Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review: The Nightingale

Wow! It’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged. I needed a break and decided to take the summer ‘off’. I have been doing a lot of reading though and have lots of thoughts to share with you. I probably won’t be back to blogging regularly for another month or so, but I do hope to start posting some of my reviews periodically. Here is a review for the book I read for my July book club discussion.

The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah

Why did you choose this book? I enjoy Kristin Hannah and this was a book club pick
When did you read this book? July 2016
Who should read this book? readers of WWII era fiction
Source: library ebook
Here is a synopsis of The Nightingale from Goodreads

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

My Review

I enjoy Kristin Hannah and read most of her books soon after they are released. As regular readers of my blog know, I also enjoy WWII era historical fiction. So when my book club made this our July selection I was very happy.

I have read a lot of WWII era fiction this year and in previous years, but I don’t think I’ve yet read one set in France. I learned a lot from reading this. I had not realized before how long France was occupied, and that the invasion took place early in the war. I also hadn’t realized just how bad conditions were for the French, with rationing and a shortage of food. Though I’d heard of the ‘French Resistance’ and perhaps saw a ‘glorified’ version on old 60s TV shows, I really didn’t know much about how it worked. Though this was a fictional account, it did give me an idea of the risks involved and the courage required to become part of this.

In addition to the history, this is a really good story. As the story opens, we meet an old woman, terminally ill and about to move into a retirement center, who insists upon taking an old trunk full of memories with her. She receives an invitation to a reunion in France and decides to go. She begins to reminisce and we go back to France and the story of sisters, often in conflict. One is young and single, and perhaps a bit naive. The other is older and married with a child, and much more cautious in her actions and the risks she undertakes. While most of the story is told from the point of view of these sisters during WWII, the old woman does break in with her memories at times, which serves to give us some perspective, and for me, to relieve some of the tension of being in the midst of a Nazi occupation.

This is probably not the very best WWII story I’ve read this year, but it is very good! If you enjoy Kristin Hannah’s work or WWII era fiction you will definitely want to pick this one up!

My Rating:  ★★★★    4 Stars
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016


He Will Be My Ruin
by K.A. Tucker

Why I chose this book? This sounded like a good mystery
When I read this book? May 2016
Who should read this book? readers of suspense and mysteries
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of He Will Be My Ruin from Goodreads

The USA TODAY bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series makes her romantic thriller debut with this heartpounding story of a young woman determined to find justice after her best friend’s death, a story pulsing with the “intense, hot, emotional” (Colleen Hoover) writing that exhilarates her legions of fans.

Twenty-eight-year-old Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a bottle of Xanax and a handle of Maker’s Mark, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers secrets in the childhood lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man who Celine herself claimed would be her ruin.

On the hunt for answers that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

My Review

I don’t read a lot of mysteries but when they are well-written, they are a nice change of pace. This one fit the bill!

Maggie is an heiress who has learned that her best friend, Celine, was found dead in bed with a lethal mixture of drugs and alcohol found alongside. Celine’s terminally ill mother, who has been a second mother to Maggie, has asked Maggie to take care of cleaning out Celine’s apartment and settling her affairs. An unbelieving Maggie is unwilling to accept that her friend has committed suicide, and even though the police investigator is patient in explaining that the loved ones of suicide victims often feel it is murder instead. Maggie does not let it drop. She hires a private investigator! And of course, Maggie can’t let him do all the work, makes some bad decisions, and gets herself into some dicey situations.

‘Was the book predictable?’, you ask. Well…..let me show you just a little of my thought process along the way….
So it WAS murder! He did it! No, wait….HE did! What? You mean SHE did it?! Oh, it WAS a suicide… He DID do it! I knew it all along! Oh, wait….

And on it goes!

This was a quick and entertaining read. It is perfect for a lazy summer day in your favorite reading spot! You may even just finish in one sitting. Enjoy!

About K.A. Tucker

K.A. Tucker is the author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and the Burying Water series. She currently resides outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

Connect with K. A. Tucker

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Rating:   ✰✰✰✰½     4½ Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

K.A. Tucker’s Tour Stops
Friday, May 27th: Buried Under Books
Monday, May 30th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, May 31st: Fuelled By Fiction
Wednesday, June 1st: Why Girls Are Weird
Friday, June 3rd: A Splendid Messy Life
Monday, June 6th: The Book Wheel
Monday, June 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, June 7th: Books a la Mode
Wednesday, June 8th: A Dream Within a Dream
Thursday, June 9th: A Fantastical Librarian
Friday, June 10th: Books & Bindings
Monday, June 13th: The Well Read Redhead
Monday, June 13th: BookBub – author guest post
Tuesday, June 14th: Luxury Reading
Tuesday, June 14th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, June 16th: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, June 16th: FictionZeal
Monday, June 20th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Tuesday, June 21st: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, June 22nd: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, June 23rd: Just Commonly
Friday, June 24th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, June 27th: Books that Hook
TBD: Worth Getting in Bed Fo

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Review: Father's Day

Father’s Day
by Simon Van Booy

Why I chose this book? The synopsis interested me and I like the cover
When I read this book? May 2016
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy stories that explore the meaning of family
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of Father’s Day from Goodreads

The moving story of an orphaned girl named Harvey and the troubled uncle who raises her—an unforgettable tale of loss and redemption from the author of The Illusion of Separateness

At the age of six, a little girl named Harvey learns that her parents have died in a car accident. As she struggles to understand, a kindly social worker named Wanda introduces her to her only living relative: her uncle Jason, a disabled felon with a violent past and a criminal record. Despite his limitations—and his resistance—Wanda follows a hunch and cajoles Jason into becoming her legal guardian, convinced that each may be the other’s last chance.

Moving between past and present, Father’s Day weaves together the story of Harvey’s childhood and her life as a young woman in Paris, as she awaits her uncle’s arrival for a Father’s Day visit. To mark the occasion, Harvey has planned a series of gifts for Jason—all leading to a revelation she believes will only deepen their bond.

With extraordinary empathy and emotional impact, the award-winning writer Simon Van Booy has crafted a simple yet luminous novel of loss and transcendence, second chances and forgiveness: a breakthrough work from one of our most gifted chroniclers of the human heart.

My Review

I really enjoyed this story. The book was a quick, easy read and I knew from the beginning that there was a ‘big reveal’ coming. This made me want to both rush through to find out the ending, and still want to go slowly because I wasn’t ready for it to end!

I liked the characters in the story; Wanda — the social worker who pulled some strings to get the placement she thought best served the child, Jason — the uncle turned father who had a rough start but became the father his niece needed, and Harvey — the young girl who tragically lost her parents and grew into a compassionate, successful adult!

In this story Harvey, the adopted daughter of her Uncle Jason, is living in Paris and hosting Jason for the week of Father’s Day. She has put together a gift box of memories which will culminate in the big reveal. Each day Jason removes and unwraps an object symbolic of the events of Harvey’s childhood. They spend quite a bit of time in their memories, and we get to see both Harvey’s perspective and Jason’s perspective. It’s interesting to see how they don’t always have the same perspective, and how Harvey’s perspective has evolved through the years.

While I really enjoyed this book, the only thing that did marr it for me a bit was the ending. I wasn’t surprised by the ending as I had expected it in a way but didn’t see how it could happen. But I was left a little confused about who knew what and when did they know it. And who knows what now? I would have liked to have seen another chapter or two clarifying this, as well as discussing the repercussions of the big reveal to both Harvey and Jason.

This will make a great book club selection with discussion topics of the meaning of family as well as Harvey’s discovery. I was not able to find a reader’s guide but you book club will have no trouble finding things to discuss.

About Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Find out more about Simon at his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

My Rating:   ✰✰✰½     3½ Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Simon’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, April 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, April 27th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Thursday, April 28th: Bibliophiliac
Friday, April 29th: Sarah Reads Too Much
Tuesday, May 3rd: FictionZeal
Thursday, May 5th: she treads softly
Monday, May 9th: Jen’s Book Thoughts
Tuesday, May 10th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, May 11th: Bibliotica
Thursday, May 12th: A Book Geek
Monday, May 16th: Novel Escapes
Tuesday, May 17th: The many thoughts of a reader
Wednesday, May 18th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, May 19th: Ms. Nose in a Book
TBD: Time 2 Read
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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review: Alice In Bed

Alice In Bed
by Judith Hopper

Why I chose this book? The synopsis and title interested me
When I read this book? May 2016
Who should read this book? readers who late 19th century historical fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of Alice In Bed from Goodreads

Arm yourself against my dawn, which may at any moment cast you and Harry into obscurity, Alice James writes her brother William in 1891.

In Judith Hooper’s magnificent novel, zingers such as this fly back and forth between the endlessly articulate and letter-writing Jameses, all of whom are geniuses at gossiping.

And the James family did, in fact, know everyone intellectually important on both sides of the Atlantic, but by the time we meet her in 1889, Alice has been sidelined and is lying in bed in Leamington, England, after taking London by storm.

We don’t know what’s wrong with Alice. No one does, though her brothers have inventive theories, and the best of medical science offers no help. So, with Alice in bed, we travel to London and Paris, where the James children spent part of their unusual childhood. We sit with her around the James family’s dinner table, as she – the youngest and the only girl – listens to the intellectual elite of Boston, missing nothing.

The book is accompanied by Hooper’s Afterword,“What was Wrong with Alice?,” an analysis of the varied psychological ills of the James family and Alice’s own medical history.

My Review

The central character in this novel is Alice James, sister of author Henry James and psychologist William James. Alice is not physically a strong person, and things become progressively worse through the years until ultimately Alice ends up as an invalid in England, where she begins a diary. Through the diary we get to experience many of the events of Alice’s past and learn about Alice’s thoughts and philosophies; in other words we really get to know Alice. While physically weak, she has a strong mind. I can’t say I always liked Alice and I often disliked some of her choices, but as I came to know her I did learn to appreciate her.

One thing I really liked was reading about all the connections the James family had to other prominent members of society in this period, many of whom appeared in others books I’ve read recently. One example is brother William James, considered the ‘father of American Psychology’ and a Harvard professor who was the first president of the Amercan Society of Psychical Research. His successor played a prominent role in the investigations covered in The Witch of Lime Street.

Obviously with the main character being bedridden, there is not a lot of action in this book and at times it moves very slowly. If you are looking for an action story you will need to look elsewhere. But if you like introspection this is the book for you. I think this will make a fantastic selection for the right book clubs — those that are willing to read a slow-paced book and enjoy discussing the characters and what makes them tick. Sadly, I don’t think my book club would do well with this one, which is too bad, because I would love to discuss this one! There is so much to talk about including the possible sources of Alice’s condition and the role of women in society in the late 19th century. I’d love to talk about Alice’s father! Have you read this one? What would you like to discuss?

About Judith Hooper

Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

My Rating:   ✰✰✰½     3½ Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Judith’s Tour Stops
Monday, April 18th: BookNAround
Tuesday, April 19th: Dwell in Possibility
Wednesday, April 20th: Puddletown Reviews
Thursday, April 21st: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, April 26th: A Book A Week
Wednesday, April 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, April 28th: Building Bookshelves
Friday, April 29th: Julz Reads
Monday, May 2nd: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, May 9th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, May 11th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, May 12th: SJ2B House of Books
Friday, May 13th: A Literary Vacation
Friday, May 13th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Monday, May 16th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, May 18th: Books on the Table
Thursday, May 19th: View from the Birdhouse
Friday, May 20th: Just One More Chapter
TBD: 5 Minutes for Books

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