Showing posts with label Treasures By Brenda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Treasures By Brenda. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Robert Galbraith's Lethal White Book Review

It is a bit awkward to start with the fourth book in a series but, since that is the one I have just read, that is where I am starting.

It is telling that I waited anxiously for Robert Galbraith’s fourth novel, Lethal White. It finally arrived in in September of 2018 and unsurprisingly, it was a giant book worthy of the wait.

Lethal White follows three excellent detective novels crafted by J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame and published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.  Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career of Evil were all page turners and Lethal White is more of the same. A lengthy read, complex and interesting.

Set during the 2012 London Olympics, Lethal Weapon covers much ground including political corruption, blackmail, murder, deception, betrayal and suicide.

The series continues with the latest mysteries to be solved by the now two-person detective team at Cormoran Strike’s detective agency. It follows the one-legged detective Strike and his new partner Robin as they solve crimes. Both characters continue to live on the edge financially, personally and professionally and wind up in precarious situations in all three areas of their lives.

Strike continues to live in near poverty in a room behind his office. He’s a disabled war veteran who barely looks after himself in general and, as we are given to understand in the book, his leg in particular. He is an amputee, which makes the physical requirements of his job sometimes difficult and perhaps even more so because he fails to look after his leg properly. If I had one complaint about this novel, it would be Strike’s continued difficulties with his leg. Come on Strike, look after your leg! Yeesh. I don’t look after myself perfectly all of the time but if I had a chronic problem, I hope I would do so better than Strike does his leg.

Robin struggles with her personal life as well as with her new career as a private detective. Her family believes she should not be doing the job she is doing because of the danger element but Robin knows that she has landed where she needs to be. This is the work she has always dreamed of doing but never made an effort to pursue.


Rowling says that she wrote this book while writing a play and two screenplays for Harry Potter’s world. At 650 pages long, Lethal Weapon goes on as Rowling’s books tend to. Some readers wish they could cut out a bit but if you enjoy a well crafted story, you will appreciate the plot, characters and insights given in this novel. As The New York Times says in their review, sometimes more is better than less.

The Guardian’s review says that this book contains much "highly inventive storytelling” and there is no surprise there. J.K. Rowling is a master at doing exactly that.  The Guardian goes on to say that “there is much here for mystery fans to enjoy” and I agree completely on both counts. Lethal White is HIGHLY RECOMMEND by me for you if you love a good, long detective story. You will, of course, have to read the first three books first. You can find all of Robert Galbraith’s books on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Robert Galbraith’s Lethal White on Amazon.
More J.K. Rowling reading on Movie Treasures By Brenda.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Every Note Played Book Review

Every Note Played Book Review
Every Note Played: A Novel by Lisa Genova

Welcome to the world of the classical pianist or rather, to the world of a famous classical pianist who has ALS.

Stay with him as the disease progresses through his body and takes away not just his ability to play the piano. Watch as it quickly robs him of all of his body functions starting with the use of his arms and legs and going on to eventually claim his ability to talk, to eat and even to breathe.

I am sure that introduction will NOT make you want you to read Every Note Played by Lisa Genova but please do not let it put you off. As the cover says, this books contains “searing writing and it is a must read.”

Genova is a neuroscientist who writes books about people living with neurological diseases. She wrote Still Alice, which was about the life of a women with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

As a matter of fact, Every Note Played relates directly to Still Alice. The man who directed the movie Still Alice was diagnosed with ALS shortly before he read the story and he directed the movie while suffering the symptoms. He did so without a voice and using one finger on an iPad.

We have all heard of ALS, of the Ice Bucket Challenge and know that Stephen Hawking had it. However, many of us do not know much about the disease nor do we really understand what it is like to live with it. Every Note Played will change that fact.

Genova reads the medical books, interviews the experts and gets to know the patients so that we do not have to. Using that thorough research into all aspects of the disease, she brings us information about the disease in the form of a fictional story.

In Every Note Played, there are some truly exceptional and caring people but there is also one totally selfish individual. He just happens to be one of two main characters and the one who has ALS. Imagine being a caregiver for someone who never thought of anyone except himself before he became sick. Doesn't sound great, does it? It certainly makes an interesting story and, of course, not only nice people get ALS. Even unpleasant people need the support of family, friends and the health care system when they are stricken with any disease.

I do recommend this book though, of course, the subject matter is not pretty. It is honest and it is truly a look into living with ALS. It is a medical drama that you will want to end sooner than it does but it manages to be a page turner despite the subject matter. It is a horrible disease but this book, while educational in terms of the disease, is also a well-crafted story about family relations, love and forgiveness. My heart goes out to those stricken with ALS and my wonder, amazement and gratitude goes out to the people who act as caregivers. If you want to learn more, read Every Note Played, which you can find on Amazon right here.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of Every Note Played on Amazon.


Every Note Played by Lisa Genova









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Friday, March 1, 2019

Somewhere in France Book Review

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson, A Book Review

Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson


I believe that I read more books set in the years surrounding the Second World War then I do set in the First World War so the time frame of Somewhere in France felt a little different to me when I first picked up the book and the claim that it would be “especially satisfying for fans of Downton Abbey” was somehow a little off-putting to me. Can anything compare to our beloved Downton Abbey?

However, somewhere in France delivered a solid story. As a matter of fact I just finished it moments ago after putting aside all of the other things that I should have been doing this morning and leaving my husband to cope with the mess in the kitchen on his own. Don’t worry, he was up to the task.

Somewhere in France is the story of Lady Ashford (Lilly), her brother the Viscount Ashford (Edward) and his best friend Robert Fraser (Robbie).

Lilly breaks with her wealthy family in order to do the work she wants to do in support of the Great War. She is not content to stay home, find a husband and raise a family so she learns how to drive and joins the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and becomes an ambulance driver.

Edward, who previously was not much more than a spoiled aristocrat, joins the war effort in the trenches where he finds success leading a group of men.

Robbie, who originally hailed from slums in Scotland but who managed via a scholarship to become a talented surgeon, is assigned to a field hospital where he serves as Captain Fraser.

They all keep up a stream of good, old-fashioned correspondence, which helps them maintain close ties. They continue to do so even after Miss Ashford, as Lilly calls herself after her break with her family, is assigned as an ambulance driver to the same field hospital that Robbie works at.

Somewhere in France is most definitely a love story though it takes a while for that love to be discovered and then years for it to be exposed.

WHAT TO BE AWARE OF IN THIS BOOK


Somewhere in France Book Review
If you decide to read this book, you might like to know that there is a lengthy sex scene and that, of course, there is violence.

Since all three are working near the front lines in the Great War, it is inevitable that this story includes scenes from the injuries received by those fighting the war and those injuries and the resulting treatments were not nice for the patient or the professional who had to treat him.

You might not expect the fairly lengthy sex scene. However, I think that it was handled beautifully. It demonstrates how some women, particularly those in the upper class, were so protected from realities of life that they knew literally nothing about sexuality and reproduction.

There is some discussion on the website GoodReads about this very issue Some writers call the scene short, which I would not. Others comment about how it important the scene was for the relationship of two adult individuals who would have been married years before if not for the war and because of the historical facts it demonstrated about the lack of knowledge about procreation on the part of the main character and presumably other women of the era.  Lilly's partner was actually forced into the position of educating her on the topic. As one writer said, the scene is not anything like Fifty Shades of Grey. It is beautifully handled though perhaps longer than it needed to be. If this subject matter is of concern to you, you might like to read the discussion for yourself by visiting GoodReads.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


Don’t let these things turn you off this book. Somewhere in France is definitely a page turner, a love story with drama and suspense and a look into the life of people who lived and worked directly on the battlefields during the Great War, the war to end all wars. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. I have to say now that I agree with the comment on the cover that if you love Downton Abbey, you will enjoy this book. You can find your copy in whatever format you prefer on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda

More Downton Abbey Reading:

Buy your copy of Somewhere in France on Amazon.
Watch the Downton Abbey Christmas video parodies.
Find the beautiful Downton Abbey teacups.
Discover the period drama Lark Rise to Candleford.







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Monday, February 18, 2019

The Girl They Left Behind Book Review

The Girl They Left Behind Book Review

The Girl They Left Behind: A Novel by Roxanne Veletzos


I have read a number of books since I last wrote a post here on Review This and I had to do a bit of a  debate with myself as to which one I would write about today since they have all been such good stories.  Please stay tuned for more reviews of books that you should add to your reading list!

The Girl They Left Behind, by Roxanne Veletzos, is a moving story. The title tells exactly what the book is about. Quite literally, a three-year old girl is left behind in Bucharest, Romania in 1941. Her parents abandon her on the steps of an apartment building in the face of Nazi persecution with the hope that she might somehow survive.

What a brutal decision. At first I struggled with this book because it seemed not just heartbreaking but also outlandish that anyone would abandon such a young child and expect her to survive in a place where people would not be quick to take in an unknown child. I know these things and worse happened, but I still struggled at first with this theme.

The little girl is rescued and then left with an orphanage until eventually a wealthy family adopts her and renames her Natalia. Because of her age, she quickly puts all early memories of her birth parents behind her though of course, the abandonment would haunt both her birth mother and father forever.

The story is slightly unusual because it deals with the persecution of the Jewish people in Romania and of communist life behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union. I have read numerous similar stories set in other countries like France, Germany and Poland but I am not sure if I have read another one set in Romania and I expect I have read few set behind the Iron Curtain.

Anyway, the story is a tangled story of survival that spans decades and eventually sees Natalia give up her adoptive family and her love in order to start a new life in the United States.

The story is one of those impossible-but-true stories. It turns out that the author, Roxanne Veletzos,  was born in Bucharest and eventually moved to California and that this this book was inspired by her mother's life though I do not know if in fact she was abandoned by her parents.


Highly Recommended


The Girl They Left Behind is in my opinion very well told. It is engrossing; you will not be able to put it down. It is about family and love and history. It features drama and suspense and even has an ending that will satisfy you. Yes, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.

If you enjoy historically based fiction like Sarah's Key, The Nightingale, The Ragged Edge of NightAll The Light We Cannot See, The Piano Maker and The Orphan Train you will enjoy this book. You can buy your copy in the format of your choice on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy The Girl They Left Behind on Amazon.
Find more HISTORICAL FICTION on Review This!






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Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Review

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book ReviewThe book The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the story of an elderly movie star named Evelyn Hugo who has decided to allow an author to write the story of her life. A tell all, no holds barred. For reasons known only to herself, Hugo picks an relatively unknown, inexperienced young magazine reporter named Monique Grant. In doing so, she astounds both the publishing house and the young woman.

Monique is at a low point in her life. She is newly divorced and frustrated with her unsuccessful career so she accepts this writing job without knowing why she has been chosen. She hopes that she will find success through the sought after story of a reclusive actress.

Immediately after announcing that she wants to have this book written and picking Monique, Hugo puts her to work and the two spend long days in her New York apartment discussing her life story. Hugo arrived in Los Angeles in the 1950s and had a very successful acting career until she finally left acting in the 1980s. As is obvious from the cover, she has seven husbands during that time frame. She has been ruthless in her choices and efforts to get what she wants and along the way found a few great friends and one forbidden love. Of course, it turns out that there is a connection between Monique and Evelyn.

This story is a trip through the Hollywood of times gone by, in both the good and the bad aspects, and it is also a voyage of discovery in which both women find out what it costs to face the truth. It deals with sexuality including LGBTQ, with race and with strong women in the 1940s and 1950s and in the current day.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Review by Taylor Jenkins ReidIs The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo recommended by me? Yes, I enjoyed the book. It was an easy read but be warned that Grant is a not-very-nice woman who will go to any means to get what she wants and that the book includes many of the vices we associate with Hollywood. If you are interested in the history of Hollywood, I believe you will enjoy this story as I did.

The Historical Novel Society says, "Evelyn, her husbands, and others may be composites, but the story is fresh, and the end reveal is worth the wait." I agree.

I spent the entirety of the book wondering if it was linked in any way to the actress Elizabeth Taylor and her seven husbands and eight marriages and a bit of research cleared up the mystery. I do wish there had been a tagline like "based on the lives of real Hollywood actresses."

Anyway, when interviewed by Pop Sugar, author Taylor Jenkins Reid said she was inspired by true stories like those found in Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversation and Scandals of Classic Hollywood. Ava Gardner had herself hired a ghost writer to write her story and shared so many secrets with the writer that the book was eventually cancelled and not published until both Gardner and the writer had passed away. Jenkins Reid drew on many stories from real life and yes, that included the lives of Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth.

In the Pop Sugar story, Jenkins Reid said that she hopes we learn from this story and that "Hugo can teach us a lot about how to get what we want out of this world." Jenkin Reid goes on to say that she believes "It is time for women to get ours (but that) we've got to go out there and take it. (That) it is going to be uncomfortable, but that she thinks the rewards will be there for us. We need to find the confidence in ourselves to say, Pay me what I'm worth. Promote me when I deserve it. Don't take advantage of me. Don't underestimate me."

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? Will you be adding it to your reading list? Are you interested in the history of Hollywood or could you care less?

See you
at the library!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo on Amazon.
The best Elizabeth Taylor movies.







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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Anne of Green Gables Early Reader Chapter Book Reviews

Anne of Green Gables Early Reader Books
I do not have any wee folk around anymore nor did I ever have any wee girls about the house but that did not stop me from holding throughout my life a love of all things related to Anne of Green Gables and Prince Edward Island.  A hold over from my girlhood, I am thrilled to know that the red headed heroine we loved as girls continues to be introduced to successive generations of girls through some beautiful books and television programming.

Green Gables in Anne Arrives
Anne Arrives and Anne's Kindred Spirits are a retelling of the traditional Anne of Green Gables story for early readers in an easy chapter book format that have been adapted by Canadian author Kallie George. Kallie, that is, with an e. Anne Arrives was released in 2018 and Anne's Kindred Spirits will be released in 2019.

The first story introduces the young reader to Anne Shirley and sets her down at Green Gables where we all know that she belongs. She settles in, that is, after a rough start when they find out she is a girl and not a boy and after she has a run in with the neighbor, Mrs. Lynde.

The second story introduces Anne and the reader to her bosom buddy, Diana. In this book, Anne enjoys a community picnic, which is her first, although that outing is jeopardized when Marilla's prized brooch goes missing.

Author Kallie George has written a number of other books for children including a picture book about Anne Shirley called Goodnight, Anne. Kallie says that she believes that she and Anne Shirley are kindred spirits!

Anne Shirley in Anne Arrives

The illustrator Abigail Halpin says that she was gifted with a copy of the original book when she was a teenager and that that book still holds a special place on her book shelf.  The illustrations in Anne Arrives, she says, were "influenced by her memories of one of the most beautiful, magical spots on the planet, Prince Edward Island." Her illustrations were crafted using a combination of traditional and digital media.

Both of these books were written with children aged 6 to 8 or in grades 1 through 3 in mind. However, if you child is not quite ready to read these books on her own, you could certainly read them to her. Although intended for children, they are suitable for any one who loves Anne.

I think that this book is wonderful, sharing as it does a simple version of the classic story with the accompaniment of some charming illustrations. My favorite picture might be the two page spread that shows Green Gables in the distance, shown above.  It sets the scene in my head, for sure.

As you can tell, yes, this book is RECOMMENDED by me. I think it is lovely but I am biased toward anything from Anne's world.  However, Kirkus Reviews calls Anne Arrives, "A dream of an adaptation that is an unabashed love letter to the series that inspired it." In my mind that is high praise indeed.

I think that either book would make a beautiful gift for anyone who loves Anne but it would be especially appropriate for any young girl who is learning or will soon be learning to read. If you want to expose your children to Anne's world, you can never start to young!

You can find both books on Amazon by clicking here.  If you are looking to put a great gift set together, you might consider bundling one of these books with one of the beautiful Anne of Green Gables gift ideas found on this page.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Anne Arrives and Anne's Kindred Spirits on Amazon.
Find a page full of beautiful Anne of Green Gables gift ideas.


Anne Arrives by Kallie George

Anne's Kindred Spirits by Kallie George






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Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Perfect Mother (2018) Book Review

"Some people are so good at making perfect look easy…"

The Perfect Mother is a psychological domestic thriller as well as a reflection on motherhood. It is set in Brooklyn, New York, where a group of new mothers whose babies are all born in the same month become friends through a mom’s group and go on to support each other through the ups and downs of new motherhood.

These women and one 'token' man are very different individuals and come from a variety of backgrounds. However, they are united through the common experience of motherhood.

When the mothers finally allow themselves to go out for an evening and leave their babies at home, their worst nightmare comes true. A baby is kidnapped.

A few members of the group become obsessed with helping recover the baby and their informal investigation unearths secrets from the past that will test marriages and friendships.

Author Aimee Molloy told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that she came up with the idea of the book when her own children were less than five years old. She was still very aware of “the pressures women face and the choices they have to make, particularly when they’re raising a child in a city with no family around to help.”

Here is the short book trailer, which does not really tell much about the book but definitely gives you a feel for the mood in this story:

The Perfect Mother is Molloy’s first novel. However, she also wrote the very successful New York Times Bestselling biography However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph and she is the co-author of several non-fiction books.

Is The Perfect Mother RECOMMENDED by me? It is. It is a very enjoyable, easy-to-read book with a suspenseful ending that will keep you guessing. Amazon says that it was one of the most anticipated books of the summer of 2018 though I do not know how they measure that statistic. It did go on to become a New York Times bestseller and will soon be a movie. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said it is "gripping and suspenseful and impossible to put down, a true who done it." Pick it up and you will take a suspenseful trip into motherhood.

Of special note is the fact that the grandmothers in my book club who have young grandchildren enjoyed the daily emails woven throughout that detailed what babies might or might not be doing at each stage.

Order your copy of The Perfect Mother on Amazon by clicking right here. If you have read it, do tell what the rest of us what you thought of the book and, if you enjoyed it, do stay tuned for the upcoming movie version of this novel that is being compared to the previous book and movie releases, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Order your copy of The Perfect Mother from Amazon.
Follow my Pinterest board full of gift ideas for moms and my board full of great books to read.











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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Dietland Book Review (2015)

Dietland Book Review (2015)Dietland by Sarai Walker is not a diet book. It is not a
non-fiction book. It is a fictional story about a woman who is waiting to lose weight before she begins living her life. She is not really living yet. She won't start until she is thin and can enjoy all that she thinks comes with being thin including beautiful and confident. She is saving for weight loss surgery. She is hoarding clothes that she buys online for her future self.

Plum Kettle winds up sidetracked by a group of women who have decided to make their own way and ignore the rules of society. In meeting these women, she learns about the costs of being beautiful. This book is easy to read but not lighthearted though it is definitely funny at times. It is an interesting read that takes a look at the weight loss industry, the beauty industry and even gender inequality.

Be forewarned that it has entire sections that are pornographic. The consensus of my book club was that the book could have covered that area of our society without actually being pornographic. Because of this content, many in my book club would not recommend this book to friends and family, which is a shame because I think that it is a good story.

Watch this video review of the book. I love it. It is very short but gives you a much better idea than I can in writing of what this book is about and of the spirit found within the pages of Dietland.

 

As cosproduction says in the video, this book is a work of fiction. Despite the title, it is not a self-help book, not a memoir and not a weight-loss guide. It is a book about “a group of kick ass women taking on society’s view of beauty.”

In 2015, this book was on Amazon's Top 100 Editors' Pick of the Year list, was one of Entertainment Weekly's 10 Best Books of 2015, was a New York Post Best Novel to Read This Summer book and an, O, The Oprah Magazine 10 Titles to Pick Up Now book. Is it RECOMMENDED by me? Yes, with the caution mentioned above. If you can get beyond that content, I recommend you give Dietland a try. Or not. Your choice but if you do read it be sure to come back and let us all know what you thought. Guaranteed, this book will give you something to think about. You can find Dietland here on Amazon in book, audiobook and Kindle formats.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Dietland on Amazon.
Read about Dietland, Season 1, on Amazon.






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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Louise Penny Still Life Book Review & List

Louise Penny Still Life Book Review
Despite the recommendation of every member of my book club and many of my other friends, I have only just finally found my way into the world created by Louise Penny. Penny is a Canadian author who, since the year 2005, has written a series of murder mystery novels that are set in Canada in the romantic Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec.

I was happy to at last have the first book, Still Life, in my hands. I read the first few pages and wondered what all the fuss was about. I can honestly say that I did not like the book until page 59, when I met the main character, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. It is he who makes this series great when he solves crimes with careful observation and integrity.  When I met him, I was hooked.

I love Penny's realistic portrayals of people both good and bad, of the careful and sometimes instinctive detective work and of the idyllic, almost cottage-like setting.

Three Pines is a village so small as not to be found on the map and I have yet to look and see if it is a real village or not. It has cozy homes with fireplaces, friendly community gatherings and lots of home cooking. This book, Still Life, and presumably subsequent ones in the series, will make you want to visit and stay at the village's lone bed and breakfast.

I am a city girl but Penny’s books have me wanting to move to a quaint little village somewhere 'away from it all.' However, as we all know, it is impossible to truly be away from it all and despite the lovely location, the people who live here enjoy real life issues. They struggle through whatever life throws at them and even, sometimes, experience a murder or two. When that happens,  Chief Inspector Gamache and his team of of provincial police officers are called in from Montreal to solve the crime.

In Still Life, Chief Inspector Gamache arrives to investigate the suspicious death in the woods of a local school teacher and secret artist. Is it an accidental hunting death or is it something more sinister? You will have to read the book to find out.

Is Still Life recommended by me? Yes, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as is the second book, A Fatal Grace.

In 2006, Kirkus Reviews wrote that Inspector Gamache was, “Cerebral, wise and compassionate" and that "he was destined for stardom.” They were absolutely correct on both counts and, as they also said, this first novel was a “stellar debut.” Since then, Louise Penny’s books and Gamache’s adventures, have kept fans reading and anxiously awaiting the next book. Yes, I will be reading more of the books in this series in the order as presented here on this book list:

Still Life
A Fatal Grace
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder
he Brutal Telling
Bury Your Dead
The Hangman
Trick of the Light
The Beautiful Mystery
How the Light Gets In
The Long Way Home
The Nature of the Beast
A Great Reckoning
Glass Houses
Kingdom of the Blind

If you enjoy a clever mystery solved in an interesting environment, you should check out the first book, Still Life. You can find it here on Amazon or see all of Louise Penny’s books by clicking right here.

Still Life has been made into a television movie. I have yet to see it but the general consensus of avid Inspector Gamache fans is that the movie was disappointing, which is not really surprising considering the popularity of the books! If you are going to watch the movie, make sure to read the book first!

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Still Life in book, Kindle or audiobook formats on Amazon.

Louise Penny Still Life Book Review & List




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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Weird Sisters Book Review

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, A Book Review


Most of us are aware of at least some of the personality traits that come with birth order. The oldest often assumes more responsibility as a child, the middle often feels like they need more attention, the youngest often seems to be more doted upon. The Weird Sisters embraces, among other topics, the topic of birth order as it shares the life of three sisters in small town Barnwell, Ohio.

Eleanor Brown’s first novel's title does not reference weird as you and I might think when we first see the book. As a matter of fact, the sisters are not weird at all.  Brown’s meaning is as in wyrd from old English. Fate or fated. Destined, which sort of suits the book given the presence of William Shakespeare’s books throughout the story line though that difference was not obvious to me when I picked up the book.

The oldest sister in the trio is the stereotypical eldest sibling. She is a reliable, predictable woman who held a caretaker role over her sisters when they were all children and, though now a successful math professor, never left their hometown and never gave up her role as family caretaker.

The middle sister is a woman who wants to impress, throwing herself into everything she does with gusto in an attempt to stand out and be noticed. Sound familiar? She has a successful career in New York City but is fast-living and promiscuous and, underneath all of her expensive veneer, is ashamed of who she has become. Her failed attempts to maintain her lifestyle has her packing her designer goods and heading for home.

The youngest sister, the stereotypical spoiled younger sibling, is a real vagabond. She floats from experience to experience, town to town, job to job and cannot figure out what she wants to do with her life. Events in her world have her grabbing her backpack and heading for home, too.

Their father is a famed Shakespearean professor who cannot keep his head out of a book for a minute and their mom is equally obsessed with and distracted by books. Growing up, the family did not own a television. Instead, reading was their source of entertainment. Everyone in the family embraced the love of books and became avid readers though as adults some of them did not want the world to know that fact. Brown’s interwoven references to and quotes from William Shakespeare are interesting but will not in any way take away from your enjoyment of this book if you are not a fan of his writings.

Coincidentally, the sisters return home at a time when their mother is suffering through a cancer diagnosis and the resultant treatments. While helping to look after her, there is a whole lot of learning and growth done by all three. They learn who they are and who they want to be as well as to trust in themselves and in each other. You will have to read the book if you want to find out whether or not they stay at home or pursue lives outside of Barnwell.

Obviously, one of the strong themes in this book is that of birth order. The New York Times says the book seems drawn from a Sociology of the Family textbook, which made me smile because yes, I thought that when I was reading the book. It does include some of the stereotypes of birth order. Other themes include coming of age, boomerang children, family conflict and love.

There is no violence and minimal foul language in this book. There is however, sex and adultery as well as drug and alcohol use though I believe that they are presented in a manner that is not offensive. They are an important part of the story of these women who are trying to find themselves.

The Weird Sisters is an entertaining novel and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. It is my first book by Eleanor Brown, a New York Times, national and international bestselling author and it will not be my last. You can buy your copy or read more about it on Amazon by clicking right here.

Be sure to let us know if you have read it or if you will be reading it and, of course, what you thought of it.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Jan Arden's Feeding My Mother Book Review

Jan Arden's Feeding My Mother Book Review
I do it too often. That is, pick up a book without a true appreciate of what I am about to read. Jann Arden's Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss definitely fits that bill. I picked it up because it was written by a wonderful Canadian music artist and because my mother is experiencing some memory issues right now.

Feeding My Mother turned out to be a series of diary or journal-style entries written over a period of a few years while Arden tried to continue working in the music industry and care for her ailing parents. What I expected was information about memory loss; what I did not expect was the diary style of writing or the recipes. I did expect and receive heartbreak, which is definitely on the menu when a loved one disappears in this manner. It is not really a book to turn to for information about Alzheimer's disease but rather one to read to understand one family's struggles to deal with their situation.

It is a nicely put together book with pictures; caring and sharing; family, pets and lots of love; tears but also much laughter; and with a few simple recipes, some of which I may return to. This book was crafted from (apparently) popular Facebook and Instagram posts that Arden wrote during her journey. I believe that she handled her parental situation as best as she could, something we can all aspire to do if and when we become caregivers for our parents. As Arden says, it is not easy becoming a mother to your mother.

Jann Arden


Arden is an accomplished Canadian singer songwriter who has won eight Juno awards and been nominated for a total of eighteen. She has also written three books. This one plus If I Knew, Don't You Think I'd Tell You and Falling Backwards: A Memoir. Another couple of books for our reading lists.

You can hear Arden discuss Feeding My Mother on CBC Radio by clicking right here. They call the book a cookbook, which I disagree with though it does have a few recipes. If you picked this book up thinking it was a cookbook, you would be disappointed. It is more correctly categorized as a biographical book about Alzheimer's disease and patient care.

Do I Recommend Feeding My Mother? 


Yes, I do recommend Feeding My Mother. It is definitely of interest to someone who is dealing with a family member with memory loss or who sees that coming in the future, as I do. However, I am uncertain if it is a book that my mother should read. I know she would appreciate the humour and the love that is found within the covers but not sure that she needs to really think and worry about all of the situations found in this book. What do you think? Should I give my mother this book to read or not?  Have you read Feeding My Mother? Have you been a caregiver for someone with memory loss?

You can get your hands on a copy of Jann Arden's Feeding My Mother by ordering it from Amazon here.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review

Circling the Sun Paula McLain Book Review
Another trip! This time my armchair travels took me to colonial Kenya, Africa via Paula McLain's historical biography Circling the Sun. Set in the 1920s, it is totally engaging, a fictional account of the real Beryl Markham's life. Beryl lived in what is now known as settler-era Africa. She was definitely a woman before her time and her story is very interesting. 

It starts in England but is mostly set in Kenya where Beryl's mother abandons her with her father. Beryl embraces the local African culture and in the long run becomes a record-setting aviator. That is, after a a life spent conquering the male-dominated equestrian world and loving a man she could never have.

Do I Recommend Circling the Sun?


I do. I highly recommend Circling the Sun if you enjoy historical fiction and are intrigued with the idea of visiting Africa. This book sheds light on the life of a woman and a country that we have not heard much about.
I thought it was an enjoyable read but New York Times' writer Alexandra Fuller found it a bit fluffy. However, in her review she agrees that "the settlers who used Kenya as their hapless playground did so at catastrophic expense to those who called Kenya home long before the whites arrived." It is an interesting peek into the history of Africa.

As Julie McDowall said when she reviewed the book for the Independent, it it is filled with "vigorous, swift, and spangled with spectacular imagery." I came away wanting to visit Africa though of course I wanted to visit that country before I read this book. I also agree with McDowall when she said the story quickens near the end and that not enough time is spent on the one thing Beryl is famed for, her flying. If you want to read this book for the aviation, prepare to be disappointed.

The Boston Globe said, "McLain will keep you from eating, sleeping, or checking your e-mail — though you might put these pages down just long enough to order airplane tickets to Nairobi."  Exactly.

Circling the Sun follows Paula McLain's hugely successful novel The Paris Wife, which I can also highly recommend. That book is set in jazz age Paris and follows the life of Ernest Hemingway and his second wife.

Are you intrigued by the idea of visiting Africa? Will you visit via McLain's book? You can find Circling the Sun on Amazon by following this link.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Michael Crichton's TRAVELS, A Book Review (1988)

Michael Crichton's TRAVELS Book ReviewI have just returned from a trip around the world. A few of the more exotic countries that I visited were Thailand, Maylaysia, Bonaire, Ireland, England, Tanzania, Jamaica, New Guinea and Pakistan. On these travels, I climbed mountains, swam in the seas and slept with fleas. I mingled with elephants, felt the breath of gorillas on my face and swam among the sharks. I travelled off the beaten path and in some very rough conditions.

This trip was another armchair travels trip that I took via Michael Crichton's nonfiction book, Travels. It was a book club book that I recommended to the group. Fortunately, most of the group enjoyed the book more than I did.

I did enjoy parts of the book though I expected something different than I received from within the pages of the covers. It turned out that the title Travels was a little more general than I took it to be. It was meant to encompass Crichton's life adventures, which included literal travel but also spiritual adventures and medical training.

eNotes.com called Travels a "patchwork of pieces salvaged from a writer’s bottom drawer" and that is certainly how I felt about the book and why I was not keen on it. It does a good job of sharing Crichton's experiences individually but I would have appreciated it more if it had flowed as a single story rather than a series of short stories. In terms of writings, I suppose one might consider it a journal or diary of sorts.

On Crichton's website, it says that the book started as a series of travel pieces though he never intended to write about his travels thinking of them as just "something he did for himself that wasn’t work-related and wasn’t supposed to amount to anything." I understand how an author would not always want to chronicle everything in his life. Anyway, when Crichton discovered that some of his most important experiences happened on his trips this book was born and, when the book became autobiographical, he added the medical stories.

I am sure you have heard of Michael Crichton. He was a very successful novelist, screenwriter and film director. It is interesting that he wrote and sold books while he was studying to become a medical doctor though perhaps odd that he made it through the entire training program before he decided he did not actually want to be a doctor. In his 66 years, he wrote eleven books and more than 200 million copies of them have been sold in the science fiction, thriller and medical genres. In 1994, he had an unbelievable trifecta that included a number one movie, a book and a television show. Namely, Jurassic Park, Disclosure and ER. I am sure you will have heard of a couple of those, too.

Do I recommend Travels?

I guess so, reservedly. I would not recommend this book to someone looking for a page turner or an engaging novel. This book is as I have said before, a group of stories.

If you like to travel, you might enjoy the unusual destinations in this book whether or not you would choose them yourself. If you do not travel, you might enjoy visiting these places via the pages of a book.

Whether or not you believe in psychic phenomenons like aura reading, spoon bending, out-of-body trips and exorcism, you might enjoy learning about them and the various experiences Crichton had in the metaphysical world.

If you are interested in the human body or in being a medical doctor, you might appreciate the first chapters more than I did. If you red the book, you will discover how medical students are assigned cadavers and what follows.

But do not let my lukewarm recommendation be the deciding factor about whether or not you read this book for I have read many reviews by people who really enjoyed it and the majority of my book club members found Crichton's adventures interesting.

Reviewer Patricia Bosworth said in a 1988 New York Times book review, "I was ultimately swept away (by this book), not just by Crichton's richly informed mind, but his driving curiosity. Satisfying your curiosity takes guts."

Shangri-La anyone? The Shangri-La Michael Crichton visited is not the one you might have in your mind's eye. I thought of Shangri-La as an earthly paradise of sorts. Apparently the version I was picturing comes from a 1933 book called Lost Horizon. The real Shangri-La, as experienced in Travels, is quite different from that pleasant image in my mind and a good example of the unusual destinations in this book.

You can learn more about Michael Crichton's Travels on Amazon by clicking right here. If you do read the book, be sure to come back and let us know what you think of it. You might also let us know what your perception of Shangri-La was before you read this post.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Tales of Beedle the Bard Collector's Edition Book Review

The Tales of Beedle the Bard Collector's Edition Book Review
The book The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a spin off from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter world. Using words translated by Hermione Granger, a thin volume was created. It includes text and pictures from J.K. Rowling and commentary from Professor Albus Dumbledore. Packed between the covers are five stories, fairy tales called The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, The Fountain of Fair Fortune, The Warlock's Hairy Heart, Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump, and The Tale of the Three Brothers. These stories share glimpses into the wizards of Harry Potter’s world.

J.K. Rowling created an affordable ‘ordinary’ copy of the book that mere mortals like you and I could afford. You can read my review of that book here. Interestingly, it was created with a wide variety of covers and even re-released in 2017 with a new U.S. cover.

Rowling also created seven magnificent copies of this story by hand. Those amazing books were given to people closely related to the series and one of them was auctioned for charity. Take a look at those amazing books here in this Youtube video and see what those that have been sold fetched at auction.


I do wonder what one of those original handcrafted books would sell for now. Anyway, Rowling also released a collector’s edition of the book as shown in the pictures on this page. This version was more readily available though still much more expensive than the 'ordinary' hardcover book.

This limited printing collector's edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a beautiful set that was produced exclusively for sale on Amazon and released on December 4, 2008. I do not know what it originally sold for but as I write this page today in the spring of 2018, I see that it is available on Amazon at prices over $200 and on eBay where it appears to be more affordable, selling at prices starting around $100 and ending at about $230.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard Collector's Edition Book Review
Included in the collector's edition are the five fairy tales that you find in all of the versions of this book. However, they are packaged in a handsome case that looks like a wizarding textbook straight from the library at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry making it a wonderful addition to a Harry Potter fan's collection.

Inside the case you will find ten prints that can be framed, a reproduction of J.K. Rowling's introduction, ten pictures that are not found in the standard version of the book and, packed inside a velvet bag, the copy of the book itself, which is embellished with a metal skull, corners and clasp as well as replica gemstones and a green ribbon.

All profits from the original sale of the book in 2008 originally went to the Children's High Level Group. Of course, that is not likely the case today. Click here to read more about the Collector's Edition of the Tales of Beedle the Bard on Amazon.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Paths of Glory Book Review

Jeffrey Archer Paths of Glory Book Review
My first Jeffrey Archer novel, Paths of Glory, came highly recommended recently by my husband.  I asked him for a good book to read and he presented me with five or six choices from his own collection and this is the one that I chose. 

Interestingly, this book recommendation came as I was working my way through my next book club assignment, Travels by Michael Crichton, which also includes a great deal of adventure travel and mountain climbing. Unfortunately, I was struggling with Travels, which though interesting is less of a novel and more of a series of short stories, so I set it aside and picked up Paths of Glory.

Paths of Glory turned out to be a real page turner. Set in the early 1900s in England and on various mountains, it details the life of George Mallory who was born to climb. From the youngest age, he climbed everything that he possibly could including a few things that he should not and it was also at a young age that he set his sights on conquering Mount Everest, an obsession that he lived with throughout his life and that eventually would cost him his life.

The story is a novel but is based on the true story of Mallory's life and his two loves, his wife Ruth and Mount Everest. A period drama, it is interesting and intriguing and of interest to even those of us who have no aspirations to climb a mountain.

George Mallory was a smart student though perhaps not studious. He studied history, served in World War 1 and eventually became a school teacher though he never gave up his obsession with mountain climbing. He was born in 1886 and lived until 1924 when he perished on Mount Everest.  It is still unclear whether he actually accomplished his goal and made it to the top and therefore, whether it is he or Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first to conquer Mount Everest. According to Wikipedia, this book was  or is somewhat controversial because of the fact that it challenges who conquered Mount Everest first and because of some factual errors.

Here's a short video clip of author Jeffrey Archer discussing the book:


I believe that Paths of Glory is a great read for anyone who likes a well done adventure story. A mystery story. A period drama. For world travellers who like adventure or for armchair travellers, who just like to read of adventures set in other parts of the world.

Yes, Paths of Glory is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.  You can order your copy of the book in various formats from Amazon here.  I think the book begs to be made into a movie. However, according to Life Spectator, this book was being turned into a movie until another movie called Everest emerged and this one was shelved.

Have you read Paths of Glory? Are you interested? Would you like to climb a mountain or maybe you already have?

See you at the 
top of the mountain!
(Well, maybe not but
definitely at the book store.)

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Secret Child Book Review

Secret Child Book Review
Secret Child (2015) is a true story from a time when individuals of different religious backgrounds could fall in love but not easily marry and where children born out of wedlock were considered unwanted and considered 'the unfortunates.'  Most women who found themselves pregnant and unmarried in 1950s Dublin, Ireland were unable to keep their children.

Secret Child tells the story of Cathleen, a woman who found a forbidden love and lost it because of the divide between the Protestant and Catholic religions and then found herself pregnant. She was one of the fortunate few to stumble across Regina Coeli, which may have been the only home for unwed mothers in Dublin at that time.

The author does not know how his mother came to find this facility but it was definitely because of the Regina Coeli that his mother, Cathleen, managed to keep her son and hide him away from her family and the rest of the world until he was eight years old. This accomplishment of course was only done with great hardship when she worked long hours and left her young son in the care of a reclusive caregiver at the facility.

Some may have called these children the unfortunates but the children did not see themselves in that light and Gordon, according to Mail Online, considered the hostel paradise. It was, after all, his childhood home where he lived until the age of 8 when his mother eventually reunites with and marries her original love. As a family, they move to London, England and this move perhaps improves their life slightly but also brings with it a host of other challenges, which includes leaving Gordon's Regina Coeli family behind.

This book gives a glimpse into life in the 1950s in Dublin and the early 1960s in London. It is told from the point of view of the child, Gordon Lewis, and written with the assistance of ghostwriter Andrew Crofts. In the book, Gordon returns to Ireland as an adult to uncover the story of his childhood home, which was a happy place in his eyes, and to learn the story of his mother's prior life, which was unknown to him. His cousin asks why he wants to dig up that old history and advises him to let it be. For Gordon, however, it was important to put the story together and understand both his family background and his mother's story.

I recommend Secret Child for those wanting an interesting look into those times in Ireland and a serious subject matter though the book is not a difficult book to read.  Though this story took place in Ireland, we all know that such religious divides existed elsewhere and that unwed mothers faced similar situations in many different parts of the world.

If you are interested, you can read more about the book or order your copy of Secret Child from Amazon by clicking right here.

IMDB says this story is being created as a short film called The Bridge by the author and due for release in 2018.

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at the bookstore!

More Ireland:

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Visit 1980s Ireland via my My Fifty Dead Men Walking movie review.
Visit Ireland in 1916 my Michael Collins movie review.
















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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dan Brown ORIGIN Book Review

I was intrigued when I read in Dan Brown’s newest book Origin that the book includes only “Art, architecture, locations, science and religious organisations that are real.” I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the heart of Italy with Dan Brown in Inferno and then with my husband in real life and one day I hope to visit Brown’s Bilbao, Barcelona, Madrid and Seville in person after having enjoyed my visit with him in this novel.

I’m not quite sure why I picked up Origin but it was at least in part because of the memories and discussions that my entire family had after we all read the first two books in the series, Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I know that not all of the books in the series were quite as well received by my family and I have to admit to wondering how many times poor Robert Langdon could be called out to save the day.

Well, as it turns out, at least one more time. In this, the latest book, we are armchair travellers to Spain where Langdon is solving a murder mystery and focuses on the origin of man. It involves the art work, symbols, architecture, locations and religions of Spain. This time, the debate includes some interesting familiar and unfamiliar high-level technology and even a super computer. You will find yourself wondering is that really true and find yourself thankful for Brown’s statement that everything in the book is real.

Origin is the first Dan Brown book to feature modern art since Robert Langdon is not much of a fan of that genre and it focuses on the work of Joan Miró. I recommend googling her to have a feeling for her artwork. It really is different from the masters that Langdon normally prefers.  The book also features literary references to William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche, authors whom I was not particularly knowledgeable of.

The effort required to put this book together with real details and facts is mind boggling. Apparently, Brown employs a team of fact checkers to make sure he is accurately presenting all of that history and science.

Is Origin recommended?


Yes, Origin is recommended by me. Is it highly recommended? I am undecided. I found the novel a bit heavier on religion than I care for and I can honestly say I have never thought about where I came from or where I am going to in such depth. Of course, thinking about our creation and destiny is not necessarily a bad thing.

I was, however, totally fascinated by the high-tech science in this book that includes quantum computing, artificial intelligence in the form of a thinking computer and a self-driving Tesla Model X. The conspiracy website is a nice link between our current online world and the book.

Barcelona Super Computing Center exterior

Barcelona Super Computing Center Interior
Barcelona Super Computing Center
Finally, I liked the glimpse into Spain. Yes, there is really a super computer built inside the walls of a church in Barcelona in this book and the pictures shown here are from the website of the real Barcelona Super Computer Center.

I expect that if you enjoyed Angels & Demons and the Da Vinci Code, you will likely enjoy Origin.

Origin was published on October 3, 2017 and was number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in that same month and it remains on that list in the number eight position as I write this post in February, 2018. It is also currently number 2 on Amazon’s bestseller list of the top 20 most sold and read books of the week. Is there a movie? Not yet but maybe.

The New York Times finds fault and praise for the book but concludes: ”…for all their high-minded philosophizing, these books’ geeky humor remains a big part of their appeal. Not for nothing does Kirsch’s Tesla have a license plate frame reading: “THE GEEKS SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.” Brown continues to do everything in his playful power to ensure that will happen.”

Here's an exciting peek at Dan Brown, his books, and Origin. Warning: It will make you want to go to Spain with me.


Origin is fun. Don’t take it too seriously. You can find it here on Amazon. If you decide to read it, be sure to come back and let us know what you think. If you have already done so, have you figured out where we come from and where we are going and, more on point, would you recommend this book to your friends and family?

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

ORDER OF DAN BROWN’S ROBERT LANGDON BOOKS:

Angels & Demons (2000)
The Da Vinci Code (2003)
The Lost Symbol (2009)
Inferno (2013)
Origin (2017)

QUICK LINKS:

Buy Origin on Amazon.
Check out Dan Brown's author page on Amazon.
Read my review of Inferno.






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