Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase

mrs sinclairs suitcI recently finished this debut novel by English author Louise Walters. First off let me say that it is set during my favorite era, WWII – and particularly WWII in England.  I’d read some reviews before obtaining this book, and was pretty sure I’d enjoy it, which I did.  It succeeded in keeping my interest throughout with a few little twists here and there…. but…. (uh oh) I was somewhat disappointed in the premise of the novel – not because it wasn’t good, or even believable, but because it’s overused. Recently I’ve noticed so many of these historical fiction books tend to follow a similar pattern: Modern day woman comes across a {trunk, box, drawer, suitcase} that belonged to a very old {aunt, friend, stranger, grandmother} and discovers a secret that needs to be uncovered.  Hey, it’s a good storyline, but frighteningly worn out of late. At any rate, our modern day woman works in a used book store. She finds all sorts of things in the used books. One day her father brings in to the store a suitcase full of her grandmother’s old books. Inside one of those books she finds a letter….. let the story begin!  The novel flutters back and forth between modern day and 1940-41 and I had no problem following the flow of things. If you are a fan of this era like I am, you’ll like the book.  It’s not exactly “mind-blowing”, but still a good read.

The Taming of the Queen

tamingI just finished the latest in Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series, The Taming of the Queen – a book about Kateryn Parr, King Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife.  Ms Gregory calls this a book of fiction, and she does take some literary license when describing some of the “behind closed doors” scenes and dialogues, but that said, I know this book was meticulously researched.  Who knew Queen Kateryn was the first woman to ever publish a book in English, in her own name? Who knew how strongly she believed in the Reform movement in the church at that time in history? Who knew that there were plots within Henry’s court to have her tried as a heretic and removed?  I learned so much and enjoyed every single page along the way. If you are a Philippa Gregory fan; if you are a Tudor fan; if you are simply enthralled by English history, you will thoroughly enjoy this remarkable new novel.

Back in 2009, hubby and I made a marvelous trip to England and Wales. One glorious day we were able to visit Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII’s favorite residence. That day we were able to watch and even take part in a reenactment of the marriage of King Henry to Queen Kateryn.  Here is the short video I took that day:

Oh my, how I’d love to go back to Hampton Court and see it all again.  This time I’d also like to stop by Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire – where Kateryn Parr is buried.  Here’s a photo of Sudeley Castle and garden.

Time to make a trip across the pond and eat up some more very interesting history – I wish!! 🙂

More books!

Here I go again with more book reviews. Maybe I should write more about daily life, but when I’m posting stuff fairly often on Facebook, I lose the drive to do it all again here.  Book reviews are another thing. I love to have a record of what I’ve read and this is a great way for me to look back… it may even be interesting to other people who love books like I do – so, with that said, on to my first review for this blog post….

spool

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.  Strange book, this. I’ve read quite a few of Anne Tyler’s books, and looking back, I can say they are hit or miss for me.  This one was unfortunately a miss.  There was once a great TV show about “nothing” called Seinfeld. Well, this book was essentially about “nothing” and while it kept my attention for the most part, I really cannot recommend it. Yes, it was very well written, but the content… everyday life of an everyday family – IMHO it was just not novel-worthy. Sorry Anne Tyler. I wanted to scream in frustration when, towards the end of the book where it SHOULD BE wrapping up, she starts the whole mostly boring story AGAIN from a different person’s point of view. I had to skip over that. No way was I reading all that again, even from a different perspective. I waited weeks to get this from the library and then, when life got in the way and I didn’t finish it in time, I had to return it and re-request it. Honestly, it was not worth all that effort. Maybe I should have perused some reviews BEFORE I was so darn-tootin’ I was going to read it… but I wanted to form my own opinions, and that I have done. And they are not good.

Book number two is…..

nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  Prior to this book, I had never read anything by Kristin Hannah.  Yes, I’ve seen her works here and there, and yes I had definitely heard of her.  I was of the opinion that all of her stuff would fall into the category of silly fluffy romance, and I have no time for that genre` these days.  Then I started hearing a lot of kerfuffle about this book being so fabulous…. and since it was set in my favorite era (WWII), I decided to find out for myself what all the brouhaha was about.  I am SO GLAD I DID!!   Let me preface this by saying that at the beginning of the book I nearly quit reading!  It starts out in Paris, 1939.  The dialog between the two main characters (sisters) at the beginning of this book sounded to me like two sisters talking to/harassing each other in the language of today. I didn’t get the 1939 vibe whatsoever. I was so ticked off, as I’d had high hopes for this book….. this time I’d read some reviews and they sounded great. I began to think… oh the minions who wrote the reviews are probably all big fans of Hannah’s fluffy romance style, and will say anything good about her novels.  Au contraire mon frere! This book was simply EXCELLENT!  Not silly, not fluffy, but instead what I believe to be very realistic descriptions of what went on in occupied France during WWII. If you are a fan of this era, I can guarantee, yes guarantee you won’t regret reading this one.  It’s good, it’s really good.  

Inside the O’Briens

Well, here we go with another book review, this time by one of my favorite authors, Lisa Genova.  As a scientist herself, the author writes a completely authentic and interesting novel about one family dealing with the inherited neurological disorder, Huntington’s Disease.

inside obriens

We follow the fictional O’Brien family through the discovery, treatment, and final stages of this rare but devastating disease.  Would you want to know what was going to extinguish your life – and approximately when?  People with this gene can get testing to find out – but would you do it?  I really like how this question was handled in the book, regarding the four O’Brien siblings after their father is diagnosed.  Some might say this is a depressing book because it is SO true to life.  I happen to really enjoy these types of books…. I guess having a medical background helps.  I loved Still Alice, Ms Genova’s first book, recently made into a movie of the same name. It dealt with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.  I also enjoyed Left Neglected, a book about the traumatic brain disorder called “Left Neglect”. Waiting for me to read on my Kindle I have Love Anthony – her book that peeks into the mind of autism.  I hope she keeps writing these fascinating books – and if she does, I’ll certainly keep reading them!

Two more book reviews

HenriettaLacks

Last month I finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, an amazing non-fiction book about how the cells from one woman’s malignant tumor went on to be used in a thousand (if not more) labs across the world, helping discover treatments for many diseases, including cancer.  The author meticulously researched this book and portrayed what I believe to be an honest account of Henrietta herself, as well as the family that survived her. You do need to have some interest I think, in medicine or science to truly enjoy this book.  I thought it was fascinating and would most definitely recommend it to others who share my interest in science/medicine.  There was some banter about the movie rights to this book being purchased by Oprah.  So far, I haven’t heard about a movie in the works. Yet.

reluctant midwife

This month I read The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman. Wow. This was a book that I hated to see end!  Ms Harman is a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) with many years of practice under her belt… this is important to me because, after spending 35 years myself “in the baby business” (NICU) and attending hundreds (and very possibly more than hundreds) of deliveries, I’m going to close any book that doesn’t keep it real.  I liken it to my friend Lue Shetler, who cringes when she reads some of the “Amish” novels that are out there these days.  Lue was Amish and lived the life well into adulthood, so she recognizes a poorly written, fake “Amish” story in a heartbeat.  By the way, she’s working on a book of her own – and you know when it comes out, it will be true to the real Amish lifestyle. Okay, I digress…. this book was more about general nursing, not very much in the way of midwifery, but it was all totally believable and SO SO good.  Set during the depression in the mid 1930’s West Virginia, Nurse Becky returns to Hope River, looking for work. This is the second in the “Hope River” novels and I sure hope there are plenty more to follow.  Great book. Period.

The Silver Star

silverstar

I recently finished reading The Silver Star written by one of my favorite authors, Jeannette Walls. Ms Walls had a very “quirky” (to say the least!) childhood and it really shows in her fabulous writing.  First off, I think her best book is still The Glass Castle, which was not a novel, but more of an autobiography.  I highly recommend reading it, if you haven’t! This book was fiction, but there were clearly traces of her rather bizarre childhood that came through in the story.  It is set in the 1960’s and shows the struggle for two young girls to live and grow with a rather non-functioning mother.  I really enjoyed this book, as I have all of her books.  It kept my attention as the girls faced many trials and difficulties that may have been typical for that era.  It was an easy read, not exactly compelling reading, but very good nonetheless.  Can’t wait to see what’s next from this author!

I wanted to add that I borrowed this book from my local library’s Kindle book “anytime” library. I may be 1200 miles from home, but I can still “check out” books electronically.  I do love so much of today’s technology!

Book: Fire by Night

firebynight

I recently finished reading this historical novel by Christian author, Lynn Austin.  This one was set during the American Civil War, and is book number two in her “Refiner’s Fire” series.  I really enjoyed this novel and even learned some new facts about the Civil War in the process.  It follows the stories of two young women – both doing what they can to help the war effort.  One ignores her “society” upbringing in Pennsylvania and becomes a nurse, one follows what she knows she can do best, and joins the Union Army disguised as a man.  One might think this premise sounds a little “corny”, but trust me, it’s not.  Lynn Austin is my favorite Christian author for a reason.  Her novels are not sugarcoated and shallow.  This was a very interesting and realistic book that entirely kept my attention. If you like historical fiction, with a twist of Christianity (not shoved down your throat, but brought up at appropriate, thoughtful times), then I guarantee you’ll enjoy this book.  I also very much enjoyed book one in this series, Candle in the Darkness.  At some point, I’ll have to read book three,  A Light to my Path.