Book Reviews – Aug/Sept Edition

I’ve been reading up a storm lately – but I haven’t done a book review in a while. So here are my most recent reads and what I thought:

The Lake House by Kate Morton – *****

I LOVE Kate Morton. This book, like her others, held both mystery and drama. It was well written and easy to read. She has yet to disappoint me. Definitely a good read if you like mystery, drama, romance and historical fiction all wrapped into one!

Circling the Sun – Paula McLain – *****

This was my first Paula McLain book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Paris Wife. It gives you a unique perspective of Africa, and women’s rights. It is a beautiful story, with a powerful heroine.

I Let You Go – Clare MacKintosh – *****

Let me first say, this is not at all my kind of book. I would never have picked it up on my own – but my Mom read it and insisted I read it too. I obliged … and can I just say holy shitballs? It wasthe most mind blowing thing I have read in SO LONG. The twist…oh the twist….I have never been so shocked and confused in my reading life. Definitely a must read – it will blow your mind!

The Paris Wife – Paula McLain – *****

I could not wait to get my hands on this one after Circling the Sun, and I was not disappointed. It was the wonderful but sad story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. So well written, so enjoyable to read. Definitely recommend it.

The Pleasures of Men – Kate Williams – **

I bought this one off the cheap rack at Chapters. I am usually pleased, but I have to say I didn’t enjoy this one. It was strange, and unpleasant. There was no happiness in this book, and when I finished I actually felt a little blue.

The Isle of Wings – Karen Altenberg – ****

Another Chapters cheap rack find – but with better results. It was a hauntingly beautiful tale of a remote island plagued with infant deaths, and a minister determined to show the natives the light. A good read, and certainly unique! I enjoyed reading up on the history of St. Kilda afterwards.

The Royal Nanny – Karen Harper – ****

An interesting and well written story about the real Royal Nanny – Mrs. Lala. The story is beautiful and exciting, but also sad (like any good book should be!). It’s historical, educational and well written. Based on a true story.

The Illegals – Lawrence Hill – ****

I was so excited to read this one – I loved Book of Negroes and had high hopes for it. Let me tell you – this was not at all what I expected! It was excellent – well written and a good, powerful story. But it is a bit strange – the places where the story takes place are fake, and it is written in the future (2018, 2020, etc). Yet it references the rest of the world in actual…so at first, I thought I had just never heard of these places. In the back of the book it refers to the two places being made up. So again, it was odd – but good, and the story is powerful and absolutely applies to real places that exist.

Book Review – The Kite Runner

Once again, Khaled Hosseini, has managed to merge sadness with happiness, poverty with privilege, humanity with sainthood, life with death… weaving it together in a way that makes your heart ache with pain and swell with love all at the same time.

I am truly amazed at his talent with words, knowledge of the human condition, and his ability to weave it all together like the edges of a well made basket. While the story itself is haunting and tragic, it’s peppered with humour and love and beauty. Like his other two books, it is an incredible piece of literature – not for the faint of heart – but worth every single second you spend reading it.

It’s the kind of book that when you are finished, you feel like you have been on a long, tiresome journey and have emerged with a stronger, more developed soul. I would recommend this book, 100%, to anyone who is willing to read through some emotionally difficult parts to reach the most rich, most luscious snippets of what it is to truly be a human. Fantastic…as always.

Book Review – Dreams of Joy

So I stumbled upon Lisa See when I was at the dollar store one day and there was here book there for $3. I bought it thinking, hey – it’s $3! It was called “Peony in Love”…and it was amazing.

When I was perusing my normal used book shelf haunts, I saw “Dreams of Joy” and recognized the author immediately. I carried it home determined to delve into it’s luscious pages right away – excited for the possibility of another “Peony in Love”.

I was not disappointed. Lisa See has a way of writing that is mesmerizing and brings you right into her world. I would break from reading, and have to blink away my imagination because if I didn’t, I would still be in the story. She is such a vivid and well written author, and I truly love reading her books.

Above all, it gave me an insight into her characters lives that cannot be rivalled. Not only did I see what Joy say, and smell what Joy smelled but I also got to feel what Joy felt. It was such a great read and really gives you a look at the world in the 1950s Amerca and China- and, more importantly, how lucky we are to be born in the generation we’re in.

Book Review – The Sisters of Versaille

Five minutes ago I put down this novel – one I have been consumed with over the last three days.

It’s the tragic story of five sisters and King Louis of France – and it is so very sad and awful (and Boleyn-ish).

If you check my book list – you will see a pattern in my reading tastes showing books of this or similar time periods. I can’t get enough of them – I find them fascinating and refreshing and immensely humbling.

It amazes me, as I read the words, how literally every family has a touch of tragedy – real tragedy – in it. I’m not talking about your sibling being loved more, or not being treated equally, or peers being bullies (while I agree these are all still issues) – I am talking about untimely deaths of parents and children, true poverty and illness, children sold into slavery and prostitution, cruelty beyond comprehension…

It’s humbling. While I am aware this novel is fiction, loosely based on historical accounts, if you take the time to research a bit you will see how prevalent true, raw suffering was.

It reminds me how very lucky I am to be who I am, where I am, in the time I was born in. It also makes me acutely aware that not all in this world are as lucky as I am – and that it’s time to make some changes.

Book Review – Come Away With Me – Karma Brown

I just finished Come Away With Me by Karma Brown – and it is with a mixture of sadness and hope that I add it to my shelf of “read” books.

The book itself is a tragic tale of a couple of newly weds expecting their first child, who are in a car accident that changes everything. In an attempt to repair what is left of them and their marriage, they take off on the trip of a lifetime.

The end of the book has a twist I didn’t not see coming (and I am notorious for trying to predict twists, but I truly wasn’t expecting one). It has a haunting quality, but it is also beautiful, charming and hope filled.

It’s a sad, yet sweet, and leaves you feeling better than you expect when you first embark on it. It’s a remarkable example of the power of survival and the strength of a person.

Truly a worthwhile read!

Book Review

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a year and hadn’t read it – and this weekend, when I was looking for something new to read, I stumbled upon it at the back of my shelf and decided to try it.

Wow. What a fabulous, emotional, hauntingly beautiful book about a life style that is all but extinct.

The book was so well written, at times I found myself forgetting that this wasn’t my life – it was just a book I was reading. It was heart breaking and there were moments where I felt immense despair reading it, and other moments where I experienced excitement and happiness. However, there really isn’t much joy in this book – it’s a haunting memoir about a young girl whose life is filled with tragedy and suffering and follows her flowing with the changes, and overcoming them. It’s refreshing in a sense that Chiyo overcomes immense heart ache and pushes forward when so many others would give up – and no matter how often she is beaten down she still continues. I also had to note that Hatsumomo and my sister in law have a striking number of similarities….lol.

Overall, it is a fantastic book that I would highly recommend to most people – especially women. I aspire to have a sliver of the courage and staying power that Chiyo has when I face the incredibly less tragic obstacles in my life. It reminds me how truly blessed I am!