Saturday, February 26, 2022

Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone by Diana Gabaldon

Once I had finished this 902 page book I went to Goodreads to update progress and checked on how many friends had read the book as well. I am pleased to see a mixed bit of reviews and realize I am not the only one who felt this book meandered on way too long.  I also noticed a bit of hate flung at reviewers who thought the same.  People!  We all have different opinions! That said, I’m glad I checked this out of the library instead of purchasing. 

I was happy with the story line about Jamie and Claire and liked reading more about Brianna and Roger. Gabaldon has always been a descriptive writer but honestly I thought some of the details were overboard. The book could have been shorter by quite a bit in my opinion.

The ending left me hanging, as it's meant to, so I am eager to find out what happens next.  This book took 7 years to come to publication and frankly I think Gabaldon could have wrapped it all up with this one.  There were times when I was reading and I thought, hasn't she rehashed this before - several times. 

Those of us who have read the book series starting with Outlander have watched these characters grow, have children and get old. It will be nice to see a conclusion with these characters.  Recently I read that Gabaldon was thinking of writing a prequel series featuring Jamie's parents Brian and Ellen.  I would be inteested to check that out once this series is concluded.

Sharing with Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2022 Histirical Fiction Challenge.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Changing Roles by Dr. Vivien Newman


Dr. Vivien Newman delves into the lives of British woman and their place in the workforce after WW I.  They assumed the workload and roles traditionally held by men.  All the men were off to war but life went on and these stories tell how the females shouldered the load.

When the war was over the women were expected to fade back into their traditional roles but many said the hell with that!  These women were pioneers in the early movement for equal rights.

I enjoyed the stories about Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie and Gertrude Bell very much. They made a difference.

Publication date is October 30, 2021 by Pen and Sword. Genre: History and Nonfiction.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.  I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.

Sharing with

 Shelleyrae at Book'd Out for the 2022 Nonfiction Reading Challenge. (Category: Social History)

Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci

 As soon as I started reading this book I was hooked.  Tucci had a way of describing his childhood which evoked so many memories of my own.  The benefits of growing up in an Italian neighborhood were immense and I loved every bit of it.

This book is humorous, engaging and sad in parts. Some of my book friends listened to this on audiobook and I can imagine it was very good hearing some of his stories in his own voice.

There are recipes included in this book and i can say you will be hungry as you read about his foodie experiences as well the recipes.

I have enjoyed movies where Tucci had a starring role, particularly Big Night.  I just bought a copy of Big Night after reading this memoir because I wanted to see to again. 5 stars for this book.

Sharing with Shelleyrae at Book'd Out for the 2022 Nonfiction Reading Challenge. (Category: Celebrity)

Friday, February 18, 2022

The Silence by Susan Allott


You will experience the severe stifling heat of Australia and a bit of damp, cloudy England in this novel.

The characters are very real, the dialogue rings true with marital problems, tensions of a horrible job, unrealistic expectations and secrets.  Sounds like a bummer but you will love and hate on the characters and want to know what happened in their lives.

The story shifts from 1967 to 1997, back and forth.  The main narrator is Isla Green.  She is 6 years old in 1967 and loves living in her Australian home.  She adores her father. She thought everyone had a house with a backyard stretching to the ocean. Her parents are Joe and Louisa Green, both English but have moved to Australia to start a new life.  Trouble is,  Louisa doesn’t love it.  She misses England and hates the heat but I suspect her biggest problem is an alcoholic husband.

Next door are Mandy and Steve Mallory.  Isla spends quite a bit of time with Mandy and loves her.  Steve wants Mandy to get pregnant but both parties have different ideas about their future together. Steve has a horrible job as a policeman who removes aboriginal children from their families, placing them at The Home where they will be fostered and eventully learn a trade.

In 1967 women didn’t have joint accounts at the bank and have access to their husband’s  earnings. It was a different world and this makes it harder for Louisa and Mandy to make life altering decisions.

The genre is mystery, thriller, suspense and crime drama. Please read the author’s note at the end of the book. She details how the novel came about as well as her educational reading about Britain’s relationship with Australia and the colonial past.

Thinking of Steve Mallory’s police duties I would suggest watching the film Rabbit Proof Fence. It’s worthwhile.  It details a dark time when Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families to be trained and educated, placed in horific foster care and made servants.  But in Rabbit Proof Fence two sisters escape.

Be prepared to read this one straight through. Would I buy more by this author?  Oh, absolutely.  This is Allott’s first novel and I will preorder her next publication as soon as it’s an option.

Susan Allott is an English author who has lived in London and Australia. To read more about the author click HERE .

Sharing with

Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2022 Historical Fiction Challenge.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

This is a tragic story, full of twists and revelations, made all the more sad as the story’s inspiration comes from historical records. In the 1930s era women could be locked in an insane asylum just for wandering off on long walks, or for keeping their hair long. Your liberty was at the whim of your parents or husband.

The story starts in Scotland when two sisters are sitting at a dance. It’s but a glimpse of two important characters. Then the detailed background story begins in India where these same two sisters are young; you are allowed a look into their early lives and how they interact with their parents. There is a baby brother born, Hugo, and Esme loves to play with him. While Kitty is the more serious of the two and minds the rules, Esme is the polar opposite. She makes excuses to leave her tutoring session and wanders off to visit her little brother. She walks barefooted to the horror of her prim and proper mother, she won’t be molded into the quiet citizen her mother desires her to be. I like her.

The story flashes between the girl’s childhood in India, then their move to Scotland and then advances to present day with Kitty’s granddaughter Iris.

Iris is a single young woman who owns a vintage clothing shop. She is quite possibly in love with her step brother Alex. It’s not as creepy as it sounds when you read their back story. Her life turns on end when a phone call reveals there is an elderly aunt who has been housed at an asylum for over 60 years, and Iris is the family contact. She’s never heard of Esme Lennox. Iris visits her Alzheimer afflicted grandmother, Kitty Lockhart, who is in and out of hazy thought but does confirm Esme is her sister. So what does Iris do now? Move a possibly crazed old woman, a stranger, into her flat? More importantly, why was Esme’s existence kept a secret all these years.

Now we flashback to Kitty and Esme Lennox as teenagers who are being introduced to the social circle. Kitty is the older sister and all about propriety and appearance. Esme is not confined to conventional social mores and continues to upset her parents. Surprisingly, the young man they hoped would be interested in Kitty is actually besotted with Esme. Later events will change everything in Esme’s life.

 I am upset for Esme that her life was stolen from her. For no good reason she is swept out of her parents’ home at the age of 16 and then left to rot in an asylum. She is asked at one point how long it was since she had last seen her sister. Her reply: “Sixty-one years, five months and 6 days” and fact is, if the hospital had not been closing down, she would have ended her days there.

This is the second book I have read by this author and I like this one as much as the first. It’s sad and it leaves you with much to think about. I like having some things unresolved where you think about potential outcomes. Excellent writing. Well done Ms. O’Farrell.

A quote that sums up the lives of the patients…and when you ponder it, the everyday rituals we all move through.

It is always the meaningless tasks that endure: the washing, the cooking, the clearing, the cleaning. Never anything majestic or significant, just the tiny rituals that hold together the seams of life.

This is another paragraph I like. Esme is reflecting on Iris sitting on the beach. It’s perfect – as someone who enjoys genealogy this last part really spoke to me, thinking about my ancestors.

“From all her family – her and Kitty and Hugo and all the other babies and her parents – from all of them, there is only this girl. She is the only one left. They have all narrowed down to this black-haired girl sitting on the sand, who has no idea that her hands and her eyes and the tilt of her head and the fall of her hair belong to Esme’s mother.

We are all, Esme decides, just vessels through which identities are pass: we are lent features, gestures, habits then we hand them on. Nothing is our own. We begin the world as anagrams of our ancestors.” I think that was a marvelous bit of prose.

Sharing with

Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.

Marg at The Intrepid Reader for the 2022 Historical Fiction Challenge.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Paul McCartney - The Lyrics

If you are a Beatles and Paul McCartney fan and want to know some background on their songs and history THIS is the book.  When I picked this up from the library I couldn't believe the size of these two volumes.  I am reading it much faster than I had thought I might.

The volumes cover 1956 to the present and organized alphabetically by song. Each song title has the lyrics and a story written by McCartney explaining the inspiration or an antedote from his life growing up.

There are also many photos of the Beatles, individual ones of John, Ringo and George and so many of Paul's family with Linda.

This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it for fans.  The Rocky Raccoon story is especially amusing explaining how Paul had a cut lip from  a motorbike accident.  The doctor who arrived at his cousin's home was drunk and you could smell the gin. He did such messed up job of stitching the lip that Paul grew a mustache to cover the bump.

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Saturday, February 5, 2022

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

 Diana and Finn live together in New York.  Finn is a doctor in his fourth year of residency and Diana is a specialist in the art auction field handling acquisitions  of prime pieces of art. They have a specific plan for getting married, moving to a suburb, buying a home and having children.  That part of the plan reminded me of Rebecca Serle's book In Five Years. Very similar with the plans/goals and timeline.

Covid is just starting to make it's presence known and the medical professionals are dealing with cases flooding the emergency room. The well planned trip to the Galapagos Island Finn and Diana made may need to be canceled.  Finn tells Diana to go ahead as it's paid for and nonrefundable.

I found it interesting to read about Finn's perspective in trying to treat patients, watching them die after being ventilated, trying new treatment plans and drugs and the sheer exhaustion he feels after working nonstop for days. This is so realistc and you can tell Picoult did her homework on these scenarios.  It's relayed to Diana through emails as she went on the trip and then found herself isolated and in lockdown.  She wishes she hadn't gone but her experiences on the island are interesting as well. 

Without revealing spoilers you will come to a part of the story where it changes completely and you wonder if Diana is indeed in the Galapagos. This isn't like other Picoult books but I did find it interesting.

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Roundup

 I had signed up for the book challenge at Shelleyrae's site  Book'd Out  and went for the Nibbler category of six books.  Here'...