Prior to reading this book, I was not wrapped up in all of the Hamiltonmania. I have notYou can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.
Prior to reading this book, I was not wrapped up in all of the Hamiltonmania. I have not seen Hamilton on Broadway. I have not listened to a single song on the soundtrack. That has all changed, my friends. I am a believer and it’s all because of this book! I’m stalking Stub Hub and entering the Hamilton lottery on a daily basis. I’m on the verge of spending a ridiculous amount of money on tickets. If the play is as good as this book, it’ll be money well spent. I realize they may be very different stories but My Dear Hamilton has truly kindled in me a desire to learn more about this part of American history. (Or relearn since I’m sure the good people who issued my H.S. diploma did touch upon this period back in the day.)
Before I go on to list everything I loved about this book, I’m just going to put this out there: There was not a single thing I had an issue with. Nothing I can criticize in 637 pages.
This is the third book I’ve read recently that is co-authored. (Is this a new trend or is it a coincidence?) The writing is so beautiful and seamless it’s unbelievable. The authors obviously did a tremendous amount of research in terms of the historical content. But seriously, I was blown away by the gorgeous prose. The voice they gave to Eliza Huntington was one any woman would be proud to have. Like many of the most loved and respected women in history, Eliza was a force. She was intelligent – both emotionally and intellectually. She knew how to finesse situations private and political to further the agenda of the side she felt was in the right. She maintained public composure while under unimaginable duress. She loved her family with a loyalty and ferocity that made her a formidable opponent when threatened or challenged. In short, I loved her.
Sadly, hers was not an easy life in any sense. Women, it seems, were not meant to have lives of their own in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Despite the fact that she influenced the man who influenced so much of Americas past and present, Eliza was, on a day-to-day basis, expected to be the quiet and supportive wife. Though she was proud of her husband’s career and accomplishments, this understandably frustrated her.
Eliza’s relationship with Hamilton was as complicated as Hamilton himself. Though this is Eliza’s story, I really enjoyed getting to know Hamilton through the eyes of the authors.
If you love historical fiction and books with strong female characters, My Dear Hamilton is a must read!...more
Since I am the last of the 4.357 gagillion readers out there to read The Boy in theYou can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.
Since I am the last of the 4.357 gagillion readers out there to read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I won’t rehash what can be read in the blurb and I’m going to limit my review to the few points I found to be most important.
This is a YA novel and the easy, simple way in which it is written really punctuates one of the main themes; the innocence and naiveté of children.
At times I felt Bruno was a bit of a spoiled turd. I then felt guilty for feeling that way. I’m not sure I need to feel guilty though. After all, don’t most nine year olds behave like turds every now and then? It didn’t make me like him any less.
I appreciated the way the relationship between his parents was portrayed. Most if it went over Bruno’s head which, once again, illustrated his naiveté and the often false sense of security children feel within their family.
There is so much to be said out Bruno’s looking out his window and imagining a life for the people he saw which was so far off from their experience. This would be a great discussion point for a book club. Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel created an anxiety that made turning the pages both compelling and daunting.
That ending! Wow, I really didn’t see that coming until the very last minute. I can’t really discuss without spoilers but I can think of several themes folded in. And those last sentences? Scary and timely! It could definitely inspire a very lively book club discussion/debate.
Although I found the book to be very sad and very touching, it didn’t make me cry the way I had anticipated. Perhaps because I was expecting it to be sad. I had been warned on multiple occasions to read with a box of tissue at my side. I’m certainly glad I read this book and continue to be a huge fan of Boyne’s work....more
When I first heard about this book, I was very excited because I had read Michelle Gable***Please visit my my Instagram page to enter the GIVEAWAY.***
When I first heard about this book, I was very excited because I had read Michelle Gable’s I’ll See you in Paris and already knew I liked her writing. Like many Americans, I’ve always been drawn to glamour and glitz as well as the drama and tragedy of the Kennedy family. I somehow had it in my head that this was going to be a very Kennedy-centric book detailing one of his many affairs. I was pleasantly surprised that this book was much more than that.
The Summer I Met Jack is the fascinating story of how a young woman, a “displaced person” from Poland, rose from Kennedy cleaning lady to almost-first-lady and Hollywood fame. As you might imagine, it didn’t happen easily. How the story of Alicia Darr never came to my attention is now beyond my comprehension. She was a fascinating woman in her own right and I’m glad her story has been told in this novel.
Alicia was a very a complex character. I’m not sure that I found her to be 100% likable but I did, for the most part, respect her. She was a bit of what some might call a climber but, let’s face it, options for women with ambition and no formal education or family to stand behind were limited in the 1950’s. I empathized with her situation. She was able to transition from a naive young woman to a wealthy, sophisticated socialite. Certainly Jack played a role in all that but, after reading the book, I have mixed feelings about exactly what that was. He certainly helped her make connections that advanced her career. But at what cost to her personal life? She certainly had a very interesting history with men post-Jack.
As for Jack, I learned a fair about him that I didn’t know as well. And while it’s perhaps a bit naive of me, I was surprised and frustrated to learn the extent of his family’s meddling. They may have changed the very course of history for Jack and our country.
It’s very apparent from the text and the author’s notes that a tremendous amount of research went into this book. I was inspired to do some googling on my own and enjoyed reading even more about Alicia and her remarkable life.
The Summer I Met Jack was a very compelling read. The second half flew by even faster than the first. This book is a great beach read for anyone who prefers a page-turner with just the right amount of substance.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I am absolutely delighted to introduce you to this book!! If you’re sensing, based on the two exclamation points I’ve already used, that I’m feeling enthusiastic about this book, you would be correct. The Trick combines so many of my favorite things in terms of characters, plot, and themes.
Emanuel Bergmann has crafted a beautiful story that touched my heart on many levels. Max is a lovable boy who is looking for some magic to keep his parents together after they announce that they’re separating over sushi. (Clarification: They are eating sushi as they make the announcement. They are not separating because of sushi.) He is convinced that the Great Zabbatini is the one who can stop his world from falling apart. I’m a sucker for a book with quirky, curmudgeonly characters and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the Great Zabbatini despite his many flaws.
In terms of the story, this book has a lot going on without ever feeling likes it’s trying too hard. It’s a balance of character and plot-driven; leaning more toward character through most of the book. I can’t say that this a book about WWII or a book about a magician. It’s not a book about a boy whose family is falling apart or a grandmother with memories of a suitcase factory. It’s not a book about aging or saving someone or being saved. It’s all of these things. But if you asked me to name one thing that the book is about I’d have to say it’s relationships and the complicated ways in which they connect us to one another and the universe as a whole.
I loved the straightforward language and simple, frank way in which the author chose to tell the story. It was very refreshing. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Fredrik Backman and anyone who loves to read WWII fiction.
Many thanks to Atria Books and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
” “A snake that could harm you, you don’t have much choice to kill. You wouldn’t be ableYou can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine
” “A snake that could harm you, you don’t have much choice to kill. You wouldn’t be able to leave a cobra in your sock drawer. But a snake that is no threat will greatly define the man who tries to kill it anyways.” “
The year is 1984 and in the small town of Breathed (pronounced breath-ed), Ohio, something strange is happening. Autopsy Bliss, a local attorney, places an open invitation in the newspaper inviting the devil to town. The arrival of a young boy, out of nowhere, claiming to be answering sets the stage for a series of events that will have the entire town coming undone.
The Summer that Melted Everything is a very emotional read. When I finished, I had a sense of hopeless heaviness in my chest that hasn’t fully dissipated. Tiffany McDaniel has boldly chosen to take on several serious social issues at once including racism, homophobia, HIV/AIDS, child abuse and molestation, mob mentality, and behavioral health differences for starters. So many issues, in fact, that had I realized just how many prior to reading the book, I may have scoffed at the level of ambition. Somehow, though, it all works in this book. In fact, it’s necessary, and I would argue that the the very point of this book is to illuminate how layers upon layers of social injustices, societal complicity and complacency, and the oppression of the marginalized have culminated/can culminate in the breakdown of the sense of safety and justice within a community large or small.
As if that wasn’t enough, McDaniel writes in poetic form that is a joy to read. So much so, in fact, that I wondered if she was a poet. As it turns out, she is! There are many beautiful passages throughout the book but here’s another of my favorites:
“The finale of fear is neared by small labors of bravery. These small labors will eventually lead to the last laboring of the great defeat of the fear altogether. That is the breathing text of hope anyways, that we branch an escape from fear’s trapping circle.”
As for young Sal, was he the devil? Or was he simply convinced that he was so? If so, why? I know my answers but I’ll leave you to decide for yourself.
The Summer that Melted Everything is a profoundly moving, heartbreaking read that will stay with you forever. Tiffany McDaniel brilliantly weaves a story that is classic man’s inhumanity to man meets modern literary fiction with twists of darkness and mystery.
I’d like to thank Amanda at Cover2CoverMom for connecting me with Tiffany McDaniel. I’d read Amanda's review back when it was originally posted and it’s been on my want-to-read list since. I’m so grateful that I’ve finally been able to read this book.
This book would be a great Christmas gift for the serious lit lover on your list.
Many thanks to Tiffany McDaniel for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
This book first captured by attention at Book Expo 2017. I’d not heard of Ella MayYou can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.
This book first captured by attention at Book Expo 2017. I’d not heard of Ella May Wiggins prior to reading the blurb and I was very drawn to the story of this young woman who fought for social justice and racial and gender equality. I was also very drawn to the beautiful cover!
The Last Ballad is Ella’s story told in chapters which were snippets of the lives of several people who played a role in her story. With the exception of the chapters told in the first person by Ella’s daughter, Lilly, they were not exactly told in different points of view. As the story progresses we begin to understand how they they relate to one another and to Ella’s story on the whole. This worked well for the most part. I loved Lilly’s voice and wish we’d heard more of her story.
This story is beautifully written and it’s clear that Wiley Cash is gifted writer. However, I did find that there were times that I felt the pacing was somewhat slowed by superfluous or overly descriptive narrative. It was difficult to resist the temptation to skim over a few areas so that I could get to more of the “meat” of the story. Though I know this book was based on the true story of Ella May, I’m not sure exactly how much of the book is factual and how much is the author’s imagined version of characters, events, conversations, etc. (This may very well have to do with the fact that I was reading an ARC. Perhaps there will be additional Author’s Notes in the finished copy.) The the story was told in a more plot vs character-driven way. The author did balance this particularly in rendering Hampton’s character.
I applaud Wiley Cash for bringing us Ella’s story and reminding us of the unimaginable struggles she and her neighbors and co-workers faced on a daily basis just to put food on the table. Though this is a story from the 1920’s, parts of it felt sadly relevant to our own political climate today:
“…"Of course not”, Epps said again. “No violence.”
“Just a friendly presence,” Guyon said. “A Good show of good people – mill people – to let the Reds know they’re outnumbered.” "
“…Just a nasty woman.”
I definitely felt a little tearful at the end of The Last Ballad. I can certainly see why Wiley Cash has such a devoted following and I look forward to reading his novels again in the future....more
I'm running a giveaway for this book through 11:59pm EST 10/13/17. Enter here! You can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.
Though II'm running a giveaway for this book through 11:59pm EST 10/13/17. Enter here! You can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.
Though I have never read the original version of Dangerous Liaisons or even seen a film or theater adaptation, I was intrigued by this book’s description and couldn’t wait to receive my copy. I was not disappointed.
If you’ve been following my reviews for any length of time, you probably know that I rarely go all-out fan girl. This is one of these very rare times that I really, really want to! Part of me just want to GIF the heck out of this review and gush with abandon. However, I think this book deserves much more consideration than a buy it, read it, download it now rant (that I am giving you here ever so subtly and subliminally anyway).
Atmosphere – This is a very atmospheric novel. Whether in Harlem, Westchester, or North Carolina, the settings are vividly described in such a way that the reader truly feels transported.
Characters – The characters become real via a combination of narrative, conversations, letters, and even body language. It is obvious that the author has given much thought to the development of each character. This is an especially impressive accomplishment given the number of characters that are central to the plot. They were not all likable, of course. But whether chaste and naive or cruel and calculating, they were realistically flawed and multi-dimensional.
The Plot – I loved everything about the story. It provided all of the timeless elements we, as readers, can’t get enough of. Take a little bit of lust, a little bit of revenge, and a lot of manipulation. Add a sprinkle of sex, a dash of lust, a pinch of jealousy. Put it over a low, slow fire till it’s just about ready to burn then sprinkle the top with a mix of lies and secrets. It’s like that!
(I know you might be asking yourself if I’ve suffered a head injury. I don’t even like reading books with sex and romance. This is different, I swear. It’s not overdone. It’s not gratuitous. It’s all very relatable and realistic. None of this flowery “he brushed the soft curve of my ample bosom” stuff!)
While the plot is complex and weighty, it’s easy to follow and definitely drew me in fast. It’s the kind of book that’s both a page-turner and something that you want to savor.
The Feels – Unforgivable Love: A Retelling of Dangerous Liaisons is a beautifully written story that made me experience the full gamut of human emotions without being trite or sappy.
The Ending – Maybe I should have seen it coming. I didn’t.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
I really don’t have anything to add here. I had no real issues with any of the elements of this book.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sophfronia Scott has written a sexy, smart, atmospheric novel that transports the reader to the glitz, grit, and glamour of 1940’s Harlem. Though I hadn’t read her first novel, All I Need to Get By, I will be looking forward to reading her future novels....more
I really enjoyed The Swans of Fifth Avenue and started getting excited about The Girls inYou can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.
I really enjoyed The Swans of Fifth Avenue and started getting excited about The Girls in the Picture as soon as it was announced. In fact, it was the book I was most excited about receiving at Book Expo 2017. Melanie Benjamin was as much a delight in person, at her in-booth signing, as she is on her social media accounts. She even allowed me to blather on about her kitchen reno (it looks fantastic) and her cats at some length without calling security.
As for the book, it did not disappoint. It’s very evident that the author did an enormous amount of research on Mary Pickford and Frances Marion, their families, lovers, husbands, and the movie industry itself. I was fascinated by the actual events leading to their rise to power in Hollywood.
The elements that made this book special, however, are the character development and the portrayal of the relationship between Mary and Frances. Melanie Benjamin has taken the historic information and weaved in a little imagination/magic, creating characters that are beyond multi-dimensional. They are as highly nuanced as their relationships with one another.
In reading The Girls in the Picture, I was constantly reminded of the sacrifice and struggles women have always had to make in order to get to the tops of their professions. Hollywood was certainly no exception, then or now. Their fast, glamorous, monied lives did not come at no cost.
This book is an excellent exploration of the friendships of strong women – admiration, respect, mutual dependency, jealousy, insecurity – it’s all here in a very real way. Though their friendship was tumultuous at time, I felt that their connection transcended the trivialities of the moment. The end of the book made me teary and reflective of some of my own friendships.
After reading these two latest novels, I’d definitely look forward to reading anything Melanie Benjamin writes in the future but I’d also love to read some of her previous works.
Many thanks to Delacorte Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
As someone who grew up watching Little House on the Prairie and reading the much-celebratedI'm running a giveaway for this book at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.
As someone who grew up watching Little House on the Prairie and reading the much-celebrated books series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I was very excited to hear about this book at Book Expo 2017. When I was offered the opportunity to participate in the blog tour, I jumped on it!
Caroline’s character, in both the book and television series, was never featured as prominently as perhaps it should have been. She maintained a steady, consistent, and somewhat stereotyped wife/mother role. I’m pleased that someone saw fit to explore her life in more depth.
Though I enjoyed reading this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who was or is obsessed with the Little House series, I must admit that I did have some difficulties with it. The first is the pacing. The first hundred-thirty-something pages described the Ingalls family journey from Wisconsin to Kansas. While there were a few moments of excitement, much of the narrative was taken up with rather mundane experiences and Caroline’s constant waxing nostalgic. The rest of the book was similarly paced and, in my opinion, could have been pared down quite a bit.
The second, in fairness, has to do with my own sense of nostalgia in some way. You see, when I was a little girl, (I was two when it started and nine when the last episode aired. Feel free to Google and do the math.) I thought there could have been nothing better than to be Laura Ingalls. It seemed as though she lived the perfect All-American life. After reading this novel, I realized that her family, along with many others, were living the American Dream at the expense of the Native American people they disrespected and displaced. I realize now that I should have made that connection much sooner but the truth is that, while I have given much consideration to the horrible way in which Indigenous Americans have been (and still are being) treated throughout the years, I never once thought of how this might impact my opinion of the Ingalls family. While I understand that the Ingalls family was one of many who staked a claim on Native land, Caroline was particularly averse to their presence which impacted my opinion of her. That said, I absolutely appreciate Sarah Miller’s honesty with regard to Caroline’s attitudes toward Native Americans.
Sarah Miller excelled at developing the characters of of several of Caroline’s neighbors including Mrs. Scott and Edwards. She also made palpable the loneliness and apprehension Caroline experienced as she traveled to Kanas.
Caroline: Little House, Revisited was published with the full approval of Little House Heritage Trust.
You can enter to win a copy of The Way to London at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine till 11:59pm 9/29/17.
As many of you know, I’m always up for what’s new in WWIIYou can enter to win a copy of The Way to London at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine till 11:59pm 9/29/17.
As many of you know, I’m always up for what’s new in WWII fiction and books set in England so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the tour for this book. The Way to London is very much a character driven novel that provided a fresh and somewhat lighter read than many WWII novels already on my shelf.
The book begins with Lucy living a life of luxury in Singapore. It would be easy to mistake her for a shallow, spoiled young woman. And perhaps she is a bit. But there’s usually a reason people behave the way they do and Lucy is no exception. Bounced from one nanny to another and sent to boarding school, Lucy has never had a close relationship with either of her parents. So it’s no surprise that she seeks attention where she can find it and has some difficulty making meaningful connections.
As rumors of war swirl around Singapore, Lucy’s mother and lecherous stepfather discover that Lucy has been having a relationship with Yoon Hai, the nephew a prominent Chinese business associate. Lucy is ordered to be sent away lest she interfere with the marriage contract already being negotiated for Yoon Hai’s marriage to another woman. She is to be on the next ship to England to be sent to live with Lady Boxley, an aunt she barely knows.
When she arrives, she finds that her aunt’s estate has been turned into a military hospital. Despite this and the evidence of the hardship of war all round her, Lucy does her best to continue living the life a carefree, moneyed woman, frequenting the pubs and defying her aunt’s wishes. This continues until Bill, a young refugee, comes into her life prompting a series of events that will lead them both on a journey to find “home”.
Alix Rickloff has created many characters to love in this book which is actually very refreshing. Though flawed, most of the characters are inherently good. I found Lucy to be daring, sassy, witty, and deeply emotional despite her best efforts to hide it. There were several characters who took their time in revealing their true nature which worked beautifully in this book. And then there was Bill. Rough around the edges? Perhaps. In need of a little structure? Well, yes. A good-hearted young man any reader could love? Most definitely!
And now I must address the romance bit… Many of you already know that romance is not my jam. I’ve been through reading the sappy stuff now for many years. To my own amazement, I actually liked the romance that developed in The Way to London. I know, I can’t believe it either! Perhaps that’s because it was more playful and realistic to me as opposed to the predictable gratuitous stuff authors sometimes try to sneak in. Whatever it was, it worked.
Overall, this was a very fast, enjoyable read that I’m tempted to call WWII “light”. In a refreshing departure from many WWII novels, it doesn’t contain bloody battle scenes and won’t make you cry for hours. That’s not to say it’s without depth. It provides it’s own brand of wonderful in a charming, heartwarming way.
I hadn’t read anything by Alix Rickloff in the past and was shocked to learn that she also writes paranormal romance. Though you probably won’t find me reading one of those, I’m impressed with her versatility and would certainly read another of her novels in the future.
Little Women was one of my favorite childhood reads. I don’t recall how old I was when I***I'm running a giveaway on this book at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine!
Little Women was one of my favorite childhood reads. I don’t recall how old I was when I read it but I do remember that I longed to be one of the March girls. And I was so proud to have finished such an unimaginably long book! I found 449 pages very daunting back then. Of course, once I began reading it was over all too soon. Now that I think about it, Little Women may have been my first book hangover. Therefore, I was very excited to hear that the story of May Alcott, the inspiration for Amy March, would be told in a novel titled The Other Alcott.
Though Louisa seemed to get all the glory, May Alcott, it turns out, was a very accomplished artist in her own right. Though she was pained by the less than favorable reviews of her illustrations for Little Women, she collected herself and forged ahead. Like many career women of her time, she had difficult choices to make at a time when work and family were mutually exclusive.
The relationship May had with her sister Louisa was, as you would expect, complicated. She was in the position of being beholden to her sister during much of her early career as it was Louisa’s money that provided for the entire family’s expenses as well as May’s travel and education. Though it is often said that May was the selfish one, I found Louisa to be guilty of a certain amount of abuse of power. The dynamic in their push-pull relationship was at times touching; at times frustrating. I very much enjoyed reading the letters they exchanged as it added a nice, intimate quality to the story.
Though I’m sure May’s life at the time was very exciting in comparison to many of her contemporaries, she came off a bit lackluster through much of the book. This may be because she was, in fact, so studious and dedicated to her art. But I must say, I felt a bit let down. I would have expected a single woman in Belle Époque Europe to have had many adventures. I would have liked to have read about some of her friendships in more depth.
Elise Hooper clearly did her homework in preparation for writing this book. I really appreciated all of the information in the afterward and P.S. sections which included author Q&A and Alcott trivia. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that writers much research every detail – not just the obvious things.
A word of advice if you are considering this book and don’t know much about May – DO NOT GOOGLE HER prior to reading the book. I didn’t and I’m very happy I didn’t.
Many thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
As a avid reader of historical fiction, I was first attracted to The Sworn Virgin because itYou can read all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.
As a avid reader of historical fiction, I was first attracted to The Sworn Virgin because it introduced me to a subject I knew nothing about – the sworn virgins of Albania. While I’ve read many novels with strong female characters that dared to reject their traditional societal roles, I had never read one set in Albania so that was also a big draw.
When I began the book and learned that Eleanora and her father, Fran, traveled together as healers, the nurse in me became even more excited. If only Eleanora could’ve had more time with her beloved Baba! I would have loved to hear more of their voyages to heal the sick and injured. Sadly, this was not to be as Baba was killed in a blood feud early on, leaving Eleonora alone to make the journey home to deliver the sad news to her stepmother, Meria.
I admittedly had some difficulty with Meria’s character. Though I could empathize with her on some levels, I was angry that she would force Eleanora into marriage with a cruel man; especially knowing how much her husband had wanted his daughter to be happy and independent. I felt that it was something of a betrayal of his memory and struggled to accept that it was simply the way of the times.
When, having almost no options, Eleanora takes the oath of a sworn virgin, I felt very conflicted. After all, one has only to read the blurb to understand that this may not end well…
I thought the pacing of this book was slow but steady for the first half. It gradually picked up. Then, with a couple of twists, the last hundred pages flew by. The ending was something of a surprise and the perfect set-up for a sequel.
Though it is very clear that the author did a tremendous amount of research on the subject of sworn virgins, Eleanor’s time as a sworn virgin was shorter than I had anticipated. I selfishly would have liked her to have had more time as a sworn virgin, if only so that I could’ve learned more about what her day-to-day life may have been like.
Had the date of this story, 1910, not been disclosed at the beginning of this book, I would never have guessed the century in which these events had taken place. It was difficult for me to grasp that these events could have happened in what is the relatively recent past. I felt compelled to learn more about the sworn virgins and was surprised to see the amount of information and recent articles on the sworn virgins of Albania. (Please check out my blog post for links to some interesting stories and videos I found!)
Whether or not it is a sequel to The Sworn Virgin, I look forward to reading Kristopher Dukes’s next novel.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
Having never read any of Anita Shreve's earlier novels, I was drawn to The Stars are Fire becauseYou can read all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.
Having never read any of Anita Shreve's earlier novels, I was drawn to The Stars are Fire because I enjoy learning about historical events I know little or nothing about. This events in this book unfold as a result of what has become know as the Great Fires of 1947, a series of forest fires that devastated hundreds of thousands of acres in Maine.
Grace Holland is five months pregnant when the fires rip through her neighborhood, destroying everything in their wake. Grace is smart and resourceful. She manages to save herself, her two small children, her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's children. Her husband, Gene, with whom she shares a dispassionate though not horrible marriage, has been called to help the men of the town build a fire wall. But as the other men begin to return home, Gene remains missing. Finally, homeless and destitute, Grace is forced to consider moving into her recently deceased mother-in-law's home. As she arrives to check out the condition of the home, she is greeted by beautiful piano music. Enter Aiden, the handsome, educated, piano-playing squatter.
Things go along just swimmingly for a time. Grace gets a job at the local physician's office. Her mother, now living with her, cares for the house and the children. Grace and Aiden seem to be growing closer together. When Aiden leaves for a job in Boston, they are both hopeful that it won't be the end. Unfortunately, a sudden (and somewhat expected, if I'm honest) plot twist occurs. You can probably see where this is going but I do not wish to add any spoilers.
Overall, I enjoyed the book quite a lot. This wasn't an edge-of-the seat book for me but I found the pacing to be steady and enjoyable. My rating is a reflection of the balance between fabulous writing and character development and a somewhat clichéd and predictable story. Though this wasn't a five star read for me, I can certainly understand why Anita Shreve has such a devoted following and I would be open to reading her past or future titles.
Thanks to the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
I'm proud to have been a stop on the blog tour of this book. You can read about that and all my reviews at Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine
I was immediately drawn toI'm proud to have been a stop on the blog tour of this book. You can read about that and all my reviews at Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine
I was immediately drawn to this book for so many reasons. I loved The Orphan Train and could not wait to read another book written by Christina Baker Kline. I love Andrew Wyeth’s work; I really could go on and on about how much I love his paintings. I’ll restrain myself though and say only that I’m unbelievably drawn to his signature color palette and his peaceful yet intense nostalgia-evoking subjects and scenery. Lastly, I love books that tell the little-known stories behind well-known people, places, and events.
A Piece of the World is the story of Christina Olson, Wyeth’s friend and muse. Christina is a very complicated woman; in turns she is stubborn, resilient, sensitive, strong, introspective, and perceptive. This story itself has obviously been meticulously researched. The scenery is beautifully rendered and made me feel as though I’d been transported to Cushing, Maine (where I am now itching to go). The author did an amazing job of blending fact and fiction into a book that I simply could not put down.
This book is special from start to finish but the thing that about it that really struck me was how the story was told. Many books are written in first person but few convey the enormous sense of intimacy found in A Piece of the World. The reader is made to feel as though they are Christina’s trusted confidant.
“Closing my eyes, I lean over the side, the salt spray on my face mingling with tears. I weigh the shell in my palm – this cameo shell that has no place with the others. A store-bought trinket with no history, no story. I knew, deep down, when he gave it to me that he didn’t understand anything about me."
I was expecting to read an interesting story about Christina’s relationship with Wyeth but this book is so much more than that. It’s really an exploration of the life of a woman who, faced with many challenges, is determined to remain true to herself. It was a very emotional read for me and one I’ll not soon forget.
Many thanks to HarperCollins/William Morrow for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
I had high hopes for The Wonder based on the reviews I’d read in addition to my ownPlease visit Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine to read all of my reviews.
I had high hopes for The Wonder based on the reviews I’d read in addition to my own experience reading Room. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations.
First, and foremost, I found the pacing to be unbearably slow. The first 50% of the book could have been written in far fewer pages without compromising the details of the story. The chapters were frustratingly long. I’m not a huge fan of long chapters to begin with, but when there’s not much going on, they only serve to add to the sense that the book is dragging on.
Then there are the characters. As a nurse by profession, I found Lib’s character to be judgmental and annoying. Anna, though likable, was a little too pious to be believable. I would have liked to see her religious fervor balanced with a bit more normal girlishness. In fairness, we did catch a few glimpses; a few more would have made her character more realistic. Sister Michael, Lib’s job-share nurse if you will, started out as dull and staunch but I grew to like her quite a lot.
In terms of setting, Emma Donoghue did a great job describing the Irish countryside and the living quarters of the characters. I also enjoyed learning about the potato famine and other Irish historical facts and customs which were seamlessly woven into the story.
The last 10-15% of the book certainly held my attention. I can’t say much about the ending without spoilers but it packed an emotional punch. I was at once sad, angry, relieved, and surprised.
I loved that this book was based on the Fasting Girls, a group of about fifteen women from all over Western Europe and North America, who were said to have survived without food for long periods of time.
I think a great deal of my frustration with this book came from my feeling that it had much more potential. Because there were some aspects of this story I enjoyed, and because I so enjoyed Room, I would look forward to reading Emma Donoghue’s next book.
I would like to thank Little, Brown and Company via NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Set in northern Rus’ during medieval times, The Bear and the Nightingale is the beautifully toldYou can read all of my reviews at Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine
Set in northern Rus’ during medieval times, The Bear and the Nightingale is the beautifully told story of Vasilisa Petrovna. Marina, Vasya’s mother knew that the child’s birth would mean her own death but she wanted her desparately. Her own mother had had special gifts and powers and she knew Vasya would inherit them.
When Vasya is a young girl, she is primarily raised by Dunya, the loving old nurse who’d been with the family for years. She and Dunya take care of the little domovoi who protects the house, giving him gifts of food and drink. As Vasya continues to grow, she develops relationships with the other cheryti around the home, in the barns, and in the waters and forests of her father’s land. (The cheryti are sprite-like creatures with various personalities and duties.) Though the winters are hard, her father, Pyotr Vladimirovich, is able to provide for his family and the village he is responsible for.
Before long, though, Pyotr decides that the time has come for him to take a new wife to care for his children and home. He travels to Moscow to meet with the Grand Prince, who happens to be his late wife’s brother. In a deal with the Ivan the Fair, he is given Ivan’s own daughter, Anna, to wed. He is most grateful as this union seems to be one above his own standing and to a wife who will be pious and compliant. What Pyotr doesn’t know is that Anna is considered mad by those who know her. She claims to see demons. She spends her time hiding in the church as she claims it’s the only place she can escape them. Nevertheless, they are wed and she comes to live with Pyotr and his family.
A subsequent series of events in Moscow bring Konstantin, a priest, to live in the village. He is a fire and brimstone preacher who uses religion to intimidate and shame his parishioners. He condemns the traditions and old ways of the villagers. They cease taking care of the cheryti and abandon their traditions out of fear. Soon enough, crops begin to fail, the winter months don’t end, and the very existence of the villagers is threatened.
Konstantin and Anna align forces to have Vasya married off or sent to a convent. He is threatened by her very presence as she, of course, defies the church. She understands the cause of their problems. And she will do everything in her power to restore harmony. Even if that means setting out on her own to deal with the powerful forces responsible.
I don’t want to reveal too many of the actual details of Vasya’s story and adventures but I will say that I loved every moment of it. Katherine Arden has done a magnificent job in giving us a magical story with relevant and relatable themes throughout. If you stripped away all of the “magical” elements (though you’d never want to, trust me) you’d have a story that illuminates the ways in which our perceptions may differ depending on whether we come from a place of love or fear. You’d have a story that shows the ways in which religion is sometimes used for personal gain, to shame others for one’s own shortcomings, or as justification for judging others. You’d have a story about the difficulties brave, strong, noncompliant, and misunderstood women have faced throughout history. And good vs. evil. There’s that, of course.
I would love to see this book made into movie. The descriptions of the characters and the landscape were so incredibly beautiful in words that I can only imagine how lovely they’d be on the big screen. I know, I know, the movie is never quite as good but if were even half as good, it would be great.
To state the obvious, this book is a brilliant debut. I would highly recommend it even if magical realism is not your usual genre. (It’s not mine either.) This book is perfect for fans of literary and historical fiction with an open mind. I’m already looking forward to Katherine Arden’s next book.
Many thanks to Del Rey for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
We Were the Lucky Ones is the fictionalized account of the true story of the Kurc family and theirYou can read all of my reviews at Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine
We Were the Lucky Ones is the fictionalized account of the true story of the Kurc family and their experiences during WWII beginning in their home town of Radom, Poland in 1939. The book spans eight years as we follow the Kurc family members to several countries and continents including Austria, Italy, Argentina, South America, and Siberia, Russia as the war continues and finally ends.
As many of you know, I read a lot of WWII fiction. This book is very special in that, if it weren't a true story, I would have thought it unbelievable. I would be writing things like "wrapped up a little too neatly" and "implausible". But this is a story based in fact and lovingly told by Georgia Hunter, the granddaughter of Eddy Kurc (Addy in the book). She wasn't aware of her own family's history until she was fifteen years old.
It's obvious from the start that this book has been well researched. In the Author's Notes and Acknowledgements we learn that Georgia Hunter has traveled the world and spent countless hours interviewing family members. I can only imagine how it must have felt to hear all of these stories and learn so much of the history of such close family members. I'm so glad she decided to write a novel about their stories as opposed to a nonfiction work. She did a remarkable job of giving dimension and voice to the characters.
I was, at first, intimidated by the map included with my ARC as well as the family tree at the beginning of the book. Too many times, for me at least, maps + trees = hard to follow + a lot of work. I'm happy to say that wasn't the case here. I really only referred to them a couple of times at the beginning of the book.
Prior to each chapter which alternate between characters, the author has woven in historical points of fact which remind us of the horror and devastation that was the Holocaust. I found this had a very grounding effect.
"By the end of the Holocaust, 90 percent of Poland's three million Jews were annihilated; of the more than thirty thousand Jews who lived in Radom, fewer than three hundred survived."
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to read WWII fiction or family or individual-centered (vs. strictly military history) WWII nonfiction. I'm sure this is only the beginning for Georgia Hunter as a novelist and I'll certainly be one of the first in line for her next book.
Many thanks to Viking for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review....more
Is young Roddy insane? The answer to this question will determine whether he lives or dies. YouPlease check out my other reviews at Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine
Is young Roddy insane? The answer to this question will determine whether he lives or dies. You see, he has taken three lives in the small farming village of Culdie, Scotland in the year 1869. There is no doubt that he is the murder. He has freely admitted to being responsible for the killings upon showing up at a neighbor's house. He's covered head to foot in blood. He carries with him the murder weapons.
Roddy's life has not be ideal or easy. His mother is dead, his father is abusive, and he has been forced to discontinue his education in order to labor on his father's plot of land. He is, however, very intelligent and well-spoken. We learn that one of the victims, who happened to be in a position of power, made it his life's work to bring undue misery to Roddy and his family. What we don't understand is how Roddy came to feel he had had no other alternative but to kill the man and two completely innocent victims.
Through an examination of the documents, we become, in a sense, armchair jurists. Do we believe all of details of the account Roddy penned at the behest of his advocate? If not, how much do we believe? Does Roddy's admission of guilt and preparedness to accept his punishment suggest that he is insane? Or simply willing to be held accountable? Witnesses claim to have seen him muttering to himself on several occasions which surely suggests instability if not insanity. And do certain inconsistencies in physical evidence vs. accounts also suggest insanity? Or is he perhaps just evil?
Throughout this book, my expectations of how events would unfold kept shifting. I was in a constant state of anticipation. It wasn't suspenseful in an edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting sense, but I couldn't put it down.
I was especially impressed to find the characters to be very dimensional despite our getting to know them only through a series of documents. They were all quite complex and many were likable or unlikeable in the extreme. As for Roddy, I still haven't been able to completely work through my feelings about him.
His Bloody Project is the examination of a criminal justice system not so unlike our own here in the U.S. While it's true that we no longer impose the sentence of death by hanging, prosecutors and juries must still make decisions regarding criminal insanity, premeditation, justifiable homicide, and mitigating circumstances.
I can certainly understand why this book was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. I'm also very excited to hear that there is a screen adaptation in the works. I would certainly look forward to reading any book written by Graeme Macrae Burnet in the future.
Having not read The Widow of the South, I was concerned that I may have difficultyTo read more of my reviews, please go to Lit. Wit. Wine & Dine.
Having not read The Widow of the South, I was concerned that I may have difficulty following along with The Orphan Mother. Thankfully, it is easily read as a stand-alone novel and I'm now inspired to read The Widow of the South.
Mariah Reddick is the former slave to Carrie McGavock. Since becoming a free woman, she has established herself as a competent and respected midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. Her grown son, Theopolis, is a cobbler with political aspirations.
"Theopolis had told her it gave him comfort to think that he, a Negro, might soon be sitting in the legislature with his feet up on the rail and voting according to his own instincts and philosophies."
Though the Civil War is over, racial prejudices violent crimes against former slaves and free black men and women, especially those who rocked the political boat, are widely and publicly tolerated, condoned, and even encouraged by the men to whom they become a threat. When Theopolis tells Mariah he is going to give a speech in the town square, Mariah is fearful that Theopolis will fall victim to these men as a result of his courage and bravery. Her worst fears are realized as Theopolis is murdered before he has the opportunity to address the crowd. In the mayhem and chaos, a white grocer is also killed.
The Army is sending troops to keep the peace and investigate the events of the day. But as Mariah comes to the realization that they are being sent primarily to investigate the death of the grocer, she become singularly focused on finding her son's killer/s on her own.
"I will find out. I ain't gone stop. Mariah had not known this until she said it. But now she knew she would go on just as she formed the words."
Along the way, Mariah becomes close with a man named George Tole. 'Tole' is new in town and has a difficult and troubled past. Tole is broken man; he's seen and done more than he can cope with in the war and has turned to the bottle for consolation. He is now doing his best to become a better man. As the two grow closer, we begin to understand them on a deeper level.
Robert Hicks has written a book that beautifully illustrates the strength a mother is able to summon in the name of avenging her child's murder. Mariah is a force. She does not have time to indulge in her grief. She's a woman on a mission.
There were times in this book when I, expectedly, felt saddened, angry, and ashamed at the culture of racial prejudice and violence. However, I found the overall messages of strength, dignity, and perseverance to be encouraging.
At its heart, this is a book about love, loss, and coming to terms with the truth. I was especially touched by the epilogue. I think Theopolis would have been very proud of his mother.
Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing for proving a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I do not care so much for a great fortune as I do for getting ahead of the otherTo read more of my reviews, please go to Lit. Wit. Wine & Dine.
I do not care so much for a great fortune as I do for getting ahead of the other fellows. - Thomas Edison
Until I read this book, I had an impression of what it would have been like to see the night lit for the first time. It was terribly romantic. It was surreal, ethereal, and peaceful. (Sort of like this book's beautiful cover.) There were scientists and engineers of all sorts slapping each other on the back, congratulating themselves on their enormous contribution to mankind. Thomas Edison was one of these scientists, of course, and he was a jolly good fellow. He lead this collaboration of gifted men with the grace, elegance, and credibility only natural born leaders of that period possessed.
It seems I was mistaken.
Graham Moore's latest novel, The Last Day's of Night, is the story of the War of Currents. Though it is a work of fiction, the majority of it is historically accurate and all of the characters did exist including Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse, and Westinghouse's attorney, Paul Cravath. Paul, a fresh-out-school attorney in is mid-twenties is hired by Westinghouse to defend him in a law suit Thomas Edison has brought forth demanding the outrageous sum of one billion dollars.
Paul is a thoroughly likable young man who quickly finds himself in over his head. He is, however, determined to win at all costs. He is ambitious, driven, and singularly focused. As time goes on he morphs from naive rookie to shrewd, calculating, savvy attorney. But that's not to say there aren't a few SNAFUs along the way... (Though I'd never heard of him, he is apparently quite well-known in the legal world. In fact, the firm he eventually started is still in existence and continues to use the Cravath Sytem which has been credited with changing the way lawyers practice and law firm are structured.)
This book is more intriguing that I could have imagined. All of the same components of modern corporate conflicts and greed existed then. And these scientists we've come to hold in such high esteem where not exempt from engaging in all manner of unscrupulous behavior in their quest to be the first and best. From patent infringement to character assassination, from corporate espionage to arson, nothing was off limits.
The author tells this story in such an amazingly engaging, page-turning way that I was fully entertained while being educated. That, I think, is the pinnacle of happiness for those of us semi-obsessed with historical fiction.
There is already a movie in the works. Moore has done the adaptation. My expectations are admittedly very high after having seen The Imitation Game which he adapted from the book Alan Turing: The Engima by Andrew Hodges.
Many thanks to Random House for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Rarely, upon finishing a book, am I at such a loss for words. What I want to know is: Where is the rest of the book? Modern Girls had the potentialRarely, upon finishing a book, am I at such a loss for words. What I want to know is: Where is the rest of the book? Modern Girls had the potential to be so much more...
Rose and Dottie, a Jewish mother and daughter living in 1930's Manhattan, become pregnant at the same time. Neither is exactly thrilled to learn that they are in the family way. Rose is in her early 40's and will soon regain some freedom as her youngest son begins his education. Dottie is unwed and running out of options. There were some very interesting twists and turns of events. And a nice illustration of a pretty ideal mother-daughter relationship; not without some strife, of course, but with maximum love and loyalty. The relationship Dottie has with her brothers is also very touching. As I was nearing the end of the book, however, I became concerned that nothing seemed to be coming to any sort of conclusion. I thought perhaps there was going to be some sudden, drastic event that would wrap up all of the loose ends. Not so. If the end was intended to be a set-up for a sequel, it is still far too lacking. It needed a prologue at the very least. If I'd had to rate the book half way through, I would have given it 3.5/stars. Unfortunately, the ending was too disappointing to overlook.
I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Cruel Beautiful World is a book filled with so many stories within stories and themes I'm not sure how the author, Caroline Leavitt, managed toCruel Beautiful World is a book filled with so many stories within stories and themes I'm not sure how the author, Caroline Leavitt, managed to incorporate them all so organically and seamlessly into one book.
Lucy is 16 years old and has run away with her high school English teacher. Though her sister, Charlotte, and her guardian, Iris, do everything in their power to find her and bring her home, Lucy remains missing and the weeks turn to months.
As Lucy remains missing, we learn a lot about Iris, the only relative offering to care for Lucy and Charlotte after they are orphaned. We also see how, despite the awful sense of loss, life goes on.
Meanwhile, Lucy has, predictably, become disillusioned with her new life as William's hidden girlfriend. Even as she begins to fear and resent William's now-controlling ways, she begins to tempt fate in an effort to maintain/regain her sense of self and independence.
This is the condensed, simplified version, of course. This book really has a lot going on. The remarkable thing is that it never feels like it's too much. The pacing is what I refer to as a steady page turner. It didn't make heart race or keep me at the edge of my seat but I found it difficult to put down.
Thanks to Algonquin Books for proving me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Jane Steele is a well-written, fun, and quirky read. I haven't read Jane Eyre and wondered if itSee more of my review at www.litwitwineanddine.com
Jane Steele is a well-written, fun, and quirky read. I haven't read Jane Eyre and wondered if it would make a difference in my ability to follow the book. It didn't. Each chapter begins with a passage from Jane Eyre but this book is its own story and you won't be impeded in any way if you haven't read it. (Though I wonder at how I, calling myself a reader, could have made it this many years without having read one of the great classics.)
Jane's story begins in childhood at Highgate House where she and her mother are effectively shunned by her Aunt Patience, forced to live in a guest cottage on the property. Before her untimely death, her mother tells Jane that Highgate House will be hers by inheritance some day but she leaves out several important details. Jane is promptly sent off to boarding school after her mother's death where a series of events unfold and, let's just say, the story really gains momentum.
Unfortunately, during the second half of the book, some of the momentum was lost for me. Not all. But some. The second half simply lacked the pace and sense of adventure that had me loving the first half of the book. Jane returns to Highgate house as a governess hired by the new master of Highgate House, the beguiling Charles Thornfield. I did enjoy this part of the story, as there are many twists, turns, and revelations but feel it could have been told with a few less words. Overall, though, I would say I enjoyed the story very much and would read this author again.
3.5 /5 stars
Thanks to Penguin Group Putnam via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax is the story of Rosalie Rayner Watson and her marriage to psychologist John B.Read more at www.litwitwineanddine.com
Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax is the story of Rosalie Rayner Watson and her marriage to psychologist John B. Watson, who came to be known as the Father of Behaviorism.
This happens to be another of those books that's tough for me to review as there is a great disparity in what I feel about the author's abilities as a writer and story teller and my overall impression of the book. I think the author did a fabulous job in articulating Rosalie's story despite the fact that aren't a lot of historical documents, etc. available to fully shape Rosalie's character. It was an easy, fast read and I enjoyed the author's writing style. However, I found both Rosalie and John to be unlikeable; their story mundane.
Rosalie is a young Vassar grad when she meets John. She lands a job as his research assistant at Johns Hopkins where they perform somewhat cruel experiments, on infants to prove John's incomprehensible theories on behavior, conditioning, and child-rearing. John is married but, as expected, they begin an a affair (not his first by any means) which ultimately results in John and his first wife divorcing. Also not surprising, Rosalie, through the years, becomes disillusioned. Why would she think he'd be faithful to her? Should she be surprised that he would be less than discreet with his paramours? What mother would want to have to hide her affection toward her children? Simply put, John is a bit of ass. But then again, perhaps she shouldn't have been so naive. But it's more than just naivete that I found objectionable about Rosalie. She was rather a cold-hearted and unfeeling in her approach to her test subjects and I was glad that I wasn't forced to read too many detailed accounts of the morally reprehensible experiments she helped perform on babies. The few I did have to read about were quite enough, thank you very much.
As for John Watson's contribution to the world, all I can say is I can't even imagine anyone believing in this man and his theories and I'm glad we're no longer referring to his parenting guides.
Though I didn't love this book, I would give any future books by Ms. Romano-Lax another chance depending on the subject.
Thanks to Soho Press via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. ...more
12/22 Update: I'm running a second giveaway for this awesome book. Open to US and Canadian residents. Visit Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine to enter. Ends 1/4/1712/22 Update: I'm running a second giveaway for this awesome book. Open to US and Canadian residents. Visit Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine to enter. Ends 1/4/17 12:00am.
Christodora contains all of the elements you'd expect to find in an epic novel. There's 40 years worth of history, tragedy, triumph, and human drama. Surprisingly, it's well laid out in only 428 pages. I mention this because I can only imagine the difficulty in finding the balance between providing enough context and detail without adding unnecessary length.
This novel essentially the story of NYC as it comes to grips with the AIDS crisis beginning in the 1980's. It's as much a history primer as you'll find in any work of fiction on the subject of HIV/AIDS. From the sigma HIV diagnosed people faced to the development of antiviral drugs, to the devastating effects the disease had, particularly in the gay community, it's all covered. The author, Tim Murphy, himself a gay man having been diagnosed with HIV in his late twenties in NYC, has boldly shared a raw, realistic, no-holds-barred narrative of a moment in time that brought out the very best and worst in American society.
I was a nursing student and young nurse in the early 90's and there are no words to express the how horrible a disease AIDS was then, when a diagnosis pretty much meant that you would develop AIDS at some point in the not too distant future and die an agonizing death. The emotional toll was just as great as the physical with patients often dying without the benefit of family members to comfort them. There were even some healthcare professionals who refused to care for HIV positive patients. At my last job, I found an old textbook in the library which advised that there was great likelihood that HIV could be spread through tears... Fear can make people behave in very ugly ways. Fortunately, crisis can also bring out the best in people, creating unlikely alliances, and bringing forth reluctant heroes as in the case of a few of the characters in this book.
In Christodora, there is no aspect of the human condition that is left untouched. Physical and mental illness, drug/alcohol abuse, identity searches, and all types of relationships are explored. Again, the manner in which this story is told is both realistic and raw and may not be for the faint of heart. That said, I didn't find even the more graphic passages to be sensationalistic or gratuitous.
I found the characters to be well-developed, though I didn't really identify with any of them. In fact, there wasn't one character I found to be completely likable. All of the main characters were endearing one moment and frustrating the next. In other words, they were human.
If I had one criticism, it would be that there were times when I found the timeline a little tough to follow. It wasn't a huge deal, but I did have to flip back to the beginning of the previous chapter to check the date on a couple of occasions.
Overall, though, I felt this was a very good book. I would highly recommend it to young people who aren't able to recall memories of breaking news that "another person has just been diagnosed with the mysterious illness that seems affecting gay men.". We have come a long way but we mustn't forget...
For more information on the history of HIV/AIDS in the United States, visit AIDS.gov
Thanks to Grove Atlantic for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Helen Simonson has proven she's no one-trick pony. The author of the NYT bestselling debut, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, has left no doubt that sheHelen Simonson has proven she's no one-trick pony. The author of the NYT bestselling debut, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, has left no doubt that she is here to stay.
The Summer Before the War transports us to the beautiful seaside town of Rye, East Sussex. My mind's eye has conjured a bit of a Pleasantville feel to this innocent pre-war town where everything is just as it should be at the beginning of the book. Beatrice Nash is the new Latin teacher at the local school. She can thank Agatha Grange, who is a member of the school's Board of Governors, for her having been offered the position as many in the town are aghast at the prospect of a woman teaching Latin. Agatha has really stuck her neck out with her fellow Board members in getting Beatrice this teaching appointment and she takes her under her wing in her determination to see Beatrice become a success. She did, however, count upon Beatrice being a little more spinsterly than the attractive, intelligent woman who showed up at her door. (She plainly states that though she is progressive, she would not have considered hiring an attractive teacher.)
Agatha and her husband are very close to their nephews Daniel and Hugh. The boys grew up summering with Aunt Agatha and Uncle John, who, having no children of their own, provide much parental love and guidance to the young men. Daniel is a talented aspiring poet. Hugh has just finished his training to become a surgeon with a renowned mentor.
Life changes dramatically, of course, once the war begins. It all starts with the arrival of the Belgian refugees; the beautiful Celeste and her father. Celeste is staying with Beatrice while her father, the professor, stays nearby with the famous poet, Mr. Tillingham. Soon many of our characters are drawn to serve in the war efforts.They serve in all capacities ranging from the men on the front lines to the ladies who are doing their part on the homefront.
The characters in this book are all remarkably well-developed and complex. This goes for minor (I'm thinking of the surly ambulance drivers) characters as well which is something I think of as difficult to pull off when we only get to know a character on a page or two.
What really makes this book special however, is the way it made me feel. There were smiles and tears and I think it's been a while since a book has moved me in that way. I'm finding that the more I read, the more difficult it can be to access those emotions. The author does a beautiful job reminding us of the very real and terrible consequences of war while tempering all of the tragedy and sadness with the light that good people with good intentions can bring to a difficult situation.
"Here I am again. Held down, held back, in a power struggle with some arrogant man, his ego and incompetence that hasWow. Dawn Tripp can write!
"Here I am again. Held down, held back, in a power struggle with some arrogant man, his ego and incompetence that has nothing to do with my art. It's like they're all together in some maddening conspiracy to make me good enough, but not good enough to topple them."
Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe is a beautifully written account of Georgia O'Keefe's life. As a work of historical fiction, it's all it should be. The settings, from Lake George to Taos are vividly rendered. The research is obviously there. The real beauty, though, is the way the characters become known to us. I think it must be very difficult to make a reader feel so intimately connected to the characters; especially if the characters are historical figures with bios that can be read all over the internet.
Georgia's life with Stieglitz went from pillar to post. He was her nurturing mentor and earliest fan. She was the stability and loving home he needed. Though, at times, I was frustrated, saddened, and even enraged at his man/boy antics, it was very clear that they shared a very deep connection. She gave up so much to be with him. Or did she? What would her life, both personal and professional, have been like without him? Though we like to think the times are so very different now, women continue with many of these struggles in an effort to balance everything we need and want in our lives. We probably always will. While I loved Georgia for her strength, creativity, and perseverance, I was most impressed with Georgia's maturity and wisdom:
"... despite the fact that he can still make me so angry, in the end he is just a man whose sunlight is behind him."
I love discovering an author, previously unknown to me, whose next book I'm already looking forward to.
I must admit that The Two-Family House surprised me in the end. It started off quite slowly. Initially, I found the writing to be clinical and II must admit that The Two-Family House surprised me in the end. It started off quite slowly. Initially, I found the writing to be clinical and I thought I knew just where it was going when I was 9% through. This all changed dramatically at about the 60% mark.
Rose and Helen are sisters-in-law living in the same Brooklyn brownstone. They have always been very close; more like sisters than in-laws. During a blizzard, while their husbands are out of town on a family business matter, they both go into labor. Travel to the hospital is impossible. Cab companies aren’t even answering the phone. Helen can’t persuade the ambulance to come for them. Luckily, there is a midwife who is only a few blocks away after having attended another delivery. She comes to their rescue and they each delivery a healthy baby; Helen’s 5th and Roses 4th.
As time passes, the close friendship between Rose and Helen shifts to a relationship full of jealousy and resentment. Rose has become somewhat unstable. Helen does everything she can to mend the relationship to no avail. Ultimately, I found it a little sad that this was so. After all, the decision that led to the breakdown of their relationship was made by both of them. At the same time, I thought this was one of the most realistic aspects of the book as it demonstrated how two people can react so differently to the same set of circumstances. At times I thought it was Rose’s character that made her behave in a way I didn’t care for. At other times, I thought it was some sort of response to guilt, depression, or other type of mental illness. Perhaps it was all of those. The bottom line is that we never really know exactly why people are the way there.
There were other themes running through this book as well. As we watch Rose’s husband, Mort, evolve through the years, we are reminded of the importance of our interactions with family and friends and keeping perspective on what’s really important in life.
While there are too many characters to comment on individually, Rose’s daughter Judith certainly deserves a mention. In her, Lynda Cohen Loigman gives us a girl, who turns into a woman, of substance. If I had to be one of the character’s in this book or choose one to be my best friend, I’d want it to be her.
Overall, I think this is a very solid first novel.
I really loved The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki and was super-excited at the opportunity to read and review Sisi: Empress on Her Own.I really loved The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki and was super-excited at the opportunity to read and review Sisi: Empress on Her Own. Unfortunately, it fell a little flat for me. I'm not sure if, in part at least, it's because I didn't read The Accidental Empress. I found the comparison to Princess Diana to be quite a stretch since Sisi seemed to face consistent criticism for her lack of attention to her royal duties and detachment from her subjects. There was really nothing about her I found endearing or relatable. In fact, I found her to be really seemed rather selfish. And though I'm sure that "troubled" would be the preferred light in which to paint her, I really just didn't get that. For example, when her daughter Gisela wrote imploring her to come home and address the cruel measures being used to discipline and strengthen the constitution of her young son Rudolph, she did do so, but she never followed through in any way to try to alleviate the emotional damage that had already been inflicted; in fact she turned an absolutely blind eye to his own cruel actions. Throughout the book, it seemed that she really just wanted to skate by, getting away with accepting the bare minimum of responsibilities. Though the result of a long marriage having gone loveless, she actually had many freedoms for a woman of that time and I would have liked to see her use them for endeavors that were not always self-serving. I suppose I just wanted her to be a stronger woman in general. One who would face her problems rather than run from them. I did enjoy learning about Sisi's cousin, Ludwig II of Bavaria, who proved to be an interesting story and character unto himself. Probably gay, an eccentric patron of the arts, a wild spender of his empire's fortunes, and possible clinically insane, he made for an actually likable, if not conventional man of his times. Throw in a suspicious and untimely death and there's another novel in the making, I think. Though I can't give this book an overwhelmingly positive review, I would certainly look forward to reading Allsion Pataki's next book. She's a great writer who clearly does her homework. I think part of the problem for me, with this book, is that I didn't find Sisi to be a great heroine. And while that not the author's fault, it's hard to separate from my overall feelings about the book.