Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Secret Wife by Gill Paul

Hello, Dear Bloggites!  I am back!  This book review is over the Books & Broads Book Club choice for May.  I am getting closer to the current month and I hope to finish June-October in the next five days.  I know, big challenge, but I am up for it now that I got my reading groove back on. 🙂

The Secret Wife by Gill PaulMay’s Book Club choice was The Secret Wife by Gill Paul.  I was dreading this one because it was once again a historical fiction novel set in the years 1914-2016.  Now, not all the years were touched like that last novel we read, but most of them were a chapter in the book.  Gill Paul wrote this book in a toggle effect between past and present which I am not a big fan of, but it was in the third person so that softened the blow.

The Secret Wife is about a love found, lost, and found again between Grand Duchess, Tatiana Romanov, and a Calvary Officer, Dmitri Malama, as well as, about a woman, Kitty Fisher, who has left her husband after he cheated on her and caused her to go to America and start to uncover the true story of her Great Grandfather, Dmitri.

The backdrop of the story is the war between Russia and Germany and the unrest of the citizens under the Romanov rule.  Dmitri and Tatiana first became acquainted when he was wounded in battle and she was assisting all the nurses to care for the soldiers who were brought in from the battlefield.  As the book toggles back to present day, you follow Kitty and her struggle to come to terms with her husband’s infidelity while finding out more secrets as she renovates her Great Grandfather’s cabin.

Gill Paul did a great job at creating complex characters which pulled at the reader’s emotions.  You rooted for true love to win out for Tatiana and Dmitri while rooting for Kitty to come to terms with what she actually wants to do with her life.  The imagery was well written for the readers and Gill Paul stayed true to what was known from historical documents while taking liberties with the “What if?” questions of the people you were reading about.

I enjoyed reading this novel and am always enthralled with the history of the world as I read these types of novels.  I may not be a hardcore Historical Fiction lover, but I think I am growing a crush on it. 🙂

I give The Secret Wife by Gill Paul 4 out of 5 Bookmarks.  Happy Reading!

~4-Ever, P

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

Hello, Dear Bloggites.  It’s Me, again!  I just finished April’s Books & Broads Book Club book, The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg.  I know, I am still a few months behind but plan on making up for it within the next week by reading all the books I did not read.

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie FlaggI love Fannie Flagg.  Her writing is very entertaining and easy.  This book is no exception.  The Whole Town’s Talking is about several generations spread out from 1889 to 2020 and all the decades in between.  The story follows a group of settlers and their legacy through the generations in a small town in America.

The characters are very complex and each one has their own fun, quirky side unique to that person.  The novel is an easy read with short chapters.  When I was reading it, I felt as if I was sitting down with a good friend listening to them tell me a fun story.  The author wrote in the third person (which I love) but it was a conversational third person, thus the feeling of being told a story by a friend.

The only big fault in this novel is that by the middle of the book, I found myself becoming bored due to the repeated cadence of the same ‘ol, same ‘ol.  Most stories build up to a climax and then it brings you on the adventure but this story really had no plot or climax, just reading about people and their lives, much like an old-time gossiper of a small town where everyone knows everyone and most are related in some way or another.  By the middle, I was wanting the book to be over.  I did enjoy the story, but it felt like a conversation that went well past its designated end time.

Fannie Flagg is an exceptional author and very entertaining.  You can tell her intent in this book was just to give people entertainment while delving into a little historical nostalgia of a time way back when.  If you are looking for something to read that is entertaining but does not require a lot of thought and focus, this is the perfect book to read.

I give The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg 3 out of 5 Bookmarks.  Happy Reading!

~4-Ever, P

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Hey, Dear Bloggites, two posts in a row, Woo Hooo, Go, P (that’s Me!)!  Since I did my book review on February’s book club book, this one is on March’s book club book.  The Books & Broads Book Club chose Faithful by Alice Hoffman for March.

I was unsure of this book, and a bit leery, to be honest after not being able to read February’s book for soooo long.  Be wary, that was not a happy review. 🙂  Enough about that review, we are on this one, Alice Hoffman’s book, Faithful.

Faithful by Alice HoffmanI liked this book, which was such a relief, and I was intrigued by the concept of the story line about how in one instant, a life was turned upside down for one and non-existent for another.  The story follows Shelby Richmond a young lady whose life was changed after a car accident destroyed her best friend, Helene’s, life leaving her paralyzed and catapulted Shelby’s life walking with a burden of guilt.

Throughout the story, Shelby is driven by a series of postcards she felt was left by an angel (possibly Helene since miraculous occurrences happened to people who went to visit her at her parent’s home).  Each postcard had a phrase on it that subconsciously drove the direction Shelby led her life.

The story was a good story line but the characters were not as developed as I would have like to see and they were not very likable, I mean, how can you love someone who lives their life in a self-absorbed world and was very selfish with a “feel sorry for me” attitude?  It is hard, Dear Bloggites.

I loved the postcard concept but I did not like how the author inserted herself in the story.  Many of you have read those novels that you feel you are being directed to feel or think a certain way and those novels are the ones that the author did not remove themselves from the story line to allow you to create your own judgements.

Alice Hoffman did write the story in the third person but it was ruined by her inserting herself in the story guiding my feelings and thoughts about the characters and book.  It was a nice relief to have an enjoyable, albeit dark and moody, novel to read.  I might read another of the author’s books, if the book club picked it, but on my own, I do not think I would pick one of her books simple for the fact that, while I did not hate this book, it did not leave a strong memorable mark on my memory.

I give Faithful by Alice Hoffman 3 out of 5 Bookmarks.  I leave you, Dear Bloggites, to choose to pick it up and read. 🙂

~4-Ever, P

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: A Change In Altitude by Anita Shreve

Hello, Dear Bloggites.  This book review has been 7 months and 16 days in the making because that is how long it took me to finally finish FEBRUARY’S Book Club book choice!  FEBRUARY!  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve

The February Books & Broads Book Club book was A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve.  Now, I understand the author has written 14 novels (if not more now, there were 14 at the time of release for this book), but MAN, I will never read another book by her.  This was a brutal beating for me!

The novel is about a newlywed couple who moved to Africa for the husband’s job.  They rented a cottage that belonged to an older couple (well older than them in the book, they were in their 20s and the older couple were in their 30s).  The premise is for a group of them to climb Mount Kenya.

Now, the book starts as if you are in the middle of a conversation between the newlyweds, Margaret and Patrick.  It felt as if I had turned on a movie I had never seen before right in the middle and was trying to make sense of it.  It was apparent this newlywed couple had obvious issues based on how distant they were to each other in their conversation.

Anita Shreve did create complex characters, but none you really like.  The imagery was the best part of the book when Anita Shreve was writing about Africa, I could truly envision the country in my mind as if I was right there, however, I was highly disappointed in the characters and the way she wrote the book.  The planned trek up the mountain involved Margaret and Patrick, the older couple, Diana and Arthur, and a third couple, Saartje and Willem.

The group dynamic was tense and the reader did not really know why until near the end of the trek when an accident happened.  The accident caused an even deeper rift between Margaret and Patrick after the returned home and changed the way their life would play out.  Pretty good sounding story, eh, Dear Bloggite?  It had its opportunity to be a great book but I feel the author missed her mark.

There was an apparent error in the story line about how Margaret and Patrick met and I do not know if that was on the editors of the book, the author who had an intended reason behind it and forgot about it, or just plain lack of review when writing, but it bothered me.  I do not like things to go amiss in a story unless there is something down the line in the story that validates the reasons for it.

I do give the author props on her ability with imagery but that was the only thing I found likable, heck, the story ended just about as bad as it began, with no closure and the author leading us to the final assumption that she wanted.

I give A Change In Altitude by Anita Shreve 2 out of 5 Bookmarks.  I do not recommend this book unless you are a die-hard Anita Shreve fan.

~4-Ever, P

Posted in Writer Musings

Books & Broads Book Club: My Monkeys, My Circus

Have you heard the phrase, “Not My Monkeys, Not my Circus” before?  Well, I want to tell you about the book club I am a member of.  The Books & Broads Book Club and the Members of it ARE my monkeys and they ARE my circus and I would not have it any other way! 🙂

We all long to find that one place, you know the one, Dear Bloggites, the place that you can just be you in all your quirky glory and be accepted and loved.  It is that place that becomes your haven in a rough world; your lighthouse to your lost boat; your circus to your monkey.

March 13, 2015, I found My Monkeys and My Circus.  I did not realize that taking that break from life to visit a book club would change my life forever, but it has, and I am so grateful for it!  There were roughly 7 ladies and 14 eyeballs that looked at me when I walked though that fateful door.  After a moment of being in the amazing presence of these ladies, I knew I found My Monkeys.  THIS was My Circus.

From all walks of life, we come being drawn by a love for books but it is our chemistry, our easy way with each other that makes the magic happen each month.   The shared love and care we all have for and with one another is hard to find in life.  I have many challenges in my life that pull at me and demand from me which drains my spirit but once I walk into that room, with those ladies, I am renewed and refreshed.  I feel all the strain seep out of my body until only happiness and joy are left.

Books & Broads Christmas Party 2016 1
Books & Broads Christmas Party 2016

The Books & Broads Book Club is my sanctuary in life.  I look forward to the day I can revisit Our Circus and be our Quirky Monkey selves!  I will never be able to express my Love, Appreciation, and Joy these Amazing Women bring into my life, I am just forever grateful that on that fateful day in March, I found My Monkeys and My Circus!

 

I Love You All, My Monkeys!  Smooches!

~4-Ever, P

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

“Loss, once it’s become a certainty, is like a rock you hold in your hand.  It has weight and dimension and texture.” ~Frank Drum (in William Kent Krueger’s novel Ordinary Grace)

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. ~Aeschylus

Hello, Dear Bloggites! 🙂  January’s Books & Broads Book Club book was Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (yes, I am caught up with the readings, FINALLY).  I was hesitant to read this book because of the horrendous pick from November that took me over a month to read (not to mention a month before I even picked it up to read).  I am so glad that I did read this book.

ordinary-grace-by-william-kent-kruegerOrdinary Grace is a novel that tells the story of a young boy, Frank Drum, who is coming-of-age in 1961.  During the summer of ’61, Frank and his younger brother, Jake, learned the hard truths about death in various forms: accidental, natural, suicide, and murder.  Frank was 13 years old during this time and the story is told from his point of view.  Yes, the book is written in first person (you all know how I feel about that) and it worked.  The way the author, William Kent Krueger, wrote the story made you feel as if you were sitting in your living room having a conversation with Frank about his summer.

The author wrote with wonderful imagery throughout the novel and the reader felt as if he was right there feeling the breeze on their face or smelling the river.  The story keeps the reader engaged with Frank and Jake’s antics that wound up placing them in precarious positions and involving them knee deep in the active investigations.  Frank’s father, Nathan, is a preacher, and throughout the novel the reader learns about what ordinary grace is from the way the he handles every situation, no matter how bad, in life to how he drew strength from his faith in God.

The characters in the story are well developed and have unique personalities that are relatable.  From past loves to current loves to love lost, each person in the book handle each situation differently.  Some shut down, others got angry, and some just crumbled under the loss and fear.  From cover to cover, the reader will want to keep on this journey no matter how heart-wrenching it may be.  William Kent Krueger wrote the novel so that no one can really figure out the mystery of who-dun-it until the very end.

I read this book in three sittings only because I was super busy with work but I am so glad that I read it! 🙂  I love falling in love with characters that are so personable you think you truly know them and this book provided that.  I also love reading a good mystery that keeps me guess and this book provided that.  I also love reading about internal strength derived from one’s faith when faced with life’s troubles, and this book provided that.

I give Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger 5 out of 5 Bookmarks.  Go out and get a copy, Dear Bloggites, you won’t be disappointed.

~4-Ever, P

 

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Very disappointed in this book.  The premise was decent: young girl running away from home connecting with a lady with a baby then travel across the states; however, I never found myself ever totally engrossed in the story or committing to the characters.  It was set in the 1960s when segregation was rampant and the little girl was a white child travelling with a black woman and a white baby.  Minimal moments of not being distracted while reading for me, which is unusual.  If I am into a book, nothing will distract me from the story.  Alas, this was not the case for this book.

whistling-past-the-graveyard-by-susan-crandallThis book was our Books & Broads Book Club choice for November, NOVEMBER!  I started reading it on the 10th of November and had to put it down because I could not focus on reading the book.  I picked it back up on the 21st of November and just finished it today, the 28th of December.  I have NEVER taken that long to read a book, two weeks max, but this was a rough read for me.

Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall was about a story that follows Starla, a white child in the 1960s, who decides to run away so she does not get punished by her Mamie.  While running away, a car pulls over with a black woman driving who also had a baby in a basket.  Eula, the woman, picked up Starla and starts driving her to her house to let her rest for the night.  Starla realizes the baby, James, was a white baby that Eula found on the church steps.  After staying the night with Eula and her abusive husband, Wallace, the story follows Starla and Eula’s trek across the states to reach Tennessee where Starla’s Momma lives.

During their travels, Starla witnesses life for a black person in the 1960s and finds herself hating how the white people treated them.  From one situation to another, the story always has Starla being helped by someone after causing trouble.  Now, all this sounds fine and good as far as a story goes, but this was such a beating.  The characters were predictable and one dimensional as far as the story goes.  Starla always gets into bad situations because of her mouth, Eula always trusts the Good Lord to help them find their way while saving Starla from her situations she creates.

On and on this story went and I could not invest in the characters nor the storyline.  The book had minimal moments where the reader felt anything for these characters and the writing is in first person (which I HATE), not just first person; first person with a bad accent.  The author, Susan Crandall wrote the story as if we were listening to Starla talk in her country bumpkin accent.  Annoying.  It was cute at first, but throughout the story, it became annoying.

I give Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall 1 out of 5 Bookmarks.  I do not recommend this story to anyone, sorry, Dear Bloggites.

~4-Ever, P

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: First Women: The Grace And Power Of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower

“…all Bushes love the Johnsons.” ~ Barbara Bush in a 1998 letter to Lady Bird Johnson

first-women-the-grace-and-power-of-americas-modern-first-ladies-by-kate-andersen-browerIt has been a while since I posted a blog, Dear Bloggites, and for that I am sincerely sorry.  This book review is over the October book choice for the Books & Broads Book Club.  The book I am going to review is First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower.  Man is that a mouthful to say, as well as, type! 🙂

I was pleasantly surprised that this book was an interesting read.  I was worried the writer would skew their writing to support their political viewpoint, but it was really written in a matter of fact way where the information was given in concise statements without any lean toward one side or the other.

The book covered ten first ladies from Kennedy to Obama and how their rare membership to the elite club of First Ladies has forged friendships that bypassed any political standings.  I enjoyed reading excerpts from various letters or statements made between the first women in the transition of outgoing to incoming Presidents and the support system given throughout each other’s time in the office as well as after their time in the office.

The first 3/4ths of the book, was an easy read, but the last 1/4th was a beating to get through.  Once I reached this point, I was re-reading stories that were already covered earlier in the book and it became annoying.  I fault this on the editors as well as the author, Kate Andersen Brower, for not cleaning up the book better.  I understand that the stories may fit into various categories (which is how the book was broken up) but after the third or fourth time of reading the same story, it killed my interest in going on with the story.

The setup of the book was rather confusing until you realized the title for each chapter was the subject being given in the various relationships such as the chapter titled The Good Wife covered the different first ladies and how they handled being married to the President of the United States.  The reader is confused at the jumping back and forth between the ladies until you realize it was connected to the title and not in chronological order of each President’s term in office.

Overall, I enjoyed the book until the final chapters which is really bad because I truly enjoyed the relationships between the ladies without the feeling of the author gossiping about anyone.  I just wished they would have edited the book better in the end and compiled the stories in a better format.

I give First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower 3 out of 5 Bookmarks.  If you like politics and the inner workings, this book is probably for you.

 

~4-Ever, P

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: The Last Painting Of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith

“Of course the past was still alive and throbbing in the veins of the present.” ~Marty de Groot (in Dominic Smith’s novel The Last Painting of Sara De Vos)

Have you ever wondered if past choices would one day come back and haunt you once you have your life on track?  This book review is on a book that touches on this specific situation and gives a minor moral teaching that the past, indeed, will eventually come back and haunt your present life.

the-last-painting-of-sara-de-vos-by-dominic-smithIn this book review, Dear Bloggites, I am going to discuss our Books & Broads Book Club September book choice: The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith.  The storyline is about an up and comer in the world of Art as a painting restorer and a rich affluent man who owns a painting by Sara De Vos that is passed down from generation to generation in his family.  The two people, Ellie and Marty, have their lives forever tied together when Ellie decides to agree to forge the painting owned by Marty.

Throughout the novel, Dominic Smith, draws you into the worlds of Ellie, Marty, and Sara while teaching us some of the ins and outs of how the life of a painter was lived in the 1600s, 1950s, and 2000s.  If you ever have been fascinated by the world of Art, this book is for you.  If you are interested in life in the 1600s, this book is for you.  Finally, if you are interested in how the past has a way of haunting your present, this book is for you.

The author, Dominic Smith, did a wonderful job throughout this novel by creating complex characters whom the reader can relate to, explained how paintings are created without giving the reader a confused dead-head feel, and he wrote it in the third person, which I LOVE!!!!  In the novel, we learned that Sara De Vos was a married woman with a child who was in a Guild for painters.  She was one of a few women allowed to be members of the Guild in the 1600s.  After the loss of her child, Sara decides to paint a landscape scene that kept haunting her memory after seeing it.  This is not a big deal in today’s time but in the 1600s, women painters were only allowed to paint still life paintings of fruit, flowers, etc. while only the men were allowed to paint outdoor scenes.

Throughout the book, the reader learns a little more of how life was for Sara during her time on the Earth as well as how Ellie’s life was shaped by forging a copy of Sara’s landscape painting.  The novel gives each character’s life at different stages through to lead up to the final moment when Ellie’s forged painting and Sara’s original are brought to the same Art Gallery that Ellie works at.

The relationship between Ellie and Marty is a tumultuous one full of deceit, attraction, revenge, and love.  Sounds complex, it is, and the author does a fabulous job at weaving these elements throughout the novel while still staying true to the plot storyline.   The only issue I had with this novel was the toggling back and forth between timelines.  One chapter, you find yourself reading about life in the 1600s and the next you find yourself reading about life in the 2000s.  I do not like books that jump back and forth, and so that took away from the overall impact the novel could have had on my connection to the story and characters.

I give The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith 4 out of 5 Bookmarks!  Give it a whirl, I am sure you will enjoy the ride!  Happy Reading! 🙂

~4-Ever, P

Posted in Book Review

Book Review: Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Everybody is a good person and a bad person at the same time.  The only real variation is in the balance.  How much good to how much bad.  When a person has a bigger good side, we call him a good person.  But it’s never absolute. ~August Shroeder (in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book Take Me With You)

Only a few days delayed on posting August’s Books & Broads Book Club book choice.  I will get back on track with September’s book, I promise, Dear Bloggites.

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan HydeAugust’s book club choice was Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Once again the author of Pay It Forward, hit a homerun from the ball park.  Take Me With You is about a burned out school teacher name August Shroeder.  Every summer, August would travel with his son, Phillip, except this summer.

After losing his son, Phillip, August stopped drinking all together and is now on the recovery path from his alcoholic days.  On this summer trip, August planned on going to Yellowstone to spread the ashes of his son.  At the beginning of this rough trip, the RV breaks down and he is introduced to Wes and his two boys, Seth and Henry.  Wes has a strange request for August.  He asks August to take his two boys with him on his trip because Wes will be going to jail for the summer and the boys have nowhere else to go.

This is just the beginning of the storyline in this novel.  As you can figure out, the boys join August on his trip and all three of their lives are changed forever.  During the journey, August finds out Wes is an alcoholic and this trip to jail is not his first according to his sons.  As August learns from the boys, they learn from him and a lifelong relationship is born.

Catherine Ryan Hyde did a wonderful job at creating characters with such depth in this novel.  Each character has their own uniqueness about them that endears them to the readers.  During the journey, the author did a good job explaining the different things the kids experienced and saw through the main character, August.  The reader is able to learn something without being overwhelmed or distracted from the storyline.

While this book touches on alcoholism and AA Meetings, the focus is not on the disease but on the relationships being built from the experiences each character has by living with alcoholism in their lives.  At times, the book seemed to drag but for the majority of the read, the storyline was in constant motion.

The story is written in the third person (which I love) and is a bit on the touchy-feely side.  I normally do not prefer touchy-feely stories, but this one was not so much that it distracted the reader from the true purpose of the book, relationship building during times of trouble and loss.

I give Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde 5 out of 5 Bookmarks.  If you are looking for something new, give this book a try, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

~4-Ever, P