Glorious Poppy Season

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Book Review:Letters to a Young Writer: by Colum McCann

Letters to A Young WriterDisclaimer: I was given an advanced copy of this book from Net Gallery in exchange for an honest review

In my opinion the two best books for writers are Strunk’s “The Elements of Style” and Stephen King’s “On Writing”. Now there is a third that should be on every writers shelf (even if you are not writing the great American novel) Colum McCann’s “Letters to a Young Writer” is that book. Each chapter is starts with a quote from an author and then McCann puts to paper his thoughts for young writers (or maybe even old writers) The chapters are short and can be read over and over in case you miss something with the first read. His sentences are crisp but pack a  punch. This book is a must have for anyone who writes and even those that may not write but love to read,
I have read two of Mr McCann’s books and have not been disappointed.. I love his writing style.  You get lost in his stories.He has poured his  heart  and soul into his books. “Letters to a Young Writer” is no exception.

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Book Review:Gone to Soldiers

gone to soldiersDisclaimer: I was sent this Kindle edition of Gone to Soldiers from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
I am grateful that this book is now in digital format as 760 pages can be difficult to hold.
Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy is an epic novel  filled with great prose. We are introduced to the ten main characters(6 women and 4 men) in the beginning chapters.Their voices continue throughout the novel and it is through their eyes that we see WW2 and its effects on an entire generation. There are other characters that are attached to the main characters so keeping them all straight can be a challenge. It wasn’t until I had read all the  introductory chapters(about 9 in all) on the main characters that I had a sense of who they were and where the novel was taking us. My recommendation is to keep reading. You will not be disappointed. This book needs not only to be read but absorbed. In the novel you will travel from United States to France and to the European and Pacific Theaters. You will become attached to all the main characters. I began thinking about them even when not reading the book. One of the characters Duvey(a member of Coast Guard ) has a harrowing trip off the coast of Malta. I could not help but compare his journey to St Paul’s shipwreck off the same island of Malta.
What  came alive in the telling of this novel was the strength and courage of the characters,most especially the women. They were the stars of this epic novel. The most difficult chapter was the reading of Jacqueline’s telling of the conditions in the concentration camp.  It was a necessary telling though as we must never forget the past and man’s inhumanity to man. Since this is historical fiction I found myself looking up information about the WASP’s, WW2 and the French Resistance. Anytime a book increases my knowledge and sends me to Wikipedia I feel the author has completed her/his task.
One last thing that struck me was the bombing of Hiroshima. Two of the characters visit the site and the after effects of the visit are a powerful image as one of them says:”There is nothing left.Not an ant.Not a weed. Not a butterfly.Not a mouse. Nobody was lucky.It’s flat as a pane of glass.” That is indeed a powerful image that the author passes on to us..  This is a book that will stay with you for some time. Do not be intimidated by the size. It is a story that must be told and I  am glad that Marge Piercy with her lovely prose was the one to tell it.

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Book Review: Our Lady,Undoer of Knots by Marge Fenelon

Our Lady Undoer of Knots DISCLAIMER: I received this  Kindle book from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review

As a lifelong Catholic I had never heard of this devotion. I first realized it when we talked about it in my bible study group and then saw it mentioned when Pope Francis came to America. I immediately went on line , found and made the Novena to Our Lady,Undoer of Knots. This book helped fit in the missing pieces to this new devotion. The author starts out explaining that this is a living Novena. She traveled to the Holy Land with Pope Francis. What is special about this book is the way the author divided up the 9 chapters to go along with the Pope’s journey and each chapter names a knot that needs to be untied in our lives.such as injustice,confusion etc. The author recommends to read a chapter a day in order to absorb the juxtaposition between the Holy Land journey and the knot that needs untying. The book is so well written and while this is a new devotion for Catholics I think it will become very popular. I love the idea of a” Living Novena” and the 9 knots(based on the pilgrimage) that Fenelon lays out in the book and I plan on using these the next time I pray this Novena. Five stars for sure.

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Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf: Book Review

Missing pieces

Disclaimer: I received the Kindle version of this book from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
The plot seemed very interesting but am not sure that the author was able to pull this one off. I thought I had read another of author Gudenkuaf’s books but in checking I realized one of her books is still on my TBR list.
This whodunit novel is all about secrets particularly the ones that Jack Quinlan is keeping from his wife Sarah. They have been married for 20 years and Jack has never gone home to his small town in Iowa. His mother was murdered and his father was no where to be found after the murder so he became the suspect who was never caught.Almost immediately upon returning to the town due to his aunt’s illness (she and her husband raised Jack and his sister Amy),the secrets start revealing themselves. Wife Sarah is shocked that Jack has kept his mother’s murder a secret from her. Then as more secrets are revealed Sarah begins to no longer trust Jack. The mystery thickens from there and many other characters are introduced including an old sweetheart of Jack’s. The town is typical small town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone.
While this is a pretty good story in that you are kept guessing about all the characters, it does seem unrealistic.(fiction can take some liberties but when it goes over the top, a story can just seem unbelievable.. I would imagine most authors struggle with this) Sarah becomes so involved in the murder you would think she was a detective on a cold case. Her journalistic skills come in handy but it still seems far fetched that this mother would at times put her self at such risk rather then calling police. What drove me crazy was all the questions that kept popping into her head regarding her husband and the decades old murder. It got annoying after awhile.
But that didn’t stop me from finishing the book as it did hold your interest and I kept going back and forth as to who the murderer was. The writing was OK but I felt the dialogue needed some improvement. All in all this would be a good beach read.
I would like to try another of Gudenkauf’s novels as she has gotten some good reviews for her other published works. This is a 2.5 to 3 stars

							
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Angels Burning by Tawni O’Dell: Book Review

 angels BurningDisclaimer: I was sent this Kindle book from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Years ago I read Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell  when it was an Oprah selection. I loved it.  I have no idea why I have not read any of her other stories but it is my loss.Luckily it can be rectified.
Angels Burning is fast paced and a good murder mystery. Actually there are two mysteries in the plot. Dove Carnahan, the  protagonist, is police chief in a small rural Pennsylvania town.She  is both feisty and an enigma.   She has her own dark secrets in that her mother was murdered when she was fifteen. She has been trying to protect her sister and her estranged  brother for years.   Now she has to try  to solve the murder of a young girl whose body was abandoned in a smoking sinkhole. Enter the redneck Truly family. The young dead girl is a member of this family. They have a criminal history. And the plot thickens from there. O’Dell’s characters are so well developed and portrayed.She has the entire  complicated Truly family that she must give voice to and she does this so well. Besides the plot and the good writing I think  character development is Odell’s strength. I hope she is considering using Dove Carnahan as a serial character in another book. She is just too good a character to appear in only one book. Meanwhile I have to look for Tawni O’Dell’s other novels. Can’t believe I lost track of this author since reading Back Roads.

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The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler:Book Review

the book of speculationI really wanted to like this book as I had read that it was comparable to The Night Circus. While both the plot and writing were good it was not The Night Circus which was a magical book. The Book of Speculation is a darker book.Simon is an ex librarian having recently lost his job and has been sent a book out of the blue from an antiques bookseller. The book he is sent is a record of a traveling circus from the 1700’s.In this book is his grandmother’s name.All of the women in Simon’s family have drowned including his mother and all on the same date,despite the fact that they were like mermaids and could hold their breath underwater for long periods of time.Now the date is fast approaching and Simon’s sister has come to visit.His concern is that his sister Enola, who also travels with a circus reading Tarot cards, will suffer the same fate.Simon becomes convinced that the answers to the family secrets including his mothers death lies in this book. Meanwhile his life and house are slowly falling apart. The book’s chapters alternate between the 1700’s traveling circus life and the modern day life of Simon and Enola.
The book just did not have the magic of The Night Circus or the interesting characters.Although it held my interest,there were times the pace was slow.Debated between 2 and 3 stars but gave it a 3 star as the writing was good. This was a debut novel. I feel like I would definitely read the author’s next book because her writing in The Book of Speculation is very good.
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