Showing posts with label novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label novel. Show all posts

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Review of Historical Novel....West with Giraffes

Photograph my sister Julie took while in Tanzania

 

West with Giraffes is one of the best books I've read in a long time and I have read some books I've really enjoyed lately.  But you know how some books just resonate with you, well that is how West with Giraffes was with me.  I usually read before I go to bed for about 1/2 hour.  With this book, I would wake up in the morning thinking about the book and of course I had to make time to read more during the day.
 

                                      

Setting

The book is based on the true story of two Giraffes that are waylaid during a hurricane and end up on the docks in New York City.  They are met by two unlikely characters who end up driving them all the way to the San Diego Zoo.  The time frame is during the Great Depression and we learn some of the history of the era along the cross country drive.  It is based on the amazing story when two giraffes make headlines when they travel cross country.


Characters

The characters in the book are so real you feel as if you know them personally.  

The Old Man-  During most of the book Riley is called the Old Man.  He is the one who met the giraffes at the  dock in New York.  He works for the San Diego Zoo and he is tasked with meeting the giraffes and taking them to San Diego.  We get  to know him gradually as he makes his way across country with Woody.

Woody is a 17 year old orphan from Texas.  When his family is wiped out during the dust bowl tragedy he makes his way to New York City where he ends up on the dock when the giraffes land.  He hears they are headed to "Californy" and makes it his goal to somehow follow them there.  Woody's full name is Woodrow Wilson Nickel and during the long trip cross country we find that he is as endearing as his name.

Red is a young photographer with a secret who is determined to be published in Life magazine and claim her fame with her story about the giraffes.

The giraffes themselves really show their different personalities and become a wonderful part of the book.  All of the main characters are drawn in by a love of the beautiful animals.  They call the giraffes Boy and Girl.  Girl had been injured during the hurricane and they all had to stop often to treat her hurt leg.  She is the more aggressive of the two giraffes.  Boy is shy and more approachable.

This is a book that I would highly recommend.




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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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Jeffrey Siger's The Mykonos Mob (Island of Secrets) Reviewed

Jeffrey Siger’s The Mykonos Mob

My accidental introduction to Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis via Jeffrey Siger’s tenth book, The Mykonos Mob, came about because of the pandemic. Limiting trips to public places means that my husband has become the designated library picker upper. Most of our library books are requested in advance online and then picked up when they are available but on this particular day I felt like reading something different and my husband left home with instructions to find me something different to read. Maybe something that was recent. Maybe a mystery or a thriller. 

He came home with a number of options including this one, The Mykonos Mob, which follows Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis who leaves Athens for the Greek island of Mykonos. To those not very familiar with Greece, like myself, Mykonos is a Greek island with a thriving tourist industry and a reputation. That is, a reputation for a busy beach scene and lots of nightlife. It is considered an international playground and may not necessarily be the kind of vacation I would be looking for but is interesting as a destination nevertheless.

In this book, Kaldis works to solve the murder of a corrupt former police officer who now runs a protection racket on Mykonos. We meet the main players who include Kaldis, his Special Crimes unit, his wife and an interesting American woman who has transplanted herself to Mykonos and who plays piano in a bar at night and solves local crimes during the day.

As an armchair traveler, I don’t think any of my ‘trips’ have included Greece. This book offered a look at the seedy underbelly of the island but also at some Greek culture. It is not a travel guide nor a travel book per se and some parts of the life reflected in this book might have you thinking you do not want to visit Mykonos but it was interesting to learn about some of the issues of life in Greece and in particular on Mykonos. The author, Jeffrey Siger, left a career as a Wall Street lawyer in New York to live on the Aegean Greek island that is Mykonos and to write books like this one. It is intentional that they share a fast moving story and some real life Greece.

RECOMMENDED?


I enjoyed The Mykonos Mob and yes, I do recommend it. I enjoyed the look into life in Greece, a place that I would like to visit one day, and I liked the main characters. I will be reading the rest of this series. I think this book would suit any man or woman who enjoys a good murder mystery as well as someone with an interest in life in modern-day Greece.

Jeffrey Siger’s Island of Secrets

BOOK LIST


Here’s the order you should read the books. Note that this book, The Mykonos Mob, is number ten in the series. Starting with number ten is not my usual style and I doubt it is yours. Another important note is that the book name was changed to Island of Secrets when it was released in paperback.

Murder in Mykonos
Assassins of Athens
Prey on Patmos
Target
Mykonos After Midnight
Sons of Sparta
Devil of Delphi
Santorini Caesars
An Aegean April
The Mykonos Mob (Island of Secrets in paperback)
A Deadly Twist

Find your Jeffrey Siger book on Amazon in hardcover, paperback or Kindle by clicking right here.

Do you like a good murder mystery?  Have you read any good fiction books set Greece that you would recommend, mystery or otherwise?

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy The Mykonos Mob (or any of Jeffrey Siger’s books) here on Amazon.
Jeffrey Archer’s False Impressions Reviewed.
The Coffee House Mysteries reviewed.
Death Takes A Spin: An Upcycling Mystery reviewed.










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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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Jeffrey Archer's False Impression Book Review

Jeffrey Archer's False Impression Book ReviewI started reading both the new book about Megan and Harry and the new book about the former U.S. president before I settled in with another Jeffrey Archer book, False Impression. I found the royal book a bit pretentious, the presidential book interesting but not quite what I wanted to read at the moment and the Archer book, a conspiracy thriller, riveting. Therefore, I am able to offer you a book review today of False Impression. Which book would you have chosen?

Anyway, it turns out that the difficult year of 2020 has had a very real impact on my reading choices. I seem to want well-crafted page turners, which give me a break from the simple, everyday routine of a life that is home bound. I work online, run essential errands, take plenty of walks and, like so many that are privileged to be able to stay home to stay safe, I do not do much else or see family or friends. A book to escape with has proven essential and Jeffrey Archer has fit the bill. 

I spent a large part of the spring and summer with his mammoth seven book series the Clifton Chronicles so this is the eighth Archer book I have read this year. When recently I could not settle in with any of my own book choices, my husband magically produced Jeffrey Archer's False Impression. I expect my husband was remembering how much I enjoyed the previous Archer books and that he picked this one because it includes a good look into the art world, which I do enjoy learning about.

THE STORY


The story? Well, start with a woman murdered in England the night before 9/11. Add in a brilliant art expert currently working for a crooked banker who is obsessed with owning various masterpieces at any price with his current choice being Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Finally, add the banker's unlikely secretary, an honors graduate, and a handsome FBI agent.

The trip follows these characters around numerous bends that takes us on a trip that includes the cities of  New York, London, Bucharest and Tokyo until the Van Gogh painting finally has a new owner.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


I could not put False Impression down. I read it for hours in the middle of night. I read it when I woke up in the morning. I gave my husband a good laugh when hours later I was still reading. Not surprising really given how much I enjoyed the previous Archer books but definitely surprising given that I am usually up bright and early every morning preparing eBay parcels and working online

Yes, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. It does a good job of sharing a bit about the twin towers, art history, English aristocracy and it includes a nasty villain, a female assassin and the FBI. The story keeps you wanting to know what happens next and it does so until the end of the book. I particularly enjoyed the armchair travel, the art and art history and the occasional humor, which mainly arose between the two main characters.

You should know that the book does include the tragic events of 9/11 and that the main character works in the North Tower. 
  

MORE REVIEWS


Well, this is when normally I say "but don't take my word for it" and give you a few stellar quotes from other online reviews but it turns out that this book received mixed reviews from the professionals so I cannot do that. However, Artis-Ann of The Yorkshire Times did like the book saying "she realizes and admits that you can enjoy the most erudite (knowledge filled) compositions alongside a jolly good yarn which doesn’t require very much concentration. After all, each to his own and the world would be a poorer place if we all liked the same thing." She also said that "she enjoys the temporary escapism that books offer and their variety and that this is another example." I think she summed it up nicely. 

Amazon readers liked False Impression with 88 percent of them giving the book a 4 or 5 star rating and Goodreads readers gave it a score of 3.81.

If you're looking for an easy to read in the form of an entertaining book with art, art history and travel, you should add False Impression to your list. You can see all of the versions available on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy False Impression on Amazon. 

Jeffrey Archer False Impression - Vincent Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear








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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review

Knots & Crosses: Tartan Noir Crime Novel by Ian Rankin 

In 2019, I was introduced to Ian Rankin via Carleton University’s Learning in Retirement program, Classics of Detective Fiction: From the 1960s to Today. I really enjoyed Rankin's Black and Blue, which was the book we read but only recently returned to start at the beginning of the series and read Knots and Crosses.

When Rankin wrote Knots and Crosses in 1987 he thought he had written a standalone crime detective novel and had even planned on killing Detective Rebus at the end of the book. Success for Rankin and Rebus was not fast in coming. After publishing Knots and Crosses to little fan fare, Rankin put Rebus aside and moved on to write his next book with no idea that he would eventually return to Rebus' world and that he would still be writing books for the series in 2020

Knots and Crosses Book Review
Anyway, I read Knots and Crosses. I really enjoyed it. I recommend it. Need I say more? Well, yes, I suppose I should because you may not have read anything by Ian Rankin and you may not have seen my earlier review of the eighth book in the series, Black and Blue.

I wrote about the number of covers that the eighth book has had and you won't be surprised to hear that this book also has had many covers. I had to work a bit to find a picture of the original cover, which I believe the image at the bottom of this page to be since Rankin describes the original cover as having knots and crosses on it and this is the only one that fits that description. 

Knots and Crosses is a classic detective story with a strong plotline. It was written in 1987 and based firmly in the Scotland of the time. It is considered British Realism Noir or Tartan Noir as it was written by Scottish writers and is set in Scotland. The Scottish story has style elements from other American and European crime writers of the same time period. 

Detective Rebus is a former Special Air Service (SAS) officer now doing police work and coping with a difficult past in a very destructive manner. Typical to noir, he is a working class main character who doesn't have ordinary heroic qualities like idealism, courage and morality. He's a drinker and a smoker and does not have many friends nor successful relationships. He is not above stretching the law in an effort to solve the case he is working on, which is also common in gritty, noir detective novels. 

Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin
Because Knots and Crosses is the first book in the series, we are given the back story of Detective Rebus while he attempts to solve the nasty case of a serial murderer who is killing young girls and advertising that fact to the police.

REVIEWS


"Most of Knots and Crosses is claustrophobically situated inside his mind – and it’s a lonely, uncomfortable place. His asperity, his broken marriage, his drinking, his cold flat, his falling asleep in chairs because he can’t quite drag his tired hide into bed … Perhaps you could argue that these too are the stuff of cop cliché. But they feel real here. He feels like a character with weight. Rankin...nails the essentials."  I agree with The Guardian, Rebus seems perfectly developed in this story.

Another review on The Guardian says, "It is not always easy to read because of the context, but it grips you so hard that it feels compulsory to read on..."  Yes, this book has some uncomfortable moments but it will have you wanting to know who did it and you will read on.

Ian Rankin's First Book, Knots & Crosses
Finally, in the year that this book was written, Kirkus said, "Solidly drawn characters, keen psychological insights and an intriguing, well-knit plot—along with a rather florid but individual writing style—make Rankin a newcomer to watch." More than twenty successful novels later, I say they were right with that prediction. 

Knots and Crosses comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me.

WHO WILL LIKE KNOTS & CROSSES? 


If you enjoy a well-written detective novel, I believe that you will enjoy this one. It is a crime fiction classic now and it is immensely readable. It does have violence, sex, drugs and murder but nevertheless I enjoyed the story, getting to know Detective Rebus a bit better in the process. For armchair travelers, it is also a look at the nice and the not-so-nice underbelly of Scotland's Edinburgh.

On Amazon, you will find Knots and Crosses by clicking here and all of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels by clicking right here.

See you at 
the book store! 
Brenda 
Treasures By Brenda 

Quick Links



Knots & Crosses Book Review

Ian Rankin's Knots and Crosses Book Review







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Monday, March 16, 2020

Book Review: Chesapeake by James Michener

Until now, I had never read Michener. For some reason I had the pre-conceived notion that his stories would be long and boring. I am happy to announce that I was wrong. While Chesapeake by James Michener is indeed a long novel, it is far from boring. It is a captivating account of the families who settled the colonies and waterways of the eastern United States. And their ancestors in the Delmarva region over the next 400 years. 

Reviewing Chesapeake by James Michener


I was in the mood for a story that highlighted life in the outdoors. As I searched my local library's digital selections I chose Chesapeake with the thought that if I find it to be over-rated, under--whelming, and difficult to read, at least it was free. I was surprised that I was immediately hooked with the first character.

This story begins in 1583. Pentaquod, of the Susquehannock tribe, is a widower who has voiced an opinion against the plans of the tribal council. As a result, the family of his new love interest has refused to allow her to marry him. He is looked upon with suspicion by the members of his village. Pentaquod does not want to war with the northern tribe and he wants to continue to live in peace. Because he disagrees with the tribal council, he is increasingly an outcast. He flees the village for parts unknown downriver.

"It was toward morning of the third night, when he had had only two small fish to eat in three days, that he came to those falls which his people called Conowingo, and here he faced the test which would determine the success of his escape. When he approached the white and leaping water he intended to drag his canoe ashore and portage it a long distance downhill, but as he paddled away from the middle of the river to the safety of shore.... "

Pentaquod's journey south by canoe from the Susquehanna River to Chesapeake Bay were stories that seemed familiar. The water and wildlife descriptions are similar to what can be experienced by those of us who sit along the banks or kayak these waters.  

Pentaquod had never traveled as far as the open water of the bay. He chose an island on the eastern shore for his new home. There he is introduced to Blue Heron's, crabs, and the natural rhythms of life on the water. Later, he joins a part of the local tribe (later named the Choptank) and lives a long, mostly peaceful life living on the rivers and in the marshes of that area. Michener's descriptions of the flora and fauna make me feel as though I am sitting there, on the banks of the Choptank river. 

In 1606, Captain John Smith brings ships and crews to the New World with a plan to "conquer Virginia". He also brings Edmund Steed. The Steed family is one of the families we follow over the centuries.

In Chesapeake, the focus is on a 400 year saga of these families who settled the area. Each of the families intertwine with the others over the years. While the characters, and an island on which one of the main families settle, are fictional the issues are historical. We are reminded how the people in the first colony barely survives. We are reminded that many of the first settlers are fleeing religious persecution and how that continues in the New World. As time goes on, "letter brides", indentured servants, and slaves join the growing population. Public whippings - including that of a Quaker woman - are the norm of the day. I was reminded that settling this country was no easy task. And this was just the beginning.

James Michener paints a picture of the area and of the families whose ancestry intertwine over time from the 1500s to the late 1970s. I will think of them every time I sit along the banks of the local waterways or watch the water spilling from Conowingo Dam.




Related Link:

Not long after I began reading Chesapeake, BarbRad reviewed The World is My Home by James Michener. She explains that in this memoir he shares stories of his life, travels, interests, and writing. I've added this memoir to my reading list and look forward to learning more about the author who wrote the engrossing story I'm reading now.


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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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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Summer Between Reviewed

Sometimes A Book Touches Your Soul

summer scene
Summer scene image courtesy of pixabay.com
A few days ago I finished reading The Summer Between by Amanda Linton. I wanted to share my review of it with you today. Amanda is pretty new to the YA genre of books. In fact, I believe this book may be her first. It doesn't read like a first book, though. 

I had put her book on my TBR (to be read) list after getting to know her in a group that I belong to on Instagram. Her book cover and the line on the cover grabbed my attention. The line reads "I'll see you at the line where the waves meet the clouds." That made me want to find out more about the story.

I think that many will relate with Cleo Porter the 17 year old main character in the book. As she enters into her senior year of high school, she hides behind her camera. She snaps glimpses of the world that she doesn't feel like she belongs in. Her relationship with her mother, touched me greatly because it was more than the usual teenage girl/mother strained existence so many experience. This went deeper and I knew it because I had a similar relationship with my mother. Always hoping for acceptance and never quite getting it. A very believable and touching part of Cleo's story.

Bebe Blattner comes bursting into Cleo's life as a new student at school. Bebe is loud, she is too tall and she lives each day as an adventure. Cleo has known Bebe since they were small because they went to the same church but never attended the same school until now. Bebe makes friends with everyone, the popular kids, the less popular and the ones in between. Cleo struggles with keeping the few friends that she has. They are just about as opposite as two girls can be.

This is a story of coming of age, of finding who you are and the bond of friendship. It is a story about family; the one that shares our DNA and the family we choose as our friends. The future may look bright but often fate walks into your life in a way that might break you. This is a story of one girl working through the pain of loss to try to become whole again. Will she be able to?

I absolutely loved this book! It touched me in so many ways and I look forward to Amanda's future works. She is an incredible writer weaving a believable story on each page. Even though this is considered a Young Adult book, I think that most woman will fall in love with the characters and the story. In many ways, we have all lived at least parts of it. Take a chance and give this new author the recognition that she deserves. You won't regret it!




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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Weird Sisters Book Review

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, A Book Review


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of The Weird Sisters 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, 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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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Piano Maker Book Review

Austrian Kurt Palka’s THE PIANO MAKER is a fictional adventure story with a strong female lead and, true to the title, it is actually about the world of the piano. It is the story of one woman’s life journey from France in the time of the First World War to Canada in the 1930s. Given exceptional training as a child and a young woman as both a pianist and as a piano maker for the family firm, she loses everything during the war and eventually winds up in a small town on the French Canadian shore.

When she arrives, she appears in good clothing and with a nice car but everything that she owns, besides her skills related to the piano, is packed in that car. Her pianist skills, however, are enough for the local church to take her in as a pianist and choir conductor without even checking her references and she is thrilled to have found a new and simple life. Unfortunately, the years in between her time in France and this town contain a secret that she is unable to be rid of.

The story flips back and forth between the time of her new life and the times that have passed. It shares the piano training she received as a young woman and her struggles with that business during war time; the love of a solider and the subsequent loss of that man; another man who rescues her when she needs help supporting both herself and her daughter. The journey includes time spent searching for treasures of different sorts in Indochina and Canada. It includes some uncomfortable situations as the woman recalls at trial her struggle for survival in the frozen Canadian north.

The Piano Maker is RECOMMENDED by me. As a Canadian, I loved that it is partially set in Canada. Anyone with an interest in pianos might enjoy the references to piano playing and piano making that are included in this book. As well, those from the Maritimes and those who enjoy war-time fiction might want to pick up this book.

Amazon says that readers who enjoy The Piano Maker will also like The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway and Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. I have not read the first two but remember loving Sarah’s Key.

For those looking for piano-themed fiction, it turns out that there are an endless variety of books available. You might enjoy The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason (a Nobel prize winner), The Piano (which is also a movie) by Jane Campion or The Piano Shop on the Left Bank (which is set in Paris) by Thad Carhart’s. Apparently, books with the word piano in the title are a bit trendy though apparently not all include very much about the world of the piano. You can see Amazon’s collection of Piano fiction here.

You can read more about Kurt Palka’s The Piano Maker or buy it from Amazon here.

Have you read The Piano Maker or maybe any of the related books? What did you think?

See you at
the book store!

Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy The Piano Maker on Amazon.







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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Kristin Hannah’s Home Front Book Review

HOME FRONT is an excellent fictional story by Kristin Hannah. I previously reviewed and loved Hannah’s The Nightingale, which sent me looking for more titles by this author.

It is a relationship story and a war story. It features a husband and wife who seem to be perfectly situated with a wonderful marriage, great careers and lovely children. However, as happens, they have drifted apart and are headed for disaster and when she is sent overseas to Iraq and the rift is almost too much for this family to bear.

This novel presents an interesting role reversal with the mother a helicopter pilot and the man trying to maintain order at home. What happens is dark and dreadful and presents a mountain for this family to surpass.

Here is the official video book trailer. In this trailer, I think the book is represented in a very light and fluffy manner especially given that divorce and military service are not easy things to deal with.



I believe that this second video, in which Hannah Kristin discusses the book, does a better job of representing the issues faced by the family in Home Front and by families in the same situation.



Hannah calls the book “the best, most emotional book she has ever written” and goes on to say that it is about “love, honor, duty, commitment, sacrifice.” I agree that it was an emotional book. It is RECOMMENDED by me and yes, you will cry. For what it is worth, I preferred the book The Nightingale.

Have you read either book? What did you think?

If you are interested, you can see all of Kristin Hannah’s books including Home Front on Amazon here.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy Home Front from Amazon.
See all of Hannah's books on Amazon.


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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Art of Racing in the Rain Book Review

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein was the latest book for my book club. As usual in the weeks leading up to my book club's meeting, my husband could be heard uttering his usual reminder, "Have you finished the book?" This time, however, he was particularly interested in the book because the main character is a dog named Enzo Ferrari. Yes, Ferrari as in the car.

The story is told from Enzo's perspective. The idea of reading a book from the point of view of a dog might seem weird but it worked. It doesn't actually seem like a dog talking although the narration definitely looks at the world from the Enzo's point of view.

Enzo believes in reincarnation and really wants to be reincarnated as a human being so that he can voice his views (and so that he can have thumbs.) He understands everything that people say and wants to add his thoughts to the conversation.

Did I say that the story is about a race car driver, too? Enzo's master is a driver and Enzo is therefore often immersed in the world of race car driving. Don't let that put you off though. If you are not into race car driving, you will still enjoy this book. Race car driving is simply the world that the characters in this book live in though if you are like me, you might also learn a bit about race car driving. There is never anything wrong with learning about another world.

Enzo is not like other dogs. He is a philosopher and is almost human in a number of ways. He is self-educated with the help of his television and his master, Danny Swift. In the story, Enzo reflects back on his life, the life of the Swift family, on what he has learned about being human and, as the book says, "how life, like racing, is about so much more than simply going fast."

I expected my book club to analyze this book. However, they did not. Instead, they pretty much unanimously agreed that it was a pleasant book and a nice read. Some questioned a few life-changing decisions on the part of the main characters and some including myself particularly enjoyed the comical moments in the book.

So is it recommended? Yes. The Art of Racing in the Rain was a New York Times best seller for many weeks. It is a good story. It is lighthearted though sometimes sad and there are definitely some things between the covers to think about. I think the book is perfect for dog lovers and enjoyable for the rest of us, too.

By the way, the image that I think most reflects what Enzo looks like is at the top of the page. That image just seems to capture Enzo's spirit. You don't have to agree with me on that point but you can see all of the artwork available on the covers of The Art of Racing in the Rain on Amazon by clicking right here. Of course, you can also order yourself a copy of the book at that location, too.

This book is set to become a movie though originally Universal Studios picked up the rights and then did not follow through. However, The Hollywood Reporter says that Walt Disney Studios has picked up the rights so now all we have to do is wait and see what Disney puts together for us. Disney has made a lot of successful dog movies; let's hope they do this one properly.

Have you read The Art of Racing in the Rain? Would you recommend it? What else have you read lately?

See you at the bookstore!

Brenda
Treasures by Brenda

Quick Link:

Order your copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain on Amazon here.







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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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ken Follett’s The Century Trilogy Books Reviewed

Ken Follett’s The Century Trilogy Books Reviewed
I am thoroughly enjoying Ken Follett’s the Century Trilogy and totally unable to put it down.

The three books are based on what happened in world history between the years of 1911 and 2008. Those story lines include the Russian Revolution, the suffrage movement, the rise of Nazi Germany, World War II, the atomic age, the Cold War, civil rights, assassinations, mass political movements, Vietnam, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, presidential impeachment, revolution, rock and roll and of course both good and bad from all of those time periods.

To tell this story, Follett skillfully weaved together generations of five families from America, Russia, Germany, England and Wales.

I picked up the first book, FALL OF GIANTS, as a good long read for our recent Panama Canal cruise and I have been steadily working my way through the series for a couple of months. I am often pulled away kicking and screaming from books in order to turn my attention to an “assigned” book club book. Leaving the second book, WINTER OF THE WORLD, for a grumpy old geezer in A MAN CALLED OVE was downright difficult although worthwhile in the end.

Currently, I have had to put the third book, EDGE OF ETERNITY, down to read LEAN IN, a book about women, work, and the will to lead, which is not compulsive reading for me and definitely not middle-of-the-night when-you-cannot-sleep reading.

Ken Follett FALL OF GIANTS Century Trilogy 1

Ken Follett Winter of the World Century Trilogy 2

Ken Follett Edge of Eternity Century Trilogy 3

Anyway, in case you cannot tell from my enthusiasm, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Ken Follett’s Century trilogy. I caution that as a world history book it definitely has violence and it also has sexual content. However, I believe that most of the violence and some of the sexual content was required to tell this realistic story.

The three-book series contains 2,991 pages and each book is encyclopedic in length so for ease of reading I highly recommend purchasing it as an eBook or if not an eBook, then as a paperback book. We own the hardcover version and each I just weighed them and discovered that each one weighs an average of just over 3 pounds. They are heavy. Ordinarily, I prefer to read physical books because I spend much of my working life using a computer but in this case because of the sheer weight of these books I really, truly preferred to read them on my cellphone.

You can find the Century Trilogy in hardcover, paperback and electronic versions on Amazon by clicking right here. I looked for and with some difficulty eventually found a boxed set both in paperback and hardcover editions. You can find the gift sets here. I believe that this series would make an absolutely brilliant gift idea for anyone male or female who likes a good historical novel. Of course, gifting the first volume alone would be a good idea, too.

Is there a movie? No, there is not and Follett himself says in this Washington Post interview, that if they were to make a mini-series that it would be the longest mini-series ever made, that it would be very expensive to make at least partly because he would not allow it to be done cheaply and that a mini-series was therefore, not likely to happen.

Have you read Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy? Are there any other Follett books that you have read, thoroughly loved and would recommend to us?

See you at the bookstore!

Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Link:

Buy Ken Follett's Century Trilogy books on Amazon.












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Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Remains of the Day (1990) Book Review

The Remains of the Day is set in the 1950s and deals with the changing world of a man who had totally dedicated himself to being the best English butler he can be. Yes, picture that upright, serious, effective, totally dedicated, courteous, loyal gentlemen butler that we are used to seeing in period drama movies. The mini-series Downton Abbey hinted at the changing world for people who worked in service but never quite made it to the time when a butler would no longer be needed at all, which is what is happening in this book.

With the permission of his new American employer, butler Stevens sets out on a road trip to meet with a former female colleague whom we believe he loved although he may not know that fact. The road trip gives Stevens (and us) plenty of time to reflect back on his choices over the years and to ponder whether or not he made the right ones. Author Kazuo Ishiguro meant the book to be a metaphor, representing most of us who labour through life in one way or another and do not really know what the outcome of our efforts will be.

Would I Recommend This Book?


A few members of my book club really enjoyed reading The Remains of the Day. However, it was not a page turner and I was slow to warm up to it but in the end I did enjoy it. It was interesting and thought provoking and I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys period drama movies and historical fiction but not because of how those books flow but because of their subject matter.

By way of further recommendation, you should know that Remains of the Day won the Man Booker Prize in 1989 and that it is a very highly regarded post-war British story that sits at number 146 on Stanford University’s list of the best twentieth-century English novels.

Author Kazuo Ishiguro says that ''What he is interested in is not the actual fact that his characters have done things they later regret...but how they come to terms with that fact.”

I came away thinking that one should live for today and not let life pass you by. Stevens gave up too much in his pursuit of excellence and in the end wound up with nothing.

I will be watching the 1993 movie version of The Remains of the Day, which was more familiar to me than the book before it was added to our book club reading list. The movie stars Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson and was nominated for eight Academy Awards and sounds like a worthy follow up to this novel.

How about you? Will you be reading or watching The Remains of the Day? Or perhaps you have already done so? If you have not yet read the book and are interested, you can find your copy on Amazon by clicking right here.


Happy reading!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

Quick Links:

Order your copy of The Remains of the Day from Amazon.




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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reviewing The Dark Towers Series by Stephen King

A Review Of Stephen King's Dark Tower Series


Having just spent the last 4 1/2 months (or so) reading the most incredible series of books by the author Stephen King, I can't seem to stop thinking about the story that spans over 8 books. So, I thought that avid readers like myself might enjoy a review of the books as a recommendation for a reading adventure that will most assuredly be worth the investment of time.

Back in April, I told about my first encounter with Stephen King in my Review of 11/22/63. During our Christmas dinner last year, I was talking to my daughter's boyfriend about him reading that book and made the comment that I wished that Mr. King wrote more books that were not in the horror genre because I really enjoyed his writing style. Daved asked me if I had ever read The Dark Tower series by King and I admitted that I had not. He said that he thought that I would really enjoy it. That is where my reading journey began...with that conversation at the dinner table.

First A Little History Of The Series:


The Gunslinger 1st edition cover
I think that I should explain that this is not a new series. In fact, it really didn't start out to be a series at all. King had started working on this story when he was 19 years old long before his first book was ever published. It sat tucked away for several years (8 years, I think) before he submitted parts of it to the magazine The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Five short stories were published in the magazine from 1978 through 1981. In 1982, it was published by Donald M. Grant Publishers Inc as a limited edition book and the first novel of the series was born: The Gunslinger.

King had already made a name for himself in the horror genre by this time with 8 books to his credit. It began with Carrie in 1974 and by the time The Gunslinger was published the first time, he had finished Cujo. I have to wonder if the publishers were leery of putting a fantasy book out there even though King was already pretty popular with the horror books. In my opinion, someone from the Donald M Grant team knew a great book when he read it and was willing to take the chance. Along with millions of others in the world, I'm so glad they did!
That first edition is no longer in print, although I'm sure that if someone really wanted a copy they could find a seller of old books to try to obtain a copy.

My review of the series:

The books that I read over the course of almost 5 months are the revised ones along with the newer ones that were written after the revisions of the first 3 books. Technically, there are 7 books in the Dark Tower series, however, King wrote an 8th book that he recommends reading between book 4 and book 5. One does not have to read that 8th book but I can tell you that you will enjoy it and be a little more enlightened to the overall story.


So, I naturally started with The Gunslinger: (The Dark Tower #1). I do recommend that you start with book one because the story builds from the previous books.

The series follows the main protagonist, Roland Deschain and his long journey to the Dark Tower. Roland hails from the Barony of Gilead that is no longer. In his where and when he was a gunslinger and when our story begins, he is the last of his kind. Before the world had moved on, Roland was taught the ways of the gunslingers as many boys were. These men might have been called knights in the lore and stories of others but in Roland's world they didn't wear armor or fight with swords. They seemed to look more like the men of the American old west and did their good deeds with guns. Roland of Gilead came from a long line of gunslingers and can trace his lineage all the way back to the first gunslinger Arthur of Eld (King Arthur?).

Just as knights were known to protect people from the evils of the world, the gunslingers of Roland's time did the same. They were revered by the common folk. As we journey through the books we come to realize that no matter what time or world Roland enters into, that reverence remains. All recognize him as a gunslinger and ask for his assistance. You see, as he follows his quest to the Dark Tower there are doors that enter different times and different worlds.

Roland encounters both good and evil in his journey with strange creatures, machines of the ancient ones and humans from different eras of history. He does form a group to join him in his journey: Jake, Eddie, and Susannah all of which come from different modern times and have their own special insights and talents. There is also a mutant type animal that becomes a member of the group (ka-tet) after a while and you can't help but love that little creature!

I don't want to give out any spoilers to the books. I hate when people do that! I just want to share with you that this series is one of, if not the best, series of books that I have ever read. Stephen King has a way with words that make you feel like you are right there in the story as it unfolds. I've read some pretty good authors over the decades that I have been reading and then I have read some remarkable ones. The remarkable number but just a few, Stephen King is one of those for me.

I can tell you that if you enjoy fantasy fiction, time travel, imaginary worlds and adventure; this series of books will delight you! There are some parts of the books that get a little gorey from the battles and the habits of some of the creatures but nothing that will give you nightmares. You just kind of think..."Ewwww!" and then move on in the story.

Books In The Series:

  • The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger
  • The Dark Tower 2: The Drawing of the Three
  • The Dark Tower 3: The Waste Lands
  • The Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass
  • The Dark Tower 4.5: The Wind Through The Keyhole (can be omitted but I recommend that you don't)
  • The Dark Tower 5: Wolves of the Calla
  • The Dark Tower 6: Song of Susannah
  • The Dark Tower 7: The Dark Tower
Each book in the series can be downloaded to your digital reader or purchased in paperback versions. 

If you enjoy reading a series of books, like I do then I am confident that you will love this series. The only drawback is that I became so enamored with the characters and their journey that I hated for the books to end. There are surprises in the last few books that make it even more enjoyable and the ending was not what I expected but actually better than I could have imagined. I'm going to let a year or two pass and then I will probably go back and re-read this series again. Yep, it was that good! I can't say that over the 5 1/2 decades that I have been reading there have been many books that I wanted to read again...the Dark Tower series is a set that I could read a second time.



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