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

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

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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

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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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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Nora Roberts’ “The Liar” Book Review

Nora Roberts "The Liar" Book Cover - Source: Amazon
Nora Roberts “The Liar” Book Cover

I’m a huge fan of Nora Roberts’ writing and have read most of her books (including her “In Death” series under her J.D. Robb nom de plume). I had purchased the audiobook of her 2015 romantic suspense novel “The Liar” as soon as it came out, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle in my Audible library. Coming across it again recently – and finally getting to listen to it with my husband – was a treat!

The things we enjoyed most about this book are that it's:
  • Authentic. One of the things we’ve always loved about Nora Roberts’ writing is her thorough research. This makes her characters and locations very believable, so it’s easy to be transported into the world she creates for each of her stories.
  • Detailed. Roberts’ characters, for the most part, are fully formed. She provides enough detail and history and weaves in enough backstory to make us feel as if we know each character personally. We feel like they have lives beyond just what’s in the story.
  • Well-paced. One of the hallmarks of Roberts’ writing is her excellent pacing. She doesn’t rush through the telling, but she also never lets the story drag. She doesn’t use adjectives for their own sake, like many other authors. Her descriptions are all well thought out and help move the story forward.
  • Dialogue-driven. Roberts is an acknowledged master of dialogue. Like all her books, “The Liar” is told largely through conversations. I’ve always appreciated her very sparing use of speech tags (e.g., “he said,” “she asked,” “they exclaimed”). She gives every character a distinctive, recognizable speech pattern, so readers can easily identify who’s saying what without naming the speakers every time. For example, Viola speaks straightforwardly and with authority, but also with the slightly formal, slightly flowery language of a proper Southern lady when she’s addressing someone outside the family; whereas Forrest, a cop to the core, speaks tersely and uses adjectives sparingly.
There were a couple of things that felt a bit off. Melody’s character seems a bit forced. She’s surprisingly one-dimensional for a Roberts character. She never shows even a hint of remorse and it’s hard to feel any sympathy for her. Also, my husband thinks Griff seems too good to be true. He always has time for Shelby and Callie. He always does the right thing. He doesn’t make even a single misstep. In a true romance, we need to follow the lines of both characters. But although Griff is the romantic foil, this is Shelby’s story, and in some ways he’s a supporting player. We never learn much about his backstory or any of his previous relationships. Fortunately, neither of those issues prevented us from thoroughly enjoying this book.

Although I also own the Kindle version, I much prefer the unabridged audiobook of “The Liar”. Narrator January LaVoy does a fabulous job of giving both the male and female characters distinctive voices. In many audiobooks, it can be hard to tell which character is speaking without speech tags, but that was never a problem with this one. LaVoy also makes the men sound like men and the women like women – a skill narrators often lack. Even more impressive is her totally believable voicing of three-year-old Callie. Her excellent narration brings an added dimension to the storytelling. This audiobook will keep you happily engrossed for 16 hours, 31 minutes.

Main Characters in “The Liar” Include:

Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth – a young wife and mother who grew up in rural Tennessee; former Homecoming Queen

Richard Foxworth – Shelby’s snobby, cold, jet-setting husband

Callie Rose Foxworth – Shelby and Richard’s three-year-old daughter

Viola MacNee Donahue – Shelby’s vivacious, ambitious, straight-shooting and wise grandmother, owner of Viola’s Harmony House Salon and Day Spa

Forrest Jackson Pomeroy – local cop and Shelby’s big brother

Ada Mae Pomeroy – Shelby’s mom

Emma Kate Addison – nurse and Shelby’s best friend

Matt Baker – Emma Kate’s boyfriend and partner in The Fix-It Guys

Griff Lott – Matt’s partner in The Fix-It Guys; originally from Baltimore

Melody Bunker – Shelby’s main nemesis in high school; second runner-up in the Miss Tennessee pageant; manager of the Artful Ridge artisan craft gallery

“The Liar” Synopsis

This novel is broken into three sections: The False, The Roots and The Real.

The False
Pretty redhead Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth learns that her husband, Richard, is missing and presumed dead. Richard Foxworth was everything Shelby wasn’t – urbane, suave, worldly, wealthy, sophisticated and well-traveled. He quickly swept her off her feet and into an unfamiliar world of glamorous jet-setting and an expensive lifestyle. When she met Richard, he had been attentive and flattering, but that didn’t last long. After their daughter Callie was born, he became increasingly insulting to Shelby and had little time and even less affection for their sweet, pretty, vivacious daughter.

Shelby discovers that everything she thought she knew about Richard was false. The man she had married, the father of her darling Callie, had been not only a liar but also a successful con man. Shelby had never suspected that Richard hadn’t purchased the fancy house in Philadelphia, elegant clothes and all the other trappings of their wealthy lifestyle outright. And he had racked up $3 million in debts that now fell squarely on Shelby’s slender shoulders. 

The Roots
Shelby sells all of Richard’s belongings and most of her own, as well as the huge, fancy house he had purchased (without consulting her) and the expensive custom furnishings she had always hated. Then she takes Callie back to Rendezvous Ridge, Tennessee, Shelby’s beloved hometown, determined to raise her daughter surrounded by three generations of Shelby’s close-knit, loving and supportive family.

Shelby moves back into her parents’ home and starts to build a new life for herself and Callie. She makes up with her best friend, Emma Kate, who has been angry at Shelby ever since she had taken off with Richard and seemingly ignored her family and friends back home. Emma Kate’s boyfriend and his business partner, Griffin Lott, have a fledgling construction and remodeling business. Griff falls hard for Shelby and Callie. He quickly wins Callie’s heart, but Shelby is reluctant to put her own on the line again or risk Callie’s getting hurt. 

As this section progresses, Shelby, Callie and Griff find themselves increasingly in danger. Shelby’s policeman brother Forrest tries to protect them while he figures out and tracks down who is responsible for murder, both attempted and successful. Things comes to a frightening head.

The Real
The last section consists of the final chapter and an epilogue. Telling you anything about them would be a major spoiler, so you’ll just have to read “The Liar” to find out what happens. It’s a worthwhile ride!



“The Liar” book reviewed by:
Margaret Schindel




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Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Home for Unwanted Girls Book Review

Joanna Goodman's The Home for Unwanted Girls is a fictionalized account of a true story. Set in 1950s French Canada, it tells the tale of a young woman who is forced by her family to give up her daughter for adoption and in lesser part, the tale of the daughter in the Canadian system. It also shares the history of the times in Quebec including the divide between the French and the English.

Most of us are aware of the situation a girl of the age of 15 would have been in in 1950s society if she found herself pregnant. I believe, however, that most of us are unaware of what happened to the large number of the children who were given up for adoption in Quebec at that time but who were never actually adopted.

Those 'unwanted' children were placed in orphanages where they were misused as servants and abused by nuns and staff. Later, when those orphanages became psychiatric hospitals, the children were simply reclassified as mentally ill and assimilated into that population where they continued to be used as servants and abused but were also treated as mentally ill.

As someone who did not know of this story before she picked up the book, I found it simply unbelievable that this was allowed. They were children and while naive to the ways of normal living because of living in orphanages, they were not mentally ill.

How could a switch from orphanage to mental asylum even be allowed? Well, it turns out that it happened because patients in mental asylums received more funding than children in orphanages. The province of Quebec received $1.25 per orphan or $2.75 per psychiatric patient so orphanages became hospitals. Of course, it was only later that the physical, psychological and sexual abuse was discovered. The author, in her interview with the Toronto Star, says that restitution has been offered by the government to the victims but no formal apology has been made by the church.

The author also shares that this book was drawn from her own mother's life in the 1950s. That is, of a French-Canadian woman married to an English seed merchant. However, the author struggled with how to present the story until she read a French memoir written by a survivor that shared one woman's thoughts as she actually lived through the situation.

This book reveals a very sad time in Quebec history. It delves into the issues of language, class and religion. It is also a story of family and of romantic love. Yes, there is a lot of heartache but the book is well written and comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me if you enjoy historical fiction and want an eye opening look at a little known piece of Canadian history. Be warned that the subject matter it is disturbing and it did happen. However, I raced through The Home for Unwanted Girls needing to know what happened next. What the outcome would be was never far from my mind.

You can buy your copy from Amazon by clicking right here. If you do read this book, be sure to come back and let us know what you think.

See you at
the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of The Home for Unwanted Girls on Amazon.
Secret Child Book Review: 1950s Ireland.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Series Review: 1950s New York City.
The Remains of the Day Book Review: 1950s England.





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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

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Every Note Played by Lisa Genova









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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, 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 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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Monday, July 30, 2018

Reviewing Northern Lights by Nora Roberts

Reviewing Northern Lights by Nora Roberts
I enjoy books written by Nora Roberts, specifically the romantic suspense books that she writes. Northern Lights is at the top of my list of my favorite books. Recently, I've been so tired that it has been difficult to concentrate on new material and find myself stuck reading the same paragraphs night after night. I decided to read something familiar and that wouldn't require so much concentration but couldn't find my print copy of Northern Lights. I looked to the internet for a digital copy. Because Nora Roberts is a prolific writer, with well over 200 titles published, I found that this book may be lost among them so I decided to highlight one of my favorite stories by this author.


Northern Lights in Lunacy, Alaska


Ignatious Burke (Nate) is a Baltimore cop who accepts a job in Lunacy, Alaska. The baggage he brings, that doesn't fit in his carry-on bags, includes the trauma of watching his partner die on the street in Baltimore. Nate can't shake those feelings of guilt. So he accepts a job in a tiny, remote Alaskan town. So remote that he arrives by small plane.


"Strapped into the quivering soup can laughingly called a plane, bouncing his way on the pummeling air through the stingy window of light that was winter, through the gaps and breaks in snow-sheathed mountains toward a town called Lunacy, Ignatious Burke had an epiphany.
He wasn't nearly as prepared to die as he had believed." - excerpt from Northern Lights 

As you would expect, in Lunacy, there is a cast of eccentric characters. To be expected as the 500+ residents of Lunacy refer to themselves as Lunatics. Nate's job duties include, but are not limited to, Moose versus vehicle incidents, taking care of drunks, and watching over his quiet little town. Quiet until the remains of a body - clearly murdered - is found preserved in an ice cave.

The murder victim is Meg's father. 

Meg was born and raised in Lunacy, is a bush pilot, and is quite able to fend for herself. She lives with her dogs, outside of town. Meg is described by some reviewers as unlikable and cold. I describe her as efficient. She is not needy or clingy. Meg begins in a casual physical relationship with Nate but over time it begins to become a more meaningful connection. 

Like small town life, the story line is in no rush. Other reviewers refer to the story line as a "gradual climb" and a "slow burn". I agree and I would add that it is comfortable. When Meg's father's body is found the story begins to become more tense and we begin to find reason take a closer and more suspicious look at the many eccentric residents of Lunacy.  

Who has killed Mr. Galloway - keeping the secret for all these years and walking the snowy streets with the unsuspecting Lunatics of Lunacy, Alaska? And now that the body has been found, who will the killer go after next in order to cover his/her/their tracks?


Additional things to consider about Northern Lights  


Because I am recommending a book that won't be everyone's cup of tea, I feel I should add a few side notes and warnings.  

  • There is a bit of "gore" (there's been a couple of murders after all - one in Alaska and one on Baltimore). 
  • There is profanity. 
  • There are a couple of sex scenes (4 sex scenes for a total of 10 pages is what another reviewer counted). 
  • This novel was written years ago, about a setting years before that (published in 2004, with a journal entry in the book dated February 12, 1988). It is not PC by some standards today.
  • There is also a review that reports a dislike for how the Alaskan residents are portrayed. 
This story will not be everyone's style. It is mine. I like gritty and a bit of gore. Swearing typically doesn't bother me. I tend to like my fiction slightly caricaturized - after all, why read a story if the character is as mundane and boring as I am? And finally, I am very familiar with people who talk, think, and behave just like the people of Lunacy. So this level of alleged political incorrectness was not shocking to me. But I have read a couple of reviews (out of hundreds) in which readers seemed to be significantly triggered so I felt I should give this bit of information in the interest of full disclosure.

If you are curious, but not sure about the story, Amazon provides a sizable "look inside" sample. If the story sounds intriguing but you aren't quite sure, take a peek at the Northern Lights free sample. 

I enjoyed this story, characters, and setting very much. I have read this book multiple times and have it downloaded to begin again. In my opinion, reading about snowy Alaska during the tired, heat-wave days of summer is a great escape. 




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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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