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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