This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

an incredibly engrossing read that touched my heart in so many ways. ~Sheila

Penn and Rosie have a houseful of boys. Four to be exact. When Rosie becomes pregnant for the 5th time, both Penn and she feel this time it will be a girl; but alas they find they have another perfectly wonderful boy.

Claude is a complete joy and the perfect addition to the happy family. When Claude chose to play dress-up over trucks, Penn and Rose were happy to oblige. When Clause wished for his hair to grow long, they let his hair grow. When Claude wanted to wear a party dress for his first day of school and carry a purse as a lunch box; while his parents hesitated, ultimately they want their child to be happy and comfortable in his choices, so a party dress it was.

And here is where it begins.

While Penn and Rosie could keep their child perfectly happy when he was in their home, the outside world was not so open.

When the school called to say the way Claude was dressing was a distraction to the other students.

When people whispered when the family went on outings.

When the kids begin to tease…

“For my child, for all our children, I want more options, more paths through the woods, wider ranges of normal, and unconditional love.”
― Laurie Frankel, This Is How It Always Is

This is a book you must experience.

Admittedly, this took me a while to write this review. I wrote… I deleted… I wrote again. I wanted to get it right. There is so much that is so good in this book.

Is it perfect? No. And it shouldn’t be. Rosie and Penn are amazing parents. Weaved within the pages, Penn, a stay-at-home novelist, tells a wonderful story to the children centered around a non-descriptive character called Grumwald. Rosie, a Doctor, balances a career and her family. As Claude encounters new obstacles, the parents make decisions that they hope will be for the better of all; upending their lives in ways that can and will spin out of control.

I really enjoyed reading this book and found it to be different than anything I have read before. It made me think. My only small complaint is the end wraps up a little too quickly and neatly – but again, that could be my perception and perhaps I am just bitter that it had to end at all.

A timely read. This would be a wonderful discussion book as there are so many things to discuss. I can’t wait for others to read this book because I really do want to talk about it.

*Author Laurie Frankel writes this as a fictional book, that also touches a little on her own experience of raising a transgender child. Be sure to check out her website (I recently downloaded another of her titles: One, Two, Three. )

So This Is January…

There is something about January.

Maybe it’s the end of the holidays, the slightly slower pace of life…

or maybe it’s just that it is a new year… new possibilities.

January seems to be the time when I turn more to my love of books and to this site where I can talk books with other book lovers. Book Journey after all was the beginning. This site was how I learned about the Book Expo in New York and attended many years and met many amazing reviewers that I am proud to call friends. This is where I connected to my local Library and became involved in the board; not only with the Friends Board but the City Board as well as State. This is where I started connecting to Authors and Publishers which led to Wine and Words (about to celebrate 10 years!)….
and all of this…
It is why my son’s bench (funded by fellow bloggers, friends, and Publishing houses) sits at the Brainerd Public Library to this day.

So this is the why. The why I love this site and while I go a little radio silent when my life gets busy… I always return.

The heart wants what the heart wants….

So… On to the books. The books, pictured above are the books that have come into my home this week.

The Barrens by Kurt Johnson and Ellie Johnson (sent from the Author) :

Two young women attending college decide to have a summer adventure canoeing the rapids-strewn Thelon River that runs 450 miles through the uninhabited Barren Lands of subarctic Canada. Holly made the trip once before with a group of skilled paddlers she trained with at camp, and she wants to share that experience with her friend and lover, Lee, believing it will draw them closer. But a week in, Holly, the risk-taker, falls while taking a selfie near the edge of a cliff. She is left injured and comatose, and soon dies. Their locator beacon for summoning rescue was smashed in Holly’s fall. It remains to Lee, the inexperienced paddler, to continue the grueling and dangerous trip alone, to save herself and return her lover’s body to civilization and Holly’s family.

The Why: The author sent me an email and I thought it sounded interesting.

House Of GUCCI by Sara Gay Forden (given to me by my friend Brenda Johnson):

On March 27, 1995, Maurizio Gucci, heir to the fabulous fashion dynasty, was slain by an unknown gunman as he approached his Milan office. In 1998, his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani Martinelli–nicknamed “The Black Widow” by the press–was sentenced to 29 years in prison, for arranging his murder. 

Did Patrizia murder her ex-husband because his spending was wildly out of control? Did she do it because her glamorous ex was preparing to marry his mistress, Paola Franchi? Or is there a possibility she didn’t do it at all?

The Gucci story is one of glitz, glamour, intrigue, the rise, near fall and subsequent resurgence of a fashion dynasty. Beautifully written, impeccably researched, and widely acclaimed, The House of Gucci will captivate readers with its page-turning account of high fashion, high finance, and heart-rending personal tragedy.

The Why: Brenda purchased for herself but could not get into it. I know a little about the story but nothing I really followed – we will see 🙂

The Fashion Orphans by Randy Susan Meyers and MJ Rose (sent by Randy Susan Meyers):

Estranged half-sisters Gabrielle Winslow and Lulu Quattro have only two things in common: mounds of debt and coils of unresolved enmity toward Bette Bradford, their controlling and imperious recently deceased mother.

Gabrielle, the firstborn, was raised in relative luxury on Manhattan’s rarefied Upper East Side. Now, at fifty-five, her life as a Broadway costume designer married to a heralded Broadway producer has exploded in divorce.

Lulu, who spent half her childhood under the tutelage of her working-class Brooklyn grandparents, is a grieving widow at forty-eight. With her two sons grown, her life feels reduced to her work at the Ditmas Park bakery owned by her late husband’s family.

The two sisters arrive for the reading of their mother’s will, expecting to divide a sizable inheritance, pay off their debts, and then again turn their backs on each other.

But to their shock, what they have been left is their mother’s secret walk-in closet jammed with high-end current and vintage designer clothes and accessories— most from Chanel.

Contemplating the scale of their mother’s self-indulgence, the sisters can’t help but wonder if Lauren Weisberger had it wrong: because it seems, in fact, that the devil wore Chanel. But as they being to explore their mother’s collection, meet and fall in love with her group of warm, wonderful friends, and magically find inspiring messages tucked away in her treasures — it seems as though their mother is advising Lulu and Gabrielle from the beyond — helping them rediscover themselves and restore their relationship with each other.

The Why: Sent to my by the author, sounds like a fun and interestign read.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens (purchased by me at the airport):

Laura’s business trip to the Channel Islands isn’t exactly off to a great start. After unceremoniously dumping everything in her bag in front of the most attractive man she’s ever seen in real life, she arrives at her hotel only to realize she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation? The irresistibly appealing contents of the case: a copy of her favorite book; piano music; and a rugged, heavy knit fisherman sweater only a Ryan Gosling lookalike could pull off. The owner of this suitcase is Laura’s dream man–she’s sure of it. Now, all she has to do is find him.

The mix-up seems written in the stars. After all, what are the odds that she’d find The One on the same remote island where her mom and dad had first fallen in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their epic romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents’ footsteps. And if beneath Ted’s gruffness lies a wit that makes their cab rides strangely entertaining, so much the better. But as Laura’s long-lost luggage soulmate proves difficult to find–and as she realizes that the love story she’s held on a pedestal all her life might not have been that perfect–she’ll have to rethink her whole outlook on love to discover what she really wants.

The why: It looked good fom the airport selections and they have travel bags on the cover lol

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse (purchased by me at the airport):

Half hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.

An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in.

The Why: Looks a little spooky and there was a refernce to The Shining

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (my purchase for our February Book Club Read):

Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.

The Why: Book Club selection – sounds good and I have been curious about this author.

There they are. It’s the weekend, I have a little house cleaning to do, the Peloton awaits, and I work later today until late afternoon. Hopefully a little reading time later.

Happy weekend!

The Fashion Orphans by Randy Susan Meyers and MJ Rose Virtual Launch Invite!

I love me some book mail! And I love love me some author mail so you can imagine my delight when a package came this week from the amazing Randy Susan Meyers with this gorgeous book. I have had the pleasure of hanging out with Randy twice now at the local Wine and Words event, and I met MJ Rose while at the Book Expo in New York. Having a book in my hand that is a combination of these two authors’ talents?


Two estranged sisters find that forgiveness never goes out of style when they inherit their mother’s vintage jackets, purses… and pearls of wisdom

You can see the full synopsis on Goodreads. The book release date is February 1st AND YOU ARE INVITED to a virtual book launch on February 3rd at 7:00 pm Eastern time.

I hope to see you there!


The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

A historical fiction read based on the midwest Blizzard of January 1888

Om January 12th, 1888, a winter storm came out of nowhere on a relatively mild day. Children in schoolhouses were not dressed or prepared for such a storm – nor were the young teachers, barely older than some of the students they taught.

Two sisters, Teachers of two different schools that were in the path of the storm make very different choices. One becomes a hero, and one will spend the rest of her life seeking absolution.

In the end, over 235 confirmed deaths, many of them children, were the result of this storm that covered states such as Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. 

They deserved to be treated like people, not rungs on the ladder to heaven.
~ The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

This book was our Bookies Book Club read for January. We thought it would be an interesting read due to the storm taking place in Minnesota and it being a January storm. I missed the group discussion of this read as I was in Florida so the review here is mine alone.

I found the book interesting and the fictional story that wove throughout the pages held my attention. It is a part of our history that is surreal and heartbreaking. While not the easiest of reads, I am glad I had the opportunity to read it.

Would this make a good book club read? Yes. Based on a true story there is much to talk about the storm as well as the liberties the author took to create the fictional thread.

An article about the storm

The Keepers of Metsan Valo by Wendy Webb

“Wendy Webb brings the mystical … the what ifs, every single time. You can always count on a bit of magic in one form or another and it’s one of the things I so love about her books.”

Anni Halla is once again returning to Mersan Valo, her family home set on Lake Superior where she holds many of her fondest memories. This time however, it is because her cherished Grandmother Takia, keeper of the most whimsical stories, has passed away, and Anni is angry at herself for not having returned sooner.

As the family slowly arrives for the final goodbye and the reading of the will, Anni is joined by her twin brother Theo, her mother Arden, Aunt Gloria as well as cousins and other family members – all with an assortment of reasons to be there – some more honorable than others.

As they settle in, strange occurrences start to happen – although that in itself is not unusual for those who have spent time ay Metsan Valo, especially for the twins. This time however, there is something off, almost sinister in the air, leaving Anni wondering how much of her Grandmothers stories were actually stories, and what is to happen now that the storyteller is gone.

Wendy Webb once again does not disappoint. I know I am always in for a read that will have me thinking long after that final page is turned. I love not only the stories, but the bonus of having the settings in areas that are familiar to me just adds to the mystical journey.

I enjoyed this tale centered around folklore. It made me think of my own Great Grandmother and the tales she used to tell as I sat raptured as a child with my head filled with the imagery of her words. The Keepers of Metsan Valo brings with it not only colorful, but likable characters (even the ones you kind of at times.. don’t like so much). A recommended read and one I very much enjoyed sinking into while on vacation.

Book Club Worthy? You bet! There is much to discuss surrounding folklore, tales handed down through the generations, your own strange encounters, as well as a lot of tasty food mentioned that would be fun to make as well.

Wendy Webb is the author of many delectable gothic suspense reads. She resides in my home state of Minnesota.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

I loved it… and then it changed… and then I loved it again. ~Sheila

Fifteen seconds. That’s all it takes to completely change everything about a person. Fifteen seconds that we’ll never get back.

Lily’s life was never one you would define as easy – in fact, it is probably anything but. And that is exactly how we find her in the opening of this book – on an apartment building rooftop contemplating the non-eulogy she has just completed that afternoon as Ryle Kincaid walks into her life.

Ryle is a neurosurgeon and looking for a little mental break on the roof that evening and Lily can not help but notice he is not hard on the eyes. While they have a friendly chat, Ryle is very clear that he does not believe in relationships beyond a night – and Lily is very clear that is not something she would ever be interested in. The two of them part ways with no intentions of ever running into one another again.

Until they do.

As a friendship starts with a possibility for more – Lily finds that for the first time in a long time she can imagine a future with an incredible guy. When an unexpected blast from the past turns up, Lily is left with more questions than answers and finds that everything she believed is about to be twisted in ways one could not imagine.

This is my first book of the year. First Book for me doesn’t work like it used to where I usually have that book read within a day or two of the new year. Nope. Between work and life commitments sitting down with a book is not as often as I would like… which is why here we are a week into the new year and I have just finished my first book.

You know those books that grab you right from the first page? This is such a book. I started reading it on a plane two days ago with every intention to read a bit and then sleep as the day had started at an ungodly early time…. yet the book grabbed me in such a way I could not put it down. I read the entire 3 hours on the plane, and then again that evening and finished by a pool in Florida yesterday afternoon.

I absolutely loved the flow of the book and loved where it was going.

and then it turned.

With that turn I didn’t see coming and didn’t want to happen, I suddenly was unsure of how I felt about the book. I wanted it to be a fluke and keep on the way it had started.

But it wasn’t. And it didn’t.

And then, I loved the book again – for a whole lot of other reasons. I loved its strength and its hard truth – and Lily for being… Lily.

I believe this is my first Colleen Hoover book. It will not be my last. I highly recommend this book for so many reasons. It will leave you wanting to talk about it. It will leave you with something more than when you started.


First Book Update and What’s Up 2022!

Happy 2022 ya all! I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend and are ready to roll into this new year with good thoughts, intentions, and of course – good reads.

I updated the First Book post this morning to add in the pics that came in yesterday. Check it out – the list is a good one and I picked up a few new reads for myself as well.

In my pic, I have my Bookish Secret Santa gift that I am so excited about! This is Author Wendy Webb’s latest book, The Keepers of Metsan Valo. I love Wendy. She is a Minnesota Author and I have hung out with her several times (a couple of those times at Wine and Words!). Wendy writes fantastic Gothic Suspense books and I believe I have read everything she has written.

This book, along with a few others I will be chatting with you about over the next few days, will be going with me to Florida later this week when I get a little sun time for 10 glorious days. I love that our vacation is so early this year – for one… 2021 was a HARD work year with many weeks working 70 to 80+- hours a week as an Event Coordinator and I can really use the reset. Secondly, starting a new year with time to actually read always inspires me to get back into the routine of blogging here and sharing all the things – which I miss doing, however, time does not always allow.
Perhaps… this is the year.

Is this time of year a good time for you to read? Is there a season where you tend to read more?

Check out Wendy Webb here!

~ Sheila

First Book 2022

This is the 9th year of First Book and it is one of the staples that keep this blog (me) going. Whenever life takes over and this space, unfortunately, goes quiet… every January I am renewed with this post and all the book lovers and great books that people are choosing for their first book of the year.

That said….

This is also the most unorganized duck-taped-together First Book Event I have ever hosted in the 9 years of doing so. I hardly promoted this year – one post here and one post on my Facebook Page. Goodreads no longer allow you to set up events and notify people so that great source was lost. Many of the personal contacts I make to friends, family, Authors, my book club…. didn’t happen this year due to work, commitments, and just honestly, overall exhausted from a really FULL event season. And yet here I am smiling today as I look at your pictures and see the books – or see you joining again because you love this event. While this is the smallest grouping of all the years, I am still thrilled that so many of you remembered even without my cheerleading and reminders.

So, I bring you a day late (Grandbaby in my life now- throws my timing off in so many good ways 🙂 ) The 2022 First Books. If you missed out you can still send to me through Facebook, text, or email me at – if I missed any of you I apologize, I searched through all my contact options to make sure I had everyone -however if I did miss you, just let me know and I will update.

Happiest of the New year to you. My word for 2022 is: JOY (I want to seek it, find it, remove things in my life that don’t provide it, and bring it and share it as often as I can).

(The Book list is below the pictures)

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
An Impossible Imposter by Deanna Raybourn
A Sinister Service by Alyssa Maxwell
The Shell Collector by Nancy Naigle
Collected Stories by Shirley Hazzard
State of Terror by Hillary Rodman Clinton and Louise Penny x3
The Night Shift by Alex Finlay
Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
The Collection Of Narnia by CS Lewis
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner
The Silent Sisters by Robert Dugoni
The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
The Case For A Creator by Lee Strobel
The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Crossroads by Jonathon Franzen x2
New Years Kiss by Lee Matthews
Janesville An American Story by Amy Goldstein
The Sentence by Louise Penny x2
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
The Witcher: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski, Danusia Stok
My Darling Husband by Kimberly Belle
Honor by Thrity Umrigar
The Attic On Queen Street by Karen White
The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams
The Art Of Living by Epictetus
The Things We Cannon Say by Kelly Rimmer
Waiting For Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
End Of Days by Brad Taylor

A History Of Violence by Edouard Louis
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Last Bookseller by Gary Goodman
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Prodigal Son by Greg Hurwitz
Christmas By The Book by Anne Marie Ryan
Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart
The House In The Cerulean Sea by T J Klune
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
Cul-De-Sac by Joy Fielding
Dreams of Falling by Karen White
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (20th Anniversary edition)
The Final Girl’s Support Group by Grady Hendrix
Charlotte’s Web by EB White
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Sum Of Us bu Heather McGhee
Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan
Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
The Childrens Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin
The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman

A nice variety this year with a couple duplicates with two of Louise Penny’s books and also Franzen’s, Crossroads. A few new to me titles that inspired me to add them to my TBR list and I hope the same for those of you. You will see I show up not once, but twice when I could not get out of my head that I really wanted to read the Sorcerer’s Stone again. I am experiencing a lot of nostalgia this time of year and the Harry Potter Reunion Special that aired last night did not help as I laugh-cried my way through it.
Here is to a great year of reading. I hope (hope hope!) that I will be more active here and take more time to pick up a book than I did this previous year.
Cheers to you – Kings and Queens and all Royalty of the written word.


The 9th Annual First Book Event

Oh yeah… It’s happening.
It has been quite a year of long workdays, lots of hours, and trying to find a balance between work, family,-friends, and a little time for just me. This space at Book Journey has been long neglected as I just did not have it in me to write a review.

But… We are not done here.
This is one of my favorite events of the year and was I going to miss it when people started asking if it was happening again this year?
No way. We are soooooooooooo doing this.

So what is First Book?  First Book is the first book you plan on reading in the New Year.  It can be a long-coveted read you have not had time for, a guilty pleasure read like a re-read of a favorite…  really it can be anything – it is, after all, YOUR First Book.

Make it AWESOME.

Then, once you have picked what it will be, email/ Facebook message/ text me a picture of you with the book (send it to  This adds to the excitement of the First Book.  You have between now and December 31st to send in your choice.  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.  I do hope you will join me – friends, family, fellow book lovers, a friend of a friend of a friend… you there in the corner looking at this crazy site for the first time – you as well.  I enjoy putting this together every year and seeing all the great books and pics come in really makes my heart smile.

Here are just a few of the over 100 books that came in last year:

And yeah… that’s just a few.
I do hope you will join in. It is fun to see friends and authors who participate as well as people from all over the world.

Be well.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Think Clue on steroids ~Sheila

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered.

It is the 1920’s and Aiden Bishop wakes up in a forest calling out in terror, the name of a person he does not know.

He is also in a body he does not know.

After a harrowing experience, he makes his way to a nearby home, only to find out that everyone there knows him as this someone else, and apparently he was a guest there at the previous nights party. As he attempts to puts things together he discovers that each time he sleeps, he awakens as a different guest – all the while trying to solve the murder that takes place – apparently EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I kind of feel like it is the year of the maps! This is the third book I have read recently that had a map in it! Love it!

Picture yourself as a pawn in the game CLUE. You are put in a cup and you are shaken about and dropped onto the board as a guest to solve the crime….

Yet, every so often, you are tossed back in the cup, shaken up and dropped back in the game as a different pawn, trying to device what you have already learned from your past-pawn experience, as well as put things together as this new pawn…
and then..

it happens again.
and again.

And again.

You get the picture. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is like that. With each new body Aiden encompasses, he learns a little more, being able to use this body so to speak, to find out things that perhaps in the previous body he could not. The trick is of course, that none of this is in any kind of order – so some things he is experiencing too early to understand, and some things might make sense much later.


It’s like that.

In some ways, this book is brilliant. I listened to this on audio (incredible narration!) and found myself in bewilderment of the authors mind to come up with all of this AND keep it all straight as you weave back and forth and sideways through the guest list. I do like me a good who-done-it.

However as time went on, my mind was so tangled in the details and repetitions that it started to feel LLLLOOOONNNGGGG. Just when I thought we were close, we were not…

Honestly, I am not entirely sure what I feel about this book. I am glad I had the opportunity to experience it. It sounds like NETFLIX will have this as a series and yes, I will certainly give it an attempt to see if all things click better visually. In the end, I feel I am left with more questions than answers.

I am actually uber curious to see what others thought of this book and look forward to our discussion on June 21st on ZOOM with the Books Burgers and Brews group.

All are welcome – if you would like to get in on this book discussion feel free to register here. There is a pretty good chance I will dress the part. ;P