What I’ve been reading lately: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Hey there! It’s been a while so I thought it would be a good time for another book review. This year I made a goal of reading 25 books this year; Winter Garden was #15. I was recommended this book by a family member based on other books I’ve read. I enjoy reading books that have some sort of historical context. 

What is Winter Garden about? 

This book takes place during the early 2000s in Washington on the Whitson family apple orchard. Some of the main characters are Evan Whitson (father), Anya Whitson (mother), Meredith Cooper (oldest daughter), Nina Whitson (youngest daughter), and Jeff Cooper (Meredith’s husband). As adults, Meredith stayed home and helped her father run the orchard and Nina traveled the world as an award-winning photojournalist. The two sisters are complete opposites. As children, Nina and Meredith had a strained relationship with their cold and distant Russian mother. The only time they felt any connection to her was when she would tell her Russian fairy tales. 

When their father becomes sick the family is reunited and on his deathbed he makes each of the girls make a promise to get to know their mother. 

Months after his death Nina comes back to the orchard to spread her father’s ashes and she decides to not take no for an answer and keep her promise to her father and insists her mother tell her the fairy tale The Peasant Girl and The Prince which brings a whole new light of their mother’s life and why she was always so cold and distant. 

3 Things I liked about Winter Garden 

  1. You never knew what was going to happen next.
    1. Personally, I think this is mainly because even though I enjoy American history I know very little about the World Wars outside of what was taught in my world history class in high school. 
  2. I loved the dual storylines throughout the book.
    1. It’s not a true dual storyline exactly because one storyline is what’s happening and the other is the fairy tale Anya is telling. 
  3. The writing was absolutely captivating.
    1. How Kristin Hannah describes the characters, their emotions, and the settings gave a clear picture of the story to your mind’s eye. 

Things I didn’t like about Winter Garden: 

  1. Russian names are hard
    1. This is totally a personal thing. I’ve always had a hard time with anything besides American English names. 
  2. Parts of this book are heavy.
    1. I like to read to escape the stresses of day-to-day life and parts of this book take place during battles in World War II.  When I would read before bed sometimes I would have to stop reading and do something else to ensure I wouldn’t dream about the book. 

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely yes! It’s captivating and insightful. I completed this book in 24 days. As a mother, it puts being a parent in perspective. Also, I enjoyed the audio version of this book as well. Because I subscribe to kindle unlimited, I was able to read when I could but also listen while I was driving or doing something else. 

Follow me on Goodreads to see what I am reading next!

In the Heart of Paradise – Book Review

Today I am reviewing the 3rd book in the Rainier Series by Jamie McGillen. I was graciously accepted by Jamie to be part of her launch team and I am so glad that I was, because I can read and review this book before the book is available! Now on to the review


Jamie continues the writing style of the second book In Light of the Summit by switching between two stories. This time she of course continues Anna’s story but, also expands on Elizabeth Grayson’s story. Those of you who have read the previous book “In Sight of the Summit” would know that Elizabeth Grayson is the woman who Anna’s brother, Levi, was courting before ultimately marrying Anna’s childhood friend Emily. 

Elizabeth’s Story

In the beginning, Jamie comes out with the heavy-hitting topic of mental health. She enlightens the reader on how women who had what we now know to be OCD, manic episodes, or any other mental illness would be at the mercy of either her husband or father. Due to the ever-present threat of being admitted to an insane asylum women had to keep their mental health struggles a secret. In this story, Elizabeth is one of those women. Throughout the book, we follow Elizabeth’s journey and struggles of becoming a nurse in the late 1800s with the added struggles of having “doubting disease”. We also watch her deal with the heartbreak of her courtship with Levi ending and the prospects of the bud of new love.

Anna’s Story

Now, moving on to Anna’s story. To recap at this point Anna has attempted to summit Mt. Rainer twice. The first time she fails due to her ill-fitting equipment. The second time she succeeds but, not without surviving an attempted murder. 

During the third book, she has plans to hike to base camp to meet with Fay Fuller to discuss the women’s mountaineering group they plan to assemble. But, once she finds out she is pregnant she is confronted with the reality that climbing her beloved mountain may be harder than she thought. We also follow Anna’s rough pregnancy and her struggles with the timing of becoming pregnant. As a mom myself I can relate to what Anna has to endure with her pregnancy and how hard it can be when things don’t go as planned. 

Of course, I knew I would love this book like I loved reading the rest of the series but, I have never read any book in 4 days! I quite literally could not put it down. I would sit while Natalie watched her shows, Daniel and Jason would play video games, and just read. I want to thank Jamie for fostering a love of reading with her amazing books. If you have not read this series you should. 

In Light of the Summit Book Review

Welcome! Today I will be reviewing the second book of the Rainier Series by Jamie McGillen; In Light of the Summit. If you haven’t read the first book of the series, In Sight of the Mountain, you can read my review here. Both books are really good reads! Now on to the review!

One of the things I liked about the book was that it was written differently than the first book. What I mean by this was that two stories were being told; of course the continuation of Anna’s story, and a more detailed story of Anna’s childhood friend Emily. I also enjoyed the determination of both Anna and Emily, they worked through their struggles with grace. This book was such a joy to read, each time I picked up the book I didn’t want to put it down.

Were there things I didn’t like about the book? Honestly, there wasn’t much. The only thing at the beginning was the switching between the two stories, there definitely were some frustrated sighs along the way. Jamie kept the momentum of the stories of both women going throughout the whole book in tandem which now as I re-read the book I understand and really enjoy. 


Anna’s Story

The book starts with Anna dealing with the reticule of Seattle society being less than thrilled about her secret attempt to summit Mt. Rainier. Her family bookstore is vandalized on multiple occasions; once with a brick being thrown through the window. She also has to manage the disapproval of her soon-to-be father-in-law who believes Anna should not be attempting to climb mountains but at home keeping house and raising a family. Through all of the challenges and doubt Anna is determined to attempt the summit once again but, this time with her new husband along for the adventure. 

Emily’s Story

Moving on to Emily’s story; as stated in the first book, Emily is one of Anna’s close childhood friends. She grew up in poverty on her family farm. Though her father made a modest living as the Seattle police chief, they were barely able to make ends meet due her mother’s illness. This is part of the reason Emily decided to marry an established man of society, Charles, instead of marrying for love. When Charles falls ill the doctors decide to use a modern method of anesthesia for frontier medicine which turns disastrous for Emily and she finds herself in the depths of poverty once again.

What’s coming next?

Jamie isn’t done yet with the Rainier Series; the 3rd book in the series In the Heart of Paradise will be released on November 2nd! It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. I hope you all have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have and I cannot wait to hear what you think.

In Sight of the Mountain Book Review

Let’s do something new, write a book review! I’m not a big reader, which is something is should probably work on doing more of, but when I was given Jamie McGillen’s Book “In Sight of the Mountain” as a Christmas gift and I was excited to read! I knew I would probably like reading it because I like history and young adult novels since they are a great way for me to get out of my head and the current daily stresses. I enjoyed this book immensely! I think you will too.


In Sight of the Mountain is a young adult historical fiction based in Seattle Washington in the early 1900’s. This book follows the main character Anna Gallagher as she dreams of becoming the first woman to summit Mt. Rainer. When Anna chooses to attempt to summit the mountain, she decides she must prepare in secret in fear of the disapproval friends and family. She is also afraid they will try to prevent her from attempting the summit as it is not what ladies do.

About the Author:

Let me introduce the author, Jamie McGillen. She was born in Juneau Alaska but moved to Seattle Washington area when she was young. She has written two books, In Sight of the Mountain and In Light of the Summit, which are the first two books of the Rainer Series. For these books she has spent countless hours doing research on how life was in the early 1900’s to ensure the accuracy of the time period, mountaineering gear, and the societal pressures on women to marry well and early. She is currently writing the third book in the series. To learn more about Jamie and purchase her books go to jamiemcgillen.com.

 The Review:

The story starts off in Seattle June 6th, 1889 the day of the great Seattle fire. Jamie’s description of early Seattle paints the picture as if you were walking through the streets yourself. Anna Gallagher’s spunk and determination are evident as she tries to help with the fire. Though out the book Anna’s love for her family, the mountain, and her love interest, Ben a crew member on her brother’s fishing boat, are constantly pulling her heart in different directions. Through it all Anna stays true to herself.

Some of the things I liked about this book was that it kept my attention. I would sit and read multiple chapters until I HAD to put it down. I couldn’t wait to keep reading! Jamie paints such a vivid picture of how life was during the time period you felt like you were there watching it all play out. Jamie shows her love of Alaska with casting Anna’s brother Levi as a fisherman who fishes for Halibut in Alaskan waters. It made me smile every time she mentioned his ship being in port I recognized by living in Alaska myself. This story doesn’t stray from some of the realities of life for young single women of Seattle. One of Anna’s dearest childhood friend, June, is a prostitute at one of the city’s most respected brothels.

As I write I keep trying to think of things I didn’t like about the book and honestly, I can’t think of a single thing. This book is an easy read. It kept my attention, there is adventure, a love story, and history. What more could you ask for? Once I finish the next book In Light of the Summit, yes, I will be reviewing this one too, I will definitely be reading this again! As long as the 3rd books isn’t out yet. I want to say a big thank you first to the Author Jamie McGillen for writing these books. They are a true treasure. Second to Jamie’s mother Beth for sending me the book! Until next time!