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by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

January 4, 2020

Good Books for Those Cold Winter Days

by Susan Roberts

There isn't anything much better on a cold winter day than to curl up with a good book and a hot beverage. These three books would be perfect for a snow day.

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The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

October 2019; Pamela Dorman Books
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); women's fiction
"You know the worst thing about a man hitting you?...Ain't the hurt.  It's that in that instant you realize the truth of what it is to be a woman. That it don't matter how smart you are, how much better at arguing, how much better than them, period.  It's when you realize they can always just shut you up with a fist.  Just like that." (p 198)

Because of the Great Depression and a lack of budget money, the American Library Association estimated in May 1936 that around a third of all Americans no longer had "reasonable" access to public library materials. Eastern, rural Kentucky is a geographically isolated area, cut off from much of the country.  Prior to the creation of the Pack Horse Library Project, many people in rural Appalachian Kentucky did not have access to books.  The percentage of people who were illiterate in eastern Kentucky was at around 31 percent.  People who lived in rural, mostly inaccessible areas wanted to become more literate, seeing education as a way to escape poverty. In 1936, as part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the Kentucky WPA began to hire pack horse librarians, mostly women, to carry books to isolated cabins, rural schoolhouses, and homebound coal miners.

The Giver of Stars begins in the small town of Baileyville, Kentucky when a woman speaks at a town meeting and explains the new WPA program to get books to the people in the rural areas.  She needs several women to help her with this project  As expected, many of the men in the town were totally opposed to women doing anything but staying home and they were shocked when several women volunteered, among them Alice VanCleve.  Alice has recently moved from England to live with her new husband, one of the richest men in town and the people in town have been very unaccepting of her.  She is finding life with her husband and his father to be very boring and is eager to find some excitement.  She became one of the women who rode over the rough mountain terrain to take books, magazines, and even comic books to the isolated, impoverished people who had no way to get to a library.

The main characters in this book are a strong and diverse group of women. Alice, unhappy in her marriage and not accepted by the town; Margery, the daughter of a man, now deceased, who solved his problems with his fists.  After what Margery had seen of marriage, she vowed never to get married and lives by herself. Isabelle, her legs crippled by polio, is afraid of horses but wants to help and Sophia, the black woman who keeps the library organized. These women make it their goal to provide literature to other people despite the constant backlash from the men in town who feel that the only thing people should be reading is the Bible and that by providing books, the library women are ruining the moral fabric of the town and spreading salacious material that will undermine their male dominance.

My only problem with this book is that everything was wrapped up in too few pages at the end.   I thought that there should have been a few more chapters that went over the outcome of the trial and the changes in the town.  Other than that, the book itself was very well written and very interesting.  It's wonderful that there were strong women during this time period who worked so hard to bring literature to people who wanted and needed it.

Buy The Giver of Stars at Amazon

The Giver of Stars by Amy Lowell
Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
Let the quiet of your spirit bathe me
With its clear and rippled coolness,
That, loose-limbed and weary, I find rest,
Outstretched upon your peace, as on a bed of ivory.
(p 154)

True to Me by Kay Bratt

December 2019; Lake Union Publishing
audio, ebook, print (269 pages); women's fiction
"Quinn liked routine and avoided drama at all costs.  She felt safest in the cocoon she's built around herself.  But all that was about to be undone.  Starting with a nondescript white box and a plane ticket, there was a secret with her name on it that Quinn meant to unravel." (loc 140)

"Whatever you find at the end of the day, it will not change the person you are. But you may need to dig deep and find forgiveness for all that has transpired."

I have been a long-time fan of Kay Bratt and was excited to find out that she had a new book.  In my opinion, it was her best book yet.  The characters are well written, the plot has some mystery and some romance and the Hawaiian setting made me want to buy an airline ticket and visit Hawaii.

Quinn and her mom were close and there were no other family members, just the two of them.  Quinn's dad left years earlier and she had no memory of him.  She lives with and is engaged to a very dominant man who thinks that he can control her life.  When Quinn's mom was dying, she told Quinn that her real father was not who she's always been told he was.  Those were her dying words and at her death, Quinn not only has to deal with her grief but also with the mystery of who her father really was.  Her mother had requested that her ashes be scattered in Maui so that is where Quinn decided that she'd start her search for her father.

Quinn took a leave of absence from her job, packed her suitcases and flew to Hawaii to try to find out about her past.  Her fiancĂ© was upset because he thought he should go with her so that they could have a vacation but Quinn knew that this wasn't going to be a vacation for her and that she needed to handle it alone.  Along with her search, Quinn finds new friends and new love and a deeper understanding of herself and her strengths and compassion.   She learns that Maui is as beautiful as she’d always imagined and her time there helps her uncover the woman that Quinn was always meant to be.

This is a beautiful book about love and friendship and the discovery of not only the past but the discovery of learning who you really are and what you want in your future.

Buy True to Me at Amazon

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

December 2019; Kensington; 978-1496725172
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); women's fiction
"I tell him briefly about the signs, about how they inspired me, how the letters on them, especially in this city, are full of variation.  I show him the page in my notebook where I've made a bulleted list of some of the most famous hand-lettered signs around the city."  (p 53)

Love Lettering is rom-com at its best. It has a New York City setting, two people who are slowly falling in love and a plot with some depth to it. How can you not love a book like this?

Meg is an artist - an artist of letters. Her skill at hand lettering has made her well known in NYC as the Planner of Park Slope. The publicity has gotten her more business than she can handle making everything that requires hand printing from custom journals to wedding programs and she has little time to work on new projects plus she has writer's block. What is interesting with Meg is that she sees her entire world through letters and feels like letters give her signs about her life. Kate meets Reid when she is working on the wedding invitations to his upcoming wedding. Reid is a math prodigy and he sees life through numbers. A year after the wedding invitation are completed, Reid goes back to see Meg to ask her about the wedding program. He detected a hidden word coded into the program that said MISTAKE and wants to know how she knew that the wedding was a mistake and would never happen. After that confrontation, they began to spend time with each other looking for signs to the future from the hand-lettered signs that they find in the city. Will they get their happily ever after or are they too different?

I really liked the two main characters - Meg is a skilled artist who still has very little self-confidence but knows how to have a good time. Reid is very serious about life and has lots of trouble relaxing and enjoying life. The two of them together make an interesting couple. This is a book full of laughs and romance as two very different people learn how much alike they really are.

Buy Love Lettering at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. I want to read The Giver of Stars. I hate to hear that it wrapped up a little too quickly.