Friday, February 28, 2020

Freeform Friday: From Trashed Books to Treasured Bookmarks with Melissa McCurdy + A GIVEAWAY

Isn't it nice when you meet a fellow bibliophile?  Someone who just gets your bone-deep love of reading and all things book related?  I've met a few kindred spirits in my time, and I'd like you to introduce you to one of my favorites.  Melissa McCurdy is a lover of all things book and musical theater, author of the book review site, Gerbera Daisy Diaries, and maker of the most amazing bookmarks.  

I've admired Melissa's bookmarks for quite a while and when I finally realized that she occasionally sells them, I asked her to make me a variety so that I could share them with some fellow book friends (and with you). They came in the mail just the other day and opening the package was heavenly. You, see Melissa makes her bookmarks by combining assorted craft paper and old, damaged books that would otherwise be thrown away.  The bookmarks she sent were a beautiful mix of everything and just what I wanted.  Oh, and have you smelled an old book lately?  I wish I could bottle that scent and (quite frankly) put it on my husband. Divine!   Here's a view of the front & back:

Aren't they gorgeous?  I love the combination new paper and old, especially the variety of print on the backs.  From what I can tell, the backs came from dictionary pages, some aged cookbooks, and other random texts, but my absolute favorite had an excerpt from To Kill a Mockingbird on the back.  Squeeee!  I am so excited to give these away to my friends AND TO ONE OF YOU!!

While I chatted with Melissa about her bookmarks, I also asked her a few questions:

What inspired you to start making bookmarks? 
I think I saw a Pinterest post about making bookmarks and thought, “I can do that!” It’s not what I ended up coming up with, but it was the start. 

Where do you find the books you use? 
For many years I worked for the public library. One of my responsibilities was gathering our used book donations that we would sell in our used book sales. For the most part, donated books were in good condition, but occasionally, people would donate severely damaged books. Like anything, I hated to throw away books, regardless of condition, but if we weren’t able to re-sell them, we’d toss them. So I tried to think of how I could reuse and recycle them, and through trial and error, I came up with reusing the book pages with scrapbook paper.

Is there a particular type of book you like to use most when you create bookmarks? Truthfully, really old Reader’s Digests make the best bookmarks. Not sure what makes their pages sturdier/stronger than other books, but that’s what I use the most. Dictionaries make the most creative, but generally they have onion-like paper that make them more flimsy. I also really like cookbooks because they are colorful. 

Do you have a favorite bookmark at home? 

I do! I mentioned that my favorite recycle books are Reader’s Digest books. Once I used the book spine, because the binding was literally falling off the book. It turned out cute. 

What are you reading now? 

I’m trying to read books related to Black History Month and/or authors of color. Currently my boys and I are listening to Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper. Stella lives in the segregated South and the influences of the Klux Klan rattles her community. Personally, I’m reading The Mothers by Brit Bennett, a contemporary novel of secrets, loss and the ramifications of teenage choices. Other Black History-related and/or authors of color I’ve read recently: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (5 stars) Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (3 stars) New Kid by Jerry Craft (new Newbery Award winner, and first graphic novel awarded the prize; 5 stars A Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. (a letter written while he was imprisoned – highly recommended as an audio book. 5 stars).

*We interrupt this interview so that you can stare at Melissa's colorful book collection.*
Excuse me while I drool.

Okay, we're back!

When are bookmarks the perfect gift (or in other words, any creative gifting ideas)? 

I always stick my bookmarks in cards – Mother’s Day, Christmas, and birthday. I have a jar of them on my desk at work for people to grab if they’re in my office. They make good conversation starters! I don’t have a commercial outlet for these, I make them for my own pleasure, however, my sister in law is a caterer in Salt Lake City, and she has ordered them for receptions and to use as favors in her table-scapes.

If you are interested in ordering an assortment of Melissa's bookmarks for your next gifting opportunity or just to add to your bookish horde, you can contact Melissa at Glued To the Page.  The cost is $1 per bookmark (shipping included) with a 12 bookmark minimum.  Keep in mind, Melissa is busy going to grad school and makes bookmarks as her creative outlet (not as a business or side gig), so customers will get a sampler of whatever she has in stock.

If you would like to be entered to win SIX Glued to the Page bookmarks of your very own, simply head over to our Facebook page to like, share, and leave a comment on the FB post!  If it's not up yet (because I occasionally forget to link these things first thing in the AM) comment on this post. That's it!  Feel free to like our follow us on Facebook if you'd like, but it's not required!

Giveaway is US only and ends at 11:59 pm PST, March 2nd, 2020.

Good luck!!! And aren't these adorable!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict - The Arbinger Institute

Summary:  What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause? 

What if we systematically misunderstand that cause?

And what if, as a result, we systematically perpetuate the very problems we think we are trying to solve?  

Every day.  

From the authors of the international bestseller Leadership and Self-Deception comes a groundbreaking work that instills hope and inspires reconciliation.  Through a moving story of parents who are struggling with their children and with problems that have come to consume their lives, we learn from once-bitter enemies the way to find peace whenever war is upon us. (Summary from back of book - Image from

My Review:  The Anatomy of  Peace is the prequel to a book I reviewed (and loved) back in 2018 called, Leadership and Self-Deception. Both books are authored by the Arbinger Institute, which according to the back of the book, is "an international training, consulting, and coaching firm that specializes in conflict resolution and peace building -- whether in families, in organizations, or between communities or nations." Although the two books don’t have to be read in order, The Anatomy of Peace is a kind of ‘prequel’ to Leadership and Self-Deception. Both books present many of the same ideas, but in slightly different ways with different applications.

It isn’t always easy to read books on conflict resolution. Many of them read like textbooks and, well,  if I wanted to read textbooks I’d go back to college.  Thankfully, The Anatomy of Peace belies its textbook appearance and teaches an important strategy for conflict resolution using a fictionalized story.  It centers around a man named Lou who is struggling with conflict in his business and family life.  When he and his wife check their son into a special rehab facility, they are asked to stay for a meeting with its founders, Yusuf and Avi, two men who have resolved their own personal conflicts and hope to impart the lessons they learned to others.  Lou stays and listens to what the men have to say. After each concept they teach, review, and provide diagrams that clarify and distill their message down to its most salient points – points that have the potential to change Lou and his family forever.

The Anatomy of Peace encourages readers to look inward and examine their own behavior and motivations as they interact with others, positing that a ‘heart of peace’ is the secret to mitigating even the deepest conflict.  Arbinger suggests that, “We choose to see others either as people like ourselves or as objects. They either count like we do or they don't. In the former case, since we regard them as we regard ourselves, we say our hearts are at peace towards them. In the latter case, since we systematically view them as inferior, we say our hearts are at war.”  This theory invites us to consider how we view others and raises some interesting questions. Do we see them as people with their own thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires?  Or do we see them as horrible demons, objects we have to deal with, problems we have to solve, or enemies to vanquish?  How we see someone might not seem that important,but, for good or ill, these subtle shifts in our own perspective can affect how we approach a problem and even make all the difference in outcome.  This book not only teaches why a heart of peace helps resolve conflict, but it also teaches how we can recognize the state of our heart and actively, intentionally change it.

If I could offer one criticism of the book, it would be that the conversational aspects of the story didn’t always feel organic.  Quite frankly, everyone was a bit too communicative, helpful, and organized to be realistic, but since the story is only meant to teach a concept and not an actual record of events, I can let it slide!  That having been said, The Anatomy of Peace is chock full of amazing (occasionally inorganic) quotes.  Here are some of my favorites: 
Seeing an equal person as an inferior object is an act of violence.
The outward wars around us started because of an inward war that went unnoticed: someone started seeing others as objects, and others used that as justification for doing the same.  This is the germ, and germination, of war. When we're carrying this germ, we're just wars waiting to happen.   
Every human face includes all others.  This means I spite my own face with every nose I desire to cut off.  We separate from each other at our own peril.  
Generally speaking, we respond to other's way of being toward us rather than to their behavior.  Which is to say that our children respond more to how we're regarding them than they do to our particular words or actions.  We can treat our children fairly, for example, but if our hearts are warring toward them while we're doing it, they won't think they're being treated fairly at all.  In fact, they'll respond to us as if they weren't being treated fairly.  
When I see others as objects, I dwell on the injustices I have suffered in order to justify myself, keeping my mistreatment and suffering alive within me.  When I see others as people, on the other hand, then I free myself from the need for justification.  I therefore free myself from the need to focus unduly on the worst that has been done to me.  I am free to leave the worst behind me, and to not see only the bad but the mixed and good in others as well.
The Arbinger approach to conflict resolution has been incredibly helpful in my personal life, church life, and basic everyday interactions.  Not only do I love the book, but it is probably the most spiritually-applicable secular book I have ever read.  While the wording and concepts are perfectly acceptable for a secular learning environment and application in the business world, they also coincided with my own religious beliefs about how we should treat or view others.  Aside from the overall message, my favorite part of this book is how the subtitle gained deeper significance as I read.  Initially, I assumed that the words Resolving the Heart of Conflict meant uncovering and resolving the root of the problem – the why of the conflict.  Eventually, I realized that the heart of conflict was more personal.  It was about the how of my heart -- how I could find peace in my own conflicted heart and how I could use that newly transformed heart to invite and encourage the same process in others.  I recommend this book to pretty much anyone who has to deal with conflict in their lives.  So.  Everyone. 

My Rating:  5 Stars. 

For the Sensitive Reader:  One of the characters is initially a jerk and says the D word a handful of times.

 For more information about the Arbinger Institute, please visit 

Monday, February 24, 2020

A Bend in the Stars - Rachel Barenbaum

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Summary: This is at once an epic love story and a heart-pounding journey across WWI-era Russia, about an ambitious young doctor and her scientist brother in a race against Einstein to solve one of the greatest mysteries of the universe.

In Russia, in the summer of 1914, as war with Germany looms and the Czar's army tightens its grip on the local Jewish community, Miri Abramov and her brilliant physicist brother, Vanya, are facing an impossible decision. Since their parents drowned fleeing to America, Miri and Vanya have been raised by their babushka, a famous matchmaker who has taught them to protect themselves at all costs: to fight, to kill if necessary, and always to have an escape plan. Can they bear to leave the homeland that has given them so much?

Before they have time to make their choice, war is declared and Vanya goes missing, along with Miri's fiancé. Miri braves the firing squad to go looking for them both. As the eclipse that will change history darkens skies across Russia, not only the safety of Miri's own family but the future of science itself hangs in the balance. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I think we’ve all read quite a bit of historical fiction from the two world wars. It’s a big thing in historical fiction right now, as it should be. I think we should be very aware of history, especially history that is so recent. I’ve read quite a bit from World War II. I feel like although I don’t know All the Things of WWII (and who could ever really know that? It was so complex), I’ve read quite a bit. I haven’t read nearly as much from WWI. I can see that a lot of popular books are now starting to be more about WWI, and I find it fascinating because although it happened relatively close to WWII, it was completely different. I mean, they were still fighting with horses in WWI! Although there were some similarities, there were a lot of differences and a lot of technological advances that completed changed how the war was fought.

This was an interesting WWI book because it had a lot to do with the war, but it also had another really important main topic—the race against Einstein and the proof for the theory of relativity. Although this is a fictional race and the characters were fictional, I enjoyed the idea that there were other scientists working on proving relativity along with Einstein. There has always been competition in science, and it wasn’t far-fetched to think of relativity as also being a sort of competition and race to the proverbial finish line. Because of the nature of the scientist involved, it made for a completely different outlook on the war. Although I have always found many of the historical fiction books about the wars to be deeply personal and providing a great way to connect to those who were involved in the war, it was also nice to read about a different sort of person who was almost oblivious to the war, even though he was fighting it and involved in it. It is heartbreaking and also heartening to think that people didn’t lose themselves during war—they still had interests and distractions and things that kept them alive while they fought in the worst circumstances. I feel like this is just such a story—of people who did what they had to do and became what they had to in order to survive, but were still obsessed with the things they were interested in and what made them who they were.

I thought this book was well-written for the most part and interesting in that I haven’t heard a lot about the Russian Jews during the time of WWI. I think there could be countless books written about this, just as countless people were involved in different ways. At times it seemed a bit improbable, but I feel that way about a lot of war books—both those that are true and those that are fiction. There are just a lot of crazy things that happen during war. Sometimes the stars just align (pun intended per the title) and things go perfectly, as if they were basically orchestrated such, and sometimes they don’t. Although this book had a good dose of reality, there were also some “stars aligning” situations that I think were a little contrived. That’s okay, though. It’s war. War is crazy. There is no rhyme or reason and I would like to hope that some people were given some lucky breaks. The writing was often beautiful; sometimes it felt a little over-dramatic. Again—war. I’m willing to forgive a lot just because of the topic (and this is not to say that I don’t feel like historical fiction writers who write about war shouldn’t write well, I just think that war is unpredictable and overly dramatic and warrants more than just normal language).

Overall, I would say that if you are into historical fiction, especially if you are into reading about the world wars, you should check this book out. I enjoyed the facts mixed with historical fiction; I always do love when different parts of history are put together to make a cohesive whole i.e. Einstein working on the Theory of Relatively during WWI. This just is a mind-bendingly interesting way to learn history and be able to put different historical events into context.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has war violence and some language, it also has some minor love scenes. I would say it is very typical of others in the genre.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Freeform Friday - Provo, Utah Library's Best Books of 2019

Welcome to Freeform Friday! I took one for the Reading For Sanity team (ha! not a sacrifice in this case!) and went to my local library's "Best Books of 2019" presentation, which I loved. My library is great--not only is it so beautiful and historic and a great landmark, but they also have a lot of really cool events for people of all ages, and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I've been to there. I especially enjoyed this event because the librarians have read a lot and are aware of what's new and what's cool in the reading world, and filtered all of that down into lists that I will be thoroughly reading and enjoying for the next while. The way this event worked was that three librarians from each department (children's, young adult, and adult) chose their favorite books, and would give a brief description of each of their favorites, which they then compiled into a big master list for each age group.We here at RFS have reviewed a few of these books (we've got a long way to go, but a few are upcoming in the next few months), and so if the book is highlighted, you can click on it and check out what we thought. There are so many books here, and even just the brief descriptions I heard of each one made me super excited to check them all out. Provo Library gave us permission to publish these lists, so shoutout to them for being so generous in sharing their hard work with us and with all of you! Enjoy! (Image credit Wikimedia Commons)

Best Children's Books of 2019

Espanol Libros Ilustrados
My Shoes and I: Crossing Three Borders, Rene Colato Lainez
Picture Books
Nine Months: Before A Baby is Born, Miranda Paul
Goodnight, Rainbow Cats, Urio Castro
Sweety,Andrea Zuill
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, Kevin Noble Maillard
Going Down Home with Daddy, Kelly Lyons
Truman, Jean Reidy
The Full House and the Empty House, LK James
My Papi Has a Motorcycle, Isabel Quintero
Spencer's New Pet, Jessie Sima
Small in the City, Sydney Smith
Another, Christian Robinson
The Book Hog, Greg Pizzoli
Stop! Bot!, James Yang
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, Ibitihaj Muhammad
Saturday, Oge Mora
Bear Came Along, Richard T. Morris
Red House, Tree House, Little Bitty Brown Mouse, Laura Godwin
Abner and Ian Get Right-Side Up, Dave Eggers
Easy Readers
Beneath the Bed and Other Scary Stories, Max Brallier
The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories, Sergio Ruzzieri
Harold and Hog Pretend for Real, Dan Santat
Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer, Emily Arnold McCully
Just Feel: How to Be Stronger, Happier, Healthier and More, Maillika Chopra
Moles, Rachel Poliquin
The Big Book of Monsters: The Creepiest Creatures from Classic Literature, Hal Johson
The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown, Mac Barnett
Mummies Exposed, Anita Sanchez
Caught!: Nabbing History's Most Wanted, Georgia Bragg
Hey, Water!, Antoinette Portis
Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese Interment Camp During World War II, Andrea Warren
The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in our Food and Drugs,  Gail Jarrow
Pirate Queen: The Legend of Grace O'Malley, Tony Lee
This Was Our Pact, Ryan Andrews
New Kid, Jerry Craft
Rocket to the Moon, Don Brown
Stargazing, Jen Wang
Guts, Raina Telgemeier
Do Fish Sleep?, Jens Raschke
Lalani of the Distant Sea, Erin Entrada Kelly
We're Not From Here, Geoff Rodkey
Pay Attention, Carter Jones, Gary D. Schmidt
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, Kwame Mbalia
The Last Last-Day-Of-Summer,  Lamar Giles
Genesis Begins Again, Alicia D. Williams
Sweeping Up The Heart, Kevin Henkes
All the Greys on Greene Street, Laura Tucker
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, Jason Reynolds
Our Castle By the Sea, Lucy Strang
Song for a Whale, Lynne Kelly
Each Tiny Spark, Pablo Cartaya
The Next Great Paulie Fink, Ali Benjamin
Scary Stories for Young Foxes, Christian McKay Heidicker
Anya and the Dragon, Sofiya Pasternack
Other Words for Home, Jasmine Warga

Best Young Adult Fiction Books of 2019

Spin the Dawn, Elizabeth Lim
Butterfly Yellow, Thanhha Lai
House of Salt and Sorrows, Erin Craig
The Grief Keeper, Alexandra Villasante
Field Notes on Love, Jennifer E. Smith
Wilder Girls, Rory Power
A Very Large Expanse of Sea, Tahereh Mafi
With the Fire on High, Elizabeth Acevedo
The Fountains of Silence, Ruta Sepetys
The Guinevere Deception, Kiersten White
Opposite of Always, Justin A. Reynolds
Aurora Rising, Amie Kaufmann
Girl Gone Viral, Arvin Ahmadi
White Rose, Kip Wilson
War Girls, Tochi Onyebuchi
On the Come Up, Angie Thomas
The Beautiful, Renee Ahdieh
Love from A to Z, S.K. Ali
Wicked Fox, Kat Cho
The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe, Ally Condie
The Rest of the Story, Sarah Dessen
Pumpkinheads, Rainbow Rowell
The Downstairs Girl, Stacey Lee
Are You Listening?, Tillie Walden
The Language of Fire, Stephanie Hemphill
A River of Royal Blood, Amanda Joy
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Mariko Tamaki
We Hunt the Flame, Hafsah Faizal
Rayne &Delilah's Midnite Matinee, Jeff Zentner
The Bone Houses, Emily Lloyd-Jones
Queen of the Sea, Dylan Meconis
White Bird, R.J. Palacio
Bloom, Kevin Panetta
Lovely War, Julie Berry
Let's Call it a Doomsday, Katie Henry

Young Adult Non-Fiction Picks for 2019

They Called Us Enemy, George Takei
Dissenter on the Bench, Victoria Ortiz
Dear Ally: How Do You Write a Book?, Ally Carter
Amazons, Abolitionists, & Activists, Mikki Kendall
This Place: 150 Years Retold
Shout, Laurie Halse
Free Lunch, Rex Ogle
A Thousand Sisters, Elizabeth Wein
Accused!, Larry Dane Brimmer
In Waves, AJ Dungo
An Indigenous People's History of the United States, Jean Mendoza
Life Sucks, Michael Bennett
We Are Displaced, Malala Yousafzai
Games of Deception, Andrew Maraniss
It's Trevor Noah, Trevor Noah

Best Adult Books of 2019

If She Wakes, Michael Koryta
The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides
The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware
Recursion, Blake Crouch
The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo
Mama's Last Hug, Frans de Waal
Biased, Jennifer L. Eberhardt
Catch and Kill, Ronan Farrow
Know My Name, Chanel Miller
City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert
Wolf Pack (Joe Pickett #19), C.J. Box
Angel Eyes (Spender #47), Ace Atkins (Robert Parker)
A Dangerous Man (Elvis Cole #18), Robert Crais
The River, Peter Heller
The Winter of the Witch (Winternight #3), Katherine Arden
The Lost Man, Jane Harper
Furious Hours, Casey Cep
How To, Randall Munroe
The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates
The Pioneers, David G. McCullough
Range, David J. Epstein
The True Queen (Sorcerer to the Crown #2), Zen Cho
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Kim Michele Richardson
The Witch's Kind, Louisa Morgan
The Next Mormons, Jana Riess
How To Do Nothing, Jenny Odell
Cilka's Journey, Heather Morris
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, Juliet Grames
Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane
The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
Chances Are..., Richard Russo
Inheritance, Dani Shapiro
Home Work, Julie Andrews
Maid, Stephanie Land
Dutch Girl, Robert Matzen
They Called Us Enemy, George Takei
The Enchanted Hour, Meghan Cox Gurdon
Life Undercover, Amaryllis Fox
The Last Pass, Gary M. Pomerantz
Underland, Robert Macfarlane
Code Name: Lise, Larry Loftis
Last Witnesses, Svetlana Alexeivich
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, David Treuer
Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, Edward Wilson-Lee
Sea People, Christine Thompson
Magic For Liars, Sarah Gailey
The Flatshare, Beth O'Leary
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Abbi Waxman
How Not to Die Alone, Richard Roper
An Anonymous Girl, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Dark Age - Pierce Brown (Red Rising #5)

This book is either the fifth book in the Red Rising Series or the second book in a new series set in the Red Rising universe, with many of the same characters.  I've heard it both ways, but prefer the former for reasons that will become apparent in my review.  

Summary:  For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt color-coded Society.  Now, outlawed by the very Republic that he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in hopes that he can still salvage the dream of Eo.  But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains?  Or will another legend rise to take his place?

Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile, has returned to the Core.  Determined to bring peace back to mankind at the edge of his sword, he must overcome or unite the treacherous Gold families of the Core and face down Darrow over the skies of war-torn Mercury.

But theirs are not the only fates hanging in the balance.

On Luna, Mustang, Sovereign of the Republic, campaigns to unite the Republic behind her husband.  Beset by political and criminal enemies, can she outwit her opponents in time to save him?

Once a Red Refugee, young Lyria now stands accused of treason, and her only hope is a desperate exsape with unlikely new allies.  Abducted by a new threat to the Republic, Pax and Electra, the children of Darrow and Sevro, must trust in Ephraim, a thief, for their salvation -- and Ephraim must look to them for his chance at redemption.

As alliances shift, break, and re-from -- and power is seized, lost, and reclaimed -- every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.

My Review:   You guys, I can't even.  I just finished Dark Age and I am sitting here trying to come up with the words to explain how I feel and arrange them in a somewhat intelligent matter, but I am failing miserably because I am traumatized.  Beyond traumatized.  Like, if it's possible to get PTSD from reading something, I think I might have to self-diagnose.

Dark Age is aptly named as it is by far the darkest tome in the existing Red Rising Series.  And not just a little bit darker.  Exponentially darker. Infinitely darker.  The author calls the book a 'bloody spectacle' and, I must say, that is an epic understatement of ridiculous proportions.  It is probably one of the most, if not the most violent book I have ever read.  I usually save this stuff for the "sensitive reader" section, but just in case you don't make it down there I don't want to be held liable for your therapy costs.  Pierce Brown is an amazing writer whose words evoke images so clearly you can see absolutely everything as if it were high definition.  But that's the problem!  YOU CAN SEE ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and you can't unsee it!  Just when you think something might work out sunshine and daisies, cue: Betrayal. Death. Coup. Death. Invasion. Death. And, trust me, no one is safe.  It was truly, awfully, horrifically violent and I need to go bleach my brain.

I hope I have been clear.  Now, on to the rest of the review...

Dark Age is told from multiple points of view (Darrow, Lysander, Virginia, Ephraim, and Lyria) and takes place on Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Luna (the moon) and all the outer space in between.  The result is a world so thoroughly complex and utterly massive in scope it was easy to get lost in the logistics.  And I did.  A lot.  I was continually trying to get my bearings and never quite succeeded. It was a struggle to keep the who, what, where, and why of it all straight, even with a map and five pages of dramatis personae  - like I was seated on a constantly spinning chair smack in the middle of an enormous never-ending battle with a million different players, always moving but never forward.   The only thing I could be absolutely sure of is that I couldn't be sure of anything.  Eventually, I gave up and tried, with varying degrees of success, to make sense of what I could from context.  It's quite possible a greater mind than mine could have kept it all straight, but they aren't writing this review.

No matter how I feel about the subject matter or complex story line, I will always love the characters  of the Red Rising series like Darrow, Virginia, Sevro, Victra and so many others that have been introduced, come into their own, or been fleshed out in the last few books.  The characters are why I have stuck around even though guts and swearing just aren't my thing.  Much of what I loved in previous books was not what happened on the battle front, but what happened between individuals, often between conflicts.  Dark Age didn't have much of that or, if it did, it was utterly eclipsed by the chaos of war.  There were some breathtaking, grin-inducing moments, but I had to slog through a whole lot of bloodshed to find them.  Ultimately, I *force read*, hoping for a resolution that never came, watching more and more beloved characters meet their end in a myriad of horrifying ways.

And you know what?  I just can't do it.  I feel mentally exhausted and emotionally eviscerated.

If other reviews are any indication, plenty of people have loved this book, but I am choosing to leave while there are a few characters left I simply can't bear to lose.  Before I do, I want to close this review with my favorite quote from Dark Age, which I think is a pretty good measure of humanity:
You know I believe we all begin equal parts light and dark.  I fear you think your strength is in your darkness.  But the measure of a man is not the fear he sows in his enemies.  It is the hope he gives his friends.     - Virginia, to Darrow
I have decided not to read the next book when it comes out and, because in my head I can do all sorts of things, I am *mentally* terminating this series after the third book.  The Red Rising series is as follows:  Red RisingGolden Son, and Morning Star.  The.  End.


*Dusts hands off* 



My Rating: 3 stars  (I would probably give this book a 2 because of all the sensitive reader issues and maaaaaaaybe a 4 for the characters and story.  So, to be fair, I averaged it.)

For the Sensitive Reader: This. Book. Is. Not. For. You.  You name it, it's in here.  Graphic (doesn't even begin to cover it) violence.  Copious profanity (favoring the F word) to the point that I stopped 'counting' pretty early on.  Unbelievably violent. Crude language and sexual innuendo.  Did I mention violence?  There is mention of rape and even a sexual situation, which up to this point in the series hasn't been an issue. Also violence.  Do I make myself clear?  You have been warned.

Monday, February 17, 2020

West - Carys Davies

Summary: When widowed mule breeder Cy Bellman reads in the newspaper that colossal ancient bones have been discovered in the salty Kentucky mud, he sets out from his small Pennsylvania farm to see for himself if the rumors are true: that the giant monsters are still alive and roam the uncharted wilderness beyond the Mississippi River. Promising to write and to return in two years, he leaves behind his only daughter, Bess, to the tender mercies of his taciturn sister and heads west.

With only a barnyard full of miserable animals and her dead mother’s gold ring to call her own, Bess, unprotected and approaching womanhood, fills lonely days tracing her father’s route on maps at the subscription library and waiting for his letters to arrive. Bellman, meanwhile, wanders farther and farther from home, across harsh and alien landscapes, in reckless pursuit of the unknown. (Summary and pic from

My Review:  I must admit that I don’t read a lot of westerns. I used to love the Storm Testament series when I was in junior high and high school. They were written by a Utah-based author, Lee Nelson, and although I’m not from Utah, my grandparents lived there and when we would go visit them and stay for a week in the summer I would raid their basement bookshelves (even back then I was reading All The Things) and just devoured that series. When they passed away, I took all of those books for my own bookshelves and I look back at them with fond memories. A few years ago, I inadvertently met Lee Nelson’s daughter and I have to tell you, I was fangirling majorly! I was trying to keep my cool and still get an invitation to meet her dad, but I never quite got around to asking. Oh, the missed opportunities.

When I saw this little book I decided to check it out. It is written like a Western, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve always been interested in books that do a good job creating a time and place, and I feel like this book did just that. I could feel the loneliness of the isolated countryside, and the simplicity of life and the complexity to pull off living during this time. The writing style was really unique. It was written third person, but the omniscient feeling was almost disconnected. This made for a very beautifully rendered reading that felt like both the simplicity and complexity of Western life I described above. There is an art to being able to achieve both things at once—both simplicity of writing and a depth of meaning, and Davies does just that. It is also a rather short book, and yet a lot was achieved in that short little span. Again, sometimes it doesn’t take a whole ton of words to get a whole ton of things said.

I really enjoyed the story in this book. I felt like it had an almost fantastical feel to it, although obviously there was not fantasy. I could imagine what this adventurer was thinking of when he headed off to find huge beasts whose bones had been discovered, and I can’t help but think that to him, he would have felt this same feeling of excitement and magic that Davies conveyed to the reader when he set off to see if he could find these unbelievable animals. He was able to capture so well the feeling of excitement and discovery that one would have felt while crossing into unknown territory. That was one of the things I enjoyed about this book, actually, is that it did a good job of capturing the wonder and excitement of discovery in a vastly uncharted land. Those lands still exist today, but those of us who will experience actual physical exploration of them are very few as opposed to those who lived back in the time of new land and new territory.

This story had some really sad elements in it, and they were resolved in interesting ways. Davies pulled no punches when it came to her characters, and it paid off. I feel like I have a natural inclination to wanting things to work out the way I think they should at the end of a book, and yet an author like Davies can give the characters a more natural character arc that works and makes sense in the end.

A short little book that packs a lot of story and interest in just a few pages, I recommend this book to fiction readers who enjoy a good story with a highly developed time and place. I enjoyed it and I think that other readers will find it interesting and a good read as well.

My Rating: 4 stars

For the sensitive reader: There are some limited incidences of sexual abuse without a lot of intense description, but it still may be triggering.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Freeform Friday: Reading For Sanity's 65 Favorite Romantic Book Recommendations

Looking for a little something a little swoony 
to read this Valentine's Day?

We've got you covered.  In no particular order, here are

 Reading for Sanity's
Romantic Reading Recommendations!

Below you'll find SIXTY-FIVE of our favorite books that have a romantic feel...

Most of them are sweet (re:fairly clean) romances, but not all.
We've linked the titles that we have reviewed, so be sure to check out
 each review's 'sensitive reader' section, to make sure they are your kind of romance.

Ella  - Jessilyn Stewart Peasleey

The Princess Bride - William Goldman
(Because who doesn't love Wesley and Buttercup?!)

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
(I read this book ^^^ while on a reviewing 'break' 
but I think I'm still hungover!)

Kilmeny of the Orchard - L.M. Montgomery

The Shoemaker's Wife - Adriana Trigiani

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson

The Hundred-Foot Journey - Richard C. Morais
(I read this while on hiatus but TOTALLY 5 stars)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce

and it's sequel
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy - Rachel Joyce

Finding Beauty in the Beast - Jessilyn Stewart Peaslee

The Blue Castle

The Caraval series (Caraval, Legendary, Finale) - Stephanie Garber

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Orczy

P.S. I Love You -Cecilia Ahern

The Anne of Green Gables series - L.M. Montgomery
(Because Gil was my first book crush...)

Warm Bodies - Isaac Marion

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
- Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

The Beast of Ten - Beth Brower

The Far Pavilions -M.M.Kaye

Shadow of the Moon - M.M. Kaye

Goose Girl - Shannon Hale

The Black Witch - Laurie Forest

The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker

The Giver of Stars - Jojo Moyes

A Bend in the Stars - Rachel Barenbaum

Stepsister - Jennifer Donnelly

The Wrath & The Dawn - Renee Ahdieh

The Reluctant Heiress - Eva Ibbotson

House of Oak series by Nichole Van

Summers at Castle Auburn - Sharon Shinn

The Lunar Chronicles - Marisa Meyer
(Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, Winter, Stars Above)

Beguiled - Deanne Gist

Graceling, Fire, & Bitterblue - Kristin Cashore

Persuasion: A Latter Day Tale AND
Sense & Sensibility: A Latter Day Tale - Rebecca H. Jamison

Agent in Old Lace by Tristi Pinkson

Archangel series (Archangel, Alleluia Files, Jovah's Angel)

The Lucky One - Nicholas Sparks

These is my Words - Nancy Turner

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

Evernight - Claudia Gray

The Host - Stephanie Meyer

A Countess Below Stairs - Eva Ibbotson

The Notebook - Nicholas Sparks

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Edenbrooke - Julianne Donaldson

Blackmoore - Julianne Donaldson

Symphony of Ages series (Rhapsody, Prophecy, Destiny) - Elizabeth Haydon

The Wedding - Nicholas Sparks

Hourglass - Myra McEntire

Delirium series (Delirium, Pandemonium, Requiem) - Lauren Oliver

Divergent series (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant, Four) - Veronica Roth

Enclave - Ann Aguirre

The Season - Sarah Maclean

A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness

Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick

Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell

Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespear

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

Girl with a Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevalier

We hope you found something to swoon over on this list!

What Romantic Reads to YOU recommend!  
Leave us your recs in the comments!


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