Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Title: Far From the Madding Crowd (Barnes & Noble Classics Series), Author: Thomas HardyFar From the Madding Crowd.  Finished 3-14-18, 4.25/5 stars, classic, pub. 1874

Unabridged audio read by Nathaniel Parker. 13 hours, 35 minutes

Gabriel Oak is only one of three suitors for the hand of the beautiful and spirited Bathsheba Everdene. He must compete with the dashing young soldier Sergeant Troy and the respectable, middle-aged Farmer Boldwood. And while their fates depend upon the choice Bathsheba makes, she discovers the terrible consequences of an inconstant heart.

Far from the Madding Crowd was the first of Hardy’s novels to give the name Wessex to the landscape of southwest England and the first to gain him widespread popularity as a novelist. Set against the backdrop of the unchanging natural cycle of the year, the story both upholds and questions rural values with a startlingly modern sensibility.   from Goodreads

I watched the movie last year and really liked it. I’m going to do a comparison post in a few days so I’ll try not to compare  the two now.

Bathsheba is a woman before her time.  It’s 1800’s England and Bathsheba, once a young woman living with her aunt, becomes an independent woman when her late uncle leaves her his successful farm. She is a head strong woman and not the first one who has had her intelligence questioned by her terrible taste in men.  Gabriel Oak knew her when she lived with her aunt and is steadfast and loyal. Mr. Boldwood owns a neighboring farm and was forever changed when he received a Valentine sent from Bathsheba.  Sergeant Troy has his head turned by the pretty Bathsheba with her money.  Bathsheba, at least at first, doesn’t want to marry and be put under a man’s thumb, but things change when her heart starts to beat a little faster.

I liked this classic.  Being a city girl myself I loved learning more about the everyday life on the farm.  Bathsheba and her one time maid, Fanny, both made the very same mistake but suffered very different fates due to their circumstances.  I liked the way it showed the truth that opportunities don’t come to all and mistakes, when made, are more easily forgiven when you have money.  Bathsheba did drive me crazy at times, but probably no more flawed than the rest of us.  The three suitors were all interesting in their own right, but it is Gabriel Oak who is my new crush 🙂

This is my second Thomas Hardy novel and  my 21st selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.  I am woefully behind!


Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Title: Lilli de Jong, Author: Janet BentonLilli de Jong. Finished 3-14-18, 4/5 stars, historical fiction, 335 pages, pub. 2017

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid a life of poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a charity for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overpowers her heart. Mothers in her position have no sensible alternative to giving up their children, but Lilli can’t bear such an outcome. Determined to chart a path toward an independent life, Lilli braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.    from Goodreads

What an emotional book.  Lilli was a devout Quaker and lived happily with her parents and brother, but when her mother dies suddenly and her father takes up drinking and a sexual relationship with his cousin, Lilli’s life quickly turns.  Finding strength in Johan, her father’s assistant, she has one night of passion and many promises for a bright future after Johan and her brother go off to set up a life in Pittsburgh.  Lilli, jobless thanks to her father, pregnant thanks to an absent boyfriend, and homeless thanks to a jealous cousin is suddenly on the streets of Philadelphia.  Being an unwed mother-to-be is no easy feat in 1883 and Lilli’s life and that of her baby girl go from bad to worse.

This was a series of 10 diaries written by Lilli during her almost two years of hardship and life was tenuous. I read it over two nights and was drawn in completely.  It did move a bit slow for me, but was such a interesting look at the life of women at the time.  Lilli’s story will stick with me for quite a while.

We read this for book club last night.  There were five of us, and only one didn’t care for it. There was a great discussion about how much has really changed for women since then.  It was also pointed out that this was a book of survival during a harsh time, so even though it was difficult to read it was an honest look at life at the time.  At its heart it is a book about what being a mother really means and the lengths one will go to for her child.


Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite Quotes from a favorite book

After many years of hosting this meme The Broke and the Bookish has passed it on to one of  their own, Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week it’s all about favorite bookish quotes.  I love this!  I have a love for quotes that I write and keep close and when I started looking at my favorite book list I didn’t have to go far.  All of these are from the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This classic published in 1960 still has so much to say to us today.  Which is your favorite? I’ve highlighted a few of mine.

1. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

2. “Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.” 

3. “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.” 

4. “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” 

5.“Things are always better in the morning.” 

6. “Atticus—” …said Jem bleakly. “How could they do it, how could they?”

“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before & they did it tonight & they’ll do it again & when they do it— seems that only children weep.” 

7. “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” 

8. “It’s not necessary to tell all you know. It’s not ladylike- in the second place, folks don’t like to have somebody around knowin’ more than they do.”

9. “Before Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him.” 

 10. “Just remember that sometimes, the way you think about a person isn’t the way they actually are.” 


February’s Movies & money for charity

How was your movie month?  Anything I need to see?

Add your 5 words (or less!) to mine in a comment and earn $1 for charity.  Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity.  Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to.  Anyone is welcome to join in at any time.

We’re at $68 right now.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to participate when you can each month.  It’s fun for me and for everyone else who reads it.  I’m not looking for a critical review, just a few words about how you felt about the movie.  This is ongoing so you can leave your 5 words anytime.

The Shape of Water (film).pngThe Shape of Water, 2017 (Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Stulhbarg)   Grade A

Quirky love story I adored.

The Paperboy.jpg

The Paperboy, 2012 (Matthew McConaughey, Zac Ephron, Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo, John Cusack, Macy Gray, Scott Glenn)                                                   Grade B-

Swampy cast of great acting.  


Peter-rabbit-teaser.jpgPeter Rabbit, 2018 (voices-Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Sam Neill, James Corden, Margot Robbie)                                      Grade C+

Peter can be a jerk.

Top Ten Tuesday – Re-reading Books

After many years of hosting this meme The Broke and the Bookish has passed it on to one of  their own, Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

The prompt is ten books I could read forever.  In the past re-reading books was something I did do, typically with favorite romances, but since I started blogging ten years ago not so much.  I always start the year with the intent of rereading a favorite book, but it rarely happens. It doesn’t stop me from making it a goal.

What about you? Do you re-read books?

Books I have re-read

  1. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover several times.
  2. Quite a few of the Judith McNaught romances.  Some of hers are romantic perfection.
  3. The Deadly series by Brenda Joyce. I read this a second time and talked about the historical romantic suspense series on the blog in the first few years.
  4. The Miracle of Mindfulness or any other Thich Nhat Hanh meditation book.  These books really do help me stay in the moment.
  5. I re-read The Awakening by Kate Chopin for a readalong.  A classic worth the time.

Books I’d like to re-read soon

  1. A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkl...A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a childhood favorite I’d like to read again before seeing the movie.
  2. The House of the SpiritsThe House of Spirits by Isabel Allende was my first magical realism experience 20 years ago and I’d love to read again to see if it’s a good as I remember.
  3. The Essays of Ralph Waldo E...I fell in love with Emerson in college and would love to dip back into his writing.
  4. The Tea Rose (The Tea Rose,...I remember falling in love with The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly and immediately buying the next two in the trilogy.  That was 8 years ago and now I want to read it again and do the trilogy back to back to back.
  5. Jane EyreMaybe this will be year that I finally re-read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Title: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Author: Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Finished 2-7-18, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, 323 pages, pub. 2017

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.      from Goodreads

At first, Eleanor was not for me.  She was weird, quirky, possibly on the spectrum (somewhat of a judgy trigger for me), emotionally absent, and friendless.  I thought she was a unique voice so that was compelling, but it really wasn’t until Eleanor’s past started to reveal itself that I felt myself being drawn into her story.  She is ridiculed at work, drinks too much on weekends, withstands weekly calls from her horrible mother, and somehow convinces herself that a rocker she sees on stage is her destiny.  Poor, poor Eleanor.  With the help of a few people she opens herself up to, Raymond the new IT guy and Sammy the man’s life she helped save, she comes to realize  that she deserves more than she’s let herself believe.

What a treat this book was.  The story reveals its secrets at just the right pace.  Her struggles yanked at my heartstrings at the same time she made me laugh out loud.  Her first stop to when deciding to prep herself for the love of her life, who she has never spoken to?  A trip to the beauty shop for a Hollywood wax.  I learn something new everyday.

We read this for my book group and we all really liked it.  I was excited to find out that Reese Witherspoon has purchased the rights to Eleanor.  I think it could be a fantastic movie.

A pic from my book group (I post these on Instagram if you want more book eye candy :))


Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis

Title: Sweet Little Lies (Heartbreaker Bay Series #1), Author: Jill Shalvis

Sweet Little Lies. Finished 2-13-18, 3/5 stars, romance, pub. 2016

Unabridged audio read by Karen White. 9 1/2 hours.

Book 1 of the Heartbreaker Bay series

As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas—the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.

Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast.

Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story—because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything. . . .

I was able to meet Shalvis at this event last year with her own hottie husband and and she was lovely.  I bought this first of the series expecting to love it because some of my blogger buddies who love romances have raved about her for years.  I think my expectations were too high.  I also wish I had read the paperback I have instead of listening in the car, because I didn’t like the narration.  There were definitely sweet moments but not enough of them compared to all the sex.  She introduced a bunch characters who I’m sure will be fodder for the series and they all seemed interesting but I’m happy that I don’t feel compelled to read more of the series.  Maybe I’ll try another of her books.

The Bleak and Empty Sea: The Tristram and Isolde Story by Jay Ruud

Title: The Bleak and Empty Sea: The Tristram and Isolde Story, Author: Jay Ruud

The Bleak and Empty Sea. Finished 2-19-18, 3.5/5 stars, mystery, 216 pages, pub. 2017

Book 3 in the Merlin Mysteries

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. They take ship to Brittany to investigate, and find themselves stymied by the uncooperative attitudes of Tristram’s close friend Kaherdin, lord of the city; his sister and Tristram’s wife Isolde of the White Hands; and Brangwen, La Belle Isolde’s faithful lady-in-waiting.

The case is complicated by the facts that King Mark of Cornwall is Gildas’s own liege lord, and that Duke Hoel, Lord of Brittany, is King Arthur’s close ally and father of the lady Rosemounde, who urges Gildas to clear the name of her half-sister, Isolde of the White hands, whom gossip has implicated in Tristram’s untimely death. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.  from Goodreads

I am not a King Arthur or his Knights of the Round Table expert but I’m a sucker for a good love story so I thought I’d check out this mystery of Tristram and Isolde.  I admit that the first quarter or so of the book was a bit confusing for me since I wasn’t familiar with so many of the names and their relationships to each other, but I don’t think someone who had knowledge of the legends of the period would have any problem.  But as I was prepared to skim as necessary, the story evened out and I was able to get into the mystery.

The story was solid. I loved the Merlin and squire Gildas combo as they were sent to find out the truth of these lovers’ deaths.  The mystery was good and I learned a lot about the period since this series of books are written by a retired Medieval Literature professor.  This was a short book packed with so many entertaining stories of the period that it made the mystery much more layered that it might have been.  I ended up liking this story quite a bit.

Recommended for fans of King Arthur legends or historical mysteries.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.




Top Ten Tuesday – Powerful Pairs

After many years of hosting this meme The Broke and the Bookish has passed it on to one of  their own, Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week it’s all about love.  Here are some of the more memorable couples that I’ve discovered in the last ten years on this blog…

  1. Louisa & Will  – Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
  2. Elizabeth Bennet & Fitzwilliam Darcy – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. Anne & Wentworth – Persuasion by Jane Austen
  4. Meg & Ted – Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  5. Michael & Miles – The Innocent by Taylor Stevens (+the rest of the series)
  6. Becky & Felix – The Actor & the Housewife by Shannon Hale
  7. Francesca & Calder – Deadly series by Brenda Joyce
  8. Claire & Trevelyan – The Duchess by Jude Deveraux
  9. Mariana & Richard – Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
  10. Faith & Levi – The Best Man by Kristan Higgins (I love all the couples of this series)

I’m a sucker for romance.  Where can I find some of your favorite couples so I can put them on my TBR?

Sundays With Gage – Fly

gageWhat if I fall?

Oh but my darling

What if you fly?

This week The Center for Life Skills posted this picture on their Facebook page. The butterfly wings are made up of paper plates that the kids decorated.  When Gage was diagnosed with PDD-nos when he was two the very first therapy he did was here with the occupational therapist he still sees.  It’s such a warm and inviting place and we have made lasting friendships with other families in the waiting room.  Now that Gage is seven he has less interventions, but the needs are changing and so must my strategy.

I was happy to see this when they posted it and I shared in on Facebook and went about my morning.  I came back a few hours later and read the comments and then looked at the picture again, read the words again, and started to cry.  Not heaving sobs, but tears and the question, “how do I make you fly?”  Every parent asks this at some point, I’m sure, but when your kid has special needs it makes the question more challenging because the answers may not easily be found.  Yesterday at the grocery store I frequent, one of the ladies asked me about Gage and we started talking about her son.  It turns out that he has sensory issues and sees an OT and she had no idea that he might be eligible for money from the state for private education.  She asked me as I was leaving, “How do you know all this stuff?” I wanted to hug her because that is where the fear lies.  What if there is something that can make a difference that I haven’t discovered yet?  So, I keep reading, and scheduling and trying new things, but in truth, it’s the other mothers that have shown me the way.  So the most important thing I do is listen and ask an annoying amount of questions and hope that is enough.

Gage is doing great, but I want him to soar.