriptions of modern French country life were lovely.  They showed a way of living that was timeless.  I especially enjoyed the descriptions of harvesting and preparing food.  It would have been great to show such scenes in both the early 1900's and modern times which would have tied the eras together.


What I Didn't Like:
Lack of Historical Details: 
As a fan of historical novels, I look forward to all the little details that will place me, the reader, firmly in that time period.  But this book did not describe enough in the World War I era, or in the 1970's, to give me this sense of time.  I was particularly surprised by how untouched Pauline seemed to be by the Great War.  She never seemed to be hungry or experience any shortages.  Yes, the book's focus is on how one deals with love and loss, but it seemed strange that Pauline didn't feel any other hardships to go along with losing the love of her life.


Rating:  





Release Date:  June 12th, 2018

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Author:  Rosalind Brackenbury

Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing

Page Length:  318 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Stacking The Shelves #126 & Sunday Post #90





I am combining two great blog hops:  Stacking The Shelves (a Saturday feature by Team Tynga's Reviews), and Sunday Post (a Sunday feature by the Caffeinated Book Reviewer).  Both of these features give people a chance to post about what books they received and also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of what others are excited about.  I really enjoy seeing everyone's version of these features!   All book covers are linked to Goodreads, if you want to check them out.  If you enjoy my blog, please consider following me via Bloglovin, Networked Blogs, GFC, or by email subscription.  If you leave a comment and tell me you are a new follower, I will follow you back! 


On The Blog:

With the last week of school being so busy, I did not have any blog posts this week!

In Real Life:

This has been an eventful past few weeks, filled with both incredible happiness and deep sorrow.  While I can't talk about the sorrow part, I will be glad to share the happy...

We are planning a trip to Ireland for our 30th wedding anniversary!!!  My husband and I have traveled in many countries over our life together, but we have never been to Ireland.  Most of our spare time has been spent pouring over guidebooks and websites looking for where we want to go.  

Have you been to Ireland?  We are spending 14 nights, there in July, so if you have an suggestions, please tell me in the comments.  I would love to know what you recommend. 

New Books:
Public Library:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34323570-furyborn?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22524101-my-so-called-bollywood-life?ac=1&from_search=true





Bought:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32335977-saints-for-all-occasions?ac=1&from_search=true

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13522285-the-beginning-of-everything?ac=1&from_search=truehttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13522285-the-beginning-of-everything?ac=1&from_search=true


Page Habit Box:
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35707056-undead-girl-gang?ac=1&from_search=true
  
Although I think this will be a fun book to read, I was not impressed by the "extras" in the Page Habit subscription box.  There were just a few items like a colored hanging bulb, and a cheap-looking snow globe key chain.  And for that extra $20 over the retail price of the book, I could have bought a whole new novel.  Thus I have decided to cancel my subscription.
 
ARC Received:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34433755-girls-of-paper-and-fire?ac=1&from_search=true

That's it for this week.  I hope you enjoy the start of the summer.

 
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