Thursday, December 20, 2012

My "To Do" List for End of World December 21

1. Return library books

2. Cancel dentist appointment

3. Clip toenails

4. Discard old magazines

5. Send notes of apology to anyone I have ever offended (whoops; should have started this one sooner)

6. Eat all remaining Christmas Cookies

7. Pet kitties twice as much today

8. Give away my stash of  "forever" stamps

9. Throw out yogurt dated later than Dec 20

10.Turn off all the lights

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Review - The Secret Keeper

The Secret KeeperThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wonderful story with huge secrets taking center stage.

Set in England and traveling from present day back to World War II,  we are involved in solving the mysteries of the lives of Dorothy and her family of five children.

Full of great characterizations and intricate plotting, we experience what effect our actions and choices can have on ourselves and those we love.

With some surprising ending bits, the book gives a rather satisfying conclusion to a very intriguing story.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Two Book Reviews

Life After DeathLife After Death by Damien Echols

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Convicted unjustly of the murder of three young Boy Scouts and kept in prison for 18 years, this story is mesmerizing. This book does not give details of the crime or the trial, but deals with what has happened since.

Although not in agreement with many of the beliefs that Mr. Echols holds, I was very interested to read his book as I have believed in his innocence for many years. He and the other two of the "West Memphis Three" were, in my opinion, railroaded and convicted with no actual evidence.

Mr. Echols does employ a good use of the language and writes especially about his very sad and troubled childhood with great skill.

Although he and his other two friends were released on an Alford plea, it remains a hope that some day they will capture the true killer and be totally declared innocent.

The Cases of Susan DareThe Cases of Susan Dare by Mignon G. Eberhart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First time reading this mystery author from Nebraska.

This group of short stories all feature Susan Dare, a mystery writer. As she is also adept at solving crimes, she is called in to investigate, usually undercover. The stories are rather simple, but well crafted and enjoyable.

Think I will try one more of her regular length mysteries.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review - The Provincial Lady in Wartime

It feels a bit wrong to adore a book about the beginning of WW II in England, and to especially enjoy it's humor, but with this endearing diary, it cannot be helped.

Having read several other Delafield books, I knew that I enjoyed her humorous tongue-in-cheek style.

This book centers on the late months of 1939 before the war, when children were beginning to be evacuated and people not in the military were seeking ways to do their part toward the war effort. Delafield gives us an idea of what was transpiring, but with that clever British wit that I love.

Book Review - Greenbanks

Greenbanks.Greenbanks. by Dorothy Whipple

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very good story about the life of an English family beginning in the very late 1800's.

With issues of unfaithfulness in marriage and also illegitimacy, most of the characters react in the proper modes of the times. Some of them see another side and that makes for conflict. A mother's love for one son more than another also adds fuel to the fire.

Rachel is the beloved granddaughter of Louisa, the family matriarch. Rachel keeps rooms at both her parents home and her grandmother. We follow her through the years from a very little girl until she is 20 and has fallen in love.

Dorothy Whipple has written a number of good book and this is one of them.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Triple Book Reviews

Lady Audley's SecretLady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautifully written Victorian mystery with colorful characters to admire and dislike.

Lady Audley is at the center of a story that involves love, longing, pain, deceit and regret.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon was a contemporary of Dickens and Willie Collins and quite successful at her writing. This bestselling story is a great read and makes me want to read more of her work.

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Greenery StreetGreenery Street by Denis Mackail

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Life on Greenery Street of the 1920's is full of fun and adjustment and angst of proper manners and worry about money and much more for the young married couples who live there.

Engaging a property there is indeed very desirable and deemed quite a coup. So interesting to read about this time when every action every day was scrutinized for it's propriety.

A very fun read.

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A Wreath of Snow: A Victorian Christmas NovellaA Wreath of Snow: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Liz Curtis Higgs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A somewhat fluffy little story, but with great purpose; a man seeking forgiveness for great harm he had inflicted years ago.

The gorgeous cover draws you in to the beauty and comfort of a snow-filled Christmas in Scotland in the late 1800's.

A nice change from heavier reading with a beautifully packaged finish tied up with a beautiful bow.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book Review - Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in EnglishMr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book! It seems to have all the parts to make it a great story and such an engaging read.

Jack and Sadie are Jewish Germans who emigrate to England in 1937. Jack is determined to be everything a British man should be, adhering to all the principles in a pamphlet given to him about how to assimilate into the culture.

After a time living in London and beginning a rug manufacturing business, Jack decides he needs to move to Dorset to a country home with lots of land. The reason? As he yearns to be the ultimate Brit, he decides to build his own golf course, after being refused by so many clubs for membership. He does not tell Sadie of his plans until their home is sold and they are on their way. The kicker is that he does not even know how to play golf! Sounds a bit far-fetched, but within the story, it really works.

Their thatched home is in need of repairs, but all Jack truly wants to do is to work on his golf course. Sadie is depressed, not only at the state of their marriage, but still sad over losing her family in Germany. She uses baking and cooking as her way of working out her sadness.

It is not until a near tragedy that Jack realizes what is most important in his life.

As Jews they are treated by some with disrespect, but by others are seen for who they are and treated as friends.

I felt an array of emotions as I read; sympathy, disgust, joy, understanding and just plan fun. I love the idea of having a goal and not letting yourself veer away from it no matter what.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review - The Railway Children

The Railway ChildrenThe Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A perfect English children's book from early 1900.

Three children and their mother must move to lesser quarters in the country after the father has to go away leaving them quite poor. Their home is near a railway station and they are in love with the place from the beginning. They are smart and active children, and very well behaved, but they do have a number of exciting adventures.

While their mother is at home writing stories to sell for their income, the children make many friends at the railway station and among the people in the nearby town.

At the storey's end, the whereabouts of their father is known and the family is happily reunited.

The story is fun, educational and promotes good character traits. I loved it.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review - The Lady's Money

My Lady's MoneyMy Lady's Money by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore Wilkie Collins. As a friend of the well-known Charles Dickens, I think he was a bit overshadowed by him. 

This is a delightful tale of a woman of means who becomes the victim of the theft of a 500 pound note in her home. There are a number of possible suspects and she obtains help in pursuing the perpetrator. She retains a young girl as her companion and as she is of much lower rank and may be looked on as the possible thief, she is sent away to her Aunt, Miss Pink, to live until the manner is resolved.

The book is full of colorful characters and the action is fun and such an interesting look at the times of the mid to late 1800's England.

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Book Review - The Story of Jessie

The Story of JessieThe Story of Jessie by Mabel Quiller-Couch

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A simply precious story about a 5 year old girl who is sent to live with her grandparents by her mother, wants a better life for her. Jessies' father is mean and abusive and was not who the grandparents wanted for their daughter to marry.

Jessie and her grandparents are so happy together until word comes that her mother has died and her father comes to take her away. He has remarried and only wants Jessie to help his wife run a boarding house.

Jessie is distraught, but tries to make the best of things. She has great faith in God and meets a sweet woman where she lives who also has great faith and encourages her to think of her time there as what God wants for her; to have a positive effect on those around her.

After a few years of hard work, Jessies' father dies, leaving her free to return to her grandparents. They are reunited in joy.

A simple story, but told so sweetly and with her wisdom.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review

The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna BannisterThe Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister by Nonna Bannister

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have read many stories and accounts about the holocaust perpetuated by the evil Hitler, but never one about someone from Russia.

Nonna was from a very well-to-do family in the Ukraine. When the Germans declared war and descended on Russia, her family was torn apart. After her father was beaten and died, Nonna and her mother forge their own way any way they can. They eventually make the decision to go to Germany and are placed in forced labor camps. Their day to day life is desolate and their living conditions are bleak and meagre.

Nonna tells her story from written bits and pieces that she had saved throughout this time. She also saved many pictures and documents that she kept in a hand sewn package kept close to her chest for many years.

After the war, she become a nurse and then was sponsored to the United States, where she married and had 3 children. It was not until many years later as an older woman, that she decided to tell of her past in this book, most of which even her family did not know.

Her great faith in God as well as her positive outlook on life gave her the strength to endure and tell her story.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review - A Daughter's a Daughter

A Daughter's a DaughterA Daughter's a Daughter by Mary Westmacott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another non-mystery story by Christie. A young widow with a 19 year old daughter calls off marriage due to her daughters' dislike for the man. Ann changes a great deal due to that and begins to live a rather wilder life as does her daughter.

After a disastrous marriage by the daughter a few years later, both mother and daughter come to terms with the past and their lives are placed onto a more positive track.

Although the few fiction I have read by Christie are good, her mysteries are by far her best writing.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review - Daphne

Daphne: A NovelDaphne: A Novel by Justine Picardie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating look into the author DuMaurier of Rebecca fame and her quest to discover the unwritten tale of Branwell Bronte, brother of the more celebrated group of sister writers.

Her research prompts her to take up correspondence with Mr. Symington, former head of the Bronte library and also a lover of Branwell and the unknown. Unfortunately, Mr. Symington is so ardent in his quest for all things Bronte, that he is accused of stealing some of the documents and is dismissed from his position. Daphne knows none of this history and buys a number of Bronte documents from him.

A secondary storyline is of a modern day researcher of DuMauier and her life at Menebilly. Her recent marriage to a much older scholar is not going well and his take on her DuMaurier interest is a sore spot.

Underlying it all is DuMauriers' distress at her inner demons as well as those that inhabit her marriage in the form of her husbands' affair.
Daphnes close relationship with her cousin Peter is also important to her and his tragic life cause her great grief.

Although she does complete the novel on Branwell, it is rather anti-climactic, as he does not reveal himself to be much of a writer or a man.

Although fiction, this story is based on truth and the author has researched the DuMaurier archives to bring a credible voice to the book. It is an excellent look into the life of a beloved author.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review - The Orchardist

The OrchardistThe Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So good, but so sad as well. Talmadge raises apples and lives alone after the death of his mother and the disappearance of his sister in the early 1900's. Two young women, both pregnant show up on his property and he cares for them from a distance, as they are very skittish and defensive.

Talmadge is a deep thinker and a kind and thoughtful man. When tragedy strikes the young women, he does what he thinks best for them.

The text is very descriptive both in the characters feelings and also about the geography of the area.

Although I felt a great admiration for the authors' writing, I felt also a huge frustration at the characters behavior.

Not a happily ever after book, but a thoughtful, realistic one.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review - The Beautiful Mystery

The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #8)The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the 8th book in the series, Inspector Gamache and his sidekick, Beauvoir, investigate a murder at a monastery in the wilds of Canada.

Penney always gives the reader good lessons about her topic, in this case, the history of this group of monks as well as the background of the Gregorian chants they use in the services many times each day.

The relationship between the two detectives is always interesting as they work their way through the evidence. I find myself disliking Beauvoir as much as I like Gamache.

The mystery remains so until the very end, but with the relationship between the detectives rather unhinged, left hanging for interpretation until the next book.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Review - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harold receives a letter from an old co-worker who reveals she has cancer. He writes a letter to her and sets off walking to mail it from his home in the far south of England. On his way, he decides to continue walking all the way to where she is in a nursing home. What makes it incredible is that it is over 600 miles from his home. He believes that by walking there he can not only keep her alive, but make amends to her for a past injustice. 

As Harold is dealing with a rather dysfunctional marriage as well as a tragic childhood, he has much to think about during his journey. He meets many memorable people and deals with a lot of physical pain. He does call his wife often and each of them begin to see their marriage in new ways.

I love the idea of taking on a seemingly unobtainable mission and the commitment behind it. The emotion that works through all of Harolds' journey makes his efforts even more valuable in the end.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Review - Three Lives

Three LivesThree Lives by Lettice Cooper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

England of the 1950s sets the stage for the intersection of three lives. Amyas is owner of Nunbarrow, a large estate that also encompassed nearby coal mines at one time. He sells half the estate to a group of academics to use as a school. Margery, wife of the head of the school is a bright light that shines on it all. Tod, a young coal miner who hates his job, becomes a sort of project for Amyas, who hopes to lead him into something of a better life. Although quite busy with her husband, 3 children and the school life, Margery slowly becomes more than a good friend to Amyas, who lives in his half of the estate with an elderly aunt who is dying.

This is a good story of post war life and how the country was changing, with nuclear war a topic of possible catastrophe. The manners and customs of the time and place are interesting. Also, a sad time when more and more of the old estates were given over to other concerns due to lack of money and the changing culture.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review - Heading Out to Wonderful

Heading Out To WonderfulHeading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book began WONDERFULLY, just like the title, but with an ending quite shocking and sad.

Charlie comes to the small town of Brownsburg Virginia in the summer of 1948. He finds work at a butcher shop, becomes friends with the owner, his wife and their 5 year old son, Sam. He soon becomes a favorite of all the folks in town.

Unfortunately, he falls for a beautiful young married girl and they begin an affair.

Full of beautiful phrasing and descriptive pieces that find their mark. Mr Goolrick is a gifted storyteller and pulled me in page after page.

His slant on the religious beliefs in the town left me shaking my head. Supposed to be Christians, the ministers lead their flock to believe that anyone befriending someone like Charlie, who is in a sinful relationship, would be doomed to hell, as he said Charlie would be. This is not a Biblical Christian viewpoint and rather put me off the story.

This story does shine in that it deals honestly with human emotion and frailty and roads that can take us to tragedy.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review - The House at Tyneford

The House at TynefordThe House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is 1938. Elise lives in Vienna with her parents and sister. They are Jewish and although not practicing ones, are at risk for what is possibly to come at the hands of the madman Hitler. She gains a position in England as a maid and finds herself at Tyneford.

This story is as much about the ordered estate of Tyneford, which has existed for centuries as well as it is of Elise and the life she finds there as she learns to live an entirely new way.

There are many descriptive passages about the landscape, the sea and the gardens and livestock.

As time passes and the war comes to England, Kit, the only son of the current master of Tyneford, enlists. Through the years, Elise seeks to hear word of her parents who were supposed to travel to New York, but did not leave in time before the war.

Without giving the story away, suffice it to say that the war brings great changes, both in relationships and the life at Tyneford.

I did not find out until after finishing the book, that it is based on true events in the life of the author who had relatives who closely mimic the main characters, which makes it all the more fascinating.

I adore reading not only of this time period with it's vivid history, but also the views of the endearing countryside of England.

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review - Absent in the Spring

Absent in the SpringAbsent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A happily married English woman with 3 grown children is stranded on a trip home from Iraq and is at a station in the desert in the middle of nowhere. The food is meagre and poor, she quickly reads her two books and there is nothing more to do but take walks.

After several days of alone, she has what I would call an epiphany and sees the ways she has always behaved with her family, urging them under her control. She seems to be given a second chance at asking forgiveness of them and making life more positive.

She is so relieved when she is finally home and is convicted that she should make amends as soon as possible.

I will not spoil it by writing about what occurs. This was an excellent look at a life not well lived, and being shown how to correct it for the better. It is a lesson to be learned for any of us.

I would actually like to re title this as "Absent in Her Head" as it seems as though she was not cognizant of her own character traits. This is my 2nd Christie fiction book and I was surprised and delighted at the story line and it's affect.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Review - The Uninvited Guests

The Uninvited GuestsThe Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As one who does not read the previews much before reading the book, I was a bit surprised at where this story ended up from where it began.

What seems to be a very proper English family is upended when a group of travelers from a train accident show up at their home on the night of the oldest daughter's birthday. The father has gone to the city in hopes of working a financial miracle to save their home.

Without giving away too much, the evening takes some very strange turns as the stranded travelers seek food and comfort and a strange man shows up at the door.

Then things get quite bizarre but with all turning right at the end. Rather strange and supernatural.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Book Review - Some Old Lover's Ghost

Some Old Lover's GhostSome Old Lover's Ghost by Judith Lennox

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Starting in the year 1912 in England and spanning until current day, this book was rather a saga of families torn apart by a rape of a young maid by her wealthy master and the baby it produced, as well as the destruction and anguish of two world wars.

Now in her 80's, Tilda, employs Rebecca to write her biography, with the hidden desire that she might unravel one great mystery of the family. The story segues from old to current times, weaving a story of deception and pain. At the same time, Rebecca's story is also one of pain and hurt, as she continues to find her way as a young writer.

The characters are well formed, although there seems to be much jumping to conclusions on many of their parts, that only leads to more doubt and confusion in their relationships.

All the plot lines tied up neatly at the end, and not a page too soon, as this was a bit long at 474 pages.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Review - The Soldier's Wife

The Soldier's WifeThe Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The inner workings of a British soldiers' family are on display in this very insightful story. Dan is home from from Afghanistan, at least physically, although his emotions are still very much with his men as he seeks to assist them in acclimating back to their home life. Wife Alexa and three daughters are left to continue on their own, as Dan cannot seem to reconnect as needed.

The couples' parents and grandparents give the family lots of space at first, but then combine to offer their support and help when they realize life is not all it should be.

Alexa is a strong woman who loves her husband and children deeply, but who would still like to use her life skills in another career. This seems impossible due to the demands of an Army life.

After weeks of turmoil, the couple finally come to some conclusions about their lives and what is most important to both of them.

Trollope always writes within her characters a full range of emotions and her stories are compelling. I learned so much about how the lives on both sides of the equation of military life are affected from wartime and all the baggage it brings with it.

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book Review - Wodehouse is the Best Medicine

Wodehouse Is The Best MedicineWodehouse Is The Best Medicine by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funny, clever short stories with that British spin always makes for a good read. Contrived plots filled with quirky characters and it all comes right in the end.

If you love humorous writing and especially British humor, you will love these stories.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review - The Burden

The BurdenThe Burden by Mary Westmacott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have owned this paperback forever, (it sold for 45 cents!!)but just never read it although I am a HUGE Christie fan.

The story begins simply with Laura being quite jealous of new baby sister, Shirley. After a near tragedy, Laura becomes smitten with Shirley and devotes her life to her care, nearly smothering her with love. Shirley marries Henry and the plot becomes more involved.

Other characters in the story are Baldy, their neighbor who is influential in both the girls lives, and two other men, both love interests.

I dislike giving away too much in a review, so will suffice to say, that although there was major sadness in this book, it was very worthwhile reading. The characters are mostly likable and all challenging in their views on life.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review - Elegy for Eddie

Elegy for Eddie (Maisie Dobbs #9)Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading each book in this series featuring Masie Dobbs, is rather like re-uniting with an old friend, catching up on her life and being given insight into how her mind works. It is not necessary to read all the previous books, but I would recommend it to receive the fullest view of Masie and her life.

This book, set in 1938 London, has Masie investigating the death of a young man known to her since childhood. She owns great skill in her work and always seems to know what to do and also what she can do to help others, sometimes regretting her actions.

Masie is a very introspective woman and it is fascinating to see how her mind operates. She is focused, but yet still unsure of what she wants for her life in the long run. Having inherited money after a childhood of very limited means, she has more options opened to her. Having lost her first true love in World War I, she is now in a relationship with James who loves her dearly.

A theme of the story concerns the rise of Hitler and his unparalleled thirst for power and evil.

This series is always a page turner and makes you long to know what next will happen with Masie.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review - The New House

The New HouseThe New House by Lettice Cooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written in 1934 and set in those days, this story revolves around a family who faces "removal" to a new home due to the death of the father and more limited resources. Its' 319 pages cleverly consists of three parts: Morning, Noon and Night.

What might be utterly boring becomes insightful gleanings from each family member as their thoughts and conversations meander between the present day and past ones. We are given glimpses into the inner workings of their personalities and are either charmed by them or repelled.

I found myself agreeing with various thoughts and cheering on one of the characters to buck up and become more of her own person. I also saw myself in a more negative tone with some of their thoughts.

Although the times and customs are quite different now, I would call this book ageless, as it deals at heart with the constant human condition of relationships in families.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review - Harriett

HarrietHarriet by Elizabeth Jenkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in 1875, this sad but very readable story revolves around Harriet, who is a mentally deficient woman of money, much adored and cared for by her family. She is sought out by Lewis, who only wants her for her money. He craftily plans the way to marry her and thus begins a series of steps to keep her out of his life, with the help of his brother and wife.

The tale is well written, with the reader not being sure of what is coming next. The coldness with which Lewis and his cohorts treat Harriet and the baby she has is definitely chilling. They seem to find it an affront when anything appears to threaten their actions and they find it perfectly acceptable to use whatever means necessary to meet their goals.

Harriet and her baby come to a tragic end and the conspirators have their day in court.

Evil has always been and will always be with us.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review - What the Butler Winked At

What the Butler Winked At: Being the Life and Adventures of Eric Horne, ButlerWhat the Butler Winked At: Being the Life and Adventures of Eric Horne, Butler by Eric Horne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marvelous stories of servant hood from the 1860s until 1922. Mr Horne tells of a time when servants worked very hard and were not honored by most of their employers. I felt like he was sitting talking with me about his life and work, trying to do it in an orderly way, but now and then throwing in an out of sequence account or a funny story. Very engaging.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review - The Invention of Hugo Cabriet

The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a unique delightful book into the world of a train station and a young boy who inhabits it. All alone in life and facing mistreatment, Hugo shares with us a world of enchantment through his ability to work with his hands and bring an automaton back to life.

This book is a treasure of beautiful black and white drawings that fill the mind with the action of Hugo. For both children and adults, a clever trip into the minds of creative people of the past.

A one-of-a-kind book that you not only "read", but experience.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Review - Consequences

ConsequencesConsequences by E.M. Delafield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such an appropriate title for the what happened to young girls in Victorian times and the way they were brought up.

Alex Clare is one of 5 in a well-to-do family in Victorian England, and is mainly cared for by the family nurse. She longs to develop a close bond with a parent but finds it impossible, due to the strict schedule of what is deemed appropriate for children. Her spirit strikes out at her loss and lands on the heads of her siblings. She is sent away to school at a convent where she again strives to find one who will bond with her.

After returning home and her "coming out" into society at age 18, she thinks she will soon find out what it is that she has been waiting for in life by finding one to love and a life of fulfillment as an adult. A short enagagement to the first young man she knows ends in disaster and more disillusionment. She decides to enter the church as a nun, without any true understanding of her actions, but due to a great attachment to an older nun who befriends her.

This also ends, tragically, so her life goes. Still a young woman, but looking years older and without the abilitiy to organize her own life, she returns to her siblings but finds it impossible to endure the surroundings.

This story gave me a great sense of what was expected of girls in Victorian times and what the possible outcome could be when they did not fit into the plan of their family.

Alex is a pitable character and Delafield gives us a good story to cause us to ponder those not so long ago times.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review - The Land of Decoration

The Land of DecorationThe Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heart rending story of a very religious father, raising his 10 year old daughter alone, preparing them for the soon to be end of the world. Their world is centered on going to religious meetings, going door-to-door to tell others of their beliefs and daily Bible readings.

Judith is so enthralled with this life, that she copes by making what she calls "The Land of Decoration" in her bedroom. She crafts scenes and people and events out of the cast off bits and pieces of life. She believes that she can make miracles happen and has conversations with God. It was not clear to me if she really heard God speak or if it was in her mind.

Due to their beliefs, Judith is ridiculed at school by a hateful classmate and what starts out as taunts soon lead to more dangerous acts by he and his friends. All the while, the father is working hard at his job, where there is a strike and he continues working with grave results.

Rather harrowing to read, with many sad events. But, Judith retains her faith and in the end, although her father has seemed to lose his, I had the impression that he would capture it again. The story inspires me to consider my own faith and what I would be willing to do for it if challenged.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review - The Doll and Other Stories

The Doll: The Lost Short StoriesThe Doll: The Lost Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All written by the age of 23, Daphne Du Murier shows a superb deft hand at short story writing in this recently published collection.

As a huge fan of "Rebecca" as well as most of her other books, I was excited to discover these, and with the exception of one or two rather strange ones, they did not disappoint. She is quite insightful into the psychology of relationships as well as the depth of the human mind to manipulate as well as to justify its' actions.

A terrific group of stories and well recommended.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review - Miss Buncle's Book

Miss Buncle's BookMiss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Needing income, Barbara Buncle writes a book under the name of John Smith. She bases her story on her neighbors and friends in her small village of Silverstream, although not using their names. This causes a big uproar with those who see themselves in the book and not in a very good light. The book is a huge success and Barbara, a single woman, is helped by her publisher to keep her identity a secret.

The reactions of an array of characters are so amusing. Many of them want to sue her, but without any sound basis. The emotional range of the characters is both amusing and charming and so fun to read. Barbara sets out to write a second book and at the same time feels love in the air for herself.

D.E. Stevenson is a delightful storyteller and a joy to read.

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Miss Buncle's Book

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Since I had heard that this was Sparks best book, I was prepared to really like it but I am left wondering what I missed that I did like it more or think it was so incredibly good.

Miss Brodie makes it clear that she knows she is in her "prime" and that she is wanting to give her best to the girls in her class during this "prime". She is quite unorthodox in her methods, not wanting to teach the assigned subjects, but to instill in her group of girls much about live in the forms of religion and art and music. She has profound effects on each of them while her own life seems to be sad and rather unfulfilled.

There are some funny moments here and a lot of poignant ones.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review - Someone at a Distance

Someone at a DistanceSomeone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The North family live in the country of England. They are an extremely happy and close family of four. Reading about their days is an absolute joy. Ellen, the wife and mother is totally at peace, loving her role as domestic goddess.

Louise, a French girl, arrives to be a companion to the North's elderly mother, who lives nearby. Louise is completely self absorbed and only out for what she can get. Her unhappy love affair in France has driven her to find ways to make her now married lover see that she has done very well for herself.

She sets her sights on Mr. North and soon has him ensnared with her charms. Mrs. North and teen aged daughter Anne see the two of them together one day on returning home early and their idyllic life is in tatters.

Rather than try to explain, Mr. North leaves with Louise and within weeks asks for divorce. Although so miserable, he believes that he cannot make things right with Ellen.

Dorothy Whipple writes with a deft hand at exuding both joy and sorrow in life and is a delight to read. This was her last book.

Although ending rather hopefully, it is full of the sadness of human frailty.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review - They Knew Mr. Knight

They Knew Mr. KnightThey Knew Mr. Knight by Dorothy Whipple

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading Dorothy Whipple is like being invited into a home, meeting all the family, taking interest in their lives, being glad for them and sad for them and sorry when you have to leave their home.

She is certainly not the world's most exciting author, nor the one with the most lavish of descriptions. But, she has a way of writing that makes me want to read on and on. I really feel for the characters.

Mr. Knight is a wealthy businessman who befriends Mr. Blake who is married with 3 children. Blake is just making it and is enticed by Knight's ability to steer him into better economic means. Blake and his family move up and up, but in the end have to face the cruel consequences of wanting too much.

There is a wonderful thread of good and evil here, with Blakes' wife, Celia yearning for God and finding Him at the time she most needed Him.

This story is set in England of the 20's and 30's, one of my favorite settings.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review - The Tuesday Club Murders

Tuesday Club MurdersTuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intriguing collection of short story mysteries shared by a group of friends, with Miss Marple as the wise and clever one who solves them all.

For the mystery lover, Agatha Christie reigns. Her characters are always fully formed into beings that you are drawn to, abhor, empathize with or a myriad of other emotions. She is in a class of her own.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review - The Beginner's Goodbye

The Beginners' GoodbyeThe Beginners' Goodbye by Anne Tyler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As always, Anne Tyler creates characters full of emotion and real life situations. In this sad, bittersweet book, Aaron and Dorothy are married, but with tragedy striking not many years after with Dorothys' death. Aaron struggles to continue on without her and to also figure out how it might have been different. Could he have prevented the accident by changing his behavior?

The book title comes from the series of books his publishing house issues, all with "The Beginners" in their title. His co-workers, including his sister, all attempt to help Aaron through his loss. He sometimes "sees" his dead wife and has little conversations with her that helps him as well.

A story of love and loss and how people can make it through it all.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Book Review - Aiding and Abetting

Aiding and AbettingAiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting supposition based on the fact of the Earl of Lucan, wanted on charges of murder and attempted murder, who disappeared on November 7, 1974.

Two different men seek therapy with psychiatrist Dr. Wolf, both claiming to be Lucan. One also says he has information of a damming nature about Dr. Wolf. Through the years various sightings of Lucan have been reported but with no definite outcome. Many think he might have committed suicide.

With the characters living lives of day to day desperation, Spark gives them all great voice in showing us who they are. Both Lucans have been on the run, checking in from time to time with various old friends for funds to live by.

An interesting take on what might have happened to a man that has never been found.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review - In this House of Brede

In This House of BredeIn This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating look into life at a Benedictine monastery in England. Phillipa is an especially interesting resident as she has come to Brede as a divorced 42 year old.

The various roles of those in the house are explained and their relationships to one another are explored. As one not very familiar with the ways of the Catholic faith, this was so insightful.

Godden spent 3 years living outside the gates of a monastery when writing this book.
Her characterizations of the nuns are full of personality and causes them to be seen not only in the light of those called by God but also as women living and working together with their individual opinions and moods.

An excellent book in many ways.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book Review - Every Man For Himself

Every Man For HimselfEvery Man For Himself by Beryl Bainbridge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Four days of the Titanic voyage are told through the eyes of J. Pierpont Morgans' nephew, whos' life is rather like a rudderless ship. He drinks too much, runs with not so great fellows and, being of money, has no true work or vocation. Until, that is, he sees the light on this fateful voyage.

He has been given the task of redesigning one area of the ship by its' designer, Mr. Andrews. He begins to see this as his work of the future and sets to it seriously. Set among the famous and wealthy society in his class, he lives four days of interesting encounters before that night of destiny.

Young Morgan seems to come alive with the task of doing all he can to help those in the final hours. Famous characters and their actions that are familiar to us are all there: The Astors, Vanderbilts, Strauss. His final moments find him swimming to one of the lifeboats and helping to organize those hanging on.

For the addicted Titanic account lover, this is quite an interesting read.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review - Jane of Lantern Hill

Jane of Lantern HillJane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this for the third time I am as charmed as ever. I just adore this endearing story of 11 year old Jane, who is confused about why she lives in Toronto with her mother and mean-spirited grandmother with no knowledge of her father. Only after her summer spent with him at Lantern Hill, on Prince Edward Island, does she realize that her grandmother has conspired to cut him from her life and that of her mother.

Jane and her father set up housekeeping together as they begin to make up for the years apart. The reasons for her parents' separation are slowly revealed and through a tragic situation they are reunited for a happily ever after ending.

Although I did not discover Montgomery until my late 30's when I began working in the library,  I  immediately loved her as favorite author. I think I even love Jane as much as Anne of Green Gables. Written for young girls, her books, for me, remain timeless and fill a special niche in my heart that remains a little girl.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book Review - The Bookshop

The BookshopThe Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This simple story about a woman who opens a small bookshop in a seaside English town was very appealing but with a very sad end.

Florence Green invests all she has in the long dis-used Old House, with the front part as the bookshop and the back and upstairs her living quarters. She seems rather naive about the ways of business and sometimes lets others decide for her.

Mrs. Gamart, a local woman of money, has designs on the Old House becoming an arts centre, although she has not acted on plans for it until Mrs. Green has moved in. She uses her government employed nephew to implement a way to take the property.

Mr. Brundish, the local hermit, who never sees visitors, befriends Mrs. Green and commends her for her courage. He implores Mrs. Gamart to leave Mrs. Green and her business alone, but with dire consequences.

At book's end, Mrs. Green must face changes and also disillusionment about her life, her decisions and what she believed about others.

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Book Review - A Far Cry From Kensington

A Far Cry from KensingtonA Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mrs. Hawkins is a young war widow in 1954 England. She is hard-working, sensible and more than a little plump. She lives in a boarding house in South Kensington and enjoys her various housemates. She is on good terms with co-workers in her job at the publishing firm, with the exception of Hector Bartlett. He is an unctuous ingratiating literary hack and she cannot help herself from expressing what she thinks of him, calling him a derogatory term in French.

This causes a series of events that ultimately leads to tragedy for one of her housemates. As she continues on in two more literary jobs, she decides to trim down her weight. She very simply decides to just eat only half of what she usually does or is given with great success.

At this point she decides to be called Nancy rather than Mrs. Hawkins. She formerly thought that Mrs. Hawkins more suited her fat, matronly self and she no longer was that.

I really liked the character of Mrs. Hawkins and her perseverance with her life and helpful advice to others. Murial Spark gives her characters personalities that are understandable as real people.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Review

Cape Cod MysteryCape Cod Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A new author for me, this story is like taking a little vacation to Cape Cod and meeting the most interesting people.

When a murder occurs in Wellfleet, the obvious suspect is quickly arrested, but it is too obvious to local resident Asey Mayo. Asey is the quintessential Cape Cod-er, full of stories and sayings and wisdom all spoken in the perfect New England dialect. He was a man of many jobs and had sailed over the seas in every kind of ship. He sets to solving the case with inventive ways of obtaining information and suspects.

There are many suspects as there are so many who did not like the murdered man. It is not totally predictable when the killer is finally unveiled at the end.

Written in 1931, the book is a flashback to another time when things were simpler. Descriptions give the reader a good idea of the geography and customs of the town. With this as her first book written at age 22, Miss Atwood continued to write a total of 33 books.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Review --- Wodehouse

Three Men and a MaidThree Men and a Maid by P.G. Wodehouse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As always, Wodehouse provides comic relief in between the reading of more serious books. He writes with great descriptive flourish, always entertaining.

The premise is simple; three men all in love with the same girl, and each engaged to her in the same few weeks. Sam is determined to win her back after a falling out, first using deception, later a night time visit to her home, where confusion reigns in all the characters staying there.

It is rather silly, but perfect, delicious fun.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Button Book

  Just finished Shell Games and want to give a heads up to all button lovers. If you especially love Shell buttons and enjoy learning about the making of them, you will enjoy this book. I am doing a review for the National Button Society's July bulletin so will not say more about it for now.

          (Please ignore the "Click to Look inside". I used the image from Amazon.)


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