2009 Book Reviews
- ‘Then, as she circled the tower room, in the distance, on a prominence, was the castle. She took in a long, deep breath. It was gothic and enchanting, the old castle keep and stone wall that disappeared into the hillside, then the more modern attached building, glass gleaming in the rising sun, glittering panes like diamonds, winking and blinking. (pg 113, Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, uncorrected proof, final printed copy may differ)
- ‘The bank was mossy and verdant, with a slender creeping vine that blossomed, opening trusting flower faces to the sunlight that filtered through the newly green branches of languorous willows.’ (pg 214, Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, uncorrected proof, final printed copy may differ)
I really enjoyed the story for the mystery, touch of romance and definitely the spunk of Lady Anne and the mysterious darkness of Lord Darkefell. The best thing is that this is the first novel in a trilogy. Still to come is Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge and then Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse. I can’t wait to read more of Lady Anne’s adventures.
Many thanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks for sending me this book to review. You can visit Donna Lea Simpson’s website here. You can buy Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, which will be released on April 1, 2009, here in the US and here in Canada.
Make sure to pop back here tomorrow as Donna Lea Simpson will be here with a guest post and I’ll be posting a giveaway too!
The novel starts out with a bang when Jane arrives home to find her husband doing the nasty with a twenty-something girl. I think Jane realized long before this happened that her marriage was over, yet she had never seemed to have enough courage to walk away before this. This betrayal is the last straw and she tells him to leave. Her first instinct is to turn to her best friend Gwen.
Gwen and Jane have been friends for nineteen years. They have a wonderful friendship, one I must say I was very envious of, being that I don’t really have anything like that in my life-acquaintances and real friends are two different things. I loved the easiness they had with each other; the ability to say what they thought and knew that it wouldn’t be a big deal. They may disagree but it did nothing to hurt their friendship and nobody ever walked away with hard feelings. Friendships such as those are hard to find. If you have one, hang onto it. When one or the other of them had something happen or just needed a shoulder, the other one would drop everything to rush over and be there for them. They were there for each other through thick and thin. I really think this is why I love novels that focus on women’s friendships such a s Willing Spirits does. While they make me yearn for such a relationship, I still savour them page by page. A beautiful quote…
- ‘She knew that women felt things that could not be easily translated into words men would understand. Women shared a language that effortlessly gave voice to even the most formless feelings.’ (pg 29, Willing Spirits)
Phyllis Schieber portrays her characters in such a way that they seem so real to you, like someone you might actually know. They are real women with real issues that don’t always have an easy answer—they experience heartbreak, fear, disappointment, anger, happiness. Things have not come easily to either Jane or Gwen. Gwen’s first husband had left her early on with two young boys to raise on her own and well Jane didn’t really ever have a good marriage. Her husband Arnold was not very often good to Jane. I myself wanted to slap him upside the head more than a few times. Now Jane is trying to figure out how to move forward as a single woman in her forties while Gwen struggles in her ongoing relationship with a married man. Both women are supportive of each other whether or not they agree with the actions of the other.
Another aspect that resounded with me was the mother-daughter one. Both women really had somewhat struggling relationships with their own mothers. While Gwen’s was just really not there as a mother; Jane’s was, but not quite in the way she wanted. It’s a feeling I relate with. While you really love your mother and feel very grateful to have them, something is missing and it’s a lonely feeling. Here’s a quote I found particularly revealing of their relationship which was just after Jane’s mother had passed away and Gwen is with Jane…these are the times when close female friendships are so important—when other things are lacking in your life and you need that emotional support from a friend…
- ‘Once, long ago, she must have slept beside her mother and known the peace she saw in Caroline’s repose. There had been no anger then, none of the rage Jane felt over Dorothy’s negligent mothering. None of the abandonment she felt at being left to negotiate the world alone…”She was never the mother I wanted”, Jane said. “I still want that mother.”’ (pg 197, Willing Spirits)
I really enjoyed this novel. I urge anybody who loves reading of strong female relationships to give it a read. It really portrays a woman’s willingness to give all of herself to a close female friendship; hence the title Willing Spirits. The writing in this novel had me captivated, so much so that I’ve already purchased her first novel Sinner’s Guide to Confession to read. You can purchase Willing Spirtis in the US here and in Canada here.
Many thanks to MaAnna at Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour.
Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center is a novel I read for a Pump Up Your Book Promotional Tour and it was a delightful book to read. It’s about what happens after you get married and have the 2.1 kids—-are things really happily ever after? Or are there really struggles and fumbles along the way—is anything ever really perfect? Now one would think that this novel is really geared towards the mom and yes, I imagine a mom could really relate to the story in ways I couldn’t being a non-mom (well, mom to a puppy-lol). However, I have to say that I enjoyed the book so much. I laughed and got teary eyed as I travelled along with Lanie on her journey to finding herself amidst the chaos of family life.
The novel starts with Lanie packing up her worldy possessions and leaving behind her parents to move across the country to support her husband Peter and his career ambitions as a musician. Lanie is none too happy about the move either. Now she’ll be on her own with three young boys, no less. Previously she had at least had her mother’s help. So, they make the move and while Peter is getting their lives unpacked into their new apartment, Lanie has taken the boys to the park to keep them out of the way. The catalyst to the whole story happens there in that park-one of the mother’s asks Lanie how far along in her pregnancy is. Yikes! Lanie’s not pregnant.
After three kids in not too many years she’s carrying around more weight than she’s happy with. She doesn’t make the effort to look good anymore-sheesh, who would have the energy after taking care of three young boys. In the midst of this she realizes that her marriage is becoming distant too, the kids consume every minute and past that she’s tired with good reason. All of this leads Lanie to realize she needs to do something and soon. She needs to find herself in all of this. Somehow there has to be a happy medium where she can be happy with who she is and have a fulfilling family life.
Lanie sets out to join a gym. She commits to an hour each evening. All is going well until her husband decides to join the gym also. This is supposed to be something just for her. At the same time her mother sends her a camera. Lanie used to be an artist which she gave up for her family. She joins a photography class and learns she has a real talent. Lanie is starting to find herself again and this is making her happier and therefore making so many other things in her life run more smoothly.
I think all women can relate to this story. We get older, we gain weight, we aren’t as gorgeous as we used to be—we’ve all experienced these feelings whether we’ll admit them or not. I felt that Lanie was such a ‘real’ woman; she had flaws like all of us. Katherine’s writing is wonderful; she draws you into this story, these lives, and so quickly. From the beginning you feel you have a stake in how things will turn out for Lanie and you’re rooting her along in her quest to discover herself again. For me it was an inspiration. Yes, you may lose yourself but with some effort you may be able to find yourself again and reinvent your life. The author also introduced other characters who were just as charming and fit perfectly in the story like Lanie’s new friend Amanda or the ‘mean witch’ Nora who lives in Lanie’s apartment building. She has a real knack for portraying the real emotions and feelings that women have.
I’d like to thank Katherine for a wonderful novel. This is a fun and entertaining read laced with a lot of real life that we can all relate to whether we have kids or not. I look forward to reading her first novel, The Bright Side of Disaster and will certainly be on the lookout for her next one. There were a couple of favourite quotes I had that I’d like to share…
- ‘In that moment, I suddenly loved us all the more for our flaws, for being broken and human, for being embarrassed and lonely, for being hopeful or tired or disappointed or sick or brave or angry. For being who we were, for making the world interesting. It was a good reminder that the human condition is imperfection. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.’ (pg 225-226, Advance Reader’s Copy, Final published copy may be different)
- ‘I believe the eyes see everything through the heart—and nothing in the world feels as good as resting them on someone you love.’ (pg 233, Advance Reader’s Copy, Final published copy may be different)
A big thank you to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for having me participate in this blog tour. She does an awesome job putting together these tours and making it fun for everyone.
- ‘She taught me that it’s not what’s on the outside that makes us who we are; it is who we are inside that truly defines us and grants us powers far beyond the physical. Our spirit is where our true strength resides, and it is our ark in times of crisis’. (pg 73, Zig-Zagging by Tom Wilson)
When the death of a loved one strikes us, sometimes it’s hard to keep our faith strong. Why did this happen? Why did God take this person I loved so much? This happened with Tom and he struggled to understand how this could happen and why. He had believed so strongly that God would grant him a miracle and make Susan well again. However, God never truly leaves us, sooner or later we discover our faith is still there as strong as ever, just as Tom did.
Tom tries to move on by being the best housekeeper, the best dad, even dating, but finds this isn’t the easiest thing to do. He becomes overwhelmed, and instead falls into a deep depression. Once again, Tom’s world is tumbling into pieces. He writes of his struggle with depression and his thoughts on how to deal with it again, in such a way, that really hit home for me. I could really relate to many things he was feeling and saying. He finally attends a grief counselling group which helps him to realize he’s not crazy, just going through the normal stages of grief. Finally Tom realizes that he can move forward in life and he also finds God again.
This book is one that will stay with me for a long while. I will likely reread it at some point. I had picked it up one night expecting to read a few pages and ended up devouring most of the book which I went on to finish the next morning. Tom’s writing and his sharing with us of some of the most intimate moments and feelings of his life was an emotional journey for me. It took me back to losing my loved ones but not in a bad way, really a way of remembrance.
I must mention that I found Tom’s writing amazing. I’d like to end by sharing a few of my favorite quotes…
- ‘We may lose friends, hopes, dreams, and loved ones along the way, but they’re always a part of us. And the memories, strengths, and lessons they’ve given to us are gifts we can still learn from even when they are parted. But they’re only gifts if we stop looking for what we expect to see and start to appreciate what is actually there, the miraculous process of life unfolding’. (pg 193, Zig-Zagging by Tom Wilson)
- ‘Life is full of living. And when you get down to it, the journey we make is only as important as those wonderful spirits we meet along the way, whether they come from relationships, true loves, or simple angels unaware that pass through our lives’. (pg 194, Zig-Zagging by Tom Wilson)
This is a lovely book and one well worth reading especially for those who have suffered a loss or felt the hardships of depression. It’s an inspirational read that will leave you with feelings of renewed hope. Thanks so much to Tom Wilson for this wonderful book and to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour.
- Wednesday, March 4th: Traveling Through Time and Space
- Thursday, March 5th: Anniegirl1138
- Monday, March 9th: Bookfoolery and Babble
- Tuesday, March 10th: Widows Quest
- Wednesday, March 11th: Not Quite What I Had Planned
- Thursday, March 12th: Reading, Writing, and Retirement
- Monday, March 16th: Learning to Live
- Tuesday, March 17th: Book Addiction
- Wednesday, March 18th: Confessions of a Book-a-Holic
- Thursday, March 19th: Peeking Between the Pages
- Friday, March 20th: Beth Fish Reads
- Monday, March 23rd: Literary Menagerie
- Tuesday, March 24th: Joyfully Retired
- Wednesday, March 25th: Madeleine’s Book Blog
- Thursday, March 26th: Texas Red Books
- Friday, March 27th: Bermuda Onion
- Monday, March 30th: Should Be Reading
You can also win a copy of Zig-Zagging from HCI by clicking here.
The story begins with Honora Keeley making plans to begin life as a nun. However, this is not to be. While walking along Galway Bay she sees a man, who appears to be drowning. He isn’t and he turns out to be none other than Michael Kelly, her future husband. Theirs is a love at first sight type of love story. From the beginning you feel the fierce love they share, the strong bond, the willingness to do anything for each other. They marry, although not without many hardships concerning Honora’s sister, Maire. Back in the day the landlords who the people leased their land from were allowed to take a bride price-meaning they could take the bride on her first night away from her husband. Honora’s sister saved her from that but unfortunately put herself into a very awful circumstance.
Honora and Michael make a home and are doing well. They build a home up on a hill overlooking Galway Bay with a big window just for Honora. They plant pratties-potatoes as all the community does-it is their only staple food as the government exports everything else. They will have food all winter or so they thought; unfortunately the blight hits Ireland hard and all the potatoes rot and are inedible. If this had happened for one year, families would have been able to survive. However, it continued on for four years and the government refused to help the people. People were starving and dying not only of starvation but of disease. Honora and Michael were devastated watching their children fading away to nothing. They vowed to each other that their children would live.
More tradegy hits the Kellys and Honora knows she must leave Ireland. She must do what she can for her family so she and Maire take their brood of children by ship to Chicago. America is a whole new world for them, one in which they aren’t easily accepted. Through pure strength of will though the two of them do succeed and do well in spite of everything. Their sons go to war, marry and have children of their own.
Mary Pat Kelly’s writing is wonderful. The research and family stories she put together for this novel amazing. Galway Bay spans six generations. I can’t help but admire having such a rich family history. Honora was, in fact, Mary’s great-great grandmother. This novel in turn made me laugh at times and cry at others. I was horrified by the hardships the family had in Ireland and elated at their victories in America. Mary Pat Kelly takes her readers so fully into the tale that you feel as though you are a part of it all-you made this journey with Honora and Maire and the kids to America. Again, this was a piece of history that I was unaware of and this novel has brought it to the forefront of my mind. As I write this I am watching a program on the The Great Famine on television. It was strange how it just happened to coincide with me finishing this novel. As I’m watching I am continually being reminded of the journey that Honora and Maire took and seeing the pictures and hearing the facts only makes it more scary to me. They were brave and amazing woman who single handedly made sure that there were generations of their family to come for a long time.
I would absolutely recommend this novel especially to those wanting to know more about the Irish-their faith, songs and stories and to those interested in learning a bit more about the struggle of the Irish during The Great Starvation. It’s almost impossible to encompass in a review all that this book holds. There is romance and history and above all, the enduring love of family-such a rich story so worth reading. I also have to mention the book cover itself which is absolutely beautiful. I would like to thank Miriam from Hachette for sending me this lovely book and having me participate in the blog tour for Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly.
- You can visit Mary Pat Kelly’s website here.
- You can visit Mary Pat Kelly’s blog here.
- You can read an article by Mary Pat Kelly on what an honor it was for her to write Galway Bay here.
- You can read a letter from Mary Pat Kelly on the research that went into the writing of Galway Bay here.