The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

Posted by on May 23, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review | 4 comments

The Blue Castle by L.M. MontgomeryThe Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback and ebook
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: Paperback 1988 (originally 1926
Pages: 218
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

At twenty-nine Valancy had never been in love, and it seemed romance had passed her by. Living with her overbearing mother and meddlesome aunt, she found her only consolations in the “forbidden” books of John Foster and her daydreams of the Blue Castle. Then a letter arrived from Dr. Trent — and Valancy decided to throw caution to the winds. For the first time in her life Valancy did and said exactly what she wanted. Soon she discovered a surprising new world, full of love and adventures far beyond her most secret dreams.

My Thoughts:
Here’s where I confess that I never read any of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books.It was in the midst of an online discussion of the recent television adaptation of Anne that a friend mentioned that Anne wasn’t her favorite Montgomery heroine. She said her favorite was Valancy Stirling in The Blue Castle. I had never realized that Montgomery had written any adult fiction. It turned out that my library had a copy so I picked it up on the way home.

This is just a lovely little romance novel and I absolutely agree that Valancy Stirling is a wonderful character. At 29 she’s resigned to being an ‘old maid’ and willingly submits to the demands of her overbearing family. When a letter from her doctor changes her outlook on life she decides that she’s no longer going to do what her family expects her to do.

While it’s far from my usual fare, I absolutely loved Valancy and this book. If you haven’t read it you must! If you do go looking for it I’ll warn you that some editions have truly awful covers.

4 stars

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson – Audio Edition

Posted by on May 19, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review | 0 comments

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Norma? by Jeanette Winterson narrated by the authorWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson narrated by the author

Genre: Memoir
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 6 hours 7 minutes
Narrated by: Jeanette Winterson
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Jeanette Winterson’s bold and revelatory novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most acclaimed books of the last three decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is considered one of the most important books in contemporary fiction. Jeanette’s adoptive mother loomed over her life until Jeanette finally moved out at sixteen because she was in love with a woman. As Jeanette left behind the strict confines of her youth, her mother asked, “Why be happy when you could be normal?”

This memoir is the chronicle of a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser drawer; about growing up in a north England industrial town in the 1960s and 1970s; and about the universe as a cosmic dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past, which Winterson thought she had written over and repainted, rose to haunt her later in life, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also a book about literature, one that shows how fiction and poetry can guide us when we are lost. Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging – for love, identity, and a home.

My Thoughts:
I’m glad I chose the audio edition of this book. Author narrated audiobooks seem to be hit or miss for me. Jeanette Winterson is not a professional narrator but I think hearing this book in her voice made it even better than if someone else had narrated it.

I loved hearing her speak about how important books and reading were to her despite the fact that most books were not allowed in her home. Books and reading were not only an escape from her difficult childhood they were also her way out and ultimately her livelihood.

The first half of the book is about her childhood and her adoptive parents and her fundamentalist upbringing. She left home at 16 when she fell in love with her second girlfriend. Her adoptive mother’s statement is now the title of the book. It seemed proof that Winterson’s earlier exorcism hadn’t worked.

The second part of the book takes place years later and is about Winterson’s search for her biological mother. And her own struggles with depression.

This was a moving memoir and one that will stick with me for a while.

If you choose to read it I recommend that audio format.

 

Rating
4 stars 4/5 for the book

4 stars 4.5/5 for the narration

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1776 by David McCullough

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review, David McCullough | 7 comments

1776 by David McCullough1776 by David McCullough

Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover and ebook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 386
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

America’s beloved and distinguished historian presents, in a book of breathtaking excitement, drama, and narrative force, the stirring story of the year of our nation’s birth, 1776, interweaving, on both sides of the Atlantic, the actions and decisions that led Great Britain to undertake a war against her rebellious colonial subjects and that placed America’s survival in the hands of George Washington.

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.

Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.

My Thoughts:
I have read two other books by David McCullough and enjoyed them both. John Adams and The Great Bridge (about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge) were both chunksters full of detail and description yet extremely readable. That’s why when this book was released I bought a copy right away. Then it sat on my shelf until now. It’s not nearly as big as those other two books but for some reason I kept putting off reading it.

I’m so glad I finally read it. Ever since Hamilton took over pop culture and after listening to Sarah Vowell’s Lafayette in the Somewhat United States it was a good time to continue my reading about the American Revolution. I learned a lot while reading this. While George Washington is a major figure in the book, it’s not about him. McCullough also includes the British and soldiers from all classes.

The focus is on three major battles (the siege of Boston, New York, and Trenton. There were both victories and losses for both sides during this year. Mistakes were made and luck seemed to randomly favor each side at different times. Unfortunately for Washington the losses seemed to coincide with the end of his army’s enlistments so not only did he have to take on the British he had to do everything he could to even keep his army from going home.

McCullough includes stories of the well-known people but he also has stories and letters from some of the common soldiers.

I enjoyed this one and have put my copy on The Hubster’s reading stack.

4 stars

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Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Posted by on Mar 28, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review | 4 comments

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Post-apocalyptic
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 262
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Something is out there . . .
Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.
Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?
Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

My Thoughts:
I picked this book because I was looking for a book with an X in the title for the What’s in a Name challenge. After checking out reviews from a few friends I decided it might be good.

It was even better than I had expected. Set in a post-apocalyptic Detroit it’s focus is on Malorie and her two young children. The kids are four, born after the only way to stay alive was to never look outside. Malorie has decided that now is the time to venture out on the river blindfolded in hopes of reaching a place of safety.

The story of Malorie’s terrifying trip down the river is interspersed with flashbacks that gradually fill in what has happened to her, her family, and the group of people she joined to stay alive. The menace that is out there that must not be seen is an unknown. No one knows what it is that makes people go mad and become horrifically violent and suicidal. They only know that in order to stay alive they must not see outside. They hide inside behind barricaded windows and only venture out blindfolded.

This is an increasingly suspenseful story. As the flashbacks gradually fill in the extent of the threat as well as what has happened to Malorie and her housemates the tension builds and builds.

I liked this one a lot. I’m glad I read it and while not all the questions are answered it’s a satisfying story that was delightfully creepy.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer

Posted by on Mar 10, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review, Jeffrey Archer | 2 comments

The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer
The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer

Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Ebook and Hardcover
Series: The Clifton Chronicles #2
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 339
Source: Purchased (ebook) and Library (hardcover)

The Book:
From the publisher:

It is only days before Britain declares war on Germany. Harry Clifton, hoping to escape the consequences of a family scandal, and realizing he can never marry Emma Barrington, has joined the Merchant Navy. When a German U-boat sinks his ship, Harry and a handful of sailors are rescued by the SS Kansas Star, among them an American named Tom Bradshaw. That night, when Bradshaw dies, Harry seizes a chance to bury his past—by assuming the man’s identity.

My Thoughts:
I love big family sagas. This one is 7 books covering nearly a century. The Hubster has finished the whole series but I’m taking my time with them. I don’t like to binge series like he does. I need variety in my reading menu. When I want something relatively light, entertaining and fairly quick to read Jeffrey Archers books work well.

They aren’t great literature and there’s not a lot of character development but they’re fun.

This volume of the series covers the period of World War II. Chapters alternate between the primary characters and the time frames of the sections tend to overlap so sometimes the rest of the story is a couple of chapters later.

I’m glad I’m reading this after the final book in the series was published (in November). The Hubster warned me that every book ends with a cliffhanger. While I may wait a bit to read the next in the series I don’t have to wait a year for the next one to be released.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit and look forward to continuing with the series.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman

Posted by on Jan 6, 2017 in 2017, 4 stars, Book Review | 4 comments

Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman

Genre: Fiction, Horror
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hill and Wang
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 140
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” continues to thrill and unsettle readers nearly seven decades after it was first published. By turns puzzling and harrowing, “The Lottery” raises troubling questions about conformity, tradition, and the ritualized violence that may haunt even the most bucolic, peaceful village.

This graphic adaptation by Jackson’s grandson Miles Hyman allows readers to experience “The Lottery” as never before, or to discover it anew. He has crafted an eerie vision of the hamlet where the tale unfolds and the unforgettable ritual its inhabitants set into motion. Hyman’s full-color, meticulously detailed panels create a noirish atmosphere that adds a new dimension of dread to the original story.

My Thoughts:
I saw a mention of this on Twitter last week and since my library had it available I picked it up that day. The Lottery is such a classic. When I found out that the author and artist of this graphic adaptation was Shirley Jackson’s grandson that just added to my interest.

It’s a stripped-down version of the story. It’s almost all just the dialogue. Hyman’s artwork is striking. It’s richly colored and definitely evocative of mid-century small town America.

In some ways, the graphic adaptation was less chilling than the original story and in other ways it was more so.

The preface by the author was interesting. He has vague memories of his grandmother but I loved his story about ‘Grandma Shirley’s music box’.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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