Monthly Archives: October 2011

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last week was another fun, busy insane week in the Simmonds household!

Monday my son and I went to a model railroad club museum so he could earn his Railroading Merit Badge.

Tuesday my youngest son started his first job.

Wednesday- Babysat my granddaughter and we took a trip to the library.

Thursday- Bible Study

Friday- An overnighter at Miller castle to set up the Haunted Maze

Saturday- the Haunting took place

Sunday- I tried my second Freezer Cooking Day and went to another Eagle Scout ceremony in the afternoon.

All of this while working two jobs and running my son back and forth to work!  I love staying busy, but one of these days I’m gonna drop!  🙂

I’m sure it’s not necessary to tell you, I didn’t get much done in the way of reading last week.  I haven’t finished The Night Circus or started Cleopatra: A Life for my book club, but I WILL get them done this week.  On top of that I will be starting Redemption by Stacey Lannert and Kristen Kemp.

On July 5th, 1990, Stacey Lannert shot and killer her father who had been abusing her sexually since she was 7.  Missouri state law, a disbelieving prosecutor, and Stacey’s own fragile psyche conspired against her: she was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Redemption is Stacey’s candid memoir of what happened after she found herself in prison for life.  It is an extraordinary account of Stacey’s will to live a positive-even triumphant life, and ultimately, the healing power of forgiveness.

After spending as many years in prison as she had out of it, on January 10th, 2009, outgoing Missouri Governor, Matt Blunt, commuted Stacey’s life sentence.  Six days later she walked out of the prison gates a free woman.  Redemption is the story of how Stacey became a free woman while still inside those gates.

Hmmm…maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew!  We’ll see how well I do next week!  Have a great week!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.


The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz *Review*

Slavomir Rawicz is wrongly accused of being a Polish spy and is, after weeks of torture, finally sentenced to 25 years in a Soviet Gulag.  Squeezed tight with hundreds of other prisoners in a box car he traverses the remote country of Siberia.  Along their journey they face starvation, receiving only a small ration of bread a day, and frigid cold without warm clothes or boots.  But that journey was easy compared to the journey Slav will face next.

Recruiting six other prisoners, Slav begins to form a plan.  Hiding bread rations for later and snagging a skun fur every now and then from the drying line they begin to plot their escape.

Waiting for a blizzard to cover the tracks they will make in the snow, Slav and the others wait…until one day when the snow falls heavy from the sky.  Once outside, the journey begins.  To flee to the west is a much shorter journey, but one that has a higher possibility of recapture- and to be caught would most certainly mean death.  The decision to run to the south is the longest journey through harsh conditions, but the safest bet.

So begins their journey of almost 5,oo0 miles on foot, through Siberia and China, the Gobi desert and over the Himalayas.  The conditions are brutal.  From freezing conditions with no fire to the sweltering desert sun with no shade, going days with no food to having to gorge themselves on snakes because they didn’t have a way to transport food with them.  Sometimes they were able to drink from fresh clean water.  Other times facing dehydration, they tumbled a stone around in their mouth just to work up saliva.

The Long Walk is an incredible story-but is it just that?  A story?  Like other non-fiction/memoirs lately there has been controversy surrounding this book.  Did Slavomir and his cohorts really walk through the Gobi for days without water or climb the Himalayas during the winter months?  I don’t know- nor after reading this book do I care.  The Long Walk is an exciting, danger-filled adventure.

I was drawn in by the determination of each character and their will to keep trudging on even when they would fall to their knees with fatigue.  Part way through their journey they welcome another fugitive to their group.  Seventeen-year-old Kristen was a prison runaway that had no other options but to fall in with these six, dirty, bedraggled men.  Treating her like a sister and daughter they took care of her.  But Kristen was strong.  She never considered her journey a free ride.  She walked thirty miles a day like the men and did her share to gather food and fuel for the fire.  Her spirit was indomitable and I was awed by her resolve.

The Long Walk was an incredible book about the will to survive and the power to push on.  Whether it was true or not, I loved it!  5/5 stars

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last week was a great reading week!  I love it when everything clicks right and I can stick to my reading goals.  Last week I read A Soldiers Wife by Margaret Leroy (LOVED it!) and You Are My Only by Beth Kephart (still wavering on this one) and started Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (barely into it, but my goal was to start it and I did).

Along with my reading goals, I also was busy with life.  Last week I went to a castle to plan a haunted dungeon for a Halloween event for Cub Scouts, spent an evening babysitting my future granddaughter, worked 2 jobs, taught a class on Halloween’s Christian roots, facilitated a Revelations Bible Study evening, had a Halloween party for my son’s Boy Scout Patrol, and helped move my Papa’s things and furniture out of his apartment since he is now living in a nursing home.

This week I have more fun events planned, but my reading will have to take a back burner.  I plan on finishing Night Circus and then getting right to work on November’s book club book Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.

Her palace shimmered with onyx and gold but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first and poisoned the second; incest and assassination were family specialties. She had children by Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of the most prominent Romans of the day. With Antony she would attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled both their ends. Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Her supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order.


And that, fellow book lovers, is my week.  Let’s hear about yours!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield *Review*

I’m going to apologize straight away for this review.  I know right now, the words I put on this page will in no way do justice to this incredible debut novel by Jenny Wingfield, so I’m not even going to try.   All I can hope is in some way, something I write will spur a little interest in a book that deserves your attention and it would be a darn right shame if you didn’t read it.

Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core: John’s untimely death and, soon after, the loss of Samuel’s parish, which set the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.

In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father.

Samuel is a preacher who is currently without a parish to preach too.  He spends some time praying and asking God where he should go next and  what work the Lord wants him to do.  And while this is not a book about religion, it is a book about deep abiding faith.

Samuel and Willadee’s three children, Noble, Swan and Bienville are typical preteen children in the 1950’s, spending their afternoons exploring the countryside, playing War Spies and Cowboys and Indians and- as my father would say- “gettin’ into Michigan.”  And even though these wonderfully precocious children are the heart of this story, this is not a children’s book.

John and Calla, Willadee’s parents don’t sleep together anymore, don’t hardly talk, and John opens up a business on the other side of the house from Calla’s more out of spite than anything else.  But this book is not about mixed up dysfunctional families, it’s a story of familial bonds, loyalty and a love so close you long to be a part of it.

I loved every page of this novel.  The language…the corniness of the Southern names…the rich character portrayal all sucked me in from the very beginning.  I loved how tenderly Ms. Wingfield sewed each character into the fabric of my heart and I almost wept to have to let go of them.  At times enchanting and delightful at other times heartbreakingly tragic, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is one of the best books I’ve read in years!  If my book club ever forgives me for the non-fiction read I recommended this month (sorry guys, I thought it was historical fiction!) you can be sure I will be begging every one of them to give me another chance and read this book!                              5/5 stars

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

I read the most fantastic book last week!  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield is one I’ll be gushing about for months!  My review is coming up later this week so make sure you stop back.

Last week I accomplished the following:

My Nook and I At… a visit to Munsinger Clemens Gardens

Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepherd a review

and a review of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

As for this week I have a few I have set my mind on getting accomplished. 

The first one I am going to tackle is from my own reading pile, The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy.

 A novel full of grand passion and intensity, The Soldier’s Wife asks “What would you do for your family?” “What should you do for a stranger?” and “What would you do for love?”

As World War II draws closer and closer to Guernsey, Vivienne de la Mare knows that there will be sacrifices to be made. Not just for herself, but for her two young daughters and for her mother-in-law, for whom she cares while her husband is away fighting. What she does not expect is that she will fall in love with one of the enigmatic German soldiers who take up residence in the house next door to her home. As their relationship intensifies, so do the pressures on Vivienne. Food and resources grow scant, and the restrictions placed upon the residents of the island grow with each passing week. Though Vivienne knows the perils of her love affair with Gunther, she believes that she can keep their relationship and her family safe. But when she becomes aware of the full brutality of the Occupation, she must decide if she is willing to risk her personal happiness for the life of a stranger.

Next I’m going to settle in with a warm fuzzy blanket and read You Are My Only by Beth Kephart.

Emmy Rane was married at nineteen and a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with an abusive husband, Baby was her only joy. Until one day in September, when Emmy walked the sixty-three steps from the backyard to the upstairs closet, and returned to find Baby missing. All that was left behind was a yellow sock, which Emmy clings to as she’s institutionalized for what she calls grief and others call mental instability.

In another town, fourteen years later, Sophie is a teenage girl living a reclusive life with her overbearing mother. They move from place to place with almost no notice, always outrunning the No Good. One afternoon, Sophie ventures outside and meets Joey and his two aunts. Their unconventional family opens up Sophie’s eyes, giving her the courage to look into her past. And what she discovers changes her world forever. . .

And then…if I get all those accomplished I have one more I want to start even though it wasn’t initially on my list.  One day I came home and opened my mailbox and found a package that was obviously a book.  Even though it was a Monday kind of Friday I knew at that point it was going to get better.  Since when has a book in your mailbox not brightened your day?  My dear friend Sheila decided to brighten my day by sending me a book she knew I had been waiting for…The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  And while I’m sure this book needs no introduction I have included the synopsis just because.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Yes!  I have an exciting reading week up ahead of me!  How does yours look?

*It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila of Book Journey*

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin *Review*

Gretchen was happy, wasn’t she?  She felt she was, but how exactly do you define happiness?  Gretchen was curious so she set out to find the answer.  Taking a year and dividing it by month the author comes up with a list of dos and don’ts that she intends to follow to find out if she can be happier.

She starts out in January by trying to become more energetic.  Obviously, if she has more energy the rest of the months would be easier, right?  The first step she takes is going to bed earlier.  It’s amazing how a little bit of extra sleep can help you feel more energized!  From there Gretchen tries other things- cleaning her closet, trying to put some fun in chores, starting a Children’s Literature Group, writing a novel in 30 days, not nagging her husband, starting a blog, all in an effort to be a happier person.  Does it work?  Yes!

But could she be happier yet?  We’ll never know until Ms. Rubin starts the Happiness Project 2.

I enjoyed reading this stunt journalism book by Gretchen Rubin.  I picked up a few little tips and tricks that I think I would like to incorporate into my own life to see if I, too, can become even happier as a result.  The first several “months” of the book were really fun, it dragged a little in the middle, but redeemed itself at the end again when it went back to topics that I had more interest in.

For anyone interested in becoming happier without having to spend months on a couch in therapy sessions try this book and the related blog The Happiness Project3/5 stars

Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepherd *Review*

Sylvie Bates McCallister grew up in the shadow of her wealthy grandfather, former owner of the home she now lives in and the developer of the elite school, Swithin, that both her and her two sons, Charles and Scott attended.

Charles and Scott could not be more different.  Charles-natural born. Scott-adopted.  Charles- cautious.  Scott- devil-may-care.  Charles- mama’s boy.  Scott- always spending time with his father.  Charles- white.  Scott- black.

Which one of these factors most influences the rift between these brothers?  And is it the same factor for them both?

The story starts soon after the death of the Charles & Scott’s father.  Life begins then to change, first for widow Sylvie, then for Charles and Scott as they come to grips with the death of their father and the changes it brings to their lives.

Sylvie knows her husband is not the person she thought he was.  After his death she’s determined to unlock some of his secrets, yet she’s afraid to make the first step.

Scott is accused of a crime that could taint the family name and the reputation of the school their great-grandfather started.

Charles’ fidelity is in question when he’s sent by his magazine editor to interview a former flame, a woman he once loved very much.

The family dynamics within this book are deeply intertwined.  Is there anyone in this book truly who we think they are?  Or are perceptions skewed amid the events of the book?  At times confusing with too many subplots, it did redeem itself in the end with a story of new beginnings and the lightness and relief that comes from starting over.  3/5 stars