Friday Recommend

This week, I’d like to suggest a return to simpler times. Let’s go back to an old favourite book or song that brings out the “feel good” vibe that the world really needs.

But life is what novels are about. A novel can contain more truth than a thousand newspaper articles or scientific papers. It can make you imagine, just for a little while, that you’re someone else- and then you understand more about people who are different from you. Lisa Kleypass, Chasing Cassandra.

My all-time favourite author is of course, AA Milne. Gran taught us to read on his poetry and Winnie the Pooh and I can still snuggle down in my imagination in the house on Fantail Grove, Wellington, and hear her read to me.

pooh love

Listening wise, I resurrected my old iPod from about 5 years of captivity. I got it in 2003, so it holds YEARS of listening pleasure, as I made a choice not to delete anything once it was loaded, except audio books and podcasts. There’s Nirvana, and classic Nickleback; Back Street Boys and Westlife; Bon Jovi and The Boss, and tucked away, a recommend from Kirsten, a then new-to-me artist called Kate Voegele.

What will you be reading this weekend?

Friday Review: Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us

Hey everyone! Hope lockdown is going okay, that you’re not going too crazy & that you’re getting contact with your nearest & dearest.

Right now one of my dearest is Libby, Mase’s Hospice counselor. She rang this morning then they had a Zoom session this afternoon. There’s one scheduled for next week & I’m so grateful.Today’s review isn’t a book. It’s Brene’s new podcast. No surprise that I lurve her work. Research plus stories? Yes please! Her first episode isn’t the initial planned, but it’s about FFT. That first F stands for a bad word, but it’s minimally used during the episode and I’m sure you’ll find something to resonate with, especially in this “new normal” (I’m beginning to hate that phrase).

You can listen in your fav app (I use Podcast Addict on android), or online at https://brenebrown.com/unlockingus/

Ep 2 is surprisingly light hearted for the heavy topic. It’s got me hooked. I almost burnt the schnitzel!

Book Review The Fire Blossom (The Fire Blossom Saga Book 1) by Sarah Lark (Author), Kate Northrop (Translator)

fireblossomBLURB: The bestselling author of the Sea of Freedom Trilogy returns with a sweeping family saga of two women in nineteenth-century New Zealand and their epic journey to survive in a world of their own making.

It’s 1837, and immigrating to a small New Zealand fishing village is an opportunity for Ida Lange’s family to build a better future. Yet for Ida, raised in a strict, religious, tight-knit German community, so much is still forbidden to a woman. Yearning for the poor day laborer she shared books with as a child, Ida is now trapped in a dire marriage to a man of her father’s choosing.

For Cat, who came of age in New Zealand under brutal conditions, life in the colonies hasn’t been easy. Through a strange turn of events, she is adopted by a native Maori tribe, and she begins to thrive. But when she challenges the traditions of her tribe, she’s banished, and left once again to rely on the only person she can trust with her future: herself.

When fate brings Ida and Cat together, they recognize in each other a kindred spirit. Out of common ground grows an enduring friendship that will not be broken by the hardships of the plains, threats from the past, or the trials of family and heartache. What they’ll discover is the depth of their own strength and resilience as they get nearer to the freedom they desire and demand. And their journey is just beginning.

MY THOUGHTS: This is the first Sarah Lark I’ve read – it came up on Bookbub one day and I liked the cover (shallow, much?) and the topic, not that I’ve done much reading or research on the founding of my country. However during the course of reading I’d flick over into Google and meander down the rabbit warren that is history and the author was really accurate for the times.

I enjoyed the character growth in the main group; and altho the language was a bit heavy at times it was probably more realistic for that. I am very glad that I don’t have the same day-to-day hassles as Ida, Cat and the other 19th century women!

I can see myself reading more from Lark in the future.

Book Review The Star Giver by Ginger Nielson

BLURB: Deep in the forest where the wind never blows, in a far away cave where the sun never shines, lives a man made of stars and the branches of pines. So begins the legend that answers Little Bear’s question: “Where did the stars come from?”

MASE’S THOUGHTS: I loved this story because it was a story of determination. There was a mother bear and a baby bear and the mother bear went on a quest. Mother went and saw all of the animals and went in some bad conditions like windy rainy and snowy. Eventually when mother finished she tucked baby into sleep.

MUM’S NOTES: we haven’t read a picture book for quite a while but we’ve been looking at myths & legends of different cultures lately. This title popped up in my Kindle Unlimited list (.com.au, so I’m not sure if it’s available in your county); check it out with your little. Or really, just for the gorgeous illustrations. Mase gave it 5 stars.

Book Review The Number of Love (Codebreakers #1) by Roseanna M White

codebreakersBLURB: Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network—field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy that just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the too-intelligent Margot, but how to convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amidst biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them, but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save them all from the very secrets that brought them together.

MY THOUGHTS:  I picked this title up not because it was a romance (altho it is one, and rightly Bookbub classifies it as such) but because of the interest I have in the battle of the brains that went on between Allied and Axis during WWII. From the “lighter” looks at the later code breaking teams such as The Bletchley Circle or The Imitation Game (I’ve watched this twice, despite Kiera Knightley’s acting) to the in-depth studies like The Secrets of Station X by Michael Smith or The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay (this one is super easy to read with lots of background about the people & activities that they did outside of “work”), I devour them all.

While the first title in the Codebreakers series, this title follows on from another. I didn’t know that until the end, and it certainly didn’t jar my reading in any way. The characters are real and have faults; they interact in a way that mirrors other WWI dramas – did you catch that? This title pre-dates the period I’ve been reading. I didn’t know that there was a Room 40 before I read this book – or at least, that little fact didn’t sink in (surprise).

Anyway, I’m off to read more of White’s books. Like, ALL of them. Ciao!

Book Review: Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

I meant to post this yesterday, but best laid plans and all that. We’re currently down the country, living the dream… sea, sand & finally some rain! BLURB: A magnificent epic set against a history of seven thousand years of the struggles of Gods and Kings and men – of strange lands and events – of fate and a prophecy that must be fulfilled! THE BELGARIAD

Long ago, so the Storyteller claimed, the evil God Torak sought dominion and drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

But that was only a story, and Garion did not believe in magic dooms, even though the dark man without a shadow had haunted him for years. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved – but did not know? For a while his dreams of innocence were safe, untroubled by knowledge of his strange heritage. For a little while… THUS BEGINS BOOK ONE OF THE BELGARIAD’

MY THOUGHTS: I love this book. Totally adore it. It was the first title I brought with my own money, earned from a paper round (which I hated, BTW). It’s classic high fantasy, good vs evil, with a few twists & turns along the way. Recently I listened to it on Audible, with the gorgeous tones of Cameron B (think Sean Connery *sigh*). Yes, it has gaps and there is a bit of patriarchal character development, but that reflects the period of writing. After all, not many people complain about Tolkien’s writing!

Book Review Wild by Cheryl Strayed

WildBLURB: At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

MY THOUGHTS: If I met Strayed in real life, I’m not sure I’d stop and share time with her. I very nearly abandoned this title three chapters in, altho I’m glad now that I did persevere, I’m not likely to pick up another of her titles or go to her TED talk. She struck me as self-obsessed, willfully ignorant and frankly, annoying (naming herself “strayed”? really?).

However, even I with my distinctly non-rose tinted glasses could see her personal progression thru the book, and I did enjoy her descriptions of her fellow walkers and most especially the scenery. Oh my, that scenery. Three stars, and I’m not watching the movie.

If, however, I didn’t put you off or you also hadn’t read one of 2012’s Books of the Year (Boston Globe, EW, NPR etc) there is an extract and reading guide HERE

Book Review The Empty Nesters by Carolyn Brown

empty nest

BLURB: Dear friends and army wives Diana, Carmen, and Joanie have been through war, rumors of war, marital problems, motherhood, fears, joy, and heartache. But none of the women are prepared when their daughters decide to enlist in the army together. Facing an empty nest won’t be easy. Especially for Carmen. With emotions already high, she suffers an even greater blow: divorce papers. Diana understands the fury and tears. She’s been there.

With nothing to lose and no one at home, the girlfriends impulsively accept an unexpected offer from their elderly neighbor. The recently widowed Tootsie has an RV, a handsome nephew at the wheel, and an aim for tiny Scrap, Texas, to embrace memories of her late husband. Still grieving, she can use the company as a balm for her broken heart. So can the empty nesters.

Embarking on a journey of hope, romance, and healing, Diana, Carmen, and Joanie are at a turning point in their lives. And with the open road ahead of them, it’s just the beginning.

MY THOUGHTS: I do remember reading Carolyn Brown a few years ago – particularly taken with her title genius – My Give a Damn’s Busted resonated with me at the time – but I thought then that the romance was ok, funny in parts, but it was something l sped read thru. This one was something that I slowed down on in parts, as it runs a vast range of emotions and circumstances. The scenarios are fairly realistic and you can see the characters grow and change. They aren’t in general one-dimensional and there isn’t anything surplus either. I can see myself reading more of Brown’s later standalones. Three & a half stars.

If you’re on Prime, or Kindle Unlimited, this title is free to borrow.

Book Review – An Utterly Impartial History of Britain by John O’Farrell

ImpartialBLURB: Many of us were put off history by the dry and dreary way it was taught at school. Back then ‘The Origins of the Industrial Revolution’ somehow seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnson’s ‘Shatterproof’ ruler.But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn all that stuff you feel you really ought to know by now…

In this ‘Horrible History for Grown Ups’ you can read how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration; ‘Look I think we have to try and respect the religious customs of our new Viking friends – oi, he’s nicked my bloody ox!’ Discover how England’s peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendants still have wine cellars and second homes in the Dordogne today. And explore the complex socio-economic reasons why Britain’s kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel; (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn’t have much choice.)

A book about then that is also incisive and illuminating about now, ‘2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge’, is an hilarious, informative and cantankerous journey through Britain’ fascinating and bizarre history. As entertaining as a witch burning, and a lot more laughs.

MY THOUGHTS: I found this title by randomly selecting the podcast We Are History, a relatively new addition to my listening agenda, by Angela Barnes and this author. It’s funny and informative, and available on a number of platforms (I use Podcast Addict on my android phone).

I listened to this title during my week’s commute to & from work on Audible, but again, the book is available from many different sources. This version is unfortunately abridged, but I didn’t notice that until I read someone else’s review after finishing (whoops!). That said, I enjoyed learning more about things I’d skimmed over in the past and also his irreverent but truthful view of some of the most obvious cock-ups in British history. An easy listen that might send you off onto another learning tangent or satisfy your need for one-off entertainment. Four stars.

Book Review – The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs

oystervilleBLURB: At the break of dawn, Caroline Shelby rolls into Oysterville, Washington, a tiny hamlet at the edge of the raging Pacific.

She’s come home.

Home to a place she thought she’d left forever, home of her heart and memories, but not her future. Ten years ago, Caroline launched a career in the glamorous fashion world of Manhattan. But her success in New York imploded on a wave of scandal and tragedy, forcing her to flee to the only safe place she knows.

And in the backseat of Caroline’s car are two children who were orphaned in a single chilling moment—five-year-old Addie and six-year-old Flick. She’s now their legal guardian—a role she’s not sure she’s ready for.

But the Oysterville she left behind has changed. Her siblings have their own complicated lives and her aging parents are hoping to pass on their thriving seafood restaurant to the next generation. And there’s Will Jensen, a decorated Navy SEAL who’s also returned home after being wounded overseas. Will and Caroline were forever friends as children, with the promise of something more . . . until he fell in love with Sierra, Caroline’s best friend and the most beautiful girl in town. With her modeling jobs drying up, Sierra, too, is on the cusp of reinventing herself.

Caroline returns to her favorite place: the sewing shop owned by Mrs. Lindy Bloom, the woman who inspired her and taught her to sew. There she discovers that even in an idyllic beach town, there are women living with the deepest of secrets. Thus begins the Oysterville Sewing Circle—where women can join forces to support each other through the troubles they keep hidden.

Yet just as Caroline regains her creativity and fighting spirit, and the children begin to heal from their loss, an unexpected challenge tests her courage and her heart. This time, though, Caroline is not going to run away. She’s going to stand and fight for everything—and everyone—she loves.

 

MY THOUGHTS: I really, really loved this title. Obvs I only picked it up because of the needle & thread on the cover, but it completely engrossed me. The characters are very well drawn, right down to the supporting actors (for want of a better term) and the situations very real. As I read, one of the scenarios was coming to the court conclusions in real life – how much more relevant can it be?

The sad truth is that the #metoo movement has a lot of unsung members. This title is a homage to those women, children and men who haven’t used their voice yet. It’s also about looking around you and seeing how much you have, not how much you want. That’s a reminder I need!

Bookbub (the service I use to find free & discounted titles in my preferred genres) has some interesting questions should you chose to use this title for a book club, or even as a self-started review HERE