What Do YOU Say Is A Must Read In A Lifetime?

I love lists…. little check boxes to see where you land…  those ridiculous addicting quizzes on Facebook that tell you what House you are sorted in, that movie star you are most like, or the one that predicts what will happen in 2018 for you… 

silly really.. but still.. occasionally I do them. (insert blush here)

Yesterday I posted Amazon’s 100 Books To Read In A  Lifetime list.  A meme has been made and it going around so you (me, whoever) can check off the ones that we have read on this list.  I liked that – however it made me look at the books that were not on the list that I thought would be.. or should be.

Being me (yes.. still me, I checked this morning 😉 ) I wondered if we… the BIG READERS of our communities would have other suggestions.  What if you or I were asked to say what we thought was a book that we feel should be read in one’s lifetime.  How would our list differ?  Or how would it be the same? 

So… yeah.  Here we go.  I am asking…  because I am curious what we would come up with.  You do not have to be a book blogger to do this.  If you LOVE books, please share a title or two or three of what you would tell someone is “a must read in a lifetime”.  I will compile these responses for a few weeks and then release our top choices.  I know I value my friends and other book reviewers opinions when it comes to books.  I have read many an amazing title or been introduced to a new author that way. 

I for one – would LOVE a list like this.  SO…..let’s do it. 

Please take a couple of minutes to fill out the form below.

Books & Beans: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Books and Beans is a book discussion I host at a local coffee shop once a month.  This is our second month doing this and this mornings discussion (with a great cup of coffee) was with the book Left Neglected by Lisa Genova.

If you have not read Lisa Genova, you are certainly missing out.  Lisa is the author of Still Alice (which was also a movie), and Inside The O’Briens ; both of which I have read, as well as the author of Love Anthony and the soon to be released, Every Note Played.  she is one of those authors that once you have read one of her books, you will more than likely be searching for another.

Today’s discussion was good.  We had a great group of women who were highly engaged in discussing the novel.  Left Neglected, the story of Sarah Nickerson, a highly driven business woman who while trying to squeeze in one more phone call while driving looks away from the road a second too long and her overfilled life suddenly comes to a halt.  When Sarah awakens in the hospital she finds that she has had a traumatic brain injury, one that has left her without the use of the left side of her brain referred to as left neglect.  Sarah finds that her once carefully scheduled to the minute world is now one she must release to the control of others while she struggles to rehabilitate herself in a whole new world.

We touched on some pretty important topics through our discussion.  One of these topics was status and what drives people to the point of feeling they need that acceptance form the outside world to feel complete, useful.  One of the ladies in the room said something that stuck with me.  She said,

Status, relies on other people.

I had never really thought of it like that before.  The discussion continued on that this need of acceptance/approval can stem back to childhood. 

Another one that stuck with me was about the loss of a child. 

Losing a child changes how you view the world.


This is also something that hit me.  It’s true… 100%, I just never quite put it into these words.  But yes.. absolutely yes, the world becomes a different place.

We had a wonderful 2 hour discussion on this book and probably could have went longer.  Left Neglected brings much to the table to talk about.  If you have not read Left Neglected, I highly recommend it.


Morning Meanderings… Thirteen Reasons Why will be the discussion of the week

OMG you all… check it out.

Three days in a row…. crazy stuff.  😉

Its been raining off and on in Central Minnesota for days now it seems…  I woke up to a very wet deck and lawn… but the air feels like it is going to get HOT today…
Tomorrow evening is the June Books, Burgers and Brews discussion for June.  We are discussing Thirteen Reasons Why, the book over the Netflix series of course. Although I have been watching the Netflix series (started episode 11 last night) as well as I am sure I will have some in attendance who have read the book and watched the series, and probably some who have just watched the series.  While this will be a different discussion, I think it will be an important one.

I reviewed Thirteen Reasons Why in February of 2010.  I thought the book was very well done and hard to put down…so much in fact that six days later I interviewed author Jay Asher about the book.  Who knew seven years later this title would be known to many due to the Netflix series and apparently much negativity towards the series as they are saying it is glamorizing suicide.  I talked with a friend of mine who is a School Principal lately and he said this is true, letter have gone home to parents regarding this… one girl has gone even as far as to make the tapes….

My point in discussing this book tomorrow evening is most importantly, I am telling people do not judge the book by the series.  While I am finishing the book today to refresh myself on it as it has been seven years, I never once though it glamorized suicide.  Here I go again… preaching book over movie/TV.

Tomorrow also kicks off the Annual Children’s Book Sale for the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library.  We sell all the Children’s books for 25 cents each and there are some BEAUTIFUL books.  It is not about making money on this sale.  It is about putting good books in little ones hands.  I will be helping with the set up of the sale and may be there for the first hour but then will need to head over and set up for Books, Burgers, and Brews….

Yeah – tomorrow will be bookish… but in good ways.  🙂

Have you read Thirteen Reasons Why?  If so what did you think?  If you have watched the series what are your thoughts on that?

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….

Morning Meanderings… Me, Myself, and Scarlett O’ Hara


I mentioned a little while back that my book club is reading Gone With The Wind for our classic read month in October.  This is a book that has been on my “hit list” FOR-E-VAH.

Yup.. that long.

I have never seen the movie, holding out for the book version first and then perhaps I will dabble with the movie.  I have friends *cough cough Gail cough* that SWEAR that this is THE book.. so we shall see.

No matter what – I always find classics fun to discuss.  I thought perhaps I would do a weekly check in here with how Scarlett and I are fairing, and now at 111 pages in… I thought I would share.


to bring you up to speed, Scarlett and I are now currently on our way to the barbecue at Ashley Wilkey’s home.  Scarlett is quite full of herself, positive that once she confesses her love for Ashley he will drop his announcement of his engagement to his cousin (yes cousin… there is slim pickins in this neck of the woods).  Scarlett has squished herself into a dress that she is glad her mother is not in attendance to see and she has just caught the eye of one Rhett Butler at the gathering (ahhh… so this is how they meet… the ol’ “pick up a chick at the cousins marrying cousins engagement party barbecue”  … very sly Mister Butler… very sly.

So that is where I am at.  I know I am early on in the story.  I like Scarlett’s story line, (she’s a little like an old school YA read), found the early on LONG description of Scarlett’s father and his lack of height and his love for the drink a bit drawn out and skim worthy.

Hopefully today I will find out what actually happens at the party.  I had nothing to wear as fancy as Scarlett… I am all about the jean capris and a kicky peach colored short sleeved shirt…. probably not worthy of catching the eye of someone like Rhett, unless he wants someone to possibly refill his drink or walk his horse.

Gone With The Wind, Book Journey, Bookies, Classic Month

In RL… this week has been fairly quiet and I am thankful for that.  I have helped out a bit at the library, had a fascinating get together yesterday with an amazing woman in town who is a force to recon with when it comes to literacy in our community and promoting the written word, and a long overdue lunch date with some good friends.  Ok, other than that it has been just me at home, working on the lawn, listening to audio…. trying to find a new normal and at the same time, stubbornly not wanting to.

Descent by Tim Johnston – Bookies Book Club Review w/ Discussion Questions

Descent by Tim Johnston review questions, discussion, Bookies, Book Club, Book Journey

Quick Synopsis…

While the Courtland family is on vacation in Colorado with their two teenage children, their daughter Cailtin is abducted while out for a morning run.  What follows is a three-year nightmare while the already struggling family tries to move on.  With no answers to what happened to Caitlin or even if she is dead or alive, each remaining member of the Courtland family battles this crushing weight in different ways.

Grant, the father remains in Colorado unable to leave the are his daughter disappeared from.  He stays at a ranch helping out an elderly man, making attempts to move forward but nothing happens.

Angela, the mother, has returned to their home state of Wisconsin but deals with great depression.  She lives with her sister after having had to sell their family home and has a hard time functioning from day-to-day.

Sean, the brother, now 18, the age his sister was when she was taken struggles with the guilt of having been with Caitlin when she was taken.  What could he have done differently?

And Caitlin.  Will they ever find her?  And if they do, what exactly will they find?


I reviewed Descent by Tim Johnston last week with my opinion.  This review is the thoughts of our book club as a whole and no spoilers 🙂

Descent brought out a lot of good discussion among our group.  While some of us really found the storyline realistic and engaging, others pointed out things that did not seem to fit.  There were questions of characters who suddenly did something completely out of their character which we all agreed did not fit, but some would argue that some things do not need to be revealed to the reader. Perhaps the author was giving the reader the feeling of “no control” and that not knowing what would happen could very well, as some argued, give the book a feel more real to life.  After all… life is messy and try as we may to figure out how things are going to go… we never do really know.

It was mentioned that the book synopsis that we read from the book when we chose it was not an accurate synopsis, of what actually happens in the book.  Some felt mislead to be told one thing and then read another.

Over all, on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best, the ratings went from 2,s to 4,s and quite a few rating it in the 3’s (a standard read).  It was one of those books that bring out a lot of thoughts, opinions, and discussion.  We even reenacted a final scene (I can’t share… that would be a spoiler) when we questioned how one would do that.  One girl in our group even had a similar story to share of something that happened to a friend of her sons while hiking.  There is actually a book written about that true story, Bringing Jon Home by David Francis.  A book that I ordered on Kindle this morning.


Why Would This Make A Good Book Club Read

Descent is a book that could have been ripped from the headlines.  This leads to discussion like, “what would you do?” as well as discussion on how a strong family can be shattered by such an experience and a damaged family (such as the Courtland’s) have a good chance of falling completely apart.

If you look at reviews of this book on-line from some of the big name newspapers, New York Times, The Herald, etc… you will find diverse opinions, much like you can expect from a group read.  The writing style can be thought of as brilliant, or annoying.  (And in our group it was just that)

In the book, Sean is believed to be false when he is telling the truth.  Discussion can be made over when that has happened in your lives, when you are telling the truth about something and you are either misunderstood, or believed to be false and the frustration of when your character is questioned like that.

Themes of hope, faith, depression, denial, and survival instinct are all represented within this read.

Bookies, Book Club, discussion questions, Tim JOhnston, Descent

Food ideas… while not a lot of food is mentioned within the book, there is pizza at a birthday celebration, and Caitlin keeps snickers in her pockets when she runs for energy boosts.

Questions For Your Discussion


What Is Your Reading Style?


Earlier this week I read a post at I’m Lost In Books and enjoyed a post about being a multi book reader.  I could relate to her reading style, as I am also a multi book reader.  I enjoyed the picture she had on her post too:

Booklikes, Book JOurney, What Kind Of Reader Are You

How cool is that?

Looking at this list I am pretty much everything listed on the left side.


Polygamist Reader:  I do usually have at least two books going at the same time and 2 to 3 audio books.  I pick up the book I am in the mood for, and often if one takes off, the other will be put aside until I finish the one.  Audio is for convenience and I have one in the car, one in the house and one on my phone.  I usually listen to a little of each of these every day.


Extrovert Reader:  I do like trying new genres, beautiful books call to me.


Altruist Reader:  Oh yeah.  If I like it, you know it.  I gush about it here, I tell my friends, groups I am involved in, and our library.  I have several friends who call me for book recommendations and I am happy to oblige.


So how about you?  Do one or more of these styles refer to the way you like to read?  Do you see any pro’s or con’s to your style?


Book Crack: What Draws You To The Books You Choose


Recently a friend of mine asked me for good book suggestions for her to recommend to her book club.  I rattled off a few I had really enjoyed recently including Silent Sister and The Midwife’s Confession, both by Diane Chamberlain.  Later, my friend sent me a message saying they were going with Silent Sister, but she was curious about the author writing both of the books about suicide and if that was her niche.  I hadn’t really thought about that when I suggested the books and as I replied I thought about my current books I had going.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand is a book about a teenager committing suicide.  All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (listening to currently in my car), is about two teens who develop a friendship over their suicide attempt.  I did not pick up on this theme until my friend pointed it out to me and I did not want to tell her what had just dawned on me, “apparently I am drawn to books about suicide.”


As I processed that thought, curious as to why these books may catch my attention I think I have some ideas:

1.  A suicide – or untimely death of any reason, can make for good (I know the word “good” sounds terrible here) book footage.  There are many ways you go with this… a false suicide (person actually still lives as it is a coverup), a murder disguised as suicide and then who did it, a true suicide where those left behind have much to sort out.

2.  Puzzle solving.  I like puzzles and things I have to figure out.  A death synopsis opens that up for me.

3.  Emotions.  I do not search for book after book that will rip me up, however a book that can bring out any kind of strong emotion – fear, sorrow, love, hate… is usually a well written book.

4.  Creepy curious desire of the unknown.  In a suicidal book there is much to interpret.  You are opening yourself up to a loss for all those involved.


Of course, my book reading does not consist of death alone (thank goodness!).  I am also drawn to well developed dystopian reads, books centered around women’s friendships, food memoirs, and I hate to admit it… books about school shootings.  Of course, we read all the time out of our “book crack” genres, and enjoy many other topics as well – but there are those certain topics that draw us back again and again to our dealer.  I mean… book dealer.  I mean book seller.

Book Journey, Harry Potter, Darth Vadar
Don’t be judgey…. the heart wants what the heart wants.


So I am curious.  What is it that draws us to the books that we read a little about or hear a little about and suddenly we MUST HAVE THAT BOOK!  It has happened to us all so don’t deny it. 🙂  When a book appeals to us to the point that we order it right away, what happened?  I am willing to bet it is not because we had nothing else to read.


What topics in books are like book crack to you?  Which books can you not resist?

The Undiluted Truth About Review Requests – Accepting and Not and All the Decisions In between


Book reviewers, bloggers… this one is for you us.  This is something that has amazed me for years.  All the wonderful review requests we receive by email (is it not a book lovers dream?).  Yet – what emails sent for a potential review request really make it past the 10 to 30 seconds you give to them?  I honestly feel bad but more than not – many hit the delete pile, and it may not even be because the book is not one I would read… in most cases it is that the pitch did not catch my attention in the amount of time I have for it.  (Yes that is a huge run on sentence but who has time for periods?  😉  )

Sound cruel?

I hope not.  I used to email back each person or company that sent me a review request to let them know if I was unable to accept at this time. Most times I would also let them know why… if it wasn’t a book I think I would enjoy, or if time limitations just did not allow me to agree to another book.  I liked doing that…  but now I just do not have the time to respond to each email.


Here is the honest truth and I have to believe I am not the only one.  Time is precious.  I have my personal email where I receive job requests for my writing as well as personal communications.  I have a second email that is for Friends of the Library, and a third email for bookish stuff (where I direct all book related emails to go to).  Being a busy active person with a life, I try to give each of these emails a look each day, but I do not have time to spend hours reading and responding to emails.

Who does?

So…. the point of this post was to share what does sell me on looking further into a review request… and what does not.  Let’s start with the “does not” first…


What Does Not Work In a Review Request

  • The introduction.  Dear sir or madam may pass if the rest of the email is good – but honestly – it is not 1902.  If you are trying to catch my attention use my name, or just say hi or hello reviewer.


  • If you are going to use my name, make sure it is my name.  I am not delusional… I do not think that I am the only person that you sent this email to and you covet my review thoughts and only my review thoughts. 🙂 However it starts the email off on a bad foot if you call me Jerry or Julie.  Or really… any name that is not my own.


  • LONG over informative emails with no pictures.  Chances are if I do not already work with your publishing company or with you, I am not going to invest time in a too wordy email about a book. Keep it short and sweet.  Engage me in why I want to read this book.


  • No book cover.  This is not always a big deal, but again, if you are a new to me publishing house, or author promoting your book… I like to see the cover.  Honestly – I always like to see the cover. That is just me. Even with the companies I do work with I will look up the book if a cover is not in the email… that’s just me.  I dont know why but I like to connect the cover to the story line.  Covers for me are a plus.


  • Pitching a book to me that if you read my blog or even glanced at my review policy you would know the book wasn’t for me.  Please do not tell me in one sentence that you enjoy my blog and in the next sentence pitch to me a romantic erotic western (*for the record – three types of books I clearly state I do not read… romances, westerns, or erotica).  LOL. Ok that example is extreme… but it has come close to happening.  🙂


  • Not being clear on what you are offering (ie. book copy, Netgalley, …)  I have at times said yes to a review and then received a PDF to read it on my computer.  I dont read books on my computer.



What Does Work In a Review Request

  • Call me Sheila.  Or even say “Hey bloggers” or “Hey book reviewers” or even “Dear Reviewer”.  I am not picky, just start your email out right with a greeting.  I dont mind being grouped in an email that I know has went out to many. We are all friend here. 🙂


  • Tell me in a short synopsis about the book or books you are pitching.  If you are excited about a particular book, or know it is is being considered for a movie, or even that you expect big things out of the book.. tell me.  That’s interesting stuff.


  • Show me the book cover!  I love seeing covers.  If I read a synopsis of a book I am interested in – I still want to see the cover.
Dear Sheila, How are you? We are super excited to offer you a review copy of a book that we feel is going to make a big splash not only in book format, but also as a movie! Please consider reading and reviewing The Hobbit, ….


  • If you are pitching several books, I dont even need the cover if there is a link where I can look at the book and see more about it.


  • Clear instructions of what you are offering (ie.  a book for review, Netgalley, PDF) is awesome as well as how to respond to you.



That’s about it.  I love receiving review requests and I wish I had the time to read and consider them all but as those of us who write review know – we cant say yes to them all which makes the email pitch all the more important.

I am curious, do the things I mention here in review requests cause you to consider or not consider a book?  Do you have a criteria that you like to see in a review pitch?  If so, please put in the comments your thoughts on book pitches.

Girl Fight! Why Amy (Gone Girl), Kick A** over Rachel (Girl On The Train)


**  Warning this post will contain potential spoilers to both Gone Girl and Girl On The Train


Recently I finished the book, Girl On The Train.  If you have been on the blogesphere lately you may have noticed this book.  It is… EVERYWHERE.  An EVERYWHERE book does not necessarily constitute a need for me to read it – however, my interest was piqued.  Having seen it was being compared to Gone Girl increased that interest.

Now, having read both books, I have thoughts on why Amy from Gone Girl makes for an excellent protagonist and why Rachel from Girl On The Train does not.  (Yes I know I am poking the bear)


Amy Dunne is brilliant.  Scary brilliant.  She can be the “everything woman”.  When she meets Nick she is exactly who he wants her to be.  She is sweet, beautiful, vulnerable.  She makes Nick feel like a man and he falls in love with her.  BUT (and it is a big but.. we are talking baby got back but!) we all know that Amy is flawed… more dangerously than Rachel because Amy can cover her flaws well.  It is not until later in the book that we discover how flawed Amy really is…. twisted and damaged to the core she still ends up on top even in the end.  Those who know her true colors are few and too afraid of her to do anything about it.



Rachel comes with a lot of baggage.  Most prominent is her trouble with alcohol.  Her inability to stop drinking puts her immediately at a disadvantage.  She is a burden on those around her.  She can not hold down a job.  As a witness, because of her drinking she is unreliable.  Those who try to like her find her to be too much work and they quickly move on.  Rachel has dug herself into a deep hole.  In the end, she pulls herself together and is working towards being a person who will probably trump Amy in genuine niceness and togetherness.. but for me, it was too little too late.


Unreliable narration is the hook to both of these books.  Can we trust what the narrator is telling us?  Narration to narration I still give Gone Girl the win as when the book turned and twisted to what was really going on I was BLOWN AWAY.  When Girl On The Train twisted I was surprised, but not over the top.  I think by that time I had spent so much time struggling with Rachel that I was not engaged enough to appreciate what was indeed, an excellent twist of events.


Disclaimer:  This post is all in fun.  Based on my thoughts, solely my opinion, on both books and their protagonists.  I actually enjoyed reading both books, just had a protagonist issue with Girl On The Train (my issue.). Let’s discuss!  Did you like one protagonist over the other?  Is it even about the protagonist or is more about the narration that makes the books?  Do you agree or disagree with what I have said here?  Is it even a fair fight?