Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Romance Novels


This week’s topic, Favorite Romance Novels, is a fun one. I don’t read very many formula romances, but I do read a lot of “romantic fiction” or chick lit. F.Y.I.–these are not listed in any ranked order.

Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer


I read this sweet romance in Peace Corps years ago, but it has stuck with me. Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer.

Portrait of a Marriage by Pearl S. Buck


If you think Pearl Buck wrote only of China you’re missing a lot of great books. Portrait of a Marriage is one of my favorite books ever. She is the only author have ever read who captures the true feeling of married love. The illustrations are so poignet, too. I loved them as much as I loved the book. Portrait of a Marriage by Pearl S. Buck.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf




Romance doesn’t stop when you hit 30 or even 70. This is a contemporaty classic. Even the movie was good. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson


I admit–I threw this back. Then I got the audio. I fell irreversibly in love with this story. Another that shows that age and even ethicity does not interfer with love. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes


I know, I know–Me Before You! And, I LOVE Louisa and Will. But this one is just so sweet and wonderful, TOO. And, many people haven’t heard of it yet and they should. Jess, Tanzie, Ed, Norman and Nicky will ALSO capture your heart–I promise. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes.


Do you love love stories?

You may want to read last week’s Top 10 Tuesday: Love Freebie post!

And, be sure to check out my Cross-Generational Romance posts. Older man, younger woman, but true love. See the tag cloud in the right side bar and click to view them.


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Top 5 Wednesday: Hidden Gems in Your Favorite Genre


I’m not really sure that I have a favorite genre. Here then are 5 hidden gems–5 quirky/fun little novels that I highly recommend.


1. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen



It’s hard to pick just one favorite of Sarah Addison Allen’s books–each has that distinctive touch of whimsey. Not quite magic, not quite real–whatever you call it, I call if “fun.” Who wouldn’t want someone living in their closet–the clost you love to eat your secret stash of candy in? There’s so much more in this book than just the “sugar” tie-in though. Just read it, ok? The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen.


2. My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith



I’m a big Alex McC-S fan. His 44 Scotland Street and No. 1 Ladies Detective Agencie series are annual fixturs in my commuting audio book year! This little gem is just marvelous fun! Plus, as I said in my review located here, it would be a perfect movie for Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern!  My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith.


3. Mrs. Engles by Gavin McCrae



History has another side: HERstory. Mrs. Engels, the common law wife of Karl Marx writing partner Frederich Engels, is a hoot! She’s lived the life and lived to tell. This book was the perfect College Reunion for me–I was a Russian Studies Major and this just refused to take it all seriously. Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrae.


4. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simmonson



This gem of a romantic novel may well have started the quirky old man novel genre. Ironically, I didn’t love it at first–in fact I threw it back. But when I got it on audio I went wild for it. It’s now on my all-time favorites list–a very high honor reserved for only the very best of the best–in mho of course! Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali are hope for every romatic’s soul. Who cares if the families don’t understand? Life is too short for caring. Get on with life and love. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simmonson.


5. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday


The late Paul Torday was a genuis at writing send-ups of pompous, gas-bag politicians! This wonderful little novel has a boondoggle of a foreign aid project coupled with all the CYA-Westminster can manage. I loved every word. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday.


Top 5 Wednesday has a group on Goodreads you can join. Then post your blog or YouTube video about the week’s topic. It’s great fun and you find amazing books thru others poster’s recommendations.

Top 5 Wednesday: Genre Benders



This week’s topic is “Genre Benders: Books that defy genre or are hard to place in a certain category.”

Remember, I do NOT make money off your clicks. All links to Amazon are provided as a convenience only.



A school/home for disabled students is a world unto itself with tribes, folk lore, fights, loves and much, much more. Part fiction, part fantasy.  You can read more in my review here. The Gray House by Miriam Petrosyan, currently $3.99 for Kindle.



Sarah Addison Allen is an author who knows how to mix up here genres! Part chick lit, part fantasy, part just plain wonderful. I love all of her books, but this is one of my favorites.    The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, currently $5.99 for Kindle.  Here’s my review from my old blog:  Each [of the author’s books] has a touch of “whimsy”–not really “magic,” not quiet “fantasy,” just some fun little “other worldly” touch. The Sugar Queen lives up to that tradition magnificently! A lady really living in a closet (not metaphorically), a domineering mother, a cute mailman–what’s not to love! If I write more it will spoil the fun!



Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, the Snow Child is a wonderful blend of regular fiction, folk lore and fantasy. I loved it! You can read more in my review here.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey



What if the Underground Railroad was a real train on a real track? Colson Whitehead uses this idea to show us all the solutions to slavery–each in a different state. (You can read more in my review here). This is a book for the ages.  A way more more interesting and compelling book than the other big Civil War era book winning awards this year–Lincoln in the Bardo (another Genre-Bender, you can read my review here).                                                                  The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.



Chronicles of Narnia author, C.S. Lewis wrote a masterful book that blends fantasy, religion, and epistolary tales into one compelling story.  Through a series of letters,  Screwtape, a Senior member of the Devil’s staff, instructs his nephew, Wormwood, in the art of deceiving and distracting believers so that they take their eyes off God. Though published in the 1940’s, this book is possibly even more relevant today than at the time of its publication. This is not, in any way, a heavy-handed treatise on why you must believe or anything like that. It is an amazing story of human nature.                                                                                                The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

If you prefer, a superb audio version here.



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Top 5 Wednesday: Non-Horror Books that Scared You



Scary Books in General

I don’t enjoy being scared or frightened. It produces anxiety. Therefore I don’t read many books that give me such emotions. When I do they tend to be nonfiction. At least I understand that fellow human beings endured and sometimes survived seemingly un-survivable events.





An odd book, by an odd man,  that often left me jumping at the slightest sound from outside after dark! The Tracker by Tom Brown, Jr.



What the doctors, nurses and patients endured during Hurricane Katrina was on par with a hospital in any war zone and then some. “And then some,” you say? Yes. This was not a man-made war zone. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.



First let me be clear: I have no sympathy for any Nazis. What happened in the death camps cannot be used as a comparison to anything. It was living hell. Regardless of being a German, a Jewish survivor of the death camps, a displaced person trying to get “home” to whatever was left of “home” to be a woman in the immediate aftermath of the war must still be called “horrific.”  None were safe. That was my one-word review of this book–“horrific”. Scared? Terrified? Just reading it made me terrified–all the more so because women and girls endured it all. Rape is and always will be horrific. All the more horrific when it is regarded as a “weapon” in a soldier’s officially sanctioned arsenal. Sadly, this weapon did not cease to be used in 1945.  After the Reich by Giles MacDonogh. I bought Woman in Berlin after reading this, but can’t bring myself to read it yet. It is a more personal account of the time of the rapes.





Even knowing how little value life holds in some African nations, even having read of the horrors of the Rwandan genocide and of other violence, a few parts of this novel gave me nightmares.  Here’s my short review from my old blog: “Bored middle class Mommy goes to Nigeria–NIGERIA–for a holiday and it changes her life.Her only child needs therapy and a Mommy who can say “no.” Then there’s the whole “in Africa” thing. If he’d said it one more time, I’d have thrown the book away. Instead, I don’t regret finishing it. It tells a very necessary tale–the tale of what it IS like to be a woman on the outside of a very dangerous society and the tale of the illegal immigrant needing–not merely “wanting”–asylum in a safer country. It is also the perfect illustration of a “First World Problem” Little Bee by Chris Cleave.



I read this years ago and it kept me awake nights for a while afterward. Most of the government is dead! But, wait! There’s more! Ebola! And still more! Tom Clancy’s Executive Orders.


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Top 5 Wednesday: Books With Witches


This week’s topic: These can be “witch books” or books that happen to feature witches as characters, whether they are main characters or side characters. 

My dilemma: I’m not into witchcraft, supernatural, spirit worlds, magic, fantasy etc. I’ve read most of the Harry Potter books and seen all but the last 2 movies. That’s about it. And, except for chocolate and Reese’s and Linus in the pumpkin patch I’m not into Halloween at all. I was never a witch for my school Halloween party or for Trick or Treating either. But then I’m so old that Witch costumes were about all girls got–that and nurse or bride outfits. And we only got to Trick or Treat ONCE–on Halloween. Shoot, I wasn’t even big on Bewtiched, unless Maurice or Doctor Bombay was involved.

Now that I’ve identified myself as the October Scrooge, here are my picks.





If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Shakespeare would be richer than Bill Gates and the rest.


Macbeth–the Scottish play. Witches in today’s culture owe much to the Bard’s portrayal of them.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

See what I mean? He wrote all their best lines….until J.K. Rowling came on the scene.


# 2

Let’s get this one out of the way. Most of this week’s posts will be an homage to H.P.


For the record, Molly Weasley is my favorite, followed by Professor McGonogall.



Yes, I know, I know! It’s really about McCarthyism….


…but, it is outstanding.



I re-posted about this wonderful book last Friday for Banned Books Week:


Mrs. Which (how cunning) is one of the trio of women with various strange abilities. And, she looks like a traditional witch.




I read the book as an adult. I never have really enjoyed the movie. Makes me a heretic I know! I was always too spooked by the flying monkeys to enjoy it. I was hiding behind the big red chair! But there’s the Good Witch (Glinda) and the bad witch who gets the house landed on her.

Bonus: The White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.


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Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Read Without the Synopsis




I would allow a synopsis that only gives the time period of the story and the location. No other information. I hope someone will try reading one of these in that way! Get it from the library and cover it with brown paper. Or download it to your kindle and then skip the summary. Try it. You might find a new favorite book!




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Top 5 Wednesday: Classes Based on Books/Characters


  1. Storm Chasing with Dorothy Gale and Assistants



2. Identifying Potential Addicts with Professor W.W. [White Witch] Jadis



3. Ethics in Science with Victor Frankenstein




4. Tomorrow is Another Day: Reinventing Yourself After Disaster  with Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler



5.  How the Other Half Lives with Margaret Hale


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Top 5 Wednesday: Bromances


Love this topic! So fun!


The Bromance in Chief I


President Barrack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. One of history’s great Bromances!


The Bromance in Chief II



President Jed Bartlett and Leo McGarry of The West Wing.

Bromance Abbey



Robert, Earl of Grantham and his butler, Charles Carson, on Lady Mary’s first wedding day. Downton Abbey.


The Dad Bromance



Harry, Bill and Sam–a Bromance unlike any other. Mama Mia! Indeed!

Did you know there’s a sequel in the works?


The Classic 80s TV Bromance



Magnum and Higgins (and “the lads”)–a classic tv Bromance. Magnum, P.I.


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Top 5 Wednesday: Books from Before You Joined

Top5Wed was launched at the end of 2006–or so my Google search tells me. I joined soon after. Therefore I have to dig back a bit to see what I read in 2005 and 2006 to decide on the top 5 books just prior to my joining. Back then I had a normal 20 minute commute so I didn’t listen to audio books. And, I had young children at the time. My reading was also pretty much dependent on what I could find at our very ho-hum, totally underfunded, un-networked public library or at used book stores. A splurge on Amazon or at Borders (a big thing then) was rare.  Happily I kept a reading log back then. Some of these have even been added to my Goodreads lists.



This book, sadly, came right to mind this week. What if Separate But Equal had been real? What if the South HAD won the war? This was an engrossing read back in the late 90s. I imagine it will find new readers of all political views this week. C.S.A. Confederate States of America: A Novel by Howard Means.



William Martin’s Harvard Yard is a sprawling great story about the hunt for a possibly unknown Shakespeare play. It goes back-and-forth in time and draws on the history of Harvard as well as of Shakespeare. It’s a great read–I recall racing home to read it after work and staying up till the wee hours of the morning, not wanting to put it down and go to sleep.  Harvard Yard by William Martin.



Sadly, too, various  books on the war zone countries of Afghanistan and Iraq came to mind this week as well.  How brave would you be? Would you sell people books the regime said were satanic? Would you risk death to do so? This man did. The Bookseller of Kabul.



I’ve written here in childhood memory posts about my horse obsession as a kid. My interest in horses is still very strong, so Seabiscuit caught my attention when it came out. I devoured it! It was so poignant! Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.



The movie came out last week and a friend went to see it (and loved it), so The Glass Castle came to mind. An amazing book of memoir and family dysfunction. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls.

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