Friday, February 27, 2015

The End of the Hunt

The third in Thomas Flanagan's Irish history trilogy is The End of the Hunt.  (For those of you who might not have realized, yes these three in the set are historical fiction).  This volume takes place in 1919 when Britain was dead set on putting down all thoughts of Irish independence.  Janice Nugent, a widow who just wants to return to a normal life in Galway, finds that she cannot escape the ideals of her countrymen and the struggle for freedom from British rule.  It is a love story, deeply entrenched in the Irish history of that era, and a fascinating read.  I hope you will give this trilogy a second look.    Let me know if you decide to read them!

For an article about Flanagan's death in 2002:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fodder for the storm

Do you live in the south or up the east coast?  If you do, I can just bet you are either getting a lot of snow about now or about to get some. Great time to read...

What do you plan on reading while you are housebound?

I am currently reading 'Highest Duty' by Capt. Sullenberger. I am getting to know what a truly wonderful human being that man is. I'll probably post a review of it when I am finished. Have any of you read it? I'd be interested to hear your take on it.

You all stay warm, stay inside so you will be safe and read, read, read.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Do You Like Historical Fiction?

I do.  Philippa Gregory is known for her historical fiction but I was a first time reader of hers when I read The Boleyn Inheritance.  I am sure you've heard of Henry VIII and his 6 wives: Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Katherine Parr.

This story picks up after the death of Jane Seymour; of the wives who died as queens, she's the only one to die of natural causes after giving birth to a son.  Henry needs insurance in the form of a second son so looks for another wife outside of England.  He contracts with the Duke of Cleves for his sister, Anne of Cleves.  Serving Anne as a lady-in-waiting is Jane Boleyn the sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn whose evidence sent Anne and her brother (Jane's husband) to their deaths.  Also serving as a maid-in-waiting is 15 year old Katherine Howard, a cousin to Anne Boleyn.

Gregory tells the story in three voices: Anne of Cleves, Jane Boleyn, and Katherine Howard.  It is done remarkably well.  You get a clear picture of Henry VIII: fat, lame, smelling of pus and rotten teeth and totally paranoid.  The intrigues of the court become clear too and you have to wonder how anyone survived the gallows or the executioner at the Tower.

Having visited England last June including the Tower of London, I could picture the last days of two of these main characters as they awaited their deaths.  I won't tell you who, though you may know your English history well enough to know.  It was an excellent read.  I look forward to reading other books by Philippa Gregory.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Tenants of Time by Thomas Flanagan

The second in the Irish series trilogy by Thomas Flanagan is The Tenants of Time.  It is a heftier volume than most we would review here (check the book club rules), but because it is part of the trilogy, I decided to include it.  This one is set in the latter half of the nineteenth century in Ireland, England, and America.  It has an "epic sweep," as described on the flyleaf.  The Los Angeles Time in its review says: " 'The Tenants of Time' is a masterful historical novel, a rich tapestry of Irish life in the 19th Century, and it is also a novel about the processes of history." The book continues the story of that early dream for Irish independence that began in The Year of the French, and takes a look at all aspects of Irish life, from the aristocracy to the peasant farmer.   Each of three friends in this volume follows a different life path, but all believe with all their hearts, in their country, Ireland. Thomas Flanagan is hailed as the quintessential writer of Irish historical fiction!  If you love Ireland, and love history and historical fiction, you will love this trilogy!

Review by Marie Carmean

Five Quick Reviews!

These reviews are quick ones because I didn't read all these books and as you read on you'll find out why.

Book One:  Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is my book club's selection for February.  We'll meet for dinner and discussion this Friday night. It's a long book: 477 pages and not one I'd likely have selected on my own.  I started reading it on the train to NH and had mixed feelings about it.  While visiting family I picked up another book to read there (see book two) and then returned to reading this one on the train trip home.  I didn't finish it then, again feeling uncomfortable about the story and debating whether to continue.  I did final return to it last week and finish it.  Overall not a book I'd recommend.  It does give a plausible description of the life of immigrants to this country, it is enlightening about stereotypes and debunks them, and it is a story of love lost and found.  I think it's the last that I found difficult to accept especially after some of the escapades of the main character.  The love found at the end is so abrupt that it not believable. You may think differently and it will be interesting to see how others in my book club viewed it.

Book Two: The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe by Alexander McCall Smith
This is the latest in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.  A very good read as usual.  McCall Smith is so adept at telling a story and describing the thought processes of his characters.  I have read this series several times through and always purchase the latest book for my library.  If you haven't read any of these start with the first one and be prepared to be delighted by Precious Ramotswe, Grace Makutsi and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and life in Botswana.

Book Three: Perfect by Rachel Joyce
I got this at the library because I thoroughly enjoyed Joyce's first book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  As I read the flap in preparation for reading this I wondered why I thought this one would be good.  "In one terrible moment, something happens, something completely unexpected and at odds with his life as Byron understands it.  While his mother seems not to have noticed, eleven-year old Byron understands that from now on nothing can be the same."  Huh!  I thought.  No, I decided not a book I want to read after all.  Now you may think differently but I was in no mood for "bewitching characters" so I put it down.

Book Four:  Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
This book takes Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice beyond the point where Austen's ends and weaves a murder mystery.  I enjoy Jane Austen despite the exceptionally long sentences and always enjoy a good mystery so the combination should have been perfect.  I gave it about 30+ pages and gave up.  Now I can forgive Austen for her writing because that was the style of the time, but not P.D. James for mimicking it.  What a ponderous slow start.  I tried but it was not to be added to my list of completed books.

Book Five: The Boston Raphael by Belinda Rathbone
So I thought this was going to be a modern day true mystery solved.  Not!  I did finish this book but only by skimming the portions that had very little to do with the story behind the painting purchased by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts under shady circumstances and attributed to the Renaissance painter Raphael.  The question of whether or not it is a Raphael is never established.  The painting languishes in storage back in Italy which is unfortunate because it looks to be a beautiful little painting.  Don't bother reading this one!

So readers, do you ever have those days when the book you select just doesn't feed the urge to read and be delighted?  I need to return these to the library and find something else to read.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


When I discovered this book on Amazon I knew I had to read it. Although a work of fiction, the story was woven around the crash of Flight 1549 into the Hudson River.

But, the one thing that drew me to the book was the fact that the main character was a 12 year old boy with autism. My grandson, Owen, has autism and he lives in New York. I could so relate to the circumstances and the character.

Robbie, a 12 year old, is on a ferry boat and sees the plane go down in the Hudson River. He is fascinated by the fact that birds brought that big plane down and soon he is on the computer looking up everything he can find about birds. This interest weaves itself throughout the book with Robbie gaining new skills and developing a love that brings him to high places and gives him a great, new relationship with his Dad and others.

However, Robbie isn't the only character that finds the crash changing their lives forever. There are Deborah and Christopher who have infertility issues that they must face and solve. And then there is a preacher's wife, Brett, who has kept a secret for years. The news coverage of the crash threatens to expose her secret and destroy her family.

The author did an excellent job in developing the characters and reminding us that we are all intertwined in one way or another and it is only in the caring nature that we exhibit that often gives us hope and direction.

This book was a semi-finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I say Cari Noga deserves the award.

I loved the book. I found it hard to put down. I must look to see if Ms. Noga has written another book. I surely hope so.

You readers, be sure to put this one on your 'to read' list!! You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Harper Lee's new book

I've just been thinking... lordy help me, that's dangerous!!

But, news that a manuscript written by Harper Lee long ago and never published by her has given me 'food for thought'.  First I was excited. Sort of like when the sequel to 'Gone With The Wind' was written. But, that was a huge disappointment for me. Besides, it wasn't written by Margaret Mitchell but some other dude hoping to latch onto the Mitchell star.

But, another book written by Lee.. Wow. I'm from Alabama so I totally relate to her and I was gonna be first in line to purchase the book.

But, as I find out more about the situation I am concerned. Lee is old... she's possibly not in the best mental state. I hate to think about her being taken advantage of. And, why did she not ever publish it herself. She probably didn't want to, that's why. And, now, somebody else is doing it. I don't like that idea.

The latest I've heard is from friends of Harper Lee's who say that is not what she would have wanted. So, it makes me ask questions.

If Harper Lee is incapacitated who is holding her best interest at heart?

I've written all my life. Nothing I felt noteworthy to have published. In fact most of it is pitiful and I wouldn't want anyone to read it but me. What is going to happen to my writings when I am old. he he. I am old. Better watch out.. hide my stuff.

And, the two books I did have published. It just occurred to me... who will get my royalties when I am no longer here? Not that they are many, but now I have got to worry about setting all that up.

Poor Harper!! At least she gained much fame and following with 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. But, at what price?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


                                                                 GONE GIRL

                                                               by Gillian Flynn

It seems that 'Gone Girl' is being read and discussed in a lot of places. I just finished it. It was a 'The Commons Book Club' selection of which I am a member. And, I immediately watched the movie on TV.  I had my review ready to post but  Marcia beat me to it!! I am thrilled about that. She did an excellent review. Hope  you won't mind getting my take on the novel.

 I had never read Gillian Flynn so I didn't know what to expect. It wasn't a masterpiece type of book nor was it a fabulous movie but............
                                              both held me spellbound from the git-go.

Oh my gosh... a couple (Nick who is from a Midwestern family (parents divorced) and Amy (an upper class gal from New York who is famous through books written about her childhood) meet and fall in love. It seems perfect... Right?

Not so fast, there buckaroo.  Nick loses his job, then moves them to his hometown in Missouri. It's their fifth anniversary and Nick comes home to find Amy gone and evidence that there had been a struggle. Amy has left her list of clues (for the annual anniversary treasure hunt that she adores doing and Nick can't ever figure out). The clues begin to cast an ugly shadow over her husband.

His handling of the situation looks suspicious to the police. Nick doesn't look too upset and he is caught in lie after lie. It doesn't look good for the fellow, no, not one bit.

                                                           (Drum Roll, please)

Then Part Two of the book begins and what a surprising turn of events. It twists this murder into a double knot. You sit reading, turning page after page, unwilling to put the book down. What will happen next?

I had no inkling of where this book was headed and enjoyed how Glynn portrayed the characters,
Nick, a wimp of a guy,
            Amy, she manipulates everything and everybody.
                    a couple of shady people from Amy's past who are sort of suspicious
                               her doting but disconnected parents,
and Nick's twin sister, his soul mate and buddy who begins to lose faith in her brother.

I won't spoil it for you who have not read "Gone Girl" but I didn't think the ending was what it should have been. But, then Gillian Flynn did not ask me, did she?


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Amy or Nick? Who to Believe?

That was the question as I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  You learn very fast when Nick is relating the story that his wife Amy has disappeared.  When it's Amy's voice we learn the backstory as we read her diary.  It becomes very clear that their view of their marriage is very different.  Something has gone terribly awry but who to believe?  Amy?  Whose life has been chronicled in children's books as Amazing Amy?  Or Nick who is a mild mannered journalist out of a job and back home caring for parents and trying to earn a living running a bar?

I don't usually read modern day thrillers; I get spooked easily but this one gripped me.  I had to keep reading to find out what happened to Amy.  To find out what was real and what a figment of someone's imagination.  To find out if Nick is guilty of her murder as his side of the story seems to unravel.

You must read this book!

Latane, now it's your turn.


Monday, February 2, 2015

The Year of the French by Thomas Flanagan

This will be the first in a series of three Thomas Flanagan book reviews.  His trilogy of Irish historical fiction is excellent!  They are not new releases, and I admit I read them years ago.  But, the trilogy was so wonderful, I have owned treasured copies of the works ever since.  His first was The Year of the French.

In 1798 a band of Irishmen in County Mayo, bent on taking their homeland back from their English rulers, were joined in their heroic quest by troops from France.  The tale is beautifully written, and haunting in its historic accuracy.  The characterizations are moving and stay with you.  In 1979 The Year of the French was named the most distinctive new work of fiction by the National Book Critic's Circle but it deserved even higher accolades for its excellence.  This first book set the stage for a historic journey through the trials of Ireland that spans decades.