I am a fan of The Andy Griffith Show and all things Mayberry, so I couldn't pass up Daniel de Visé's Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American T.V. Show when I stumbled upon it on Amazon. I was a bit leery at first, worried that this would read more like a tell-all than a balanced look at two professionals' careers and personal lives. I am here to say that there's no fear to be had. This is a well written, properly researched book written with the utmost respect for its subjects.
Andy & Don was written by Daniel de Visé, who was Don Knotts' brother-in-law, having married Don's third wife, Francey's sister. This is a man who knew Don Knotts personally and therefore worked hard to ensure that this book was done with the utmost respect. According to the Acknowledgments section, Visé spent a great deal of time and energy researching his subjects, as well as speaking to well over 50 of Andy & Don's family, friends, and those that they worked closely with. While the book covers Knotts' 81 and Andy's 86 years of life, it is a fast-paced and an enjoyable read.
Visé discussed both Don and Andy's backgrounds, strengths, and friendships, as well as their flaws, mistakes, and darker sides with grace and dignity, showing his audience that both men were as human as the rest of us. He called attention to conflicting stories and theories, such as the origins of "The Pickle Story" and who persuaded Don to take his Nervous Man to Steve Allen, and presented each theory clearly, not taking one side or the other.
The center point, and indeed the highlight, of this book is the deep, enduring friendship between Don Knotts and Andy Griffith. The author mapped this decades long friendship beautifully. Along the way, Visé shares behind-the-scenes stories and information from those involved with The Andy Griffith Show, along with the men's other projects. It was interesting to read how certain gags and bits from the show, such as the "memorizing of the lawman's code" or the "sitting on the porch" bits, were developed. The master comedic minds of Don Knotts and Andy Griffith shines bright.
I wasn't familiar with Don's overall body of work or the fact that he really was the more successful of the two. I always just naturally thought Andy was, due to his lead role on The Andy Griffith Show, as well as his higher profile (to me) overall. I walked away from this book with a new found respect for Don and his comedic talents, and for that, I thank Visé.
Overall, this is an excellently done book. Well written, thoroughly researched, respectful, and enjoyable.
I give it an 8/10.
I stumbled upon Amy Meyerson's The Bookshop of Yesterdays while browsing the new releases on Amazon. Starting in 2018, I wanted to make a point of adding new releases to my reading list, which up to that point was severely lacking new books. I've been extremely lucky in new book picks, I have yet to be disappointed, in fact, I'm usually delightfully surprised to have found a new favorite read. ;)
Released in May of this year, The Bookshop of Yesterdays is part mystery, part family drama, and all around a bookish soul's delight. An excellent debut from Meyerson, the book follows Miranda Brooks (I LOVE that her last name rhymes with "books") as she works through her troubled family history to reveal a long held secret. Growing up, Miranda loved her Uncle Billy and the adventures he'd take her on. Uncle Billy loved a good riddle and would often send Miranda on a scavenger hunt using books along the way. One night, there was a fight between Miranda's mother and Uncle Billy, causing Billy to break contact until his death.
Fast forward several years, Miranda is a history teacher living with her boyfriend when one fine day she receives a package. The arrival of the package and the news that Uncle Billy has passed away sends Miranda on one last scavenger hunt in order to solve the riddle and uncover a family secret that could change everything. Miranda makes new friends and works to save her Uncle's beloved bookshop along the way, with the book coming to a satisfying ending.
I was hooked into this story immediately and could not put it down. The characters were well-developed, unique, and interesting. The plot was absolutely fascinating, one that kept you turning the page. Meyerson does an excellent job hooking the reader and drawing them into solving the riddle. Around chapter 7, I had a hunch as to what one of the secrets the book was building towards revealing was going to be, and was pleasantly surprised to find out I was correct in my deduction. Though I will say, I had no idea how it would all fall into place. This is one of the best books I've read this year so far. I'd highly recommend it. There's a little something for everyone in it.
I give it an 8/10.
I have been slowly making my way through Anne LaBastille's excellent Woodswoman series, having read the first book in January 2018 and the second book in January 2019. The first two books in the series, Woodswoman and Woodswoman II: Beyond Black Bear Lake are available on Amazon, and I'd highly recommend them. Unfortunately, the third and fourth books in the series, Woodswoman III and Woodswoman IIII, are currently out of print and therefore hard to come by. Thankfully I was able to acquire both, though for a rather hefty price, but when it comes to books, I'm definitely willing to make the spurge (usually).
This series gets better with each book, in my opinion, because you learn more and go deeper and deeper into Anne's life and career. With each book, it seems that Anne gets more confident in being more open and vulnerable. Woodswoman III covers Anne's third decade living in the Adirondacks. Among the subjects discussed in this book are her beloved dogs, peddling her books, her farm, changing life at her cabin n the lake, and growing environmental concerns.
As with the first two books, my favorite chapters are the ones where Anne talks about her dogs, though sadly, because each book covers roughly a decade, they all contain a sad chapter covering the death of a dog. This one features the decline and death of Condor. The way Anne writes about the decline and death of her beloved dogs is absolutely heart-wrenchingly beautiful. She brings me to tears every single time. Though I cried my eyes out through these chapters, my heart is always quickly soothed by the following chapters that detail the arrival of a new puppy, in this book's case it is Xandor who joins LaBastille's pack. I admire LaBastille all the more for these chapters, her love and devotion for her dogs is palpable, admirable, and moving.
I also enjoyed the chapters in which LaBastille writes about finding, buying, and settling into her farm, Kestrel Crest Farm. At the current stage of life Anne was in while the writing of this book, she found the hard Adirondack winters increasingly difficult to live out in her cabin on the lake, especially while trying to conduct business. A million things could go wrong or keep her from meeting deadlines and fulfilling her business engagements. Therefore, she made a compromise: She'd live part time at the farm, and part time at the cabin. This allowed her a bit more freedom, and made life a bit easier, all the while providing more storage space, an important commodity for the business woman. The farm was still in the Adirondacks, but easier to get to, and provided different opportunities to observe the workings of nature and wildlife.
I thoroughly enjoy LaBastille's writing. Her willingness to share her vulnerability, particularly her fears concerning the arson of her barns on her Kestrel Crest Farm property and the break-in at her cabin. She built a life on an image of a strong, independent, brave woodswoman, yet she shows no qualms in sharing her fears, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. She shares how her fear from the arson incident left her cold and scared, and ultimately led her to resign as a commissioner in the Adirondack Park Agency. Her continued willingness to be real and honest is admirable.
Overall, this series is a superb bit of writing. It's among the best collection of memoirs that I have had the pleasure of reading. I'd highly recommend it.
I give it a 9/10.
I first heard about Becoming Mrs. Lewis through Anne Bogel's email newsletter. I had never read anything by Patti Callahan, but the title and premise interested me. I kept my eye on the book, which was released earlier this month, and ended up finding it on NetGalley and put in a request for an ARC. Thankfully I was granted one in return for my honest opinion. ;)
I was immediately drawn in from the beginning and couldn't put this book down. I read it in two sittings, putting it down only to sleep. Callahan's writing is superb. She writes as if she's sitting there with you, telling you a story. Though this is a fictional work, this novel captures both characters, Joy and Jack (C.S Lewis), perfectly. This novel is very realistic. The dialogue between the characters seems extremely believable and of course, an intellectual's dream come true.
As you read through Becoming Mrs. Lewis, you'll find yourself truly enjoying being able to be "present" for these excellent conversations and collaborations. C.S Lewis is such an interesting figure in Christianity's history and general history, but also fairly mysterious, especially when it came to his only wife, whom he married late in life. This novel aims to shine some light on some of the mystery and to help readers understand and get to know Joy Davidman.
This novel was written with the utmost respect for Joy and C.S Lewis, among the other people featured in the book. Each chapter opens with a poem, sonnet, or line that Joy Davidman wrote, mainly featuring sonnets Joy wrote to Jack aka C.S. Lewis. Callahan's descriptions of England made me want to visit and see the places for myself. I wanted to crawl into this book and live within its pages, never to leave. It is an excellent bit of fiction, one of the best books I've read this year. A must read for sure.
I give it a 9/10.
I had heard about a new book coming out that would act as a prequal to the beloved Anne of Green Gables series from Anne Bogel's email newsletter. It seemed that everyone was buzzing about this fabulous new book. So of course, I did what any self-respecting book nerd who runs a blog would do: I contacted the publisher to see about getting my hands on an advanced copy. Needless to say, I was extremely grateful to receive an advanced copy of Sarah McCoy's Marilla of Green Gables from HarperCollins Publishers and have been madly in love with it ever since.
I've lived with this book for over a month now and I still can't seem to let it go, place it on my "favorites" shelf, and move on to the next. I want to relive it over and over again, much like L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series, to which I go back to often. Let me assure all the die-hard Anne fans out there, Sarah McCoy's latest novel is 100% good enough to share a shelf with the Anne books. It is the perfect companion to the series.
McCoy weaves the tale of Marilla and Green Gables superbly. All the little burning questions that L.M. Montgomery left us about Marilla's past (particularly why she and John Blythe never married), and the backstory of Green Gables are answered within the pages of Marilla of Green Gables. The readers get a deeper look into not only Marilla's inner-workings, but also Matthew's, Rachel's, and the others. I found it so interesting to see a little bit of their adult personalities taking form throughout their youth, but also to see them more innocent, before the world had its way with them. You certainly gain a better understanding of why Marilla is the way she is in the Anne books.
This is clearly achieved through McCoy's superb writing abilities, extensive research, and her own admiration and love for the classic series. The reader can clearly tell that this novel was written with the greatest respect to the author who originally created the characters and the world they lived in. It reads as though McCoy worked alongside Montgomery, stepping into her world and her vision. It could easily be placed in the boxset with the original series, as though it was meant to be there all along.
Like the Anne books, you'll find yourself living beside these characters. You will laugh with them and cry with them, you will feel what they feel. I felt deeply for Marilla, especially towards the end (I'll give no spoilers). I felt for Matthew. Poor quiet, gentle Matthew. Though I was grateful to have him explained more thoroughly and to come out with a deeper understanding of the man. The reader can now see the depth of the similarities between Anne and Marilla, both in their personalities and their own histories, and how they intertwine.
Marilla of Green Gables serves to make the Anne books even sweeter, as it gives new meaning to Anne and Gilbert's relationship through that of Marilla and John's (Gil's father). History did not repeat itself, thankfully!
With beloved Aunts, tragedies and heartbreaks, fun and laughter, history unfolding with the coming of the US Civil War, Rebellion in Canada, the Underground Railroad, and more, this is a book you do not want to miss and won't want to put down. I highly recommend it. Guaranteed a place on 2018's Best Books list.
We've found another kindred spirit in Sarah McCoy and her Marilla.
I give it a 10/10.
Marilla of Green Gables releases Oct. 23rd. You can Pre-order the book on Amazon or anywhere else that books are sold.
As an aspiring photographer, I latched onto Ansel Adams’ work early in my photography journey. He has become my greatest inspiration/role-model for photography. I am forever in awe of his artistic ability and his work. Among my favorites of his photographs are his stunning photographs of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, in California. He had a true talent for making photographs, the kind of talent that seems rare these days. All this said, I was surprised to find out that he had written an autobiography, and more surprised that I hadn’t heard about it up until a month ago!
I actually spent July reading both versions of Adams’ autobiography, the paperback and the hardcover “coffee table” version. The only difference between the two is the fact that the hardcover features a great deal more photographs and is of far better quality. The paperback is a great option for those who want a book that can be easily held in your hands and one that you can carry with you with ease, while the hardcover is a must have for diehard fans who want the information housed in a book of excellent quality and to peruse the accompanying photographs while reading through the chapters. The hardcover is one you’ll want to leave out on a table or stand for guests to look through. The reader can choose which one fits their needs/wants best.
This book is extremely well written and has stayed true to Ansel Adams’ personal style and voice. You are immediately struck by the sheer intelligence Adams’ possesses. He is a well-rounded, cultured, learned individual. I found his life story absolutely fascinating and inspiring. He holds nothing back and gets very candid in his autobiography. He makes no effort to sugar coat things and you get the feeling that he has painstakingly made sure to speak the truth of his life. The chapters are arranged, not chronologically, but are organized under categories that are named for important periods, places, and people in his life.
I thoroughly enjoyed learning about his background history and his childhood/education, which spans the first four chapters. Adams had a fascinating and unconventional education, one that will leave you with envy. He devotes several chapters to particular people who have had a great influence on him, such as Stieglitz & O’Keefe (chapter 10), Edward Weston (chapter 16), and The Newhalls (chapter 14), along with places such as Yosemite (chapter 5), The Sierra (chapter 11), and Carmel (chapter 21).
This is a book that you will not be able to put down. I just couldn’t read enough! Far from dry and boring, this autobiography reads like a superbly interesting, animated conversation. I was thoroughly impressed with Adams’ honesty, wit, humor, and intelligence. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to Adams’ fans, photography fans in general, and those readers looking for a great autobiography to read. You will definitely not be disappointed. I find myself already wanting to read it again, and predict that this will be a multiple read for me.
I give this book a 9/10.
Meet Me at the Museum is Anne Youngson’s debut novel, released in early August of this year, and it is absolutely a must read. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style and structure of the book. It is the perfect weekend book, as it is a short, easy read.
The book is under 300 pages, and revolves around letter correspondence between two people. Literally, the whole book is made up of strictly letters between a man and a woman. I believe this is why it is so spellbinding. You are immediately caught up in the conversation between Anders Larsen, professor and curator of the Silkeborg Museum, and Tina Hopgood, a farmer’s wife and mother. They live vastly different lives in different places, with different experiences, but they find that they have quite a bit in common and that their differences complement each other’s.
Meet Me at the Museum is a beautiful tribute to love and friendship, ordinary life and being brave enough to make/accept changes. I found this novel fascinatingly interesting as the characters helped each other work out their thoughts, life crises, and quandaries. To have a friend whom you can be so open and vulnerable with is a true treasure. I found it interesting being able to see the slow evolution from strangers to friendship to something deeper, in the way they addressed each other and signed their letters, and also in the details that they shared with each other. You could watch the friendship take root and grow. It was beautiful.
I highly recommend this book, it’s a quick, easy read, but one that will surprise you in its depth and longevity. It will stay with you long after you close it. Meet Me at the Museum is officially on my list of favorite 2018 reads. Well done.
I give it a 8/10.
Karen Witemeyer has released a brand new novel, More Than Meets The Eye, which serves as the start of a new series called A Patchwork Family. The first thing about the book that caught my attention was the beautiful cover which features a young woman that matches the heroine’s description, right down to the different colored eyes (one blue and one brown). The colors also come into play with the lettering colors in the title, “More” is in blue and “Eye” is in brown. It really fits the book. The second thing that hit me was the Prologue. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but be warned, tears for days! It’s beautifully done and hooks the reader immediately.
More Than Meets The Eye is an excellent start to a brand new series and I am all for it. I haven’t met a Witemeyer series that I didn’t love. I find the concept behind this series fresh and unique. A patchwork family made up of three children (now adults) who were orphaned and banded together to make their own family in order to survive in the world isn’t a concept you come across often. This first installment in the series introduces Evangeline, Zach, and Seth “Hamilton”.
Evangeline has a very interesting and unique quality, her mismatched eyes, one blue and one brown. She grows up doing her best to hide them as most people either think she’s some sort of freak, a witch, or the devil’s spawn. She was orphaned at a young age and has had to fight hard for her place in the world, against nonstop rejection. Along the way she meets Seth and Zach, both orphans themselves. Both had traits that also made them unwanted, Seth was always a sickly child and Zach had a dark, cold demeanor. Through tragedy, they band together and decide to make their own family. They work together and look out for each other.
15 years later, the three have carved out a good life for themselves living on a farm in Pecan Gap, Texas. But not all is what it seems. Seeking justice against the man who stole his father’s land and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his family’s troubles. Only instead of finding a ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself, with an unusual family to boot. Logan soon finds out that Hamilton’s family is a bit odd, but enchanting at the same time…. Particularly his sister, Evangeline.
I have always admired Karen’s writing style. She has a true talent for spinning stories with earthy characters, an intriguing plot, and superb dialogue. I love the way she handles the dialogue in her books. She adds a great deal of wit and funny sarcasm to her stories. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed out loud at the exchange between certain characters. I particularly enjoyed the exchanges between Logan and Zach, and Logan and Evangeline in this book. You can’t help but feel that you are right there with the characters, hearing their voices and seeing their facial expressions. Part of this is just a superb talent for writing dialogue, and the other part is her beautiful crafting of the characters themselves. Evangeline has become one of my favorite heroines, and of course what’s not to like about Logan? Karen gives her characters very human flaws and quirks, which is yet another thing I enjoy about Karen’s writing.
I also love the fact that Karen weaves great Christian values and Biblical lessons into her books. The message of justice vs. vengeance and the importance of forgiveness were strong throughout More Than Meets The Eye. That’s not to say it’s overtly strong to the point where non-Christians wouldn’t enjoy the book. Karen handles the whole thing with care and respect.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book. Wonderful story, lovable and relatable characters, and a plot that won’t let you put it down until you’ve reached the end. Karen Witemeyer has another hit on her hands…. But then again, she hasn’t had a miss yet. ;)
PS: I sincerely hope we haven't seen the last of Zach Hamilton! Here's hoping the next installment at least features him if it isn't based around him.. ;)
I give it a 10/10.
Grab the book here!
John Wayne: Made in America was recently released by the Editors of the Official John Wayne Magazine, on May 8th . With a small introduction by John Wayne’s youngest son, Ethan Wayne, the book is a wonderful addition to any fan’s collection. John Wayne: Made in America features photos that span Duke’s life and career, along with pictures of scripts and other memorabilia from Duke’s personal collection. The book also takes the reader through a broad biography of Duke’s life and career.
Most avid fans will have already seen the majority of the photos featured in this book, especially if you’ve read or own both Michael Goldman’s John Wayne: The Genuine Article and John Wayne: The Legend and The Man released by John Wayne Enterprises, and probably won’t learn anything new from the biography information included. That’s not too say this isn’t something you shouldn’t add to your collection.
What John Wayne: Made in America brings to the table, as far as fresh material goes, is its incorporation of historical details. The book brings together Duke’s personal history and that of America’s to showcase the similarities of the two entities. The book is divided into decades for the most part, with each section dedicated to a time period spanning a decade. It then takes each section/ chapter and showcases where Duke was in his life at that time and where America was as far as progress, wars, economy, or another big event.
I found this approach fascinating and illuminating. It’s a unique and fresh take on tackling a biography of John Wayne. The information and details were interesting and helpful, it allows the reader to come out with a better overall understanding of the time periods that shaped Duke’s life and career. I would recommend this to any John Wayne fan. It is definitely a great addition to any fan’s collection.
I give it an 8/10.
For my first review of the year, I’m actually reviewing a book I read in the last part of 2017. Due to the holiday schedule, I wasn’t able to sit down and do a proper review before now. Josephine Blake recently released her latest book A Brush with Death, in October. The gothic novel takes place in 1888 London, during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror. When I saw a few people talking about it as the release day got closer, I thought at first that it wasn’t really up my alley. I’m not usually into darker stuff, and have never ventured into the gothic genre. I don’t like scary period. BUT, I started reading the snippets of the novel that Josephine had shared on her Facebook page, and I was immediately drawn in and hooked.
A Brush with Death is unique, fresh, intriguing, exciting, and positively enchanting. The whole concept of meeting and interacting with Death as if it/he were human is actually pretty cool, at least in the way that Josephine writes it. I was immediately drawn in and hooked as soon as I started reading the book. I ended up staying up late in order to finish it in one sitting, and by the way, I did not see that twist at the end coming!
I just found out that A Brush with Death is the first book in what will be a series, which I’m super excited to hear and I can’t wait for the next installment to come out. I look forward to seeing what direction the next book takes and what it will be about. In the meantime, I highly recommend A Brush with Death, you will definitely not be disappointed.
If I had to describe this book in one word it would be: Intriguing.
Grab the book here: http://a.co/1xZEXgi
Liz Austin. Bibliophile. Writer. Book hoarder. I would rather be reading....