Halfway through my 30 books in 30 days challenge

A few have you have checked out my new blog with my first 30 day challenge.  I challenged myself to read a book every day for 30 days and guess what?  I’m 15/15!  The first two days the authors came by to leave a nice comment 🙂  I hope that I can find a few minutes to catch up on some reviews here in the next few days, but here’s what I read so far. Click on over to say hi.

1-Following Ezra:What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism and Love from his Extraordinary Son by Tom Fields-Meyer

2-A Housefly in Autumn by Scott Nagele

3- Vengeance Follows by Scott Lax

4- Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

5- The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

6-First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

7- The Croquet Player by HG Wells

8- Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh

9- Talking About Detective Fiction by PD James

10- D is For Deadbeat by Sue Grafton

11- Bleachers by John Grisham

12- The Lovers by Vendela Vida

13- Dear Almost by Matthew Thorburn

14- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

15- The Watermark by Travis Thrasher

So, how many of these have you read?



The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

Title: The Lifeboat, Author: Charlotte RoganThe Lifeboat. Finished 9-5-16, rating 4/5, fiction, 278 pages, pub. 2012

Unabridged audio read by Rebecca Gibel. 7 hours, 47 minutes

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying Grace and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize has exceeded capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she’d found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

Grace and 39 other passengers are adrift in the Atlantic with no way of knowing when or if they will be rescued. A ship’s crewman takes charge and they all, seemingly, appreciate the leadership. As the days go by, however, there is mutiny in the hearts of some and desperation in others.  Grace tries to stay under the radar but cover her bases.  Is she innocent or conniving?

The story begins with Grace and two other women on trial for murder, so we know they were rescued, but we know people were killed.  What happened?  Grace is asked to write a journal of her experience for her defense  and it’s through this diary that the time on the lifeboat unfolds. Grace is mysterious in ways that her journal only highlights.  Readers will have fun discussing her.

Prepare to see the worst and, well, mainly the worst that human nature has to offer. If we strip ourselves down to a struggle for survival (water, food, shelter) what would happen?  What if our survival, for better or worse, was tied to a group of strangers?  A compelling read, for sure.

This was my fifth book for my 30 books in 30 days challenge. You can read about today here.


Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

Title: Benny & Shrimp: A Novel, Author: Katarina MazettiBenny & Shrimp. Finished 9-4-16, rating 3.75/5, fiction, 209 pages. pub. 1998

An international sensation, this addictively readable tale asks the question: Why is it so impossible to get a relationship between two middle-aged misfits to work? The answer lies in the story of Shrimp, a young widowed librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tidy that her jam jars are in alphabetical order; Benny, a gentle, overworked milk farmer who fears becoming the village’s Old Bachelor; and an unlikely love that should not be as complicated as it seems. Reminiscent of the works of Carol Shields, this quirky, humorous, beautifully told novel breathes new life into the age-old conundrum that is love.

I realize that I am now middle aged, but calling 35 &36 year olds washed up, middle aged, has-beens was a bit of a stretch for me. Not that I didn’t love them, but Benny and Desiree kept trying to make me feel like they were older than they really were.  This could, of course, just be a difference in culture. This book is translated from Swedish, so maybe people are put out on the shelf earlier than they are here. I totally understood Desiree’s clicking biological clock.  Been there at that age so totally believable.

Aside from the middle aged issue, I really liked these two quirky characters who were leading different lives and couldn’t seem to find a way to meld them together.  A clear case of opposites attract told with great truth and insight.  I see that some friends who read the book didn’t like end.  I didn’t see it coming, but I actually think it was an ending true to the characters.  I understand there’s a sequel  and I wouldn’t mind checking out what happens to Benny & Shrimp.

I loved learning more about life in Sweden and the running of a dairy farm.  A fun read and book 4 in my Book a Day challenge.



Vengeance Follows by Scott Lax

Vengeance Follows: A NovelVengeance Follows. Finished 9-3-16, 3.5/5 stars, fiction. 247 pages, pub. 2013

A young man loses the true love of his life and seeks vengeance from the man he holds responsible for his wife’s death. Told with elegant simplicity, this novel of literary suspense is a tragic story of love and loss that ultimately reveals the cruelty of human nature and the healing power of forgiveness.

Sam and Sophie’s idyllic life of Parisian cafés, fine wine, and romantic passion is torn apart when Sophie is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. Then Sophie reveals something that happened years before they met—a horrific event that changed her life and left her wounded in ways no one knew. She’s found peace in the years since, she swears to Sam. But then she’s gone, and Sam finds only pain.

Bereft and alone, he leaves the City of Light and seeks solace in a small French village where no one knows him or his past. Troubled in heart and mind, he knows one man is responsible for Sophie’s death. Sam cannot live without confronting him and holding him accountable for his past crimes.

And so Sam travels to America, to a charming little Ohio town where lights twinkle on the snow in winter and fairs shimmer in the summer heat. Here, Sam will seek his revenge—and find retribution for his lost love in a way he could never imagine . . .

Sam loses the love of his life and blames one man. After her death he heads to a small Ohio village to plan his revenge.  What he finds is town full of people who can help him heal, if only he would let them.

Chestnut Falls, based on the lovely Chagrin Falls where I take most out-of-town guests, is lovely.  Lax brought the village and the people to life. I fell in love with the friends Sam made and their stories.  My only problem was I didn’t quite buy into the quest for vengeance, so Sam was a mystery to me.

This is sure to appeal to lovers of charming villages and small town life. It even adds a sophisticated air since Sam spent years in Paris writing about wine.  Sounds like a perfect job to me 🙂

The publisher generously sent this one to me and is my third book in my 30 books in 30 days challenge and you can read more about it here.



A Housefly in Autumn by Scott Nagele

A Housefly in Autumn by [Nagele, Scott]A Housefly in Autumn. Finished 9-2-16, rating 4.5/5, fiction, 191 pages, pub.2015

A Housefly in Autumn is intended for Young Adults and up. A historical novel, set in 19th century Europe, it follows the life of a young man whose dreams have crumbled down around him. In an act of heroism, he sacrifices his own promising future to save the life of another. Now he must decide whether to cling to the unlikely hope of regaining his old life, or aim his efforts toward making the most of the life fate has dealt him. Though it is difficult to let go of the rewards that life once promised, perhaps the greatest rewards are the ones earned by building new hope from the bits and pieces of wrecked dreams.   from Goodreads

This book was such a fun and surprising read for me.  I chose it because an old friend wrote it, but it didn’t really look like something that I’d like.  I was so wrong.  I love everything about this book, from the hero Anders Christiansen (Hans Christian Andersen similarity intentional) to the stories he told to children to the hope that his life represented.  I may have even cried once or twice so obviously I was invested!

Anders was a star. At 17, he had loving parents and was considered the next big thing at university.  But life has a way of changing in the blink of an eye.  Hans circumstances change, but his character doesn’t. I was rooting for Hans and even when he (and I with him) faced disappointment I could always count on his ability to soldier on.

Honestly, I don’t want to give too much away, but this book really touched me and I cannot wait to read it with Gage so that he too can become a fan of Hans, who faced adversity with an ability to find something good in every situation. Important life lessons are taught but never at the expense of the story.

This one feels like a fairy tale and is filled with fairy tales and if you give it a read I bet it will charm you too.

This is my second book in my 30 books in 30 days challenge and you can read more about it here.




Following Ezra by Tom Fields-Meyer

Title: Following Ezra: What One Father Learned about Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love From His Extraordinary Son, Author: Tom Fields-MeyerFollowing Ezra:What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love from his Extraordinary Son. Finished 9-1-16, rating 4/5, autism, 241 pages, pub. 2011

When Tom Fields-Meyer’s son Ezra was three and showing early signs of autism, a therapist suggested that the father needed to grieve.
“For what?” he asked.
The answer: “For the child he didn’t turn out to be.”
That moment helped strengthen the author’s resolve to do just the opposite: to love the child Ezra was, a quirky boy with a fascinating and complex mind. Full of tender moments and unexpected humor, Following Ezra is the story of a father and son on a ten-year journey from Ezra’s diagnosis to the dawn of his adolescence. It celebrates his growth from a remote toddler to an extraordinary young man, connected in his own remarkable ways to the world around him.    from Goodreads

This was the first book that I picked up for Jason after we received Gage’s PDD-nos diagnosis when he was two.  Now that I’ve read it I understand that it was the PERFECT book for him at the time and would recommend it to any other dad just entering the autism world.  I remember Jason telling me that his big take away was that this dad chose to embrace the obsessions (obviously trains for Gage) and that is something that we still do.  But my biggest take away from the book is the utter acceptance of Ezra by his parents.  I’m not saying they didn’t struggle, they are parents after all, but they weren’t struggling to change him.  This is the approach Jason has always taken and it tones down my, “I can fix this,” attitude.

There was so much that was recognizable here, the sensory issues, the endless loop of questions, the laughing when being corrected that it was comforting to read about Ezra and his continual progress.  Fields-Meyer writes with compassion, love and humor about something that turns a family upside down.  Not just for dads, but for anyone who wants to understand what autism really looks like day to day, this is a great read.  It doesn’t dwell on the therapies but on the boy. As it should be.

This is my first book of my 30 books in 30 days challenge that you can read more about here.

A new venture

Life has been a whirlwind, August in particular being ridiculously stressful.  With Gage starting school I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my time, but knew that it was going to involve something for me.  Stay at home moms, at least this one, get lost in the day-to-day and then all of the sudden they realize that they are not the same person they were before kids.  If this is true then kindergarten is a litmus test, of sorts.  Which way is the wind of the future blowing?

Jason came to me last weekend with an idea crazy enough to interest me. We were always fans of Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days series and of his documentary Supersize Me and Jason and I are both motivated by challenges so the idea was that we would start a series of personal 30 day challenges.  For the next year I hope that I can challenge myself to dream a little, explore the world, push myself to conquer fears all while learning and changing.  That sounds easy, right?

So, I set up a blog where I could blog everyday and Jason could contribute his own challenge every other month (someone has to pay the bills!). I hope that you’ll click over to My 30 Day Challenges and follow me as I start this first month with a book challenge I’m excited about.  It’s only because of my great experience with you, the book bloggers I know and love, that I’m ready to take on another blog.  I don’t know what will happen to this blog long term, after 8 years I’m not planning on stopping, but it may change.  For this first month at least, and probably many others, it will be easy to post on both.

And, just so you know, I am planning on inspiring you all to try a 30 day challenge and blog about it with me 🙂

Go on, see what I’m taking on this month.  You know you want to.