Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Following the very successful novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes Heather Morris' 2019 book, Cilka's Journey. Yes, it is a sequel of sorts to the first book though it definitely stands alone. 

Frankly, this book is another dark look into a horrible time in man's history. That's to be expected based on the subject of the novel. Initially, I did not care for how the story flipped back and forth between the main character's time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Germany and in her time in the Vorkuta Gulag Labor Camp in Russia but I quickly managed to overcome the darkness and the style and be absorbed by the very real characters in the story.

Cilka was sent to Birkenau when she was taken from her home at the age of 16 simply because she was Jewish and young and healthy and able to work. When Birkenau was liberated, she was tried and sent to the Siberian labor camp for having slept with the enemy. For her crime, she received a sentence of 15 years of hard labor. 

Whether the beautiful 16 year old really had any choice about whether to sleep with the enemy or not is debatable but the book is about her journey through and survival of both facilities. I don't need to say how unpleasant that situation was and I will not reveal how it ended.  Here's the official book trailer:


 


This second video is from the author and discusses albeit briefly the connection between this book and her first, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. 

Warning, this next video has LOTS OF SPOILERS but it does do a good job of telling you about the story.



FICTION OR NON-FICTION?

If you watched the preceding video, you know the answer to this question. Cilka's Journey is a fictional account of the true-life story of Cecília Kováčová. 

Of course, the story is filled out with details the author cannot really know but in large part it is said that the book is based on the conditions and situations people including Cilka found themselves living in at those two facilities. 

Descendants, however, declare the story to be outrageous calling it "lurid and titillating." They say that this is not the way Cilka shared her story to them.

The author defends the book saying that it is based on first-hand testimony given by people she interviewed and the experiences of women who were subjected to the life in those camps. She says, "It is a novel and does not represent the entire facts of Cilka's life." You can read more about the controversy here on The Guardian

In another interview with ABC, the author defends the disputed fact that women were used sexually in the camps and sums up with, "If it's all the same to you I think I'll go with their testimonies because they were there."


Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey Book Review


IS IT RECOMMENDED?

Yes, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMEND by me. The book has an average 4.39 stars on Goodreads and 92 percent of the reviewers on Amazon gave the book a five-star rating.

WARNINGS

Well, I feel that writing a warning about the unpleasant reading that comes in a book set in Nazi Germany and a Siberian Labor Camp in the 1940s is almost unnecessary I will say that this book deals with sex, starvation, murder.  The main character's work in the Labor Camp finds the reader face to face with terrible workplace accidents. It is definitely not nice but it is present and it is an intricate part of the story.  Plus, of course, there is the controversy of just how true this story really is.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK

Anyone who has an interest in historical fiction will enjoy the book, with consideration to the warnings given above. Anyone who read The Tattooist of Auschwitz and liked it will enjoy this book. As author Heather Morris says in the second video shown above, you should enjoy this book "not for the horror and evil that is included but for the humanity and the compassion and the love and the hope." I agree.

You can find your copy of Cilka's Journey on Amazon by clicking right here. Be sure to come back and let us know what you think of the book.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Robin Sloan's Sourdough, A Book Review

Sourdough Book Review

We love Sourdough. It is nearly unanimous in our book club. Not a cookbook, it is instead a funny story that is very readable, which is what we all need this year. It is a bizarre yet magical fairy tale of sorts set in today's world. It is about finding your passion and following it and about baking bread and the science of baking bread. In particular, it is about sourdough bread and the life of one computer programmer who learns to make some very special bread. 


BOOK SUMMARY

Robin Sloan's Sourdough Book Review
Author Robin Sloan reckons that Sourdough may be the first English book to feature a sourdough starter that has feelings as as an important supporting character.  The other main character is a lonely young woman named Lois who takes a programming job in San Francisco where she passes the days and nights of her life doing work that she does not care for. 

Eventually, Lois is finds an escape after repeatedly ordering takeout from a mysterious little café. The owners of the café serve up  combination of spicy soup and sourdough bread that is very comforting to Lois and that restores both her body and her soul. She becomes their Number One Eater or at least a very loyal, regular customer. However, her relationship with the café comes to an abrupt end but not before she takes ownership of the sourdough starter. The starter is alive, which means she has to look after it or it will die. 

Anyway, it turns out that this starter is quite special and Lois makes the best sourdough bread ever with it. Indeed it is so successful that she leaps head first into baking bread and the bread literally changes her life. It helps her to climb out of the low spot that she has been barely surviving in by introducing her to new people and giving her a passion project. 

Eventually the bread leads her to a farmer's market unlike the one you thought of when I said the words farmer's market. This market is a part of the underground economy. It is radical and it is filled with experimental foodstuffs. To be invited to this market means that there is something unusual about what you do and in Lois' case it is because of her story. That is a successful software programmer turned baker. What happens next? Well, let me just say it is all very unexpected and you will have to read the book to find out.

Sourdough is about San Francisco. It is about geeks, nerds, coders, secret societies, conspiracies, books and even about robots. It is a look at two kinds of culture: the worlds of high-tech culture and bread culture, which you might not think could collide. Finally and obviously, it's about bread.


IS IT RECOMMENDED?

Sourdough Bread Story by Robin Sloan
Yes! The book Sourdough  is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me though I am pretty partial to sourdough bread, too. The book may have bread as the focus but it is not boring. It is a work of fiction that is easy and light and might just make you happy. Consider what these others have had to say about the book:

The Guardian says, "Sourdough is a soup of skillfully balanced ingredients: there’s satire, a touch of fantasy, a pinch of science fiction, all bound up with a likeable narrator whose zest for life is infectious. The novel opens a door on a world that’s both comforting and thrillingly odd. Savour it."  I like this recipe and I did savour the book.

The L.A. Times says, “Sourdough displays both lightness and a yearning for escape, but only in the best sense." I agree. Lois is on an entertaining adventure that I was only too happy to go along on.

In her letter to the book blogger Nut Free Nerd (NFN) says, "You (the book) reminded me of the value of carving out time in a busy schedule to do the things you love, and that you never know where life will take you...You were so wacky and whimsical and witty and entertaining that I found myself constantly thinking about you in between reading you and I still find myself thinking about you all these weeks later." I'm with NFN. I was reminded to stop working and to make time for life and the things I love and enjoy and like NFN, I am still thinking about the book, still cultivating sourdough starter and still trying to make sourdough bread in my bread machine. 

Finally, here's a one-minute review of the book:


 

WARNINGS

Sourdough by Robin Sloan is a Good Loaf
Some prefer the first half of the book to the second as the second half takes a turn you might not see coming. I was okay with the twist, which is simply totally unexpected and not offensive in any way. There is really not a lot to be offended by in this book. There is some mild swearing and of course, this book will make you want to to eat or maybe even bake sourdough bread. There is the potential to gain weight if you find yourself needing sourdough bread. Finally, there is a lot of food wastage but at least, it's not real food that is being wasted and definitely no characters go hungry in the book. Slurry, anyone?

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK?

I think a lot of people will enjoy this book including but not limited to foodies and bread lovers, bakers and non-bakers and computer folk.  Anyone who is looking for something fun with an almost discernable scent of bread will enjoy it and as the L.A. Times says, anyone who is looking for a book that is "light but not trite" will find that this book rises to the occasion , pun intended. This book will entertain you and it might also leave you pondering which is a better of doing things - the traditional way or new and improved ways.

I recommend buying the hardcover copy of the book. It has a textured cover that glows in the dark, which is totally appropriate for the this book and the properties of the sourdough starter. Find your copy of Sourdough in whatever format you prefer on Amazon by clicking right here

Finally, I want you to admit that the loaf of sourdough bread in the introductory photograph was not baked by me. It is a product of the most amazing folk at Black Walnut Bakery in Cumberland near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links:



Sourdough or, Lois and her Adventures in the Underground Market by Robin Sloan


A review of the novel about Sourdough bread by Robin Sloan








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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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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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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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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Kate Quinn's The Huntress Book Review

The Huntress Book Review
Told in three narratives, Kate Quinn's book, The Huntress, dives into Nazi-era Soviet Union and post-war Boston. It follows the post-war efforts of a small company whose purpose is hunting for and bringing to justice war criminals.

The main characters include Ian, a proper British journalist who was on the ground in Europe during the war and who turns postwar away from journalism to the task of finding war criminals. His purpose becomes a bit clouded by vengeance when he searches for the elusive target for whom this book is titled. That is, the Huntress who ruthlessly lured and killed men, women and children.

The second character is Nina, a woman who grew up dirt-poor and savage in Siberia. As an adult she becomes a pilot for the Soviet Union and a member of the all-female Night Witch bomber regiment who, during her time on the ground during the war, has an encounter with the Huntress.

Finally, we have Jordan, an ambitious teenager who lives with her father and sister in Boston. She wants to become a photographer and to break out of the societal requirement for a woman of the times that says she must get married, settle down and have children.

In the end, all are brought together by the Huntress.

THE HUNTRESS OFFICIAL BOOK TRAILER


Here’s a peek via the official book trailer from publisher Williams Morrow:




REVIEWS


Readers on Goodreads gave The Huntress a 4.27 out of 5 stars and 91 percent of Amazon readers gave it a 4- or 5-star rating. That’s pretty good.

On the back cover, Booklist says that this book is “An impressive historical novel sure to harness WWIIi-fiction fans’ attention.” I agree.

The Washington Post calls this book a “compulsively readable historical novel” and says that it is a “powerful novel about unusual women facing sometimes insurmountable odds with grace, grit, love and tenacity.” I agree.

WHO SHOULD READ THE HUNTRESS?


Fans of World War II fiction, which by the way comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me, will enjoy this book. In particular, if you would like a look into the hunt for war criminals, Russian folklore and the lesser-known world of the Night Witches, you will want to pick this book up. If you enjoyed Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network or Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz you will want to read this book. It quickly becomes a thriller and a page turner demonstrating how war changes people and the costs of seeking justice.

You should know that this book has numerous adult themes, which is what you naturally comes with a book about war crimes. Those themes include abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol use, war and sex.

Do be aware that there are numerous books called the Huntress. Don't make the mistake that a friend of mine made and read the wrong one. You can find your copy of Kate Quinn’s The Huntress on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

QUICK LINKS:

Buy your copy of The Huntress on Amazon.
The Ragged Edge of Night Book Review.
Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale Book Review.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Movie Review.









Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Where the Crawdads Sing Book Review


For those who love to travel, the current global atmosphere fraught as it is with many concerns, may be keeping you at home and make a strong case for sitting back and enjoying some armchair travel. If you are interested in a trip to North Carolina’s remote marshlands, you might want to pick up the bestselling novel Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Before I read this book, North Carolina was not on my list of places that I would like to see. Now it is. I thoroughly enjoyed the book though it started off a bit oddly, at least for me. I had just finished reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which was an excellent book crafted with simple, straightforward language. When I picked Where the Crawdads Sing up, the language seemed overly flowery with text like, “water flows into the sky”, “clammy forests” and “the marsh’s moist breath.” It was not long, however, before I was whisked away to fictional Barkley Cove in North Carolina and wrapped up in the lives of the main characters.

THE STORY


The story? Well, simply put it is that of a girl’s marsh life from the ages of 6 to 25 both with her family and then abandoned by her family, of how she grows up barefoot and wild and, despite sparse interactions with other people, of how she manages to educate herself in her remote environment. It is rich with details about marsh life in North Carolina. It is a coming-of-age tale and it is also one of romance and murder, alternating between the years of 1952 and 1969. The author herself says that the book is about loneliness.

IS IT A TRUE STORY?


Is Where the Crawdads Sing a true story? Not really though Elle magazine says that the story has "striking echoes" to the author’s life in Africa with conservationist former husband, Mark Owens, both of who were linked to the unsolved 1995 murder of an African poacher though the couple has denied anything to do with the murder and no charges have ever been filed.

IS IT RECOMMENDED?


Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly the book, which is Owen's first work of fiction, quickly became a hugely successful book.

The Guardian says that “Surprise bestsellers are often works that relate to the times. Though set in the 1950s and 1960s, this book is, in its treatment of racial and social division and the fragile complexities of nature, obviously relevant to contemporary politics and ecology. But these themes reach a huge audience though the writer’s old-fashioned talents for compelling character, plotting and landscape description.”

Actor Reese Witherspoon, who picked Where the Crawdads Sing  as a book for her book club, helped it build momentum and is quoted in Town and Country magazine as having said, "I can’t even express how much I love this book…There is so much to her story…and it takes place in the breathtaking backdrop of the South. I didn’t want this story to end!"

A whopping eighty-six percent of Amazon readers gave it a 5 star review. It is a New York Times number one bestseller, it has been on that best seller list for 78 weeks and it has sold over 1.5 million copies.

Those are, in my opinion, a whole lot of reasons to check out for yourself the book Where the Crawdads Sing. The majority of readers have loved this book and it comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. You can find your copy on Amazon by clicking right here and if you enjoy it, be sure to watch for Witherspoon's movie version of the story.

See you
At the bookstore!

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

QUICK LINKS:


Buy your copy of Where the Crawdads Sing here on Amazon.
Read Dawn Rae's review of Where the Crawdads Sing.









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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Ian Rankin's Black and Blue Book Review

Eighth in the series, Black and Blue: is An Inspector Rebus Novel by Ian Rankin. Find my review here.
Interesting the number of covers Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue has had. I am surprised though I know that different book formats come with different covers. This book, however, seems to have had a lot of different looks. I suppose that is what happens to a successful book as it gains some age.

Of course, once you have a book in your hand, it matters not a whit what the cover looks like though the cover may have helped that book find its way into your hands in the first place. In this case, what it looks like did not matter because this book is one of the books that will be discussed in the late fall class I am taking in Ottawa through Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program called Classics of Detective Fiction: From the 1960s to Today.

Ian Rankin’s Black and Blue is a fictional detective story, written  in 1997 and based firmly in the Scotland of the 1990s. In her class notes, our instructor Stefani Nielson calls the book “post-Christie,” “British realism noir” and she says that it features a “working class anti-hero.”

I did not know what was meant by that last term, anti-hero, so I googled it and Wikipedia shares that “An antihero is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes such as idealism, courage and morality.” Inspector Rebus is a hard-working, hardened police officer and former SAS officer now coping in self-destruct mode with what life has thrown at him. He is anti-social and struggles with relationships. He is a drinking man with sometimes questionable scruples who is determined to get the job done regardless of who is in the way.

The Story


Black and Blue finds our anti-hero unofficially working four cases at the same time. Among the four, two stand out. He is searching for a mass murderer nicknamed Bible John on a cold case from the 1960s and 1970s and he is searching for a copycat murderer who has been nicknamed Bible Johnny. Set in Scotland, the author helps us visit his Scotland from the comfort of our arm chairs. Our travels will include time in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Shetland and even the oilfields in the North Sea.

It is a long book at more than 550 pages but it is action packed so if you love to read, that should cause you no issues. If you read the book, you will become heavily invested in the main character and consumed by the desire to know who is responsible for the crimes committed and if and how they are all connected.

Is this a good time to tell you that Black and Blue is the eighth in a series of books about Inspector Rebus? It is my first Ian Rankin novel because I am reading it in preparation for my class. In normal circumstances, I would have picked book one as a starting point.

Who Will Like This Book?


Anyone who likes a well-crafted detective novel and does not mind the world that a police officer travels in. This book definitely has violence but it is far from the worst I have ever read and, of course, it has a police officer who drinks, smokes and cuts corners.

Reviews


Goodreads says, “Written with Ian Rankin's signature wit, style and intricacy, Black and Blue is a novel of uncommon and unforgettable intrigue.” The readers who write the reviews on the website rate this book 4.08 out of 5. One of those readers says, “Now this is how you write a really good crime novel!

On his blog, Simon McDonald says, “…this book is one of the author’s best… more than awhodunit, it is a searing commentary on mid-nineties Scotland, told so palatably, so relentlessly…

Personally, I have really enjoyed this novel and meeting Inspector Rebus. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me if you enjoy crime detective fiction. I will definitely have to go back to the start of the series, which is where, I imagine, you will start if you decide you would like to travel in Inspector Rebus's world. You can find all of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels on Amazon quickly by clicking right here.

Ian Rankin's Rebus The Definitive DVD Collection

Interesting Facts


This book is considered an important story in Tartan Noir, which is genre in crime fiction written by Scottish writers and set in Scotland. Wikipedia says that Tartan Noir has roots in Scottish literature but adapts elements from other writers like era-specific American crime writers and European crime writers.

The title of the book, Black and Blue, relates to the Rolling Stones album of the same name, it relates to the state we often find our anti-hero in and it relates to the oil fields and the policeman of this story.

The Dancing Pigs, the successful punk music band featured in this book, were recreated from an unsuccessful band that the author played in for a year as a 19-year old. Rankin enjoyed making the band successful in his book. Who could resist? I think I would have done the same.

You may also have seen a mini-series called Ian Rankin's Rebus about the character that aired in 2000. Find it on Amazon here.

Be sure to come back and let us know how you enjoy any of Ian Rankin's books and, if you have seen the mini-series, we would love to hear that, too.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Black and Blue on Amazon.
Find Ian Rankin's Rebus The Definitive DVD Collection on Amazon.








Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax Book Review

The Vinyl Detective Book Review

The Vinyl Detective Series: Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel


Yes, vinyl is trendy. If you are not sure what I mean by vinyl you likely will recognize the old school terms for record albums and LPs. If you don't know what a record or an LP is, you likely recognized vinyl right away. I would bet that whichever term you use to refer to “a thin plastic disk that carries recorded sound in grooves” tells us a bit about your age.

Yes, the detective in this book seeks and finds records. I'm not sure if that is his official profession though he is not employed at any other task and is chronically broke but vinyl is definitely where his knowledge lies and a way for him to make a living or at least, earn some money.

Finally, yes, some vinyl is worth seeking and reselling. A lot of it has no value but a quick search of eBay sold items as seen if you click here will reveal that some are very valuable. The result I see on eBay as I write this post shows that almost 500,000 vinyl records have been sold though I am sorry I cannot tell you in what time frame that was. The results show a first impression Motley Crue Too Fast For Love album and a Japanese Pink Floyd album each selling for almost $5,000.

I am a reseller and yes, therein at least partially lies my interest in the subject matter of this book. I do look for vinyl to resell though I know little about the subject and have sold only a very few records. After receiving a turntable at Christmas in order to play our existing collection of vintage vinyl records, I now find myself looking for vinyl that I find interesting and that I would like to own and occasionally, I add something obscure to my pile with the hopes that it will be valuable. Only a couple of times have I returned home with a record that we already own (oops) and no, I have not found a record that is valuable yet.

The back of this book says that the author, Andrew Cartmel, lives in London with “too much vinyl and just enough cats” but I have no idea if the records and the extensive back story in this book are actually real, rare and valuable or if the whole thing is fictional.  There is, however, a lot to be learned about records and the related paraphernalia in this book. Do note, as the book points out, that we don't say vinyls.

What's Dead Wax?


Just in case you are wondering, Dead Wax is the area on a record that is left blank after the music or playable area and before the paper label. Apparently, the dead wax can have important information and, in the case of this book, messages. I did not know that there was a term for this space though of course it makes sense.

What's Offensive in the Book? 


There is sex, drugs and rock and roll between the covers but not in a particularly offensive manner. Oh and yes, there is murder some of which is not nice but then when is murder ever nice? Anyway, I did not find most of it particularly gruesome or gory. Moments were fleeting and skipped past quickly.  There were a few shocks when the murders happened.

Did I Like the Book? Do I Recommend it?


Yes, I liked the book though I disliked parts. I did not like the way one relationship dissolved and was immediately replaced by another and then that situation dissolved and was immediately replaced by another again though I was heartbroken at moments for the main character and wonder what heartaches await him in the next novel.

The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax was very readable and an interesting treasure hunt for a series of very rare jazz records. It was a peek into the dedication of a true vinyl enthusiast and his network and knowledge. This detective certainly knows how to search for and find vinyl records and yes, I do recommend this book.

Who Will Like This Book? 


Anyone who likes a detective novel with a set of unusual characters should like this book as well as anyone who is curious about the world of vinyl or who is interested in reselling. Bonus, if you love cats, the cute pair in this book loves to be petted under the chin. “They do. They do. Under the chin. Yes, that’s right. Under the chin.”

What Are The Names of The Other Books in the Series?


Up next? There are four more books in this series featuring The Vinyl Detective called The Run-Out Groove, Victory Disc, Flip Back and Murder Swing. Click here to find your copy of the first book, The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax on Amazon.


See you at the bookstore!
(Or maybe at the crates of records
at the next tag sale wearing your
crate-digging shoes.)
Brenda
Treasures by Brenda


Quick Links:

Buy The Vinyl Detective on Amazon.
Check out the vinyl I have in my eBay store!






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Saturday, July 27, 2019

The President is Missing Book Review


I am not an American nor am I particularly political. However, I do love some James Patterson novels and this book, The President is Missing, which is co-authored by Patterson and former President Bill Clinton, came to the top of my reading list for my book club recently. It is a fictional work, billed as a thriller and, as the tagline says, is one that only a president could write. Here's a short, engaging trailer for the book:


According to a USA Today interview on the video that follows, Patterson and Clinton sat down to create the best book about the presidency that has ever been written. I do not think they achieved that goal. They did write a sometimes entertaining fictional story in which the President of the United States struggles to deal with a potential cyber attack and the possible destruction of the American way of life when a terrorist sets out to destroy the internet, its servers and all the computers in the United States. The President attempts to do so with the help of a small handful of trusted staff members.

I found the book a bit hard to get into and at times drawn out. In particular, I found the last section, where the President’s address goes on for far too long, unnecessary.  However, the book does give us a look into the inner workings, though obviously no secrets, of the U.S. government and it includes some humorous moments and a very likable though not perfect President.

The Guardian calls Clinton’s involvement one of the great things about this book and says that it is almost a “guarantee of political authenticity.” They go on to say that it feels like the “outcome of a conversation between one writer with an unusual skill at thriller plotting and another with an exceptional grasp of global politics.” I agree and I believe that there is value to the reader who is interested in that authenticity.

On a more serious note, The President is Missing deals with our dependence on the internet. Take a moment and think about what we could or could not do without the internet and computers. You will come up with a long, long list that includes banking, healthcare, transportation and so much more. After reading this book, you may decide to keep some cash under your mattress.

Despite having a hard time starting the book and the sometimes drawn out parts, I did enjoy it. It was not a favorite though and I cannot give it my ‘Highly Recommended’ rating but I would recommend it if you are interested in a peek into the government, you enjoy reading thrillers and are willing to tolerate the slow parts.

What Did Others Think?


For starters, the book was a Number 1 New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Amazon bestseller though that is I am sure in great part due to the two names on the cover.

You will find that Amazon customer reviews are all over the place with 77 percent of them being 5 or 4 star. I do not think that is great but nor is it really that bad.

The Washington Post calls the book an awkward duet and writer Ron Charles calls it our for the being the obvious marketing ploy that it is. Two big names, one book. True, I suppose.

To the detriment of the book, The Guardian says, "This novel is indeed missing several things, including a believable plot and even the remotest sense of narrative tension." I would counter with it is a fictional thriller.

The Independent calls it “absurdly boring.”  I think that is an extreme position though the book had its moments.

Despite the comments and reviews from those parties, I believe that the following interview from Today with both of the authors may help you decide you want to read the book despite the shortcomings.


Once again, I can and do recommend this book if you are interested in the inner workings of the government, you enjoy a thriller and James Patterson and you can tolerate the slow parts. You can find your copy of The President is Missing on Amazon by clicking right here. Of note, The President is Missing may soon become a movie or television mini-series.

If you do read this book, be sure to come back and let us know what you thought. Was it a good read? Was it interesting despite the issues mentioned above? Would you recommend it to a friend?

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Link:

Buy your copy of The President is Missing on Amazon.









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Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Quintland Sisters Book Review

The Quintland Sisters Book Review
My father and I enjoyed an evening tradition in the small town where I grew up of bicycling to the local public library. On one night I did not  accompany him and he came home with a book that I would never forget. He handed me what was one of the first adult books that I ever read. Adult that is as in that it was a book written for adults and not for children or teenagers.

The year was 1978 and the book was Pierre Berton’s The Dionne Years: A Thirties Melodrama. I remember enjoying that book and it began a lifetime interest for me about the subjects of the book, Canada’s Dionne Quintuplets. The quintuplets or quints as they became known were five baby girls born during the Great Depression and, because of their novelty at that time, were isolated from the world in order to protect them. This separation meant that the government removed them from the care of their parents and, as we now know, eventually exploited them for profit.

Berton’s book, however, is not the subject of this review. Rather, it is the 2019 book, The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood that I am writing about. I did definitely pick this book up because of the Berton book and I have no idea how I found it but nevertheless I have read it and enjoyed what for me was an interesting version of the story as created by this author. If you have not heard of the quints or you have and you would like to learn a bit more or simply revisit that time, you will enjoy this book.

The Quintland Sisters is an easy to read book despite the not very nice subject matter. It has little that is offensive other than, of course, the fact that these babies were put on display before the world and taken away from their parents. There is childbirth in the book but not all of the details and there are sexual references. There is one very nasty and unexpected though not overly descriptive scene at the end of the book, which the author uses to fill in the blanks that had been skipped earlier in the book.

The book is a fictional story written diary or journal style from the perspective of a girl named Emma. Emma was present in the farmhouse as an extra set of hands to help the midwife who went to deliver a sixth Dionne child. Emma's introduction to midwifery was definitely an eye opener when not one but five two-month premature babies surprised everyone involved. The five babies weighed in at a total of 13.5 pounds. Take a moment and compare that to my first child who weighed 9 pounds and 5 ounces. Emma stayed on as a helper through the early years of the quints lives and as one of the primary caregivers in the farmhouse.  She stayed on when they were moved shortly after their birth to what was known as the Dafoe Hospital and Nursery in Callender, Northern Ontario. Emma, by the way, is a creation of the author and did not really exist in Quintland.

The story covers the birth of the girls, the immediate days afterward when they struggled to keep them alive without medical equipment and supplies for five babies. Amazingly, they kept those babies alive with among other things, corn syrup added to milk and rum. Dr. Dafoe pronounced, “The babies will not live. It’s too soon for them. They’re too weak.” At that time, quintuplets were unheard of and of course, these ones were very premature. They were the first in recorded history to survive birth and the author says, they remain the only naturally conceived quintuplets to all survive.

In the book, when Dr. Dafoe ushered the first news reporters into the home where a newly graduated nurse and Emma struggled to keep the babies alive, he  justified doing so by saying that they were it was  "unlikely that they would all be alive tomorrow and that it was important to have a record.” This was a fairly innocuous beginning of the exploitation of the girls who would spend years under the glaring attention of the media. During the first five years of their lives, the public visited Quintland to see the girls at play at a rate of up to 6,000 people per day.

The girls went on to become the faces of and earn endorsements from many products including Palmolive, Colgate, Lysol, Karo Syrup and Baby Ruth candy bars. They greeted celebrity and royal visitors. They appeared in three movies, in the newspapers, on the cover of magazines and in calendars. In an age of economic downturn, the Quints earned money for themselves, for their caregivers and in particular Dr. Dafoe, for their parents and for the Government of Ontario. It is estimated that, as a tourist attraction, they helped to bring $500 million dollars to the Northern Ontario economy.

The CBC calls The Quintland Sisters "a novel of love, heartache, resilience and enduring sisterhood", which sounds about right. I do think that this book is more about the lives of the people surrounding the girls and less about their relationships with each other. We do learn a bit about their relationships and temperaments. The real world saw them as a unit rather than as individual human beings but in this book, the character Emma identified differences between the identical girls for us.

They were actually so popular internationally that the Toronto Star employed a reporter full time to cover their lives. It is sad that the press embraced the adorable girls but did not challenge their unusual living situation. The government had taken them away from their parents and their parents had strict visitation rules. They apparently did not even get to hold their babies. The parents were not particularly likable in the book and in the end, the author portrays the mother as broken and the father as a profiteer.  In the long wrong many profited and it seems that no one considered the needs of the girls for real lives.

The author, who discovered the girls by accident, hopes that this book will introduce the story to a new generation. The two surviving quintuplets hope that their story will cause people to think twice before exploiting children but according to the  Toronto Globe and Mail,  they "question whether government authorities have truly learned from the past in living up to their responsibility to protect children from abuse."

Have you heard of the Dionne quintuplets? What do you think of their story?

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Link:

Order your copy of The Quintland Sisters on Amazon.













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Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Finishing School Book Review

The Finishing School Book Review
I enjoyed Joanna Goodman's The Home for Unwanted Girls enough to seek out and read this book, The Finishing School. At first I did not really understand what Goodman meant by 'finishing school.' Of course, once I discovered that the book was about events in a boarding school I realized that I should have understood. Since then, some friends have told me that they understand the term finishing school while others have drawn a blank when I told them the title of this book.

Anyway, The Finishing School is the story of a group of children and the adventures and tragedies that befall them at school and of their lives afterward. It is the story of families that shipped their children off to school and sometimes left them to be mostly raised by strangers in a strange country. It is the story of how a private school sought to protect its reputation by failing to properly investigate a number of serious incidents.

The narrative of the story flips easily back and forth between the modern day and the late 1990s and is set both at a fictional boarding school called Lycée Internationale Suisse in Switzerland and in Canada. Haunted by them, one of the girls returns to Switzerland as a young woman to uncover the truth about the events that unfolded during her time there.

It turns out that the story is much more complicated than that of the single incident that brings the young woman back to Switzerland and as it unfolds you will find yourself hoping that this is a totally fictional story though, of course, you know that events like those that unfolded at this school have happened and do happen in real life.

The author says that the story is based on her own real life experiences at a boarding school when she was 17 years old. She says that, like the main character in this novel, she was a fish out of water. She was a middle class student surrounded by children of the wealthy, a group that included members of royal families and children of international superstars. She also says that the stories in the book came from real ‘secrets and scandals’ that happened in the year she was there. As a matter of fact, she says that her real life best friend at boarding school was in the same situation as the best friend of the main character in this novel. The author explains that she used the events of that year to create this story of “entitlement, of the power of beauty and status, and of the relentless pursuit of approval that afflicts even the wealthy.” She says that this “book is inspired by real people and events, but is (mostly) fiction.” If you want to learn more about the author’s life as relates to this story, you can find her interview here.

There are some plot twists in this story, one large one that had me wondering if I had missed something or misread something. I guess it jarred a bit and, to be honest, that twist almost put me off reading this book but I did not put it down and yes, I would recommend this book. It a mystery about relationships both of the family and friendship variety and about the life of the wealthy and the world of the boarding school. It deals with pregnancy, both unwanted and wanted.  It definitely has some unpleasantness in it but it is handled well, especially in how the victims come forward in a way that seems particularly timely.

If you read The Finishing School, be sure to come back and let us know what you think. You can find your copy on Amazon right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Order your copy of The Finishing School from Amazon here.
Find a list of questions for your book club meeting here. 
Find my review of The Home for Unwanted Girls here.

Book Details:

Title: The Finishing School
Author: Joanna Goodman
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Page Count: 352
Format: Available in Kindle, audiobook, paperback and audio CD formats.
ISBN-10: 0062465589
ISBN-13: 978-0062465580





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Sunday, June 2, 2019

Elizabeth Taylor Book Reviews: A List

A Selection of Elizabeth Taylor Books


The editor of Vanity Fair is quoted as saying, "Try to imagine a star who combines the talent of a Meryl Streep with the beauty of a Nicole Kidman, the sensuality of a Penelope Cruz, and the notoriety of a Lindsay Lohan. Magnify that a hundredfold, and you're still only halfway to Elizabeth Taylor." He's absolutely right, of course, and it is no wonder we want to read and learn more about the life and times of Elizabeth Taylor.

Since almost the beginning of her career, there have been a number of books available for those who are curious and want to learn more about Taylor's life and her career as one of the most beautiful and popular actors in the world but, with the passing of this legendary actress in 2011, publishers raced to release a new selection of books and magazines covering her entire life. Some publishers chose simply to update books that had already been published by adding information about the final years of her life. A cheat of sorts but at least it makes books that fall in that category more complete.

On this page, you will find a selection of those books, biographical and otherwise, about the beautiful and talented Elizabeth Taylor. If you are interested in reading more, I know you will find a great choice on this page.

Elizabeth Taylor Eight Remarkable Stories From The Pages of Vanity Fair

Elizabeth Taylor A Loving Tribute

Eight Remarkable Stories From The Pages of Vanity Fair


About Hollywood's most beautiful, most controversial star, this book, which has the full title of The Best of Vanity Fair ELIZABETH TAYLOR: Eight Remarkable Stories About Hollywood’s Most Beautiful, Most Controversial Star, is available only as an ebook.  One way to beat the rush to bring new publications to market is to create an ebook like this one. This book features an introduction by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, stories by Dominick Dunne, George Hamilton and Sam Kashner and two new articles by David Kamp and Gwen Davis. It also contains a series of photographs by Firooz Zahedi, Douglas Kirkland and Helmut Newton, a biographical time line and a filmography of Elizabeth Taylor's films. A great resource for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about Elizabeth Taylor. Find it on Amazon by clicking here.

A Loving Tribute by Cindy De La Hozis


From 1942 until 2011, we were in love with Taylor's beauty, her movies and her lifestyle. Elizabeth Taylor: A Loving Tribute by Cindy De La Hozis, a 128-page book, reminds us WHY we have loved Elizabeth Taylor for more than 75 years. Find it here on Amazon.

People Magazine Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor Her Life In Style by Susan Kelly

People Magazine’s Special Edition Hardcover Book


People Magazine's hardcover memorial book is a tribute to Elizabeth Taylor. "Now that was a star: Eight marriages. Three Oscars. Scandals, drama and diamonds galore, glittering from Hollywood to Rome, Acapulco and the French Riviera." It is full of photographs and stories and shares images and information starting with her appearance at the age of 12 in National Velvet, through her crazy years with Richard Burton to the legend and businesswoman she was in the end. Find it on Amazon here.

Her Life In Style by Susan Kelly


Elizabeth Taylor: Her Life In Style by Susan Kelly is a photographic record, with commentary, about Taylor's fashion style on and off of the movie screen. It includes her Hollywood gowns, her jewelry and her beauty, which really needed no adornment. She was one of the most popular movie stars in the world and the world watched her personal style evolve from starlet all the way through to the activist that she was in her later years. Find it here on Amazon.

Elizabeth Taylor A Passion for Life Joseph Papa

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World: The Obsessions, Passions and Courage of Elizabeth Taylor

A Passion for Life: The Wit and Wisdom of a Legend by Joseph Papa


Elizabeth Taylor, A Passion for Life: The Wit and Wisdom of a Legend by Joseph Papa is an anthology which includes Taylor's own thoughts about her life, including her childhood, career, love, motherhood and so much more. It shares the determined but generous personality of a legendary woman. Find it here on Amazon.

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World: Obsessions, Passions, and Courage by Ellis Amburn


The Most Beautiful Woman in the World: The Obsessions, Passions, and Courage of Elizabeth Taylor by Ellis Amburn is one of the most steamy Hollywood works in recent memory. Amburn put together a page-turning chronicle of Taylor's life based upon the huge number of public interviews, autobiographies and gossip columns that accompanied the actress throughout her very public life. It is a tour of her romantic life slanted to her reputation (as coined by Oscar Levant) as "the other woman of the year." Find it here on Amazon.

The Queen of the Silver Screen: Elizabeth Taylor

Queen of the Silver Screen by Ian Lloyd


Elizabeth Taylor: Queen of the Silver Screen By Ian Lloyd was released on June 9, 2011. Lloyd writes for Hello Magazine and he wrote Carlton's An Invitation to the Royal Wedding and covered Taylor’s visits to Britain. This book follows her life including her beauty and acting skills, her love of jewelry and lifestyle, and her seven husbands. Find it on Amazon by clicking here.

My Love Affair with Jewelry by Elizabeth Taylor

My Love Affair with Jewelry by Elizabeth Taylor


This is a lovely, large book packed full of illustrations of Taylor's jewelry and written by the celebrity herself in her own very readable words. It is a beautiful coffee table book, one that I thoroughly enjoyed and can HIGHLY RECOMMEND. You can read more about this book in my complete review by clicking right here or find it on Amazon by clicking here.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo By Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo By Taylor Jenkins Reid is a fictionalized story not really about Elizabeth Taylor but certainly with similarities. If you are looking for a novel packed with Hollywood goings on, you might like to check out this book. You can read my complete review of this book here.

Autographed Elizabeth Taylor Books


For a fan, I cannot imagine anything better than the opportunity to own a book that was autographed by Elizabeth Taylor and the only way that I have of tracking down an autographed copy of one of her books is via eBay. You can see the signed book options currently available on eBay by clicking right here.

Are YOU a Taylor fan? Do you enjoy Elizabeth Taylor's movies? Have you read any of these books? Any others about the actress that you would recommend?

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

More Reading:


The Best Elizabeth Taylor Movies
Elizabeth Taylor was definitely an icon. Living from 1932 to 2011, she only recently left us but, because of her amazing beauty, talent and incredibly long career, she left us with some very memorable movies. This page is dedicated to the BEST...

Meet Elizabeth (Liz) Taylor: A Brief Biography
How would YOU summarize the life of someone as amazing as Elizabeth Taylor? Would you use words like beautiful and talented? If so, you would just be scratching the surface of what made Liz Taylor special. I just stumbled across a lovely video...






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