My Review: I believe this is the first book by Kate Atkinson that I have read. I must say her writing was outstanding. I love the concept/ story line...moreMy Review: I believe this is the first book by Kate Atkinson that I have read. I must say her writing was outstanding. I love the concept/ story line of Life After Life. The whole idea of being able to relive your life with a bit of hind sight is intriguing. What might you do differently if you would have known what you now know??
Life After Life takes place between 1910 and 1960. Atkinson superbly portrays this era in history both in London and Germany. The main character Ursula was very well developed as were the lesser characters in Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I had a bit of difficulty connecting to Ursula as each “new” Ursula was a a little different than the previous one due that Ursula’s past experiences. This left me with a bit of confusion and a disjointed feeling initially. But once I got a feel for this I saw how each life added another layer to the story.
As a social worker I was fascinated by Ursula’s story and the impact a small change or decision would make of the final outcome of her life. It is amazing how a even a small change can rewrite history. We have so many choices in life and you never really know how a different choice may impact your life. While in life we may experience hind sight, we don’t get the chance to use that gained knowledge to change our future. Would be interesting if we could.
Kate Atkinson crafts her story in such a manner that the reader truly does experience that feeling of déjà vu when reading Life After Life. This ability to provide the reader with that experience shows the true writing talent of Kate Atkinson. But this is where I might delineate from my fellow book bloggers…I found the end of one of Ursula’s life to the next very disheartening. Once I would start reading again and would be at a similar place and the story took a different path I found this very disjointed. I am a casual reader at heart and like a nice flow to the story. While Life After Life is amazingly written, I really missed the continuous flow of the story. In my opinion, Life After Life had many starts and ends within the telling of the story that decreased my enjoyment of getting lost in the story. This is part could have been due to the fact that I read bits of the story at a time due to my busy schedule and that might have taken away from my overall experience of the book. I think Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is best read in large chucks of time.
My Rating: 4 – I would recommend Life After Life by Kate Atkinson as the characters and writing are amazing and the concept of the story fresh and unique. I really enjoyed the attention made to the details of the historical significance of the setting. Life After Life would make for a great book group discussion.
My Review: I have to admit I picked Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany from Netgalley, based on the cover. Amy Hatvany is a new author to me, but one I pl...moreMy Review: I have to admit I picked Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany from Netgalley, based on the cover. Amy Hatvany is a new author to me, but one I plan on reading more of. On Sunday, I decided to start my day leisurely with a bit of reading time. I started Heart Like Mine and found it very gripping and ended up finishing the entire book in one day. This is very unlike me as I have a house and family to take care of on the weekends! Heart Like Mine is a story of love, marriage, parenthood and grief. The struggles of a blended family are amplified by the recent death of the children’s mother, Kelli.
The story flows very well, even with the transition between times and narrators. What really kept me reading this book was how well the emotions of the characters were developed. The tense relationship between Victor and Grace (stepmom) and the emotional roller coaster of the grief, feeling of betrayal and loss of the teen daughter Ava were spot on. I just wanted to wrap in my arms around the youngest child, Max. I loved the ending and being able to see how each character came to terms with each other, the past and the future.
My Rating: 4 – I would have lost sleep to finish this book, if I hadn’t finished it before bedtime! If you enjoy books by Jodi Picoult or Women’s Literature you will LOVE Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany! This is the first book I have read by Amy Hatvany, but it will not be my last (less)
Fever by Mary Beth Keane caught my attention on NetGalley.com due to the topic, Historical Fiction being a favorite genre of mine. I knew little to no...moreFever by Mary Beth Keane caught my attention on NetGalley.com due to the topic, Historical Fiction being a favorite genre of mine. I knew little to nothing about Typhoid Mary, so I was intrigued. Fever caught my attention from the very beginning. I was impressed by the detail that was presented of life in New York and plight of the working class during this period of time.
Fever is the story of Mary Mallon, the first identified carrier of Typhoid. She was a talented cook who worked for well to do families. The fever seems to follow her, leaving illness and death in her wake. Mary was a very strong character, but in denial of her condition. This makes a lot of sense as during that time there was just starting to be talk about the details of disease and how it was spread. There was some misconceptions about the spread of disease as it relates to garbage and the lack of sanitation in New York. The author attempts to give a voice to the thoughts of Mary and her reasons for continuing to cook after being ordered to stop. While I believe Mary was in denial to some extent of the illness she was causing, the author gave little suggestions that Mary might have thought in the back of her mind that she might be causing the fever. Mary was stubborn and very strong, I didn’t like her disregard of others well-being by continuing to cook, especially at the Sloane Maternity Hospital.
Fever by Mary Beth Keane captured my attention initially, but I did find the 2nd half of the book to be less captivating. I completed the book as I was interested in knowing how everything turned out. I wish there was more depth to the story surrounding Mary and her thoughts, reasons and relationships. The book was fictional so the author could have built more into that part of the story. Throughout the story Mary has a love interest, Alfred who struggled with employment, drug and drinking issues. I am not sure how much this relationship added to the story, but it did give some reason for Mary’s decision to return to and continue cooking.
I commend the author, Mary Beth Keane for a very well researched story. Her detail to the life and times of the early 1900 in New York was remarkable. I really enjoyed the detail to the setting and the events during that time.
My Rating: 3.5 – while I did not lose sleep to finish this book – Fever by Mary Beth Keane is very well worth the read! If you enjoy historical fiction you will be very impressed by Mary Beth Keane’s research and detail!
My Review: Miss Dreamsville and The Collier County Women’s Literary Society is a novel which touches on issues such as racism, homophobia and feminism...moreMy Review: Miss Dreamsville and The Collier County Women’s Literary Society is a novel which touches on issues such as racism, homophobia and feminism in a heart warming and humorous way. Though these issues are heavy this story is entertaining and evokes real emotions about the various characters. Jackie a housewife from Boston and her family move to the Deep South in the racial charged 1960s. Jackie starts this controversial Literary Society when moving to Collier County. This novel is narrated by Dora, one of the lovable misfits that make up the Literary Society. Each member of the Literary Society bring something different to the table during a time in history when different was not a valued attribute.
The members of the Literary Society are colorful and lovable. I can’t even chose a favorite character as I loved them all. I especially would love to see a movie made of this book just so I can see Dolores, the alligator hunter. My image of her in my mind is pretty entertaining!! The Literary Society is a group of people who are different, but develop a real friendship despite their differences. Change is possible when people look beyond their difference and find their common ground. For this group one common ground discovered was reading/books. Jackie, the Literary Society originator had good intentions and wanted to change the injustices she saw in her new home, Naples. She didn’t always approach the issues in the best manner and was not always successful, but her intentions were good.
After this group has an incident with the Ku Klux Klan, it looks like all was for naught. Can things really change?? But everything turns around for the group and the ending is very satisfying. The group leaves a lasting impression on Naples, Florida. I loved the ending!
Miss Dreamsville and The Collier County Women’s Literary Society is a debut novel by Amy Hill Hearth and will be available for purchase on October 2, 2012. If you enjoyed The Help by Kathryn Stockett, you will love Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society. The characters really make the story!!
My Rating: 4/5 – The story flowed well and the characters were wonderful! I still smile thinking of the image in my head of each character. A wonderful debut novel that kept me up a few nights later than a girl who needs to get to work on time should stay up! (less)
My Review: Artie Van Why contacted me via my blog and asked if I would be willing to review his book. With the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 on my mind, it...moreMy Review: Artie Van Why contacted me via my blog and asked if I would be willing to review his book. With the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 on my mind, it seemed a perfect time to revisit this tragedy through Van Why’s recollections of that day and the days surrounding the attack on New York.
As many people will tell you, they know exactly where they were when they heard about the attack or saw it on TV. I was getting ready for work. I was 8 months pregnant with my youngest son. My oldest son was watching TV, home sick from school, with my hubby. They were watching the Today show reporting about the first plane. I came out to watch in complete disbelief as we saw the second plane hit live on TV. I can’t begin to explain the feelings I had. A desire to protect my children so strong and such a sense of fear. I had that strong of a reaction and I was in the Midwest. I can’t even begin to comprehend the feelings that Artie Van Why had on that day.
Artie gives what I believe to be a honest recollection of the events of that day. He didn’t sensationalize the event or his part. He did a wonderful job of helping the reader to “feel” his feelings that day and the days that followed. I found tears in my eyes more than once in this short read. I was so drawn into the first hand account of Van Why’s actions and feelings that I read the book in one sitting. Some of his descriptions were so vivid that I am still thinking about them. The following description will stay with me for a long time.
“The man who had been running behind me from my right reached me and stopped. I turned to ask, “What do we do?” and was aware of someone falling on top of a pile of clothes just across the plaza. It took an instant to register that it wasn’t a pile of clothes. The person had fallen on a pile of bodies that were already lying there. I stood and stared as one body after another fell.”
What a powerful and heartbreaking vision. I feel Artie Van Why provides good insight to the events of 9/11 and how they effected his life and the city. As a society we need to continue to remember and not forget the many people that died in 9/11 and the lasting effects the event had on rescue workers and survivors.
My Rating: 4/5 – read the book in one sitting – engaging and emotional
My Review: The Stormchasers was the October selection for my bookgroup, Books & Babble. I am totally bummed that I ended up getting ill and was un...moreMy Review: The Stormchasers was the October selection for my bookgroup, Books & Babble. I am totally bummed that I ended up getting ill and was unable to go to group. I heard it was a great discussion. Originally, we had hope the author would be joining us for the discussion, but she was detained a day longer in Duluth. We were all very disappointed.
Having also read, Those Who Save Us, I can say that Jenna Blum is a skillful storyteller that can really capture human emotions. I started reading The Stormhasers on my Kindle. I have to be honest in saying that the story didn’t really grab me at first. Currently in my life I struggle to find the time to read, so I need a book to really grab me. This is more a commentary on my life than the book. Since The Stormchasers wasn’t reaching out and grabbing me like I needed, I switched to the audio version to ensure I would be done for book group. I am very happy I did. The audio added a lot to the story and my experience, such as the rapid, forced speech of Charles during his manic stage. The caution and fear wrapped around Karena’s words at times when talking to Charles was evident in the audio version. This ended up pulling me into the story.
While a predominant theme in The Stormchasers is being a twin and “twindar”, it is overshadowed by the skewed family dynamics of a family dealing with bi-polar disorder. The disorder and the families reaction to it overshadows every event, relationship and decision. Karena is extremely loyal to her twin, Charles. She feels a lot of guilt that she did not share the disorder with her twin, reminded me of survivor guilt.
Karena makes decisions throughout her life regarding Charles and how to help him. I did not agree with her decision to protect Charles’s secret. I think a lot would have been avoided had the problem been dealt with at the time. I loved the whole stormchaser aspect of the story, having grown up in the Midwest I have a realistic fear of tornadoes. I think Blum did an amazing amount of research on the subject including chasing herself. This is very impressive to me.
I really thought the parallel between stormchasing and bi-polar was nicely done. Stormchasing is a perfect analogy for having bi-polar disorder. The calm and then the electrically charged manic episode. In the audio, I could actually feel the energy of the storm as well as the energy of Charles when going into a manic phase.
Having grown up in South Dakota and currently living in Minnesota, I really enjoyed the references to places that were familiar to me. I actually was thinking to myself that I have to look for the arch in Dakota County the next time I head down Hwy 52. I knew the other places that were mentioned, but don’t recall seeing this arch. The flow of the story was good. I was a bit disappointed with the ending. I would have liked to have a bit of a snapshot of how Karena and Charles’s lives were after everything. The ending was just too short for me after the major build up of the story.
My Rating: 3/ 5 - like it! I enjoyed the audio more! Loved, Loved..the characters. Great character development (less)
Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian raises awareness of the devastating effects of domestic violence on families. The story starts out with the deaths...moreSecrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian raises awareness of the devastating effects of domestic violence on families. The story starts out with the deaths of George and Alice Hayward in a murder/suicide situation. A few members of the small town in Vermont are aware of the spousal abuse that Alice suffered at the hands of George, but many were not. There are many secrets that come to light throughout the book.
The story is told in four parts by four different narrators. Part one is told Stephen Drew, the local minister of the church in which Alice Hayward is baptized shortly before her death. Stephen’s perceptions of the events are clouded with guilt. The second part is told by Catherine Benincasa the deputy State Attorney. The third narrator is Heather Laurant, an author who writes about angels and is familiar with the effects of domestic violence within her own family. I am not sure that the character of Heather really added to the story. The final part of the story is from the perspective of Katie Hayward, daughter of George and Alice Hayward. This was my least favorite of the parts, I did not feel the voice of Katie came across as a realistic portrayal of a teen girl. The truth comes out in the end and makes for a satisfactory ending.
I enjoyed Secrets of Eden, but I was not a fan of the story being told in parts. It made the story feel a bit disjointed to me. I did not have strong feeling about any of the characters in particular, but if I had a preference it would be for Katie Hayward. She was a strong young woman who was managing a very difficult situation the best she could.
My Rating: 3/5 - good read , but not my favorite of Chris Bohjalian’s books. He does a nice job of raising aware of spousal abuse and the emotions surrounding it.
I had big expectations when beginning to read, A Secret Kept as I simply loved Tatiana de Rosnay’s previous book, Sarah’s Key. I liked A Secret Kept,...moreI had big expectations when beginning to read, A Secret Kept as I simply loved Tatiana de Rosnay’s previous book, Sarah’s Key. I liked A Secret Kept, but did not find the story as engaging nor the characters as likeable as in Sarah’s Key. I chose to read this book due to really enjoying Sarah’s Key, which I read for my book group, Books and Babble.
The main characters consisted of Melanie and Antoine Rey. Brother and sister left motherless at a young age. They have a special bound. Melanie is single with no children. Antoine is divorced from Astrid with three children: Arro, Margaux and Lucas.
Other characters include Clarisse (mother of Melanie and Antoine), Angele (Antoine’s lover) and Astrid (Antoine’s ex-wife). Antoine as a character sort of bothered me. I wanted him to just pick the pieces of his life and move on. I understood his desire to know his mother, but didn’t find the “secret” so shocking. It certainly was in the time it happened, but not so much when Antoine discovered the secret. I thought the relationship between Melanie and Antoine was very believable as was Antoine’s relationship with Astrid. I actually really like Astrid. Despite the divorce Astrid was doing her best to co-parent and maintain a good relationship with Antoine. As for Antoine’s relationship with Angele, the mortician, I just didn’t get it. That relationship in my opinion didn’t add much to the story.
Themes within Sarah’s Key include: family secrets and their impact, loss/grief, acceptance and parenting issues. Overall, the pace of this book seemed a bit slow to me. I listened to the audio of A Secret Kept and I think that helped to keep my attention. I would have skipped over some of the words in the book due to being unsure of them, so the audio added a dimension to the story that I would have missed if I had read A Secret Kept.
My Rating: 3/5 – I liked Secret’s Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay and may have liked it more if not comparing it to Sarah’s Key in my head. Liked the book, but did not find myself burning the midnight oil to read a few more pages. (less)
I selected to listen to this audio of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt based on some reviews I had read. This audio was narrated by Jenna Lamia . She is an am...more I selected to listen to this audio of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt based on some reviews I had read. This audio was narrated by Jenna Lamia . She is an amazing narrator. She plays all the characters with very distinct and believable voices, especially the pre-teen CeeCee. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt was a joy to listen to!
CeeCee is the narrator of the story and her voice is very appropriate for her age. Don’t you hate when you read a book that is narrated by a child, but the dialogue doesn’t sound like a child! This is not the case with Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.
I really enjoyed all the characters in Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. CeeCee herself is a strong, compassionate girl. CeeCee in many regards ended up parenting her mother, Camille, more than Camille actually was able to parent her. CeeCee was a reader and enjoyed books and the escape they offered her from her daily live. I could really relate to that, as a child I also used reading as an escape.
Camille, CeeCee’s mother, suffered from mental health issues. She was an interesting character and well developed. I could just see her an the Vidalia Queen. After Camille’s death, Aunt Tootie comes to Willoughby, Ohio to see CeeCee. In my eyes this is the moment in which CeeCee is saved by her Aunt. Tootie gives CeeCee an opportunity for a new life, where CeeCee is able to be a child and have friends.
Aunt Tootie is from Savannah, Georgia and is a proper southern woman. The descriptions of Georgia are rich and lush and just delicious. I love old homes as does Aunt Tootie. She saves and restores old homes validating the history of those homes. The strong female relationships portrayed in Saving CeeCee Honeycutt are amazing.
Themes throughout Saving CeeCee Honeycutt included family secrets, stigma of mental illness, abandonment, love, acceptance and strength of family/friends. What an amazing cast of strong lovely women that came into CeeCee’s life just at the right time.
My Rating: 4/5 – highly recommended – drove around the block a few times not wanting to have the story end. Looked forward to getting into the car to hear some more! Great Audio. (less)