#BookADay 7 – Year of Yes

YEAR OF YES: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Inspiring, empowering, fascinating and a great reminder that letting more YES into our lives opens us up to new experiences, new friendships and new opportunities—which could lead to unexpected transformations.

Yes, yes, yes! {love}

The mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder chronicles how saying YES for one year changed her life―and how it can change yours, too.

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the uber-talented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say NO when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.

And there was the side-benefit of saying No for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.

Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: just for one year, try to say YES to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed―and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life―and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.

#BookADay 6 – Safe Passage


Have you ever read this lovely book? 

It’s the true story of Ida and Louise Cook, who were huge opera fans and managed to leverage their love for opera and their reputation as major fans into an operation that saved dozens of Jews in the days before England and Nazi Germany formally declared war.

Ida Cook was a beloved Mills & Boon author who wrote under the name Mary Burchnell.

Now, in the book, there’s a LOT of talk about opera singers and opera, but while the star points of the story are how their courage, resourcefulness and ingenuity shepherded people and valuable objects out of Germany, other inspiring and fascinating aspects of the story are the ways and hows two young women set goals and managed to create miracles, like seeing opera shows and even sailing to America, on a very small income (to start). It’s a fascinating and inspiring peek into days gone by, lived by two special women who made them extraordinary.

A combination of faith and charisma, despite their modest means and demeanors, made them a powerful force, and there’s no question that their ability to start conversations with the people around them, and their effervescent love of the opera stars and the other fans —including a lovely interest and curiosity about the people around them, in a completely egalitarian way—helped them become popular and beloved in opera circles.

I would have loved to have seen a bit more about her writing (which mostly funded their escapades). According to the first few paragraphs of Wikipedia (read the full article here):

 Ida Cook (24 August 1904 – 22 December 1986) was a British campaigner for Jewish refugees and a romance novelist as Mary Burchell.

Ida Cook and her sister Mary Louise Cook (1901–1991) rescued Jews from the Nazis during the 1930s. The sisters helped 29 people escape, funded mainly by Ida’s writing. In 1965, the Cook sisters were honored as Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Israel.[1]

Between 1936 and 1985, Ida Cook wrote 112 romance novels as Mary Burchell for Mills & Boon (many of which were later republished by Harlequin). She helped to found, and from 1966 to 1986 was the second president of, the Romantic Novelists’ Association. In 1950 she wrote her autobiography, We Followed Our Stars, later re-edited and expanded as Safe Passage, which is currently in print.

The book was originally released in the 50s under the title Following Our Stars (which actually is a better title given the arc).

I read it probably 10 years ago or so, and highly recommend. It’s unlike anything you’ve likely read before – but it’s a thoroughly delightful and will leave you charmed and entertained.

You can also find Mary Burchell in digital form @Amazon here.

It looks like A SONG BEGINS is only $.99.

The sound of success…

Anthea Benton is shocked when her voice teacher, Miss Sharon, tells her that she has progressed beyond what she can teach her.

In order to progress as a singer, Anthea needs to leave her small town and find a professional tutor. 

But with a sick father, money is tight in the Benton household.

Then, Anthea sees an advertisement for a singing contest with a £500 first prize – this could be the answer to her prayers.

At the contest, Anthea knows she is better than any of the other contestants.

She would have won…if not for Oscar Warrender, one of the most celebrated opera conductors in the world, who made sure she didn’t win the contest.

So when a letter arrives informing Anthea that Warrender wants her to come to London and be his prize, and only, pupil, Anthea is shocked to say the least.

But this could be her big chance and she just cannot turn it down.

She will need every ounce of strength and intelligence she possesses to withstand the training and hard work to become a successful opera singer.

But will Anthea and Oscar’s turbulent relationship ruin her chances for success?

And what else will she discover about herself along the way?

A Song Begins is the first book in the charming Warrender Saga.

#BookADay 5 – Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

Day 5 of my #BookADay project and the recommendation comes from my sister, a huge Lois McMaster Bujold fan.

(We’re sitting in McDonald’s in Olathe, Kansas, my mom’s hometown, here for a small family reunion.)

Captain Ivan Vorpatril is happy with his relatively uneventful bachelor’s life of a staff officer to a Barrayaran admiral. Ivan, cousin to Imperial troubleshooter Miles Vorkosigan, is not far down the hereditary list for the emperorship. Thankfully, new heirs have directed that headache elsewhere, leaving Ivan to enjoy his life on Komarr, far from the Byzantine court politics of his home system. But when an old friend in Barrayaran intelligence asks Ivan to protect an attractive young woman who may be on the hit list of a criminal syndicate, Ivan’s chivalrous nature takes over. It seems danger and adventures have once more found Captain Vorpatril.

Tej Arqua and her half-sister and servant Rish are fleeing the violent overthrow of their clan on free-for-all planet Jackson’s Whole. Now it seems Tej may possess a hidden secret of which even she may not be aware. It’s a secret that could corrupt the heart of a highly regarded Barayarran family and provide the final advantage for the thugs who seek to overthrow Tej’s homeworld.

But none of Tej’s formidable adversaries have counted on Ivan Vorpatril. For behind Ivan’s façade of wry and self effacing humor lies a true and cunning protector who will never leave a distressed lady in the lurch—up to and including making the ultimate sacrifice to keep her from harm: the treasured and hardwon freedom from his own fate as a scion of Barrayar.

My sister recommended this series to me for years before I finally picked up this title. I will definitely be reading more ofMcMaster Bujold in the future, because this book was brilliant – very funny, but also touching, with characters who continually say things they don’t mean, but somehow get their true feelings across anyway.

At first at odds with each other, they form an uneasy alliance, but soon realize they’re perfect for each other, even in the face of resistance from family and friends on both sides.

It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud quite as hard as I did when the building collapsed. (Read the book. It’s hysterical. You’ll be glad you did.)

#BookADay 4 – Moonraker’s Bride

And other titles by Madeleine Brent….

Have you ever read Madeleine Brent? (Who was *really* Peter O’Donnell (read his Wikipedia page here.)

Gothic, fish-out-of-water storylines, usually with a heroine who was raised somewhere else who winds up in England.

And you know how flexible and forgiving those Victorian English people were, right? ;o)
I read most of these in high school, and have never forgotten them.  One of my best friends, Robyn, who lived two doors down from me, lent me her copy and I was enthralled.

They were all a bit similar to each other, but I’ve never read anything else quite like them.

A few years ago I heard a rumor that they would be coming out in digital editions, but so far no luck.

However, if you ever see one in a library or second store, don’t hesitate to pick them up!

Of course, having said that, it occurs to me that it’s my 16 year-old self recommending them, but I still think they’ll hold up. They have pretty good reviews on Amazon, so I don’t think I’m completely off the mark…If you ever read one, please loop back to me and let me know!) xoxo

Madeline Brent  @Amazon  (though these will all be second hand.)

#BookADay 3 – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn


I read this book in college for a Theology & Literature class.

We had one paper for which we could choose a book outside the syllabus, and I chose this one. My professor was intrigued, but we’d read Silence (Endo) and Babette’s Feast (Dinesen)  and Night (Wiesel), and I thought, how about this lovely little book about a young girl and her family who had to survive bias, alcoholism, poverty and other challenges in turn-of-the-century (20th, that is) New York, while keeping her own dreams and creativity alive?

He wasn’t sure it was weighty enough next to the powerhouse novels we’d read so far, but I convinced him. What was more spiritual than the questions a girl faces when her father is an alcoholic dreamer and her mother is a relentless pragmatist; when her environment is brutal and she’s a shy misfit who believes in books and education?

It’s part of PBS’s Great American Read this summer.

Have you read it? At times charming, at times horrifying, it is a coming-of-age story, but so much more.  A snapshot of days gone by; a reminder of human challenges that never change, no matter the age; and a lovely testament to the power of books.

Are you a fan?


From the book cover:

The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life of Williamsburg demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior—such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce—no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are tenderly threaded with family connectedness and raw with honesty. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life-from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children of Francie’s neighborhood traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Betty Smith has artfully caught this sense of exciting life in a novel of childhood, replete with incredibly rich moments of universal experiences—a truly remarkable achievement for any writer.