Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Reviewing The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This riveting historical fiction novel is one that is hard to put down once you start reading and takes you on a journey through both the first World War as well as post World War II.

review of the alice network by kate quinn
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, photo by Lou16


A little while ago I read a review on this very site for a book called The Huntress by Kate Quinn which peeked my interest so when I was in a bookstore and saw The Alice Network by Kate Quinn author of The Huntress I just had to buy it.   The Alice Network was actually penned first and after reading it I am even more keen to read The Huntress!

The Alice Network was actually real as was the leader and Kate Quinn has done a marvelous job of interweaving actual historic events into a story that is hard to put down.

A WWI female spy - Louise de Bettignies - featured in the historical novel The Alice Network
The Queen of Spies herself, courtesy of Wikipedia
The novel features two strong heroines - Eve Gardiner and Charlie St Clair.   Eve's story takes us through the world of women espionage during the first World War and introduces us to the real life Queen of Spies, Louise de Bettignies.   What I found great after finishing this story was the author notes at the end which mention which of the characters were actually based on historical figures and which weren't.   Something I thought very interesting was where Kate Quinn got the idea for Eve's story, along with her spy name.

Eve's chapters take us through the perils of life as a female spy during World War I in France.   The other heroine is Charlie St Clair who finds herself (an American college girl) pregnant and unwed at 19 during the aftermath of World War II.

When her mother takes Charlie to Europe to dispose of her 'little problem' they make a stop in England where Charlie leaves the hotel to search for Eve Gardiner who was a name on the bottom of a missing persons report for her French cousin who went missing during the war.

Together they head to Europe, along with Eve's Scottish helper and driver and start on their individual quests - Charlie to find her cousin Rose and Eve to hunt down her enemy who handed her over to the Germans during WWI.

As the book interweaves through the two story lines we learn more about both heroines along the way and find where they both have to make major decisions which could totally change the outcomes of their lives.   The book also exposes the double standards women faced during WWI and showed how little these double standards had changed by the 1940s. 

Obviously as with any historical fiction some liberties were taken, but I'd love to think that Louise de Bettignies did buy ridiculous hats when travelling and was able to inject some fun into her life of intrigue.   I like the idea of her having the personality that was displayed in the book as the life of a spy in France at that time was very bleak - as it was for most every day people in Europe at that time.

I would love to see this book turned into a movie as I'm sure my husband would enjoy it.  What can you expect from this book?   If you pick up this book expect suspense, intrigue, a little romance and so many twists and turns.




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Sunday, July 12, 2020

A Review of Writing Through The Soul - A Collection of Poetry by Brenda Fluharty

Inspirational Poetry by Brenda Fluharty
Brenda is a freelance writer, poet, and Reiki Grand Master. She's someone I've known online for many years, and being a writer of poems myself, I was eager to read her work.

Before getting into her calming and thought-provoking poems, I must say that her Reiki training also had me at hello. One of my close friends is a Reiki practitioner, and I know from experience that the energy field of people vibrating at this level is palpable, and they're calming to be around. I wasn't surprised when her words on the page reflected precisely that kind of power.

What I Appreciated The Most About Brenda's Poetry

The messages delivered in her work remind you of your higher self. Finding a kindred writer/thinker isn't always easy in life or online, and I'll admit, that's how her poetry made me feel - connected to her.

Sometimes in this world, I feel alone - not lonely - just alone. Not sad - just alone. It's as though I don't belong on this earth - as though I don't fit. I don't like crime shows, conflict,
My Personal Copy of
 Writing Through The Soul
by Brenda Fluharty - Available on Amazon
meanness, and even competition unless that competition is with yourself. Yet most of the people in my offline world are all about these things - you know, earthly, sometimes darker things. Don't get me wrong, I'm surrounded by good people, they're not dark at all! I just feel like that extra puzzle piece that doesn't fit in with the majority.

When I read Brenda's poem "Earth Angel," it resonated with me. I'm not calling myself an angel! LOL - The words Brenda penned, "You care for others, all like they were your brothers" peeked into my mind. The poem reminded me about the time someone I had never met, took one look at me and said, "you're an earth angel, there aren't too many of us" - Lol, ok, whatever, but that's what I mean when I say, her poem connected. Despite not feeling a part of the majority, I do accept it; all that life offers us takes from us and teaches us. Reading Brenda's work, I'd say she gets that too.

Good poetry leads us further into ourself and the human condition, it sews itself in our soul, and Earth Angel is a poem that did just that for me.

Other Poems Brenda Writes that I Loved

1. In The Darkest Depths of the Soul - The words used in this poem express a life's journey and say it all and say it directly. Brenda writes, "Those with these traits and the power to believe will find the light in the darkness, And, be free." Again, words swaying to my life's dance.  Body, Mind, and Spirit are my 2020 mission; this poem fits the entire theme.

2. Questioning the Past - Oh my, after reading this, I can say I know a few people who are still stuck there. I like to believe I've learned, moved on, and when looking back see what feels like 1000 years of learning gone by. It hurts me to witness those I love still spinning their wheels. I wish I could heal them.

3. Love Yourself - These words are what I wish for, and have said in another way to my kids. Love yourself, forgive yourself, grow, move forward. Again, Brenda's message is direct, it's real, and although we hear this message through the years, processing it is another thing.

If you're a fan of poetry that gets right to the heart of the matter and delivers a direct message, you'll appreciate Brenda's words. Her book is a lovely private place to go for advice. You won't spend your time trying to guess what the life tips are - she's clear.


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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Review of The Lending Library

The Lending Library by Alice Fogelson is a delightful story about a teacher's love for books and how she helps the community when the town library is temporarily closed.  I found the book when it was one of the Amazon Prime monthly First Read books.  I love that feature on Amazon because it has introduced me to so many interesting books and authors.


Summary of the Book

The book is about a confirmed bibliophile and frustrated artist, Dodie Fairisle, who moves from New York city to a small Connecticut town where she teaches art in the elementary school.

When the Chatsworth town library is found to have asbestos it is forced to close indefinately.  Dodie is so frustrated for herself and the town that she decides to create a lending library in the sunroom of her home.

Dodie is very committed to making the library a success and she uses her skills as a baker providing treats and her love of books to recommend books for each person who comes into the lending library.

One person that comes regularly to the library is a construction worker named Shep Jamison.  Shep is very handsome and Dodie spends a lot of time picking out books that she feels Shep would like.

The first part of the book is setting up the library and the people that Dodie meets.  The second part of the book becomes bogged down with many side stories, including love interests of friends, death of a friend, adoption processes and Dodie's stressed out desire to become a mother.

My Thoughts on the Book

I picked up this book at a time when I was looking for something lighter to read.  The book, for the most part filled that need.   I particularly  enjoyed the parts about Dodie and her work with the library. I also enjoyed the interesting cast of characters, including Dodie's friends and the people that frequented the library.

 There were times though in the second half where the story became a bit intense and perhaps unbelievable.  Even so, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.

Find the Book on Amazon

                                                                     


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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Fast Girls - Book Review

Order Fast Girls Today
Three fast girls.  Three very different pathways to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Three: the number of seconds between "get set" and blasting off the starting line into your future.  Three young women running, for all they are worth, for their lives.

Fast Girls is historical fiction that introduces us to real women who broke world records, achieved Olympic gold, rose above rampant racism, sexism, and the societal norms meant to keep them off the track... out of the running for their dreams... out of their place in history.

Betty Robinson.  Louise Stokes.  Helen Stephens.  Remember their names.  These fast girls will teach us much that goes far beyond 100 meters.  From them, we will gain the perspective and insight that becomes a kind of second wind, which is what you need when you hit the wall during a race, or in the midst of dealing with life's hard challenges.

Each fast girl had to rise above tremendous obstacles to become who she was destined to be.  Take Betty Robinson, for starters.  As the first American woman to achieve Olympic gold, at the very first Olympics that included female athletes (Amsterdam, 1928), it seemed the "Golden Girl" had it made.  Not long afterwards, Robinson was involved in a near-fatal plane crash that left her body wrecked beyond hope of any kind of recovery, or any return to her former glory.  Everyone counted her out.  Everyone, that is, except Betty herself.  What she does with her brokenness is what will define her greatness.

Next up, Louise Stokes.  As a member of the first integrated Olympic team, Stokes, a black athlete, will face the kind of abuses no one deserves, or should ever experience.  Her treatment, how she copes with it, and where it leads, even to today's Black Lives Matter movement, is not just a lesson for the history books.  It is living history.  It matters as much right now as it did back in 1932.

Which brings us to Helen Stephens.  Stephens, a misfit, unwanted by her father, mocked and bullied by her childhood peers, so different, so confused about her identity, so incredibly talented.  What will become of Helen?  Who will see her immense promise and provide a means for her to leave the bleak, hardscrabble existence of her youth?

Fast Girls is about so much more than blazing speed.  Even though these women, at their peak, were the fastest women in the world, what mattered, and still matters, is what they did with their enormous capacity for turning tragedies into personal triumph.  Their disappointments and losses, perhaps even more than their triumphs, are what make for compelling reading.

This is a book for the history buff, the athlete, the coach, the teacher, the enthusiastic spectator, the one who cares about the worthiness, and enormous value, of every single person who asks only to be allowed the opportunity to fly down that straightaway toward the achievement of a dream... toward the fulfillment of personal destiny.

*I received an ARC of Fast Girls from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  I wish to thank the author, Elise Hooper, and her publisher, HarperCollins, for this opportunity.

**You may also wish to check out my five-star review of Elise Hooper's fabulous book Learning to See.









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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Six Historical Fiction Books Set in Canada

Historical Fiction Set in Canada

Happy Canada Day! This is the day that Canadians from coast to coast to coast don their red and white and head out to celebrate our fabulous country, which was born on this day, July 1, 1867. It is with history in mind that I thought I would share six interesting historical fiction novels that are at least partly set in Canada. If you love historic fiction, I hope you will find a new book to add to your reading list.

Despite the unprecedented virus situation in Canada Day 2020, this list is by no means an indicator that Canadians will be staying home and reading on July 1. I will be wearing red and white, cooking up something special on the grill, eating some ripe red strawberries, having a walk in our neighborhood to see from a safe distance many Canadian flags flying high and our red and white attired neighbors before coming home and toasting Canada. Here's how we're celebrating Canada Day Together, Apart in 2020 but I digress. Here's the promised list of six fabulous historical fiction books set in Canada.

UNDER THIS UNBROKEN SKY


UNDER THIS UNBROKEN SKY

Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell is a close look at the settling of Canada. Read this book and you will wonder how the prairies ever came to be settled. If it was not one thing it was another for this poor Ukrainian family when they took up a homesteading on the Canadian prairies in the 1930s. Truly a look at how tough life was for those immigrant settlers with a story line that will capture your attention. I have not written a full review of this fascinating book yet but you can read more about Under This Unbroken Sky on Amazon here.

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW BEGINNING


ANNE OF GREEN GABLES: A NEW BEGINNING

Anne of Green Gables may be thought of as a children's book but they are totally appropriate for adults, too. They are an interesting look into Lucy Maud Montgomery's Prince Edward Island in the early 1900s.

Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning was written by Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan was the creator of the original Anne of Green Gables movie series. This book is his more recent prequel to the Anne of Green Gables stories. You can read my complete review of Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning here. I have always been a fan of Anne Shirley and I enjoyed this book.

BEFORE OF GREEN GABLES


BEFORE OF GREEN GABLES

Before Green Gables was written by Nova Scotia's Budge Wilson and was my preferred version of what Anne Shirley's life might have looked like before she was sent as an orphan to live on Prince Edward Island. Interesting that two prequels with two totally different stories were published and that they were published just a year apart.  You can find my complete review of Before Green Gables here.

THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS


THE HOME FOR UNWANTED GIRLS

Joanna Goodman's The Home for Unwanted Girls is set in in French Canada in the 1950s and tells the story of a woman forced to give up her daughter and the tale of that daughter in the Canadian system. There is a lot of heartache in this book but that it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. You will find my complete review of The Home for Unwanted Girls here.

THE PIANO MAKER


THE PIANO MAKER

The Piano Maker was written by Kurt Palka and tells the tale of a woman's life taking her from France in the era of the First World War to Canada in the 1930s. I enjoyed this book because it was partially set in Canada. It is particularly interesting for anyone who is interested in the piano and who wants a look into war-time fiction set in Canada's maritime provinces. Find my complete review of The Piano Maker here.

THE QUINTLAND SISTERS


THE QUINTLAND SISTERS

I have long been interested in the lives of the Dionne Quintuplets. Pierre Berton's 1978 novel introduced me to the sisters and I have followed the true life story of these mistreated sisters ever since. They were the world's first set of quintuplets to survive infancy. This book, written by Shelley Wood, is an interesting look into their lives in the 1930s when the world was glad to embrace the sisters even if it meant that they were taken from their parents and displayed as a tourist attraction. Find my complete review of The Quintland Sisters here.

There. I hope you have found a novel with a Canadian theme to add to your list!

Happy Canada Day
and Happy Reading!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Discover how we're celebrating Canada Day, 2020.
Discover a page full of fabulous Anne of Green Gables gift ideas.


Six Historical Fiction Books Set in Canada





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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Spies, Wars, Winners and Losers, It's All So Intriguing To Me!

Reading is a wonderful Summer pastime, one that will take you to places that you've only dreamed of and so much more.




Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay

There are so many titles available,  but sometimes you just need someone to point out a book or two that you know will  be enjoyed from the moment they open that first page.  This is a Book Review of The Huntress, by Kate Quinn, published Feb. 2019.

My preferences lie with books that will keep me turning pages until the darkness of night and sometimes even till the morning light seems to be upon me.  I have been known to read until my eyes are literally streaming with tears to keep them lubricated enough to continue turning pages..

Recently, I got caught up with some spy thrillers, and historical novels about World War II and all the turmoil after the war was over.  Lives that had been shattered, families that lost loved ones and the most intriguing to me, the ones who just disappeared!

I have read all of these books and each one held me and my imagination from the opening pages to the very end.  I found myself even going back into the books to re-read chapters that had really captivated my yearnings to know more about this time in history.

Now I must remind you that these are all novels, but you know from in depth investigations after the war, that some of these scenarios are quite possible and not just figments of an authors musings.


The Huntress had me hanging by my fingernails, wanting to know what was going to happen next.  The cast of characters is so believable that I'm sure they could be neighbors of mine.

 From a group of young Russian women pilots (known by the Nazis as the Night Witches), to Nazi wives and/or lovers, to a couple of guys who are determined to bring down a high ranking German "killer".  This story has you spellbound within the first two pages.   


Image by Ella_87 from Pixabay


I should have known that I would be totally engrossed with The Huntress, because I have read Kate Quinn's, "The Alice Network", with just the same amount of interest.  She just writes so well that you are taken right into the heart of the story before you have finished the first chapter. You just need to know what is going to happen next.

The other book that I really enjoyed from this same time frame in history is Pam Jenoff's The Lost Girls of Paris.  What could possibly be in a suitcase left on a train stations platform?

If you want to enjoy a trio of books that will make your summer reading enjoyable, I would highly recommend that you start with any one of these three books.  Each one is amazing in it's own right.  I'm sure you will spend some quality time at the beach, pool, or just sitting in the yard enjoying both the good weather and a great book too. 

The best part of all this reading material is that there are options for you if you want to read them for free.  Life doesn't get any better than that.  You will have to check out these options for yourself !  

Happy Summer and Happy Reading!





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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Pet Tracker - Book Review

Read More 5-Star Reviews
Wouldn't it be surreal to be the police bloodhound handler who needed a search and rescue mission for her very own tracker dog—for a dog so gifted in finding others?  What are the astronomical odds against that dog going missing and needing to be found?

For Kat Albrecht, a professional law enforcement finder of missing people, the panic of needing to find her much-loved dog, A.J., would be one of the real turning points of her life.  To read Pet Tracker, is to become immersed in Albrecht's transformative journey toward finding her true purpose in life by way of revolutionizing how lost animals are returned to their families.  

When Albrecht went out to her back yard on that fateful day and discovered, much to her shock, that A.J. was gone, she initially reacted like those of us who have had that happen.  She frantically, and tearfully, called for A.J. and ran around the area looking for signs of him.  Then, Kat did something that made all of the difference for A.J.: she paused, calmed down, and instinctively let her training take over.

Albrecht needed direction on where to start searching and this required help in the form of another dog.  If dogs could track missing people, why not give them a chance to use that skill to find another dog?  This wasn't being done at the time, but, having no other leads, Kat felt it was worth a try.  Even though Kea, the dog brought in to search for A.J. had not been specifically trained for this purpose, she was known to be a gifted tracker.  The mission was successful.  A.J. was found and brought safely home.

While reflecting on what had worked, Albrecht began to imagine the possibilities of using refined training techniques, and the tools of her trade, to take animal search and rescue to a whole new level.  It would be her retired service dog, Rachel, who would prove to be the key to this whole enterprise.  Rachel, a Weimaraner, taught her human everything she needed to know to ensure there were far more happy endings to the missing pet stories.

Pet Tracker is everything I love in a book.  It combines intrigue with amazing animals, inspiring people, surprising behavior, spy gadgets, forensics, sleuthing, and heart-warming rescue stories.  I picked up this book in the midst of a very personal rescue operation.  In grappling with the most challenging search of my life, I needed more understanding, more insight, more direction, more of everything that would take me to a higher plane, where I could be more of what the lost need.

Like Albrecht, my life has been changed forever, all because of one lost dog.  My lost dog.  I encourage everyone who cares about animals, or their humans, to read this book.  You never know when you might be called into action to help save a life.  And who knows?  Maybe the life you save just might be your own.











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Monday, June 15, 2020

Book Review - One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker

I was transported to 1876 Wyoming each time I began reading One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow here I left off. The story is so descriptively written that I felt as though I too were on the prairie. I will remember these two families and this natural setting for quite some time.




Each chapter was written from the viewpoint of Nettie, Cora, Beulah or Clyde. Each of them had a different reaction to the crimes that take place as the story opens. The tension between Nettie and the others is nearly as harsh as the Wyoming winter. Cora is as uncomfortable in the rural setting as Nettie is in Beulah's presence. And Clyde suddenly becomes the man of the house, of two households, but is still a boy who needs to decide whether or not to follow in his father's footsteps. 

The two families are oil and water but they must pull together to survive the winter.

Cora was from St. Louis. She met and married Ernest, who moved them to Wyoming. On her first night, she quietly ventured from the wagon as far as she dared and watched the turning stars in the night sky. She felt she could love the place. But it turns out that she didn't. Cora missed the excitement and socializing of Saint Louis too much. After Ernest left, she was suddenly solely responsible for her four children and the homestead.

Ernest found his wife at the river with Nettie's husband. He immediately leaves the homestead and heads for the sheriff's office in Painted Rock to turn himself in for murder.

Nettie is not the forgiving sort. She can't find it in herself to forgive Cora for her many sins but mostly for the sin of causing her husband's death. And Nettie is sure that the strange daughter of hers, Beulah, must be as corrupt as her mother. She directs her son Clyde to stay away from this girl. Nettie is stoic and strong. She has all of the right answers and solutions. Or does she?

Clyde is talented with the horses and knowledgeable with the sheep. He is hard-working and responsible but his father's anger bubbles just under the surface. This story is about Clyde's coming of age as much as it is about pioneers doing the best they can on the prairie. 

Beulah. Nettie is correct. Cora's daughter, is a strange girl. Beulah appears slow or lazy. But she's not lazy at all. She cares for the three younger children, gardens, helps Clyde with repairing fences, and she knows things. She knows things she shouldn't. Whether it is intuition or visions she knows things before they happen. And Nettie finds this very disconcerting.  




Life on the frontier is not peaches and cream. It is difficult. This story is about grudges, loss, forgiveness, a spirit, and the natural world - both good and bad. And two very broken families that may or may not find their way. There are portions of this story that are difficult to read offset by the beauty of love and healing. And family.

Related Link:

Renaissance Woman reviewed The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker. That story is set in Nazi Germany 1942. "To immerse ourselves into Anton and Elisabeth's war-torn lives is to see glimmers of unimaginable beauty beneath the desolation of loss, shame, failure, and fear". Continue reading the review here.  


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Friday, June 12, 2020

The Book #STUMPED: Instant Party Riddles for Teens and Adults Reviewed

Stumped Riddles
This is my copy of the book that features
the original book cover
At our last family holiday together, I set out Barbara Tremblay Cipak's #Stumped book for our after dinner game.  Before everyone started leaving the dining tables, our daughter began reading the riddles out loud and we all joined in to guess the answer.  

So much laughter was generated by this simple game as individuals started calling out answers as soon as the riddle reading was completed.  Some of the answers made sense, but were still funny.  We don't  have any shy family members, so this game was most entertaining and made for some wonderful memories of time spent together.

Anytime we have a family gathering, my daughter and I look for new games the family can play together.  I have always hated the times that family members eat and then migrate to the television.  It steals our family time and keeps us from visiting with each other.

I am blessed to be part of a big family.  Unfortunately, we don't all agree on most things and time together can turn into all out family war if politics or religion become part of the discussion.  Therefore, I do understand why some opt to head for the television as soon as mouths are free from eating.  Having a fun game to dominate our interaction is imperative for our family gatherings.

In addition to playing a family game during the holidays, when a family member was in the hospital, #Stumped provided entertainment for the patient who enjoyed the presence of her visitor for long periods of time.  Anyone who has ever visited someone in the hospital understands how you quickly run out of things to talk about. 


#STUMPED: Instant Party Riddles for Teens and Adults 


 #STUMPED: Instant Party Riddles for Teens and AdultsCheck PriceBarbara's riddles are witty and provide enough of a challenge for friendly competition to get the exact right answer.  We did make the rule that the exact answer would be the only accepted answer for a win.  That, of course, would be an option for any group to make for themselves.

I loved the way this book was separated into chapters with a focus title.  A chapter title like "Emotion Riddles" or "Outdoor Riddles" gives a hint to the answer from the beginning. 

I also like that the answers are in the back of the book and not with each riddle.  That keeps anyone from being tempted to read the answer by peeking at the book.  With a large group like ours, the narrator has people on both sides and it would be easy for them to see the book whether intentionally or not. 

Barbara has provided an inside preview of the book on Amazon, which allows you to read a few of the riddles to get an idea of what you can expect.  This was also a big selling point for me.  I needed examples to see if they would be challenging, yet easy enough, for the wide age and education range in our family. 


More Riddle Books from Barbara Tremplay Cipak


The #Stumped book was Barbara's first published riddle book.  She has since released several more.  That means my family can look forward to new challenges at our next family holiday dinner. 

In addition to her riddles, Barbara is an excellent writer.  She has such a beautiful and touching way of expressing herself.  Her books of sayings and recommended messages are inspirational for people like me who feel things deeply, but can't seem to put it into words.  I appreciate that help! 

 




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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Book Review on Golden Poppies


Golden Poppies by Laila Ibrahim was my pick for the Amazon Prime free books for May.  I always enjoy historical fiction and I was not disappointed with this compelling story.


The Book on Amazon




Main themes of the Book


There are several themes that run throughout the book.  
  • Love and friendship that endures throughout the years
  • Racial discord and fear
  • Inequality 
  • Women's Voting Rights
  • Strong and resilient women


Highlights of the Book


This book looks at two generations of people who are linked by friendship and racial solidarity.

The book begins in 1894 with the story of Mattie, a former slave who escaped the plantation on which she lived and worked.  When the story begins Mattie is now living in Chicago and is very ill.  Her daughter, Jordan and grandaughter, Naomi are by her side; but Mattie desires to see her old friend Lisbeth one more time before she dies.  Mattie had been Lisbeth's nanny on the plantation before she escaped and they have kept in touch with each other through the years.   Jordan finally agrees to getting in touch with Lisbeth, even though she doesn't know if she wants to share her mother's last days with a "white" woman.  Upon getting the message, Lisbeth immediately makes plans to leave her home in Oakland California to visit Mattie.  Lisbeth's daughter Sadie travels with her by train to Chicago.

I don't want to give away the whole story but after Mattie's death all four woman end up going to Oakland.  During the weeks that follow they  become involved in the Women's Suffrage Movement.

There are many interesting side stories that make the book a real page turner.  These include the birth of a child, a husband's abuse, an interracial marriage and the continued loyalty and friendship of the two families.

My Thoughts on the Book


I found the book to be very compelling.   It was one of those books I just couldn't put down.  The author made the characters come to life and I found myself routing for their success and fearing for their safety.  

My favorite character was Sadie, Lisbeth's daughter, who had several struggles of her own during the story but always was there for her Mom and her friends.  She was married to a man who was very domineering and her struggles seemed very true, both for those times and today.

I think the one thing that struck me was that in all the struggles, even though they took place over a 100 years ago, you can see that many things are still the same today.  Sadly, sometimes the more things change the more they remain the same.  



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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Prayer Box: A Book Review

Summer is on it's way and hopefully you have a list of Books to take to the cottage or read on those lazy summer nights!


                                   

I have just finished reading The Prayer Box, by Lisa Wingate!

What a great story about a lady who lived her whole life in a small vacation community and yet remained a mystery to that whole community.

It doesn't take long for this book to grab you and reel you in.  Iola Anne Poole had lived on Hatteras Island her whole life and died at the ripe age of ninety one!  Hatteras Island is a community of people that live there all year long and an increased population during the summer season.  Artisans and good people call this home and wait for the influx of visitors in order to finance their off seasons.  Home cooked meals, coffee shops with caring staff, make this island a wonderful place to live and an even better place to spend your summer months.  Everyone who lives here knows everyone else.  With the exception of Iola Anne Poole!

What starts out as a new beginning for Tandi Jo Reese, ends up being her lifeline to a future without fear.  Tandi Jo is hiding from a controlling and manipulative man.  She and her two children are literally running from a past of fear and control, into a future that will hopefully be better.

Iola, rents Tandi a cottage that is part of the property she owns.  Tandi in search of a better place for herself and her children jumps at the chance of having a secure roof over their heads without the fear of being found.  Her landlady is even willing to rent to her on a weekly basis.  

Just two weeks into this new beginning, Iola dies!  Tandi is already having problems with the rent.  Her "ex", (you'll learn more about him when you read the book)  does not know where she is and she does not want him to find her.

Iola, left her belongings and everything else in her life to the church just up the road from her Rambling Victorian home.  The pastor needs help to clean out Iola's home.

Tandi, now has a job.  Hired by the pastor to clean out her home, Tandi comes across a walk in closet full of decorated boxes.


Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni from Pixabay

What happens next is for you to find out.  I really don't want to spoil this novel for you.  So much happens in such a reasonably short time frame.  You will need to pick up this book and enjoy it for yourself.

Those boxes and life on Hatteras Island has made it possible for Tandi to understand that there is more to life than running and hiding.  That there are good people in the world and that everything you learn from life can come to your aid when you need it the most.




This book has won many awards, and  has been recommended by Debbie Macomber , one the New York Times Bestselling Authors.  (I enjoy her writings as well).

It is the firsts in a series of 3 novels, and, I know I will read all of them.

The Prayer Box is a lovely summer read and will have you thinking about your own relationships, familial and with the people around you.  This book really is a summer gift and I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as I have.



About the Author

 Lisa Wingate has written several novels and each one has had it's share of acclaim.  


While I was busy taking in this novel, my co-writer Bev Owens just finished reviewing another of her books, Before We Were Yours!  I had read this book as well and enjoyed it immensely.  So when I saw The Prayer Box, I was already enchanted with the author. Her stories are really enjoyable and I can see why she has such great reviews!  




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Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Honey Bus - Book Review

Read an Excerpt
Honey has long been known as the elixir of life.  For Meredith May, a young child whose life had been turned upside down and inside out by parental discord, the miraculous powers of honey, bees, and her beekeeper grandfather would be a vital lifeline.  To read Meredith's memoir, The Honey Bus, is to be mesmerized by how honeybees took the raw material of a confused girl and turned her into something golden.

At five years of age, May found herself uprooted from everything familiar.  Due to the divorce of her parents, Meredith and her brother were suddenly moved cross-country to live with their grandfather in California.  This was an incredibly upsetting, and confusing, turn of events.  For May, things no longer made sense, as no one had explained what was happening.  To make matters worse, her mother barricaded herself behind a bedroom door, and entered a seemingly endless season of child abandonment.

Sensing the need for connection, nurturing, and something to fill the deep hole in his granddaughter's psyche, Franklin Peace began to introduce Meredith to the wonders of beekeeping.  That journey began with a flurry of bee stings—which would terrorize most children.  Counter to what one might expect, the temporary pain of that surprise attack by swarming bees built up a kind of immunity to the deeper sting of feeling alone in the world.

Like a bee drawn to honey, May's curiosity about the rusty old Army bus in her grandfather's back yard was not to be denied.  The ramshackle honey bus was the object of Meredith's great desire.  She longed to be granted entry into that portal, for she knew that magical things happened inside her grandfather's top secret laboratory.  On the day when she was finally deemed old enough for a membership into the honey bus's secret society, May's joy knew no bounds.

As her grandfather's beekeeping apprentice, Meredith not only entered into the fantastical world of honeybees, but more importantly, she found her forever family.
Bees need the warmth of family.  Alone, a single bee isn't likely to make it through the night.  A beehive revolves around one principle—the family.  I knew that gnawing need for a family.
May's sage, quietly unassuming grandfather used the language of bees to reveal the ancient ways that were relevant to learning how to persevere through collective strength.  As she fed off of this Way of the Bees, Meredith learned all that she could not learn from her birth parents.  It was the bees that were, in essence, raising her.  From them, the author gained insight into compassion and how to thrive by caring for others. 



In following Meredith through the mystical portal into honeybee society, we find ourselves joining in the dance of the bees.  You will revel in the poetry of what it is to be in the presence of sacred creatures that exist for the greater good.  The artistry of Meredith May's writing was, to this reader, the sweetest of nectars.

Just as honeybees make themselves essential through their generosity, this book is essential reading in that it gives us what we need to enter into the bee's state of grace.  Bees give far more than they ever take.  Spending time in The Honey Bus has given me the desire to be more of what someone else might need right now.  And, perhaps, that is the true elixir of life.









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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Spirit of the Season by Fern Michaels - Book Review


Spirit of the Season is a Holiday Romance book by Fern Michaels, best-selling author of The Sisterhood Series and The Men of the Sisterhood books. 


Synopsis



Spirit of the Season - A Holiday Romance Story

Joy Preston grew up in a small town in North Carolina where her grandparents and mother ran a successful Bed and Breakfast called Heart and Soul. In her teens, Joy falls in love with Colorado on a family vacation. Subsequently, she decides to go to collage out there where she majors in Business and Marketing.  While thinking of starting her own company, her marketing professor tells her class that when designing a product the simplest ideas were almost always the most successful. Joy comes up with the idea for a Nail Polish Company and calls it Simply Joy. 

When the story begins it is seven years later and Joy is CEO of her own successful company, which she runs with the help of her two best friends. Their small office is located in Denver, with the product produced in a lab in New York. While working late one night, she gets a call from Izzy, who has worked for her grandmother at the B&B for many years. The news is not good; her grandmother has died of a heart attack.

It is almost Thanksgiving as Joy returns to North Carolina to help her mother & Izzy make arrangements for keeping the B&B running, as it is filled to capacity for the upcoming holidays. This is partly due to the fact that Heart and Soul has a special charm, especially at holiday time, because of how it is always elaborately decorated for the season, with themed guest rooms and dazzling lawn displays. And rumor has it that, during the holidays, guests can be reunited with the spirit of a loved one who has passed on.  

After a private memorial for her grandmother, Joy and her mother meet with estate attorney Will Drake, Joy is shocked to learn that her grandmother's will stipulates that Joy is to take over Heart and Soul and live at the B&B as owner and operator for six months.  Otherwise, the B&B will become the legal property of the state of North Carolina. 

Joy is quite upset and cannot understand why her grandmother would add such a thing to her will.  Though she misses her Nana dearly, Joy has her own company to run and loves living in a big city. She also thoroughly enjoys Colorado's winter sports. She has always been sure she would never live in a small town again where everyone knows everything you do. 

But it IS the holiday season and the B&B is fully booked and decorated, ready to participate in the Parade of Homes competition and gingerbread house contest.  So, since her company can be run from anywhere, Joy decides to stay for the six months to honor her grandmother's wishes.

Add together the Spirit of the Season, handsome attorney Will Drake, and perhaps a little ghostly matchmaking from Joy's beloved Nana, and we have a delightful holiday romance novel. 


Summary


Christmas is a time for remembering loved ones past and present. In this new novel by  New York Times  bestselling author Fern Michaels, the holidays are also the time to discover a future that, like the perfect gift, is as satisfying as it is surprising . . .







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Spirit of the Season Book Review by (c) Wednesday Elf 




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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Before We Were Yours Book Review

A Book That Will Touch Your Heart

After having just finished the book Before We Were Yours, I would like to review it for you today. It isn't a book that I would have chosen for myself, to be honest. My youngest daughter gave it to me for Mother's Day this year. It turns out she made a very good choice for her mamma to read. The novel by Lisa Wingate falls into the historical fiction genre which is a genre that I read often but it also falls under Sisters Fiction (I didn't even know that was a thing!) and Mothers and Children fiction (another new genre to me). Anyway, it turned out to be one of those books that I found difficult to put down. Let me tell you about it.

before we were yours
This made me think of Rill and Fern in Before We Were Yours
image courtesy of pixabay.com
It took me a little while to get used to going back and forth in time as I read the first few chapters but after a short period of time, I rather liked the way the author was making the story unfold.

Before We Were Yours Synopsis


Although, the story line in this novel is fictional, it is based on historical records of a time in the not so distant past where children from very poor families were literally stolen from their parents to be adopted out to families with money and power. Spoiler alert: what these kids go through is gonna tug at your heart. 

Lisa Wingate weaves us through decades of time while telling the story of a family of River Gypsies or Shanty-boat people on the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee. As you turn the pages, you learn about two families that are two generations apart. You see the power of the strings that hold a family together or rip them apart.  Will there be consequences from secrets kept and secrets shared?

Personally, I loved the honest way that the author wrote about the struggles that most multi-generational families have when faced with having to place a loved one in a facility to be cared for. She portrayed the heartache of a family member no longer being able to live in their own home. Those awful moments when someone you love no longer recognizes who you are. This wasn't the main plot of the novel but was interspersed very well as the story progresses through a span of about 80 years. 

This is a story that probably will break your heart, but by the end, I think it will mend your heart, too.  

Every Family Can Relate

I think one of the remarkable things I took away from this novel was that just about everyone will relate to this story about family. I kept thinking about my paternal grandmother while I read. Granny was a strong soul who went through a similar childhood as the Foss children did. She came from a poor family with several children. Her mother died in childbirth when she was about 8. It was decided that her father wasn't fit to raise the children. The younger ones were adopted out quickly but Granny and her sister Cora were deemed too old. They were sent to an orphanage. Those two sisters spent years trying to get back to their family. They actually escaped from 4 orphanages together. She and Cora stayed close and they were able to re-unite with their siblings when they were adults and even took care of their elderly father in his last years. 

Another connection to my own family was that Granny suffered from Alzheimer's. Having to put someone you love in a care facility for their own safety isn't an easy one for any family. It broke my heart that she didn't recognize me at all but it hurt even more to see my Dad's face when she didn't know him. The author writes about this in a sympathetic and poignant way. 

I highly recommend this book! I think it will resonate with many. Whether we are a mother, father, daughter, son, sister, or brother; I think parts of the story will seem like a bit of our own.





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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Learning to See - Book Review

Read an Excerpt
You have seen the photos.  The Migrant Mother.  Desperate families on the move.  Children experiencing abject poverty.  Desolate internment camps.

Migrant Mother (1936)
Credit: Dorothea Lange/Public Domain

You have heard the photographer's name.  Dorothea Lange.  But how many of us know the backstory of how Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn Lange (1895-1965) became one of the most famous documentary photographers of all time?

Dorothea Lange (1936)
Credit: The Library of Congress/No Restrictions

Learning to See is historical fiction that reads like an organic biography.  Elise Hooper used volumes of historical records and interviews to create this compelling memoir-like novel.  Like many based-on-true-life stories, the fiction morphs with the nonfiction into a very realistic portrait of the complex life and times of Dorothea Lange.

We are first introduced to the intrepid twenty-two-year-old Nutzhorn as she arrives in the bohemian San Francisco of 1918.  Having been the victim of a thief who makes off with her life savings, Dorothea must use her wits to secure housing and a job as a photographic assistant.  Before long, the renamed Lange decides to forge her own path as an independent studio photographer.

As things unfold, we discover Dorothea's many evolving iterations: friend, businesswoman, wife, mother, and fearless social activist.  There are elements of Lange's life that some will find upsetting (like choosing to foster out her children during the hard economic times of the Great Depression).  The sacrifices endured for the sake of Lange's calling will have lifelong ramifications.

This is a book for those who appreciate historical fiction, biographies, defining moments in time, photography, or reflections on the human landscape of America.  I couldn't help but see the parallels between the subjects of Lange's Depression Era portraits and those that are beginning to define this current time of economic collapse, migrant oppression, and social injustice.

As a photographer with a connection to our country's unseen and often marginalized individuals, the themes of this book deeply resonate.  For me, Lange's unvarnished look at the real America took me to a place deep within myself that wishes to compassionately acknowledge and respond to the pain of those who are struggling mightily.  We know there are multitudes experiencing the hardest times of their lives at this very moment in our nation's history.

Woman of the High Plains (1938)
Credit: Dorothea Lange/Public Domain
This is not the time to look away.  To peer into the haunting images of Dorothea Lange's America, is to have the opportunity of a lifetime to learn to see and to define who we will become in relationship to, and with, those who are trying to survive, while hoping for a better tomorrow.

I highly recommend this novel and encourage members of book clubs to consider Learning to See as a group selection.  It is sure to generate the kinds of conversations that matter.










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