Category Archives: Book Stuff

First Book Of The Year – The Tradition Continues


Fifth year.  I LOVE First book so much.  This tradition for me goes further back than the 5 years I have opened up to the reading world here on Book Journey.  I am THRILLED to be doing it again and thank you to those who have messaged me to ask.

The answer is…

Of course we are doing it.

Here is what First Book is.  The first book of the New Year should be:

A.  A coveted book that you have wanted to read but have just not found the time.

B.  A delicious favorite… one you have read before, but crave to read again.

C.  Really whatever you want it to – it is after all YOUR First Book Of the year.

Make it AWESOME.

Then, once you have picked what it will be, email me a picture of you with the book.  This adds to the excitement of the First Book.  On January 1st I will post all the pics in a collage format of all of you around the world that are doing First Book.  Here is some (yes some…  so many participate it is incredible!)  of what came in last year:

Fill out this form – its easy and gives you all the info you need.  I hope you will join in.  Even now I look at these pics from last year and think, ooh…  I need to read that.  🙂  Cant wait to pick mine….cant wait to see what you choose!

Books, Burgers,and Brews: The Circle by Dave Eggers


I am a gazillion posts behind and I have so much to share!  Books Burgers and Brews has been going strong since October…  this was the idea of having a Book Club in a public venue and Friends of the Brainerd Public Library hosting this free event.  The vision was to bring non readers to books… while that is not exactly what has happened (it has been more people who can not find a book club, writers, other book club people…) it is still connecting people to books and really – isn’t that all I ever want?

The Circle made for a great discussion book.  The futuristic synopsis around a company (The Circle) that puts social media at the forefront…  where secrets are considered lies and transparency in all things has value.


Our group that night was the largest yet.  We had 37 people at Prairie Bay and a good variety of ages… people that had grown up with social media of some sort being a part of their life, those who came by it later in life and those that have heard of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc… but not really engaged or understood the draw.

What fascinates me about such a book is that I tend to lose how I truly feel about the book (I believe, I liked it).  Having lead book club discussions for so many years, I tend to focus on how the book will be for discussing and that is what excited me here.  Over all, those in this room did not love the book… but they loved the discussion it brought out.

What is the dangers of social media?
What is too much information? 
When are secrets a good thing?
If we are all 100% transparent, what is lost?  When do we just become desensitized to everything?
Is what is described in the book what is happening in our world today?
If so, is there a way to stop it?  Does the majority of the population want to?



As always, Prairie Bay created a wonderful Literary Menu for us….  The Eye In The Pie and The Three Wise Men Melt both sounded so good… I ordered them both…  I was right they were delicious.


And… as has become tradition… the drink special is one that Laurel and I always have to try.  This time there was two… the white wine that is mentioned in the book that Mae drinks… and a local beer that uses social media for promotions.

Once again… well played Prairie Bay.

Stay tuned.. later today I will post my review of the book The Circle.



The Grief Books… A Shelf of Tears and Love



They serve many purposes.  They take us on adventures.  They teach us.  They make us laugh and cry and think and dream…

In April of 2015 after Justin’s accident, friends sent me what you are seeing above and what has come to be known as “The Grief Shelf.”  Books were sent to me in the mail, and handed to me in person.  Each book came with a story of its own…. it may have helped the giver personally when they were going through something.. .as I look at each book even today I can recall the wonderful message that came with it, or the person who sat by me in those early hard days and shared their own story as they handed it to me…

And while each book I know came from the heart….

honestly to this day I have not read any of them.

And here is why….

One set of books is a series of the stages of grief and what a person will go through… and what is to be expected, and what the next stage is…..
To this day I have not opened these books.  For me… someone who has lived out large GRIEF moments throughout many stages of my life – I did not want books to tell me how I should be feeling or what was the next step to that feeling…

I opened the others… I could not do it… I did not want to read someones take on grief…. I had my own… I didn’t want to read how to get from A to B to C…. because my journey was my own…  and I knew I could not do it on anyone’s time line…

I still can’t

I know everyone who sent a book meant well and I love each one of these people for that.  Maybe I will never be able to open some of these books… but I know the thought and love that was behind each one – and that in itself is enough to make my once again be so thankful for the amazing people in my life.  I can not even put into words what you love has meant to me and led me to where I am today.

A couple of days ago I was drawn back to the shelf where a particular book had caught my interest and I had  read a little… but now.. NOW I feel like maybe I could read more.


Her parents called her Lenya Lion because of her ferocious personality and hair that had been wild and mane-like since birth. But they never expected that, five days before Christmas, their five-year-old daughter would suddenly go to heaven after an asthma attack. How do you walk out of an emergency room without your daughter?
In Through the Eyes of a Lion, Pastor Levi Lusko shares the eye-opening truth of the power of hope in a world that is often filled with pain, suffering, and loss. He says, “This book isn’t a manual for grieving, but a manifesto for high-octane living, and through it I want you to see that God made you for a purpose. There is a wild and wonderful calling on your life, a microphone in your hands. Jesus wants you to look at the adventure of your life through His eyes, the eyes of a Lion.”
This book.  THIS story of continuing to (try) live life to the fullest…. be an example… this is where I find myself.  I think I can relate.

Now, almost two years later (I can not believe it has been almost two years….)  I pick up this book… off the Grief Shelf….

and I began to read…

I am completely different… I see things so differently now and I can believe I have done this for almost 2 years.  I laugh…a real laugh….when I thought I never would again….  I do and go and be… when I thought for sure I would not.

Doing, going, being, laughing does not come free.  Each step I take is strategic and meaningful and I do it with him in mind.  I look at the pictures of me laughing and being with friends and I know that unless you are close to me – you do not see what everything I do and write costs me….  I am still torn and destroyed… I still cry daily and hurt even when I am throwing myself into the next big thing.  However there is a seed of hope within me…  I hope my actions through this crazy newness help others to see you can manage to go on.  It is not easy – I admire anyone who can get up and do it as I know for myself more often than not each step of the way still brings with it tears and pain and whispers…

“Lets do this kid.. this one is for you….”

I am still here.  I don’t plan on going anywhere and I hope you do not either.  I am reading… I need to get writing.  SO much to share….

When Land Mines Turn Into Speed Bumps


It is Christmas morning.  I am sitting here in a very quiet house and I am reflecting on the past year… the past two years…  and how different things are now.

Christmas 2014 was our last Christmas as a full family.  Christmas Eve Justin would be in town and hanging out with me all day while we prepped or today.  No doubt he was wrapping gifts (he could wrap anything!) and seeing friends while he was in town.  In the evening we would have watched Harry Potter movies (I know we did!) and eat junk food, staying up way too late as always.

Christmas day would have brought me making an egg bake and orange cinnamon rolls, the house would smell delicious.  Brad would come over around 10 am and we would eat and then open gifts together.  Hang out for the afternoon playing board games, laughing, and just being together.  I can so clearly see that last Christmas together.




Which brings me to today.

I have a little tree set up on the kitchen table.  This is a step  Last year I did not put up a tree at all.  I wrapped a few gifts last night… also new.  I did not wrap gifts last year.

A few days ago I came across a message I had wrote on Facebook a year ago.  I spoke on how difficult it was to be out in the community because you just never knew what was going to happen.  I referred to it then as land mines…. what people said, what they did, or even the sad look they gave me created an eruption of overpowering emotion in me….  land mines.  And I avoided that situation at all cost.  In fact throughout last winter, I became so worried about the land mines I did my best to never go out into public situations where I might step into one.

I mean why put myself through that?

What caught me most about this year ago message….  was it made me think about those same situations now.  Yes, they still happen.  I still run into people who have not seen me in a while and there is still the question I usually can now answer “how are you?”, and yes still the sad looks especially this time of year, and yes the long hugs which are amazing and break me all at the same time.


and this is where I was surprised…

the world landmine no longer applies.

These situations that a year ago flooded my mind with the need to escape to get away from all these people that know my loss, know my struggle….  now are more of a speed bump then an all out land mine exploding my world again and again.

Please understand me.  I actually LOVE that people still acknowledge my son and acknowledge the incredible loss that it is.  Because – it is.  And I do not want him forgotten or the reality ignored.  Yes… it hurt every day.  However, YES -acknowledge him.  Share your memories of him…  yes tell me that his eyes were like mine because mine are like my moms and that means SO MUCH.  And yes, be real around me.  Honestly – it does still suck.  It hurts like crazy and I just do what I can to be strong and live out even this as well as I can.

Often (like the Ugly Sweater party) I put myself in situations that I know are going to rip me up….  it is hard to be around all of Justin’s friends or be at events that I know he would be as well.  Yet – I have to be a part of that.  To be close to them and their hurt, is a powerful speed bump worth every hard minute of it.  I have no choice…. I have to go.  I have to be with them whenever I can.  They carry keys to my son.  I want to try all the keys and learn all I can.

One young girl at the party came up to me at the end of the night.  She said, “You don’t know me, but you used to work with my mom.  I read what you write on Facebook and I have to tell you that I love you.”.

This.  This.  This.

Tears flow while I type this, but I had to share  – the POWER of this.  The power of knowing what I say, being 100% real and raw, can speak to others.  Wow.

Soon…. Brad and I will go to a movie.  Later, I get to watch him open gifts.  We will eat together as a family….  which is sooooooooo bitter sweet.   Yet I know and I know and I know…. Justin is smiling on us.  He knows how incredibly hard it is for me to do it – but I do.  For all of us.

My message to you (you knew I had one!) is make the absolute most out of today.  See your Christmas through new eyes.  Whoever you are lucky enough (yes lucky enough) to be with today.  Make it magic.  Love unconditionally.  Let old hurts fade away.  YOU get to decide what you do with today and how it all plays out.  You never know what next year will be like so do not take for granted what you have today.

Merry Christmas my friends. 


The Fall Book Sale – CHOOSE my Next Read and YOU get the book


I know – I know…. MIA  AGAIN.  What is with me?  First up – thank you to everyone who has sent my messages letting me know I am missed and valued.  As if I wasn’t already missing posting here like I used to…. that was the icing on the proverbial cupcake.


I hope now that the craziness of summer and even the kick off to fall has slowed to a simmer that I can be more active here.  SO much book stuff to share… so many good things happening.

First up… the fall book sale.  Crazy with a side of crazy I think covers that.  We had more books than we have ever had before.  SO many in fact that 3 weeks before the sale we had to quit accepting the books at the library which hurt to say out loud… but true.  We were so bottle necked with the donations that we could not sort the books.  A few of us from the Friends board started moving books weeks ago to the sale sight to release the pressure.  Basically, I feel as though I have been working this sale for WEEKS.


Set up started this past Monday and a group of us spent 7+hours on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, setting up.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday was the sale and I was there open to close – Sunday we cleaned up.  Day one… I was there at 6 am… 4 people brought me coffee.  LOVE that.


I am a fume today…. merely a mist of my self 😉

BUT – what you really want to know… is what did I bring home.  I know how you roll.  In true book sale fashion – I will once again post my treasures here – YOU CHOOSE what I will read in the next month and if your comment is the one that wins the random drawing I will read that book first, review and then send you the book.  Go nuts my friends…. go nuts.

Here they are – note the few exceptions to the giveaway under each picture.


All books in above pic available except the 2 Patrick Rothfuss on the bottom.



All books in above pic available except the CS Lewis (top) and the Writers Market (bottom)



All books available in this pic


There you have it.  In a comment below tell me which book you would like me to read and then send to you.  🙂  I am hopeful that I am back.  🙂

Morning Meanderings…. Inspiration.


Did you know?

Did you know that I have been writing on this little space of internet since 2009?

Is that not crazy?

There have been times when I wonder if Book Journey is something I want to continue as I never dreamed when I started that 7 years later I would still be doing this.  But let me tell you a few of the reasons I keep going.

  1.  Of course is the great connections to all of you.  I love knowing you and sharing my love of books and Libraries and all things literary – and as you have come to see around here, other topics as well.
  2. My friends who read this silently but once in a while will speak up about something I wrote, or a book they are reading because I gushed here.

because of this space here, there is a Bench at the Brainerd Public Library with my son’s name on it.  Every time I think about the love poured out by YOU to make that happen….  seriously… how could I ever stop?

And this week….

I was coming home Wednesday evening from the City Library Board meeting and I listened to a message from a friend.  she said she had been on my Facebook page and was sucked into whatever I was babbling about there.  And then she said she made her way here and was caught up in what I wrote.  She said her whole evening was spent reading what I have been saying, and that made my heart smile.  I tend to forget there are people/friends out there reading that never say a word on the blog, but they are out there.

And then yesterday I was at the grocery store and a friend of my mom’s was there.  I do not know her well, but she knows my family and much of the heartaches of my life.  She said, “I get so excited when you write a Morning Meandering!  I love to read what you write and I love how you open your heart being real and raw and honest.  I had no idea she read me.

So today… I think of these to conversations this week.  As well as others through the years.  I especially think of the messages that come privately that say thank you for speaking your heart… you say what I wish I could.... or your openness about your loss has helped me deal with my own.

Honestly… knowing that – I will write for as long as I am able.


A visit to my aunt… a little gardening.. a LOT of audio.. and hopefully a little time to read as well.




Catching Up And Inviting YOU For Coffee


LOL.  I do really like this picture of me.  It has just the right dopey relaxed look that I seem to have trouble finding these days.

I also felt this picture was good introduction to today’s post.  LONG over due post by the way… does that even happen?  I plan for the post, I picture what the post will include – and then suddenly the day is gone and I have not posted squat.

Not like you would want to see squat.  But you get the picture.

Last week Beth Fish Reads, Florinda, and I were chatting it up on Twitter.  We had completed the Monday share your morning coffee thing and I LOVED it and thought we should do it every Monday.  They liked the idea and somehow that lead into what if it was an open invite and any bloggers could join in – like having coffee together around the world?

PicMonkey Collage.jpg

Morning Breakfast With the Bloggers start up crew – myself, Candace (Beth Fish Reads, Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) and Florinda (The 3 R’s)


That is what I am presenting today.  Anyone who wants to have coffee “together” to start off our week send me a picture of you and your morning coffee, breakfast, energy drink, whatever (but it needs to be a morning theme) to by 9 am central time on Monday(s) and I will add you to the Breakfast with the Bloggers post .  Join me… or I will drink me coffee alone and that is just sad.

In other news….. yeah I have had a week and all that activity in the world zaps me these days.  I have pretty much stayed home wince Wednesday and I love it.  I do need to get back on those BEA books though…. so much to share 😉

The Total Package by Stephanie Evanovich

stephanie evanovich, book journey, the total package

Tyson Palmer has the world by the tail.   He has a winning arm, a promising football career, and is on track for that Super Bowl ring.  And then, with an addiction to alcohol and pain killers and a night that throws his marriage and career  away…

Tyson is at rock bottom.

Then, the owner of the Austin Mavericks makes Tyson an offer he can not refuse, he will be sent to a private rehab, get cleaned up of all his addictions, then go to a personal trainer to get him back on his game and make the come back of a lifetime as a Maverick player bringing them to the Super Bowl.  Tyson has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

When Tyson Palmer emerges back on his game, he is in the best shape of his life both mentally and physically.  He is determined to make the best of what he has been given.  Yet a blast from the past has the potential of derailing everything.  Dani Carr is a top reporter and working her way into playing with the big boys.  She also knows Tyson a little too well from a night of passion back in College where he left her without so much as a word before daybreak the next morning.  Now forced to work together, Tyson has to admit Dani looks better than ever, and Dani has to keep her guard up and keep her eye on her journalistic goals.



I do enjoy a good Stephanie Evanovich read so I jumped at the chance to read this one.  When I read the synopsis I was at first thinking it all sounded a little predictable, of course I thought, Tyson and Dani will wind up together and this book is just about the how.  I was thrilled to discover there was more meat to this read than I had initially anticipated.

The Total Package, really was just that, the total package.  Tyson is an interesting protagonist and I enjoyed the detailed process of his come back. I even may have learned a little about football. Dani was a bit back and forth and confused me when one thing was said and then it changed but honestly, Tyson was written so well that I can overlook that – and in the end…

well.  You are just going to have to read it.  Let me just say….. Winner Winner – chicken and brown rice dinner!

UPDATE:  A little update to my post as I see comments are thinking that this author is the author of the Stephanie Plum books…. one for the money, etc….  Stephanie Evanovich is being mistaken for Janet Evanovich (the more well known of the Evanovich’s).  Janet is actually  Stephanie’s Aunt — as Janet is married to Stephanie’s father’s brother.

Hope that helps 🙂  While I have read both authors, I have not read Janet Evanovich’s books for years and Stephanie has a different writing style which I found that I personally prefer.


  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (March 15, 2016)


Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Author Links: Website and Facebook
I enjoyed going through rehab with Tyson thanks to TLC Book Tours!
TLC Host



The Opposite Of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

3a - Copy

Paula Voss was born in Alabama to a free-spirited woman, Kai, who had a love for Hindu Mythology to point of extreme.  Paula’s birth name, Kali Jai had deep meaning in Hindu legend, but this was a name that Paula gave up when she put her mother in jail.  A move that put Paula in foster care.

Now, years later, with a messy trail of life wrongs behind her, Paula is a divorce Lawyer to be reckoned with.  What she lacks in size, she makes up for in ingenuity and on again off again help from an easy on the eyes man called Birdwine.  Paula has not seen or heard from her mother in 15 years and in many ways, Paula thinks that is for the best.

Until one day a letter comes…

“I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.”

Shortly after the letter, another surprise shows up at Paula’s door.  Perhaps, Kai’s largest secret of all and all that Paula thought she knew, thought was true, starts to crumble away.

Paula’s past of dealing with wrecked families has helped her become who she is today, but now – with new information, she steps back to where it all began to figure out what brought her to here and not that she was here, what to do about it.


Note:  While I was sent the book for review, due to time restraints I finished this book on audio.  This review reflects both book and audio

Joshilyn Jackson pulls another one out the park.  Wow.  I have enjoyed her southern fiction with a twist in the past, but Joshilyn pulls out a little something extra here.  The mix of Hindu mythology was a unique way to go and one that at first puzzled me and then I got into.

The story line of Paula’s past is deeply real feeling, a look into the foster care system and what it takes for someone to hold their own, especially when you do not look like everyone else.

I did listen to part of this book on audio which is narrated by Joshilyn Jackson impressively.  Who better to capture the quirky characters of such a  read than the author herself?  My only teeny bump in the road with her narration was the voive of Paula’s brother who was 23.  The voice came off much younger to me, sounding more like a curious 15-16 year old.  Having boys in their 20’s, this didn’t come off as sounding right to me.  The narration in all other instances of its southern glory is spot on.  Kudos multi-talented Joshilyn Jackson!

I enjoyed this book so much.  Joshilyn has a way of bringing a story to life that leaves you in the end, wanting more.



  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (February 16, 2016)
  • Listening Length: 11 hours and 34 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: HarperAudio
  • Release Date: February 16, 2016

Thank you to TLC for allowing me to spend a little time with Paula (and Birdwine!) in Alabama.





The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens


Joe Talbert is a College student with an assignment.  He must interview a stranger and write a biography of that person’s life.  Having procrastinated on getting started mainly due to his college work load, a mother with a lack of parenting skills, and an older brother at home 2 1/2 hours from Joe’s college who is autistic, Joe decides to go to a local nursing home to see if he can talk to someone who has led an interesting life.  What Joe discovers is more than he could have planned.

Carl Iverson has been given only a few months to live as he is losing the battle of prostate cancer.  He is a Vietnam Vet with the Purple Heart award.  He is also a convicted murdered.  He has been medically paroled to the nursing home to spend his last days under constant care that the prison can not provide.

As Joe digs into Carl’s story, he struggles with the hero Carl was in the war and the cold-blooded killer of a 14-year-old girl that he is convicted for.  Carl eludes to his innocence, but with no real passion after all his life is practically over and what is done is done. Joe feels there is something missing in Carl’s conviction, vital evidence that was overlooked that could possibly clear Carl’s name before he dies.  Yet the clock is running against Joe as he juggles his school work load, his job, and his mother’s inability to take proper care of his brother.  Thank goodness for the female College student who has the apartment next to Joe’s and her interest in helping to uncover the truth.

But at what cost?



Funny background story to this book.  It was first put on my radar last fall after Wine and Words when my co-chair suggested this author for Wine and Words 2016.  Neither of us had read the book or heard much about it so that thought was back-burnered.   In the last few months I looked for the book in my personal library, swore I had a copy but could not find it so again…. I moved on.  Then last month a girl in our book club brought the title up for nomination out of the blue.  The book won the vote and I was thrilled to finally have my hand forced to move forward on reading the book.  I bought the book…

and there it sat.

Last week a friend of mine in another local book club text me and asked if I had a copy of The Life We Buried because that is what their book club was reading for February.  I called her and told her I had to know how they picked that title.  She said the lady hosting in February had found it and thought it sounded good.  I laughed and told her that our book club was also reading this same title.

A couple of days ago I was feeling tired and went early to my room with this book.  I planned to read only a few chapters to get a feel for it.  Once I opened the book the story line clicked for me.  The reading was easy to get into and I found myself liking it right from the very start.  I read for hours, slept, opened the book again the next morning and finished it.

In a word.


Allen Eskens had a way of capturing Joe’s voice in this book. The addition of what his family/home life was like was brilliant.  It was an excellent way to see how Joe struggled trying to move forward with his own life and at the same time carrying around the guilt of what his brother had to deal with back in his home town 2 1/2 hours away.

There are not many books in the last year that I can say I fell in love with right from the start, but this one earned that statement.  I highly encourage you give this title a try.  My Co-Chair of Wine and Words is listening to it on audio now.  My book club will review it this coming Tuesday evening and on Wednesday I will pass the book to my friend in the other book club so she may read it as well.

Now that…

is a fun story.



  • Paperback: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Seventh Street Books; First Paperback Edition edition (October 14, 2014)