Weekend Reading – Backbone by Karen Duffy

When you are an avid reader, the worst thing that can happen is you don’t have a good book. I picked up and put down about five books this week, nothing resonated with me and I couldn’t get into any of the stories. No fault of the authors, I always blame my mood.
I decided to crack open my advance copy of Ken Baker’s new book, The Ken Commandments, My Search for God In Hollywood. You might know Ken from the E! channel, he’s been reporting on celebrity news for years.
From page one, I was hooked! Ken’s spiritual path was very interesting and resonated with me deeply.  Thanks to Ken, I downloaded Headspace and am now trying meditation. Ken takes us on his spiritual journey as he seeks answers about religion and meaning in life… life in Hollywood no less.
He goes to bible study, church with the Kardashians, stops in at a Scientology center, attends a retreat with Deepk Chopra, and my favorite part of the book, he has a reading with Tyler Henry, a medium in Los Angeles (I love his show on the E! channel!).
Are the answers outside of us, or are all the answer we seek inside of us if we stay silent and still enough to listen? It’s a really profound question and one that many people have.  Ken is funny and engaging and I am grateful that this book broke my reading dry spell! Great book, highly recommended!
Another memoir I read was Backbone by Karen Duffy, an actress and tv show host who suffers from a chronic illness.
In this book, she discusses  her battle with sarcoidosis, “a disorder that causes the growth of inflammatory cells on different organs of the body.” She lives in constant pain and keeps plugging along through life with a positive attitude and much love for her son and husband.
It’s a pretty quick read and interesting where she breaks down the root of certain words and people and gives a little history lesson. This book will definitely give you respect and compassion for those who suffer silently!
On my To Read pile is Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford. I read the description and knew I would love it and I am hopeful that the story is going to pull me in! Those are the best kinds of books!
For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World’s Fair feels like a gift. But only once he’s there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off—a healthy boy “to a good home.”
The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam’s precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known—and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he’s always desired.
But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love.
Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle’s second World’s Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters.

The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Matthews also features the World Fair! This one combines everything I love in a good book- Irish immigrants and  New York in the 1930’s.
Here’s what you need to know:
June 1939. Francis Dempsey and his shell-shocked brother Michael are on an ocean liner from Ireland bound for their brother Martin’s home in New York City, having stolen a small fortune from the IRA. During the week that follows, the lives of these three brothers collide spectacularly with big-band jazz musicians, a talented but fragile heiress, a Jewish street photographer facing a return to Nazi-occupied Prague, a vengeful mob boss, and the ghosts of their own family’s revolutionary past. 
When Tom Cronin, an erstwhile assassin forced into one last job, tracks the brothers down, their lives begin to fracture. Francis must surrender to blackmail, or have his family suffer fatal consequences. Michael, wandering alone, turns to Lilly Bloch, a heartsick artist, to recover his lost memory. And Martin and his wife, Rosemary, try to salvage their marriage and, ultimately, the lives of the other Dempseys.
From the smoky jazz joints of Harlem to the Plaza Hotel, from the garrets of artists in the Bowery to the shadowy warehouses of mobsters in Hell’s Kitchen, Brendan Mathews brings pre-war New York to vivid, pulsing life, while the sweeping and intricate storytelling of this remarkable debut reveals an America that blithely hoped it could avoid another catastrophic war and focus instead on the promise of the World’s Fair: a peaceful, prosperous “World of Tomorrow.”
These next two books won’t be out until 2018! So mark your Goodreads list or pre-order on Amazon.
Within the first few pages of The Flicker of Old Dreams by Susan Henderson, you feel as though you are in the small mid-western town called Petroleum that is the setting for this story. The author describes everything in such detail, you can picture the dusty, flat land and the wheat in the silo.
Mary Crampton has grown up in this small town and while she keeps to herself,  she knows all the secrets of Petroleum, thanks in part to her father owning the town’s funeral home. She is the embalmer which further isolates her from people. She works alone and is surrounded by death. But that’s not the focus of the story.
Mary Crampton has spent all of her thirty years in Petroleum, a small Midwestern town once supported by a powerful grain company. Living at home, she works as the embalmer in her father’s mortuary: an unlikely job that has long marked her as an outsider. Yet, to Mary, there is a satisfying art to positioning and styling each body to capture the essence of a subject’s life.
Though some townsfolk pretend that the community is thriving, the truth is that Petroleum is crumbling away—a process that began twenty years ago when an accident in the grain elevator killed a beloved high school athlete. The mill closed for good, the train no longer stopped in town, and Robert Golden, the victim’s younger brother, was widely blamed for the tragedy and shipped off to live elsewhere. Now, out of the blue, Robert has returned to care for his terminally ill mother. After Mary—reserved, introspective, and deeply lonely—strikes up an unlikely friendship with him, shocking the locals, she finally begins to consider what might happen if she dared to leave Petroleum.
The Home For Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman is described as Philomena meets The Orphan Train and how can you not want to read it immediately? I am only a few pages in but the description alone captured my attention and I love it when an author can weave together a heartfelt story like this. Here’s what you need to know:
In 1950s Quebec, and teenaged Maggie has fallen in love with her neighbor. When she becomes pregnant, her parents force her to give her baby up for adoption and move on with her life. Naturally, she can never forget the child named Elodie.
Years later Maggie gets married and cannot stop thinking about the daughter she gave up.  As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie nearly cross. Maggie knows that she must track down her daughter and reconcile with her.

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