Welcome to my blog where I share book reviews
and life along the winding road

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Firework-Maker's Daughter by Philip Pullman

The Firework-Maker's Daughter by Philip Pullman is a fantasy story by the author of The Golden Compass. His works have been the center of much controversy and The Golden Compass was said to have an anti-Christian theme. The author, himself an atheist, says he doesn't want to take away a reader's thoughts by talking about his book's meaning. He'd rather the reader look for their own ideas about the story. Regardless, The Firework-Maker's Daughter is a delightful fantasy read with beautiful illustrations by S. Saelig Gallagher. Unless, it's a book club read, I tend not to delve too deeply into what the author is trying to say, and instead enjoy the story.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sound of Music

Last week a friend treated me to a visit to the Bass Hall to see the Sound of Music. I don't think I could ever tire of the Von Trapp family story or a visit to the beautiful Bass Hall, but this musical was one of the best I've seen. The scenery was amazing and Melody Betts belted out Climb Every Mountain with so much force, it gave us goosebumps! The play showed a little more of what was going on in Austria leading up to WWII (the Nazi annexation of Austria) and wasn't quite as flowery as the beloved screen version. Instead, it delved deeper into the struggles each of the cast is going through.

The real story of the Von Trapp family is very different from the fictionalized Sound of Music. You can read more here

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cappuccinos Cupcakes and a Corpse by Harper Lin

Cupcakes, and a Corpse (A Cape Bay Cafe Mystery Book 1) eBook: Harper ... I found Cappuccinos, Cupcakes and a Corpse by Harper Lin among free Kindle reads. Harper Lin weaves a story around a small Massachusetts town where she grew up in an Italian family and has returned to her roots.

Amazon Blurb:
Francesca Amaro moves back to her hometown of Cape Bay, Massachusetts, and takes over the family business, Antonia’s Italian CafĂ©. She spends her days making delicious artisan cappuccinos, until she stumbles upon her neighbor’s dead body. When the police discover Mr. Cardosi was poisoned, Francesca becomes a suspect. 

The victim’s son, Matty, happens to be Francesca’s old high school friend. Together, they uncover the secrets of the locals in order to find the killer in their idyllic beach town. 

Note: Often the first in a series is offered free for Kindle. It's a good way to find out if you like a new author before purchasing other books by the author.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner is set during the London Blitz of WWII and was chosen for our book club.

From the Cover:
1940s England - as Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London's civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen year old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister, Julia, find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy's burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia's profound need for her sister's presence. The sisters are cruelly separated and their lives are transformed.

My thoughts:
I wasn't quite sure what I thought about the novel. I do think Susan Meissner captured the horror of the Blitz. My mother and her family lived in London during that time and I'd heard many of their stories. One neighbor who lived in an area that had been bombed never flushed the toilet when he came to our house. During the bombings they had an outside toilet with a high cistern with a chain hanging from it. Unfortunately he was in there when a bomb fell. He told me "I pulled the chain and the whole bloody house fell on top of me." He never flushed a toilet after that!
There were several inaccuracies in the book which didn't make it flow well for me. The story line was good, but I found Emmy to be a bit wishy-washy and not very believable. She had told her boyfriend that she had a stepsister and they shared the same father and yet they both had different last names. As someone who grew up in London several things bothered me which might not be noticeable to American readers. Emmy often referred to her time as a child in Brighton Beach. Brighton Beach is near Brooklyn, she was actually referring to the town of Brighton (south of London) which has a beach, but is not part of the town's name. Also Emmy was fifteen (but pretended to be 16) when we are introduced to her in 1940 and she constantly mentioned that she was fifteen and not school leaving age. Until 1947 the school leaving age was fourteen. When she arrives in the Cotswolds it's June and she mentions she won't need to go back to school for three months. The school term in England is the beginning of September until the middle of July with approximately six weeks for the summer, not three months.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Keeper of the Doves by Betsy Byars

Keeper of the Doves at 120 pages is a short read (for ages 8-12), but Betsy Byars makes every word count. I chose it for my 50 State Reading Challenge - it's set in Kentucky.

From the cover:
Amen McBee is exceptionally bright - she gobbles up words the way other children gobble up sweets. She's also restless. It's the summer of 1899, and everything seems to be changing - everything except the tranquil world of The Willows, her family's home. Yet for Amen and her four older sisters - Abigail, Augusta and the Bella twins, Arabella and Annabella - change is much nearer than they think.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Nemo's Garden

This is an interesting project - Nemo's Garden - growing a garden below the ocean surface. I found out about it in a children's National Geographic magazine.

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Death in the Family by James Agee

A Death in the Family by James Agee is an emotional story following a death in the family. Not dissimilar to the thoughts James Agee might have had after his father's sudden death. Unfortunately James Agee's death was also untimely at the age of 46 years and A Death in the Family was published two years after his demise - the novel went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.