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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Book Review of Honeysuckle Season

Greenhouse

In this book we are introduced to Libby a young women who has many recent struggles and an unknown future.


Summary of Book


Libby is a young woman who has just gone through several miscarriages, a painful divorce and the death of her father.  Since she is at a true crossroads in her life she decides to return to her roots in Bluestone, Virginia.  Here she moves into her father's home and begins a career as a wedding photographer.

She is asked to photograph a wedding at the historic Woodmont estates.  This is a place she remembers going to as a child with her mother.  The place brings back memories and after the wedding the owner Elaine Grant asks her help in getting the place ready for special events.  Elaine has also asked a young widower, Colton Reese to help in the restoration of a greenhouse on the estate.

The greenhouse was once the scene of many community gatherings.  It was built as a wedding gift for Elaine's grandmother and was at one time a beautiful and magical place.  The years have not been kind to the place and it is overgrown with honeysuckle vines and lots of weeds.  The greenhouse is said to be haunted and it hides secrets from years gone by.

It has been months since her father's death and Libby is now ready to start going through some of his things.  When she does, a letter she finds in his desk will bring to light long buried secrets with ties to the Woodmont estate.  

The author, Mary Ellen Taylor, weaves a wonderful story of love and loss, secrets and forgiveness, and a wonderful hope for the future.  Along the way you meet interesting characters and become caught up in their lives.

My Thoughts on the Book


I liked this book from the very beginning and was delighted with the way the author introduced the characters.  There was a hint of the secret throughout the book but I really didn't catch on till near the end.  This made it a real page turner.  The characters were lifelike and I took a real interest in their lives.  This would be a great book for book club discussions.

Other Books by This Author


Mary Ellen Taylor is an award winning author of Winters Cottage and Spring House and several other women's literature books.  She also writes under the name Mary Burton as a New York Times best selling suspense novelist.




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Friday, September 18, 2020

Otherwise Engaged by Joanna Barker - Book Reviewed

Otherwise Engaged is a fabulous book!  It is a clean and wholesome romance for those of us who do not like explicit content.  It is also a historical fiction which is one of my favorite genres.  

This is the first book I have read by Joanna Barker, but it will not be the last!   She is a phenomenal writer who includes vivid descriptions of people and surroundings.  I was barely into the first chapter of Otherwise Engaged when I noted how much I loved this author’s captivating descriptions. I could easily envision the people and places in my mind’s eye. 

I also enjoy the touches of humor Barker includes throughout the book.  Several times I laughed out loud at the witty repartee between characters. 

All of these exceptional elements made this a thoroughly enjoyable book which I would highly recommend.   


Synopsis of Otherwise Engaged
England - 1822

Rebecca Rowley has just returned home from Brighton.  She has a big announcement to share with her family.  One that she knows her family will not be excited to hear.  Rebecca is engaged to Edward Bainbridge, whom she just met while in Brighton.  
 
She had heard the Bainbridge name before.  Their fathers had been business partners years before.  The reasons for the dissolution of that partnership had always been a secret that the parents never shared with their children.  Neither Rebecca nor Edward knew why they couldn't be together.  They agreed to find out the secret and, together, try to get their families to leave the past in the past, forgive and forget whatever was necessary, so they could be married with the acceptance and support of both families.  
 
 Otherwise EngagedCheck PriceRebecca had another secret.  She loved to ride her horse, Stella, but she enjoyed riding bareback.  She knew her family would disapprove of her riding in such an unladylike and dangerous way.  So, she would leave the estate with Stella saddled, then remove the saddle when they reached a secluded meadow.  Together, they would run like the wind, free and unencumbered by restraints. 
 
After one of their unconventional rides, Stella heard someone crying for help.  She and Stella immediately responded.  A child was drowning.  Rebecca ran into the water and swam to the girl, whose dress was caught on an underwater tree branch.  Once Rebecca freed her, she pulled her to safety on shore where they were joined by the child's very angry adult half-brother, Lieutenant Nicholas Avery.  This was definitely not the best way to meet new neighbors, especially since Rebecca was soaking wet and anyone could see that her nearby horse was not wearing a saddle.  This stranger now knew one of her best-kept secrets.  
 
Rebecca soon learned that Nicholas Avery was his sister, Olivia's, guardian.  Her mother had recently died and their father had died a few years before.  Nicholas barely knew Olivia since she was a much younger step-sister.  He had been in the navy all of her life and had only seen her a few times.  He wasn't always sure how to handle Olivia.  As a navy lieutenant, he knew how to make men obey his orders, but was clueless about how to deal with his little sister.  Rebecca stepped in to try to help.
 
Over the next few weeks, Rebecca and Nicholas became friends.  She confided in him and he kept her secrets, plus he enabled her to pursue activities that were otherwise not considered acceptable for a lady in society.   Rebecca's mother thought Nicholas would make the perfect suitor for her, but Nicholas knew Rebecca was otherwise engaged.
 

Conclusion


I immediately adored the free-spirited Miss Rebecca Rowley.  I applauded her desire to take on difficult tasks and live life on her own terms, not by wealthy society rules that stifled women.  I was tickled by Lieutenant Nicholas Avery’s independent little sister, Olivia, who clearly had a mind of her own.  I loved the witty quips of Rebecca’s family, as well as her conversations with Nicholas, and the jocular repartee they shared with each other.   
 
There are some authors who leave me wondering how they do it. How they write so well that they capture my attention.  How they describe their characters with such detail that I feel as if I know them, that they are close friends who have shared every confidence. How they weave a story that captivates me to the point of tears, laughter and even anger. 
 
Joanna Barker has done just that, and more, in “Otherwise Engaged”.  I have no doubt that I will miss Rebecca, Nicholas, and even Olivia in the upcoming weeks.





I received an advance copy of "Otherwise Engaged" to review from NetGalley. I would like to express my appreciation to Netgalley, the author, Joanna Barker, and the publisher, Covenant Communications, for this opportunity.



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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Catherine Cookson Riley Book Review

Catherine Cookson Riley (1998) Book Review

Many years ago, I parted with most of my Catherine Cookson books, retaining only the few that I had not read, like the one shown here called Riley. It had been decades since I had picked up any of Cookson's books but I remember fondly having loved the stories, which are set in the 19th century in and around what was then at least a heavily industrialized area of northeast England called Tyneside. 

With the arrival in 2020 of the virus that would lock down most of the world, I set to reading through some of my old piles of books and hence returned to the works of Catherine Cookson via this novel, Riley. 


IS RILEY RECOMMENDED?

Riley was indeed very good and it did not in any way fail my memories of Cookson’s books. It is the story of a young lad with no direction who was surely bound for trouble but was indirectly 'rescued’ by a few heated comments from a caring teacher. The result of those comments was a tumultuous but successful life on the stage and marriage to a woman 20 years his elder. 

Riley is Highly Recommended by me for anyone who loves historical fiction.


THE AUTHOR

Author Catherine Cookson, despite being from an extremely poor, working class home in Tyneside, England, went on to become one of the richest women in Britain. More importantly in my mind at least, she also went on to become Britain’s most read author in the mid-1990s and remains on the list of the twenty most read British novelists. She wrote a remarkable two books a year in many years and, when she died in 1998, she left behind 103 novels and a fortune for charity. 


ROMANCE OR HISTORICAL FICTION?

Catherine Cookson's novels were often categorized as romance despite the fact that, as Cookson said herself, there was nothing romantic about the times or the situations in her books. Her stories offered up more than historical romance and are extremely well done in terms of depicting a time period in history, which would surely make them qualify as historical fiction today. 

I do not want to stop with recommending Riley, however. I want to make my post a call for people to pick up Catherine Cookson’s books whether they knew her before they arrived here on this page or not. It doesn’t matter which book you start with whether it be Riley or another, they are all sure to please. Just be careful if you start with a series like Mary Ann Shaughnessy, Tilly Trotter or the Bailey Chronicles that you pick the first one.  You will find Riley on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links

Buy Riley on Amazon.
Catherine Cookson’s Life 
Discover the new, used and vintage books in my eBay store by clicking here but be warned that unfortunately there are no Catherine Cookson novels!
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn reviewed. 
Fast Girls by Elise Hooper reviewed. 








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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Review of Across the Winding River

Across the Winding River was another one of those books I couldn't put down once I started reading it.  The author did a wonderful job of intertwining a story from World War II Germany and present day San Diego.  When Beth is helping her father go through his WWII mementos she discovers a photo of him and a mysterious women in Germany who is obviously pregnant. Who is this woman and what if any part did she play in her father's life. 

Link to Book through Amazon


                                                                    

Main Characters

  • Max-  Max is a dentist, who served as a medic in World War II.  He met several German resistance members whom he helped whenever he could.
  • Beth-  Max's daughter.  We meet her in the present day after her mother has died and she is taking care of her invalid father.  She wants to spend as much time as she can with him and engages him in talking about his time in the war.
  • Johanna- We first meet Johanna just before the war when Hitler is just starting to rise to power.  Johanna and her family have been able to hide the fact that she is one quarter Jewish through a grandfather who has since passed away.
  • Harald- Harald is a professor who marries Johanna.  During the war he is  pressed into service for a cause he does not believe in.
  • Margarethe (Metta) - Metta is a younger sister who marries a strict Nazi, before she realizes his true character.  She sneaks away whenever she can to work for the resistance.
  • Ansel- Ansel is Metta's husband and a very cruel person who is loyal to the Nazi cause.
  • Jonas and Heide- They belong to the German resistance.  When Jonas is wounded, Metta meets an American medic in the forest and brings him to help Jonas.

My Thought on the Book

I really loved the book.  It was easy to read and clearly marked whether you were in the present day or the World War II era.  Each chapter completed a section on one of the times.  There were several side stories on Beth, that endeared her to me.  She was a very likable character as was her father Max.  I found myself really routing for them and hoping they could solve the mystery that had lasted for over 50 years.



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Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Book of Two Ways - A Review

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Your plane is about to crash.  As your life, your hopes, your dreams, your frantic thoughts plunge out of the sky, what is it—who is it—you fix upon?  For the passenger in seat 12C, surprisingly, it wasn’t her beloved husband, Brian, or her much-adored daughter, Meret, that came to mind.  No, it was Wyatt who streaked across her consciousness.

Dawn Edelstein survives that crash.  In the aftermath of having had those life-flashing-before-her-eyes moments, the airline offers her a flight to anywhere she needs to go.  She should go home, but where is home?  Is it the home she knows now, or the home she once found in the man she loved so many years ago?  

The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult, is a book of what ifs, a book of parallel universes, a book of diverging and converging pathways.  It is a book that explores what might have been even as one is living the what is.

Before Dawn got the call that her mother was dying of cancer, she was deeply, passionately in love with her life as an Egyptologist graduate student working on a dissertation delving into The Book of Two Ways.  That book was the Egyptian's map to the afterlife.  There were two pathways one could follow on the journey to the next plane.  

When Dawn was faced with the decision no daughter wishes to face, she chose to leave behind her much-anticipated life of the mind, in academia, and life of the heart, with Wyatt Armstrong, the man with whom she shared the exhilaration of discovery.  Together, they had burned bright with promise.

As things come to pass, Dawn’s season of maternal care-giving leads her to a new career as a death doula—one who helps those on their end-of-life journeys.  She meets, and marries, Brian Edelstein,  a physicist.  Their life is unfolding rather predictably until Dawn’s moment of reckoning on that plummeting aircraft.

Dawn accepts that free ticket to anywhere from the airline.  Her destination?  Egypt.  Wyatt.  Her unresolved past.

How will this decision impact her future, her marriage, Wyatt, her relationship with her child, her trajectory through life?  No spoilers here.  You will want to read The Book of Two Ways to learn how things resolve themselves (or not).  

I have always found Jodi Picoult’s books to be compelling.  She is an extremely gifted writer who always takes her readers on journeys that matter.  This book was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020.  I was elated when approved to review an ARC ahead of the September 22nd release of this publication.

My enthusiastic interest in The Book of Two Ways had to do with my current explorations into becoming an end-of-life doula.  It comes as no surprise that the chapters dealing with Dawn’s interactions with those in the process of transitioning from this life were my favorite chapters.  

Though I have long found Egyptian life quite fascinating, I felt a bit mired in the denser sections of this book (and I typically enjoy the challenge of great depth).  That said, I greatly admire the intense research and explorations that went into birthing this highly ambitious novel.  I’m glad I read this book and do encourage you to let it take you on what it is sure to be a very reflective journey.  This book is meaty and will require something from you.

If you, like me, have ever pondered the what-ifs of your life choices, you are sure to come away from this read with the kinds of insights that will enrich your current pathway.  I have no doubt this book will come to mind the next time I am standing at a crossroads.  

I wish to thank Jodi Picoult and her publishing company, Random House, for this opportunity to read The Book of Two Ways in return for an honest review.



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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Take a Break and Solve Some Riddles

Fun Combined with Distraction - 2020's Prescription

With so many challenges in 2020, finding distracting things to do has been priority number one for my family and me.

Simply enjoying each other's company and being grateful for what we do have has been a priority in our life these past several months. But truth be told, it's still a conscious effort to keep the mind clear and hope alive. Life has a way of sneaking up and challenging our sanity. Sometimes getting back to the basics is the best solution.

So that brings me to riddles. Lol. Truth.

I decided to write riddle books as a form of entertainment and distraction.  Strangely enough, I started writing them in late 2019. Premonition maybe? To date, I've self-published five riddle books. My latest book is Halloween Riddles, featured below.

Available on Amazon
Turn the World Off With a Smile

When I created the books, and the related website, "StumpedRiddles.com," my tag line for both became, 'turn the world off with a smile.'

My latest project, Halloween Riddles, was a time-consuming venture. It involved approximately three months from writing to publishing. It was published on Amazon in August 2020.

This book features eighty riddles divided into eight chapters. The chapters are Unseen Halloween, Dead Halloween, Costumes, Halloween Food, Halloween Decorating, A Famous Cartoon, Halloween Emotions, and Halloween Noises.

The book was written for the avid Halloween fans and for parties.

You Can Also Solve Riddles Online

I built StumpedRiddles.com to coincide with the published riddle books.

The site features a growing list of originally written riddles to solve. When you need a mindless activity, head over at your leisure to tackle a few.

Some of the riddles are unique to the website, while others are from the already published riddle books.

A Growing List of Original, Personally Written Online Riddles to Keep You Busy Here

Here's one of the riddles you'll find on the website:

On StumpedRiddles.com

Did you guess the answer?

Oh, what the heck, I'll give you one more to ponder:

On StumpedRiddles.com

Riddles might seem mundane, but these days, that's a feature, not a bug!

I created the books for multiple purposes: Parties, Games, Loot Bags, Stocking Stuffers, Mental Challenges, Family Gatherings, and of course, Distraction.

Have fun, and lose yourself in brain teasers :)





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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Blind Your Ponies - Book Review

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93 losses.  Zero wins.  Pretty much everyone in Willow Creek, Montana has known the agony of defeat.  This is a one-horse town where few imagined ending up and even fewer meant to stay.

The thing is, magic happens—even in those outposts that have known more than their share of dashed hopes—especially in those bleak has-been places where glory is just a word in the dictionary.  Everyone in Willow Creek is there for a reason.  And it is in how those reasons come together, in one fairytale basketball season, that we come to love, and cheer on, this ragtag group of misfits.

Some books just grab you by the heart and never let go.  This is one of those books.  Blind Your Ponies is about never giving up.  It is about finding love in the midst of loss.  It is about the transformative power of grief, and healing, and believing when it seems crazy to believe.  It is ultimately a book about letting in the things that can lift you past the point of hopelessness and despair.

Who is this cast of characters that will cause us to cheer until we are hoarse?  There is Sam Pickett.  English teacher and "losingest" basketball coach ever.  This is a man who has experienced the worst that can happen to someone he loved.  He is a crushed soul who will be lifted by the young boys who would go to any length for their beloved coach.

Which brings us to the boys on the team.  Dean, Pete, Olaf, Tom, Rob, and Curtis.  These young men have known deprivation, the feeling of not being good enough, the doubt that comes from being tossed away by those who were supposed to love them most. 

There has never been a group less destined to succeed on the basketball court, unless, of course, you can see into their hearts.  They will come together, by the sheer power of heart, to achieve the unimaginable.  In that unlikely march to claiming what was theirs all along, we will come to know what it means to give everything you are to become everything you can be. 

You don't have to love basketball, coaching, teaching, or mentoring young people to get caught up in this story.  But, if you, like me, have ever had the great privilege of being involved in those high callings, it will be impossible not to embrace this book with that part of you that has known, and nurtured, a Dean, a Pete, an Olaf, Tom, Rob, or Curtis.  Once you have experienced the immense joy of helping shape a child's life, you are forever a part of the greatest enterprise on earth. 

Blind Your Ponies will move you in ways you didn't even know you needed to be moved.  If you have loved movies like Hoosiers, Rocky, or Rudy, you are sure to be lifted by the spirit of this inspirational book.  Highly recommended.  Five stars.
















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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum Book Review

Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum Book Review

I think it is because I am very interested in the world of art, particularly paintings, that I listened carefully to a recent CBC radio story about the Dr. Seuss book Horse Museum, which was released posthumously in 2019. 

It was a fascinating story as this was a book found decades after Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote as Dr. Seuss, had passed away. The manuscript was discovered in a box that for whatever reason missed being sorted through at the time of his death and was only discovered in 2013.

Pages from Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum Book Review

This book is a different type of book for author and artist Dr. Seuss in that it does not feature rhymes like so many of his other books and it is also one of the few books that he wrote that is non-fictional in nature and not intended to help children with their reading skills. Instead, the goal of this book is to help children learn about looking at and creating art and yes, there's something to be learned within the covers of this book for adults, too.

Horse Museum looks at how artists have painted horses over the years. The choice of horses was not because Seuss was fascinated by horses but because he knew many artists have painted them and he had to choose a theme that provided lots of artwork to learn by. 

Art from Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum

Within the cover are many horse-themed pieces by famous artists like Picasso, George Stubbs, Rosa Bonheur, Alexander Calder, Jacob Lawrence, Deborah Butterfield, Franz Marc and Jackson Pollock. While learning about horses, you and your child will also be discovering information about how artists create pictures and about how to observe art.

Suess did not do the illustrations for this book. His found manuscript was not finished but rather a guide to what his idea for the book was with rough sketches in place. Illustrator Andrew Joyner was brought in to illustrate the book with the caveat that the illustrations must be somewhat Seuss like but yet still represent the artist’s style. Throughout the book you will see Joyner's illustrations blended with illustrations from real works of art. 

Art from Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum Book


A fun bonus in the book is that you will see cameo appearances of the characters we know and love from Dr. Seuss books. Those guests include the Cat in the Hat, the Grinch and Horton the Elephant. 

OFFICIAL HORSE MUSEUM BOOK TRAILER


Here’s the official book trailer for this adorable children’s book. Fair warning, you may want to buy this book for the children in your life once you watch this trailer.


Anyone, child or otherwise, who loves Dr. Seuss and who wants to learn about art and horses will enjoy this book. Find your copy of Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum on Amazon by clicking here.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Halloween Movie Review.
A Wonderful Way to Grandparent Across the Miles.
Children's Classic Books Reviewed.


Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum




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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Review of The Last of the Moon Girls

I downloaded the book The Last of the Moon Girls by Barbara  Davis when it was on the July list for Amazon Prime's First Reads.  I probably picked it because I wasn't sure what else to pick, but I was pleasantly surprise when it turned out to be one of the best books I've read in a long time.  In fact when I got to about 50% in the book, I ended up staying up half the night until I finished the book.  I found it to be a delightful read full of interesting characters, an unsolved murder, and some thoughtful messages on forgiveness and finding ones self.


Brief Synopsis of Plot

Lizzy Moon had left the family farm in New Hampshire 8 years before to follow her dream.  She now had a promising career in New York city and no intention of ever returning to the "family" business. The family farm was a "herbal farm" and generations of Moon woman had used their various skills as "healers" to run the farm. Lizzy was to be the last of the Moon girls.

All of this was before Lizzy got a call letting her know her beloved grandmother, Althea, had passed away leaving her the farm.  Still, Lizzy had every intention of returning to pack up the farm and put it for sale.

When Lizzy returns she is met with a farm that is very deteriorated and fields of lavender that are full of weeds.  She is also confronted with the unsolved murders of two girls from 8 years before and insinuations from the towns people that followed her grandmother to her grave.

The book has a wonderful series of twists and turns that causes Lizzy to take another look at her life and what she thinks she wants.

This is an excellent read and I would highly recommend it.  I also think this would be an excellent book for a book club discussion.  There are lots of interesting topics within the book that should lead to a lively discussion.

  






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Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Garden of Small Beginnings - Book Review

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Let's start with the harvest here.  Lest you think this is going to be a book about a widow who has had a breakdown after her husband's untimely and tragic death, and who is still struggling with that loss, let me assure you that this is a book where the reader reaps joy.  I found The Garden of Small Beginnings, by Abbi Waxman, to be a brilliantly written, and delightfully humorous, take on how we get through the gritty times in life.

It's not often that a book begins with whale genitalia.  This is when you know this is not going to be your grandmother's gardening guide.  No... not at all.  This is where the irreverent humor and quirky cast of characters begin to emerge.  

You see, Lilian Girvan is a textbook illustrator.  And sometimes, though perhaps not every day, you are called upon to draw things like a whale's, ahem, penis.  Am I allowed to use the word penis in a book review?  This is surely a first for this reviewer.  

Anyway, getting back to Lilian.  On the day of her infamous illustrating assignment, she is called up to meet with her boss.  Lilian has been assigned a plum project designing the illustrations for a series of vegetable guides.  In order to garner favor with an important client, Lilian has been volunteered to take a Saturday morning gardening class at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden.  This is where the plot (literally) thickens.

Over the course of six weeks, lives will be changed in beautiful and unexpected ways by an eclectic crew of aspiring gardeners.  Though this is not a gardening book, per se, it is a book about how we grow from loss, and grief, and other heartbreaks into who we will become in the next season of life.

I loved this book's characters and witty banter.  Lilian's young children are sheer delight.  This is my favorite kind of read: so well-written, clever, funny, and full of heart.  Highly recommended.





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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.

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Fast Girls - Book Review

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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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