Review and Giveaway: Comfort of fences, by Stacy Overman Morrison

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comfort of fences

This review is part of a book tour I applied for because of the synopsis, which included family secrets and strong female characters who fight alone in their lives, and you know that’s exactly my cup of tea.

The story begins with the worst news you can imagine: Ruth is dying of cancer and her only daughter, a 52 year old disabled woman called Denise, will be left alone in the world – they have no other relatives.

Ruth has never tried to get financial help for Denise and now she is in a desperate race against the clock in order to get social security benefits. Thank god her best friend, Georgia, also an old woman, has come to help them. Georgia and Ruth are opposite poles, but they can trust one another when crisis come, and that’s exactly what Georgia tries to do this last time for her friend – not only does she help Ruth when disease becomes severe, but she also tries to teach Denise to fend for herself, because Ruth has been extremely overprotective with her daughter. Besides, Denise asks her mother to write down the story she has always hidden from her, about Denise’s father and her childhood, and this is also a very important part of the novel.

The situation we find in the book can’t be more desperate, and even though I felt empathy towards Ruth because of her situation, I couldn’t help but to criticize her for the choices she made in the past regarding Denise. I understand she was alone and scared and she tried to protect Denise from the wicked world out there, but well, in the long run those decisions might be very wrong. This is part of the emotions contained in this book.

The way Ruth tells her story is enjoyable; writing it down for Denise to read it when she is ready for it, but I missed more intensity in the relationship with Denise’s father, particularly at the beginning of their story. Georgia was a great character too: an old but energetic woman who is always ready to give a hand and tell you a couple of things if needed.

But the character I liked most was Denise, without any doubt. She has a remarkable development in the story, and her mental disability is well described in all the passages of the book, for example, when she feels terrified watching a horror film, but instead of changing the channel or turning off the TV, she runs away from the sitting room and shuts herself in her room. I felt very sorry for her because she knows she is going to be alone soon and she tries very hard to do things by herself, although they don’t always turn out right.

rakin4Book on amazon ♦ Book on goodreads
Kindle edition: 266 pages – 3,72$

Links:

Giveaway

You can win a copy of this book: a print copy is open for USA and Canada and an ebook for the rest of the world.
All you have to do is leave a comment saying you want to enter the giveaway. It will be over on April 25 and on April 26 I’ll write a post with the winner.

Good luck!

 

Readers’ Workouts: Running

ReadersWorkoutsIf you are reading this blog, your favourite hobby is probably reading books, which is cool and I also do it very often, but you know you should exercise your body as well as your mind, and this is exactly what Joy is trying to do: she encourages book bloggers to share their exercise routines weekly on their blogs, and I’m finally joining her! But I’m doing this on my own way: talking randomly about what I do to keep fit (more or less fit, anyway).

So today I’m talking about running, which is my new way of torturing myself lately.

This is the park where I go to run

This is the park where I go to run

A couple of months ago, I decided to start running… again. I must have tried it at least 4 times in the past, but I failed mainly because I was so tired for the other sports I was practicing. I have been doing exercise all my life, but running has been always out of reach for me: I couldn’t run intervals of more than 5 minutes, and after those few minutes, I felt like dying. So this time – which is going to be the last because I’m sure I will get it – I started with a beginners routine in which you have to run and walk, and then gradually you increase your running minutes and reduce the walking. The goal is to run 40 minutes at the end of the plan, and I would be very happy if I get to run 30. This plan is for three days per week, but I keep my own pace since I go swimming (I’ll talk about it in another post) three days a week, and I only go running two days.

I have never read a book about running, to be honest, but lately I’ve been listening to audiobooks about habits and willpower, and I think they are helping me a little with this running thing. At the moment, I think I can say I have my willpower under control when it comes to go running first thing in the morning (I run before going to work), and I promise I have skipped only once because there were floods on the riverside where I usually go to run.

And why running, you might ask. First, because it’s a personal goal: I have never been able to run, even when I was working in a gym (I’ll talk about this in another post) and I was super fit and strong. And also because it’s a simple exercise which doesn’t demand a specific place or expensive clothes: you can just go out of your house and start running.

I want to highlight that my goal is to run, not to lose weight (at least for the moment); I haven’t weighed myself for months because I want to focus only on running, and don’t get distracted – and obsessed, because we all know how we act when it comes to our weight – with kilograms. I want to run at least 30 minutes; that’s my goal. The rest must wait ;)

running-look

A little bit of humor… or maybe not!

This week, according to my plan, I have to run 15 minute intervals for the first time. Wish me luck!

March in books

march in booksYou might think I read eight books, according to the picture, but they were actually ten – the other two are only available in Spanish and I didn’t include them here. ¡¡Ten books!!

The power of habit (review) and The honest truth about dishonesty were audiobooks.

I read Clash of kings in Spanish as part of a joint reading, and Comfort of fences as part of a book tour.

I recieved Tea and primroses (review) from the publishers, and I couldn’t be happier because I love romance.

The returned is everywhere since the TV series is also on air in Spain, but the book disappointed me a little.

There is a collection of short stories, Flowers in the rain, by one of my favourite authors.

And finally, my favourite book of the month, chosen for my book club, was The kite runner.

Hope you had a good month as well. Now let’s start April!

It’s time for bloggiesta!

Spring BloggiestaThis is my first bloggiesta ever, and I was looking forward to participating because – let’s be honest – there is a lot of blog work that I have to do! How exciting! :D

I will only have time for blogwork over the weekend, so I have tried to keep my goals small:

Try one bloggiesta mini challenge. DONE

Catch up with blogs; I have hundreds of blog posts to read! DONE

Write my own review policy; it’s time for me to have one.

Create a new blog page with the list of authors/books reviewed. DONE

Create twitter lists for bloggers/friends/authors, etc. My twitter is a chaos. DONE

Write at least one review (I have read several books the last weeks but I haven’t found time to review them).

I’m going to update this post as soon as the work is done, so everybody can know I’m trying very hard.

So let’s go!

bloggiestastartTwitter lists:

I spent hours doing this task because I was following more than 500 people (or things, or animals… seriously!). The first problem I found was to decide which lists I wanted to create, and if I wanted to include English and Spanish-speaking people in the same list.

I finally created these ones:

twitter listsIn my Family list there are more than one member, and I can see them all, but I don’t know why in the list it says there is only one!

Anyway, this was a great goal because now I can keep track of everybody easily. I think I’m going to use this social network much more now.

Review index

I can’t believe I finally created my index!

I decided to do it by author’s surnames on a new blog page. You can see it here :mrgreen: I’m proud of myself!

Catching up with blogs:

I use InoReader to read all my friends’ blogs and I think it works very good. The problem is that the reader works good, but I never have time to look at it, so today I finally read and commented in at least one of the post of my fellow bloggers:

My Ino reader before catching up:

inoreader beforeMy InoReader after ;) :

inoreader afterBloggiesta mini challenge:

I finally tried Shannon’s challenge because I wasn’t very good with picmonkey; I only have tried a couple of times to do very easy things, and I created a new facebook cover for my personal profile:

cabecera FBDo you like it?

Bloggiesta-Finish-Line3And bloggiesta finished.

I wasn’t able to do everything, but I think I did a great amount of blog stuff. I need to perform my own bloggiesta on any of the following weekends because I really want to write down the review policy, but I’m not in a hurry; I’ll do it when I feel inspired.

Hope you got a lot of blog goals in this bloggiesta?

The power of habit, by Charles Duhigg

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the power of habit

When I was studying my degree, I worked in a gym. I ended up working there for eight years, and I came to work up to 17 hours per week, which meant 17 hours of exercise, in a very variable timetable: I woke up at 6, and I usually arrived home at nights at 11 pm and went to bed one or two hours later. I started to take long naps of 2 hours after lunch both because I was extremely tired, and also because I slept very little at nights. And do you guess what happened when I quit that job and I began to sleep eight hours at night? Yes: I still needed to sleep after lunch! You might thing this is silly, but changing my sleeping habits took me a great deal of effort.

This book explains how we unconsciously create habits – bad and good habits – which will stay with us forever, since our brains need to do a lot of activities daily without wasting so much energy on them. And it also talks about how simple and tough is to change them; simple because you can easily know which habit you want to change and figure out ways of doing it; and tough since carrying that out will make you sweat blood. The good news is that once you change one certain habit, it becomes effortless to change others which might not seem related with the first one, and even more; once you stablish a good habit, it is as hard to break as the bad ones!

At this point I want to highlight something the author says: people busier than you go home after work, put on their running shoes, and go for a run instead of watching television. That is so true!

The habits in companies – here called routines – are also very well explained though several insightful examples of real and well known companies (I didn’t recognize all of them because they were from The States, obviously).

But the thing I liked most, although it’s only briefly mentioned in the book, was when the author mentioned the mechanism of willpower. Oh yes, now I understand myself better, thank God! :D It turns out that willpower is a capability we have a certain amount of for every day, so if you spend it on something, perhaps you won’t have any more of it later for other tasks. The author says we can work out our willpower little by little to get more (like muscular strength), but seriously, if I don’t do exercise first thing in the morning, I know I will never do it after work because my willpower is in a comma.

Summarizing, you must read this book if you want to know why our brains, and consequently ourselves, are so lazy sometimes.

PS1: I don’t feel like rating non-fiction books, sorry.

PS2: by the way, I want to mention that I began reading this book just when I started to go running, and it has helped me a lot; I’m even thinking about joining Joy in her Reader’s workouts post.

The power of habit
Charles Duhigg
Random House
286 pages

Tea and Primroses, by Tess Thompson

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tea and primroses tess thompsonTea and primroses is the second book in The Legley Bay collection, and I enjoyed it much more than Caramel and Magnolias!

You know how much I like novels with family secrets, when the characters find out something about the past that could never have imagined, and it somehow changes their present lives for the better. This book has it all, and even more: it has a beautiful love story that touched me.

The story begins with the death of Constance in an accident; she was a popular author who had a simple life in a house on the coast. Constance had lost her husband time ago and had an only daughter, Sutton, who is now devastated, not only for Constance’s death, but also because the police think it has been a murder.

Sutton has grown up with Declan, Constance’s housemaid and best friend’s son, and the friendship between each other turned to love when they become teenagers; eventually their ways got separated but, fortunately, the funeral has reunited them again. Sutton has never stopped loving him, and her mother, in her will, encourages her to come back to him because she knew Declan is her only love. Together, they find a manuscript where Constance tells them a story about her they never had a clue about.

And what a beautiful and sad story! I felt myself as a part of it from the beginning because it is so intense. Constance talks about her as a girl who finds love through her will to become a writer, but because of the circumstances she has to let it go and live her life without him; she would never forget about what she once had, but would also learn that it will never come back, so she has to look forward. How hard would that be? Constance, as a writer, knows how to express in words what feelings claim, so that the reader can feel it too.

The part set in the present time, with Sutton and Declan, is also very sweet. They had missed each other so much, but they are afraid of not being able to make their relationship work again; after all, it was years ago when they were together.

All I can say is that this is my favourite of Tess Thompson’s novels so far. It has everything I need in a story, and I liked the way she has written it, with a normal narration for the present time, and excerpts of Constance’s manuscript to tell her own part, which really touched my heart.

rakin4Book on amazon.com ♦ Book on Goodreads
Tea and Primroses
Tess Thompson
Booktrope
250 pages
Keep calm and read in English: 6/20

February in books

I have thought about  writing a monthly overview of the books I have read; at least about the ones that I have read or which are available in English, and today it’s a good day to start, don’t you think?

February in booksThere weren’t so many books on February, as you can see, but among them we have one of the novels that I will include in the Best of the year list, The horse whisperer (review); another non-fiction, Hidden in plain sight (review), thanks to which I have discovered Norman Rockwell’s work; and a romantic novel by one of the authors I began to read last year and now I know I will look for every book by her, Caramel and Magnolias (review). The fourth book wasn’t as good as I expected: The Korean word for butterfly (review).

Besides, I also spent one afternoon making some bookmarks full of love :D

Regarding my academic life, I had my exams at the beginning of the month, so I didn’t have so much time to read for pleasure, as you can imagine; but fortunately enough I did it well and passed all of them! It seems that I have found something I’m good at from the beginning, and it gives me the energy I need to keep on studying these subjects that are so different from everything I knew before.

It has been a great month. Now I’m ready for March!

Caramel and Magnolias, by Tess Thompson

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caramel and magnolias

This is the third book by Tess Thompson I read, and all I have to say is that she has another fan here. I will always remember her with affection because Riversong (review) was one of the first books I read in English, and I first participated in a book tour with a promotional post about Caramel and Magnolias, which I was confused with, because I thought I was getting a copy for review instead of showing an excerpt on my blog – my English was so basic by then ;) – so I finally entered a giveaway and won a digital copy. And after all these adventures, today you can read my review!

The story begins when a teenage girl disappears. The owner of an adoption agency might be involved in the case, and this is the man Cleo Tanner contacts in order to help her best friend, Sylvia, to have a baby; a dream Sylvia thought she would never achieve.

In this novel, some of the characters have a painful past behind them. Cleo, for a start, hasn’t dated anybody since her boyfriend died in an accident time ago. Sylvia is desperate to get her baby, and she ends up destroying her marriage because of her obsession – she will have a happy ending, though. Nick (ohh Nick, how I loved this character!), Sylvia and Cleo’s friend, has been secretly in love with a woman for years, poor man! And Peter, the detective who works in the case of the missing girl, has trouble with commitment at relationships because his parents’ marriage didn’t work.

So we have a group of characters who have to deal with their past as well as their present situation, and an interesting plot about the probably illegal activities the adoption agency is carrying out, which makes the book very fun. I also liked the secondary characters; I would have happily read more about them in this book, especially about Peter’s brother and mother.

The suspense is intriguing and the romance is sweet, so both aspects make Caramel and Magnolias an enjoyable reading you will have a good time with.

rakin4

PS: today I was supposed to review Tea and Primroses, the next book in this series, but I had a problem with the ARC I got and I started it late – I’m reading it at the moment and I will review it next week. Anyway, I’m happy I read Caramel first, because I have found some of the characters in the second book, and it’s better if you already know them, I think. Hope Tess doesn’t mind!

PS2: Here you can read Allison’s review.

Book on Amazon.com ♦ Book on Goodreads
Tess Thompson on Facebook
Tess Thompson on Twitter

Hidden in plain sight: the other people in Norman Rockwell’s America, by Jane Allen Petrick

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Hidden-In-Plain-Sight

I’m reading a lot of non-fiction this year and I think I’m learning a lot. I didn’t know Norman Rockwell, for a start. When I first googled his name, before I started reading the book, I realized I had seen some of his illustrations but I didn’t know him or his popularity in the States. Rockwell culture is huge and I was astonished to know that there are even meetings of Rockwell’s models every year, or that there are Rockwell’s dolls; little dolls which represents people from his paintings. It’s unbelievable.

But this book is not about his work in general; it only focuses on the illustrations in which black people appear. For me, this fact was just irrelevant until I read that most of the collections of Rockwell’s work have avoid deliberately including these illustrations; that some people thought he was racist because they had seen only illustrations with white people; or that Rockwell, at the beginning of his career had trouble in including black people in his paintings because the magazines he worked for forbade him to paint black people in the main roles of the paintings. Again, it’s unbelievable.

In Hidden in plain sight, the author takes us to a journey to meet who those “other” people were. Jane Allen Petrick has researched into Rockwell’s paintings and has interviewed his models – the majority of them were kids when they worked for him – who tell us the story of how they ended up being models for the painter and how their experience was (most of the memories include tons of Coca Cola!). I have found interesting that he organized photograph sessions for every painting, asking the models to pose in certain ways that then he would transform into oil paintings.

I know the author’s aim was to show Rockwell’s unknown work to the public, but since this is my first approach to Rockwell’s art, I think this is also a great book to get to know this artist and how he was committed to represent every American person through his paintings.

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Finally, I want to show you some of the paintings mentioned in the book:

Road block

roadblock

Glen Canyon Dam

glen canyon dam

And of course, The problem we all live with

the-problem-we-all-live-with

Hidden In Plain Sight was named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2013.

Thanks to Virtual Author Book Tours for the copy; follow the tour.

The Korean word for butterfly, by James Zerndt

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Korean Word for Butterfly

I downloaded this book from Amazon a few months ago, when it was for free, because I knew Virtual author book tours was about to organize a tour and I wanted to participate. But I’m a bit disappointed with the the novel.

The background of the story is the 2002 World Cup in South Korea, and the accident in which a US tank killed two Korean girls. There are three main characters and there are chapters for every one of them.

Billie is a girl from the States who has went to Korea with her boyfriend with a false certificate, in order to work as teachers in a school where the kids learn English since they are very young. They have some difficulties at the beginning, but soon they get used to life there in Korea, without paying much attention to the news and their military compatriots.

Moon works at the English school and he is in charge of looking for new teachers when needed. This man had an alcoholism problem and now his wife lives apart from him with their child; Moon hasn’t drunk since then and all he wants is to be with his family again.

And finally we have Yun-ji, a Korean secretary at the school who has a relationship with a US soldier, but whose feelings towards US people, in general, prevent her from going ahead with him.

I think that I didn’t like the book partly because of the female characters: both girls’ behavior was more like a teenager’s instead of adult women. Both deal with abortion in a different way and in the end they make different decisions: the girl whose life was easier decided not to have the child, just the opposite as the other girl did; but I didn’t really find it like an important issue in their lives. Besides, neither the background nor the false titles of the American couple have great importance within the story; it was as if you were expecting a momentous scene that never came.

Despite the downsides, I have to say I loved Moon: he is a character impossible not to like, because he could have been a bad guy in the past, but now he is doing things remarkably well and the reader can’t help but to pray for his wife to give him another chance. He really deserves it.

Summarizing, the story seems plain and doesn’t take much advantage of the political backdrop. It’s an easy and light read but, with the exception of Moon, the characters don’t make you get into it.

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