Review: Kingdom of the Blind

November 30, 2018

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Kingdom of the Blind 2

Genre/Categories: Mystery, Detective, Crime Fiction, Canada

Summary:

In this recent installment of the Chief Inspector Gamache series, Armand Gamache remains suspended from the Surete du Quebec, but this doesn’t stop him from searching for a murderer, serving as liquidator for a mysterious woman’s will, and hunting for missing drugs (an unresolved story line from the previous book). All the usual characters return and a few new ones are introduced. Three Pines retains its reputation and status as a safe sanctuary and caring community.

My Thoughts

First Thoughts. I’ve waited all year for this highly anticipated release. At first, we were not sure there would be a new installment as Louise Penny suffered the loss of her dear husband. However she surprised publishers and fans by writing in spite of her grief and found joy in the process. Part of the reason writing this installment was difficult is because she based the Chief Inspector Gamache character on her husband. In fact, she was quoted as saying that she created Armand Gamache as someone she could be married to because she knew she’d be spending many years with him.

Even though the plot is complex and the characters well drawn and the sense of place vividly described, this will not rank as among my favorites of the series. Last year’s was a stand out and I rounded up my 4.5 rating to 5 Stars on Goodreads. This story didn’t quite hit that high mark. For me, the difference between a four and a five is the emotional engagement factor. Last year’s had that for me and this year’s did not. Although, it is a solid and recommendable read…especially for fans of the series.

compelling character

For November’s Most Compelling Character, I’ve chosen Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. He’s one of my favorite characters from all my reading in the past several years and certainly a favorite from this month.

“Chief Inspector Lacoste regarded the steady man [Gamache] in front of her, who believed everyone could be saved. Believed he could save them. It was both his saving grace and his blind spot.”

Above all, he’s a kind and compassionate person, always looking out for the vulnerable and watching out for the innocent and unprotected. We empathize with Gamache and his desperation to find the lethal drugs that went missing at the end of the last story. We realize that he is tortured with the thoughts of the damage it will inflict on the community and will take desperate measures to secure the drugs. In addition, we appreciate his frustration and disappointment as he lives with his suspension. As we read the story, we admire Gamache for his brilliance and courage.

Symbolism. In addition to the memorable and honorable Chief Inspector Gamache character, I love the community of Three Pines and the symbolism as a place of safety, solace, and comfort. A place where vulnerable, troubled, and hurting souls are cared for, comforted, kept warm, and fed.

Observation. What intrigued me in the story was the clear juxtaposition of the two streets: the street that housed the financial institutions and the indirect comparison with the street where the poverty stricken, prostitutes, and drug dealers lived. So close to one another but worlds apart.

Plot. Louise Penny is a masterful story teller and pulls readers quickly into the story. Although the middle bogged down a bit, the ending was tension filled and contained a couple of plot twists (one of which I predicted). What I admire the most about the author is her ability to balance a character driven story with a plot driven story. Whereas most stories can be defined as either character driven or plot drive, this series is both. To me, these are the best reads and explains why the series has enjoyed overall popularity and success. There’s a plot twist at the end that left me speculating about the continuation of the series (although the author has given no reason to suspect that this will conclude the series).

For an overview of the series and a review of last year’s release, see this post.

Rating. What kept me from awarding Kingdom of the Blind a full five stars? Partly this is personal preference as I was less than fully engaged with the financial story line. I found myself skimming through the sections that involved detailed discussions of tracking the money. Also, I thought the dialogue was a bit stiff in places and the interactions and conversations seemed a bit repetitive or rehashed from past stories. Finally, I didn’t think the two story lines meshed together well because they were very different with little connections between them. It was almost like two separate books.

Recommended. Kingdom of the Blind is definitely recommended for fans of the series, and for readers who enjoy stories with a moral and kind main character, and for those who appreciate mostly gentle mysteries and detective stories (minimal profanity, some tension but usually no graphic violence). *I recommend reading the series in order starting with Still Life. It is possible to read them as stand alones but richer when you have the full context and background. In my opinion, some stories are stronger than others and you can see my star ratings for each one on my goodreads account (books read shelf). Overall, the series is popular with many readers.

My Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Kingdom of the Blind

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Louise Penny

Click Here: CBS This Morning Interview With Louise Penny

Louise Penny LOUISE PENNY is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (five times) and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in a small village south of Montréal.

 



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

I’m working on a bookish Holiday Gift Guide….Coming soon!



My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often! I have only one more book to read and I’m waiting for the library hold to come in. So I’ll be finished with my Fall TBR soon!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Are you a fan of the Chief Inspector Gamache series? If you’ve read some of the installments, which have been your favorites?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

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Review: House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery

November 23, 2018

“Words were her salvation, her business, and her hope.”

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg

House of Dreams 2

Genre/Categories: Narrative Nonfiction, Biography, Middle Grade, Canada

Summary:

House of Dreams is the biography of L.M. Montgomery. Told in narrative style with a few illustrations, the story reveals the complex and troubled life of the well-known author of Anne of Green Gables. As well as exploring her lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression, the biography also details her childhood years and her love for books and writing. Through L.M. Montgomery’s own words, we are struck by her talent, perseverance, and hope.

Amazon (Early) Rating (November): 4.3 Stars

My Thoughts:

Target Audience. This is tricky discussion. Although House of Dreams is categorized as Middle Grade, I think that because of mature themes that it’s more suitable for YA and adults than children. I’m not suggesting that children should be shielded from the harsh realities of real life or the actual life of L.M. Montgomery, but I think the book might not appeal to children. Even though there’s a great deal to admire about L.M. Montgomery, it seems that middle grade readers might be bored with or even disturbed by discussions of an unhappy marriage, mental illness, feelings of despair, drug dependencies, and law suits. In my opinion, there seems to be a great deal of adult talk about adult issues in a children’s book. It’s a sad story and may discourage children (8-12) from reading Montgomery’s work.

I need to inject here that I appreciate today’s trend of writing about difficult topics that children might face within the context of children’s or young adult literature. A few examples are: Far From the Tree (adoption, foster care), Crenshaw (homelessness), The Hate U Give (racism, black lives matter), Stella by Starlight (racism, prejudice), Louisana’s Way Home (found family), Wishtree (diversity and tolerance), El Deafo (hearing challenged), Inside Out and Back Again (immigrant experience, bullying), Wonder (disabilities, acceptance, bullying), etc. Do you have titles to add to this list?

Realism or Happiness? For mature readers, there’s a great deal of inspiration to gain from the life of L.M. Montgomery and the double life she led. One life was the harsh reality of losing her mom as a toddler and having a loving father abandon her as a young girl. Even though she was placed with grandparents, they were strict and stern.  Her other life consisted of her passion for writing and her imagination, a happy place of escape and inspiration. Laura Ingalls Wilder also wrote happy stories for children which didn’t always reflect the reality of her life. Even Louisa May Alcott was pressured by publishers to write happy stories for children. It appears that this was the expectation of the time. Thus, the unhappiness of Montgomery’s actual life was treated with lightness and hope in her stories for children:

“Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work,” she wrote. “I would not wish to darken any other life–I want instead to be a messenger of optimism and sunshine.”

Inspirational. The author often refers to Montgomery as “heart-hungry,” always searching for family, friendship, love, and belonging. The author notes: “Maud was honing her special genius–to make the most of any situation, and to find humor under the most trying circumstances. It was a gift she would pass along to her own young fictional heroines, and a resource that upheld her for years to come. She transformed her own history of abandonment into a story of love and rescue. Ann of Green Gables is a book about creating lasting family. It is a celebration of place, a story about belonging. No one but Maud Montgomery, with all her checkered history and heart-hungry longing, could have created it.”

Not only was her ability to rise above her childhood circumstances inspirational, her ability to navigate a man’s world is noteworthy. In dealing with her publisher, she stated, “They cannot bluff, bully, or cajole.” Even though she wasn’t given a fair contract, she ended up making quite a substantial amount of money for a woman at that time. This money gave her some power and resources to sue the publishing company and to support her family as her husband’s mental health declined. Despite suffering from depression herself, Montgomery was able to take charge of her family, make important decisions, and write prolifically until the very end. She rose above her suffering for a very long time and accomplished so much in the face of it.

In addition, I think her loyalty and unwavering commitment to her grandmother is noteworthy. Her grandmother made many sacrifices for L.M. Montgomery and took care of her the best she could. Montgomery, in turn, sacrificed some things to make sure her grandmother was taken care of at the end of her life. Even though Montgomery never received the love she craved as a child and was even abandoned by her own father, she didn’t use this as an excuse to abandon her grandmother. Her sense of duty and responsibility is admirable and inspiring. In the most difficult of circumstances, she always strived to do the right thing for her family.

Favorite Quote. “She kept a notebook and pen in her apron pocket for small literary ’emergencies.’ ”

I Wish. Throughout the story, I wished the author had included real life pictures of people and places. It would have enhanced the reading in my opinion.

Recommended. As indicated above, I recommend this well written biography for YA (14+) and Adult fans of L.M. Montgomery, for readers who appreciate narrative biographies, and for all who are looking for a story about a strong, independent woman facing difficult circumstances and creating her best life. I would recommend this for mature middle grade readers with some parent or teacher support.

Although well written, I’m giving this 3.5 stars because I feel like it missed its target audience.

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House of Dreams

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Liz Rosenberg

Liz RosenbergLiz Rosenberg is the author of 5 novels, 4 books of poems and more than 20 award winning books for children. She has edited five prize winning poetry anthologies (including THE INVISIBLE LADDER and LIGHT GATHERING POEMS) and her picture book, THE CAROUSEL was featured on PBS’ Reading Rainbow. TYRANNOSAURUS DAD (illustrated by Matthew Myers) is a Children’s Book of the Month Club bestseller and has garnered praise from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, School Library Journal and elsewhere, and was an Amazon top 10 children’s book. WHAT JAMES SAID, her newest children’s book, (ALSO ill. by Matthew Myers) is a Best Book for Social Studies. Her children’s book, MONSTER MAMA, is currently under option as a feature movie.

Her long-awaited first non-fiction book, HOUSE OF DREAMS, a biography of author L.M. Montgomery, (Anne of Green Gables) will be published June 2018. It is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Her first novel for adults, HOME REPAIR was a Target Breakout book, a BookBub pick, and voted top ten for Book Clubs and Most Likely to be Next Oprah Pick on Goodreads. Her second, THE LAWS OF GRAVITY, has been a best-seller in the United States, Canada, Germany and the UK. and was a Jewish Book Network selection for 2013. The Boston Globe hailed it as “a thoughtful story about morality, personal responsibility, the law, and above all, the complicated, sometimes incomprehensible ties of family.”

THE MOONLIGHT PALACE was the #1 best-selling Kindle book on Amazon. It was chosen to be a Kindle First, and was a #1 best-seller in the US and UK. BEAUTY AND ATTENTION, published in fall, 2016, is an updated re-telling of Henry James’ classic, PORTRAIT OF A LADY.

Her newest novel is INDIGO HILL, due out in November, 2018. About INDIGO HILL, author John Dufresne writes, “Liz Rosenberg loves her characters and makes us love them, too. She knows what Faulkner knew, that the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past. She knows, as well, that every story is many stories, and she handles the complex intersecting tales of unspeakable loss, astonishing secrets, familial chaos, and heartbreak, with intelligence, poise, and tenderness.”

She is a full professor at Binghamton University’s English Department and has guest taught all over the world, from Russia to Austria to Singapore, and throughout the United States. Ms. Rosenberg spends her time reading and writing. Her hobbies and passions are reading and writing.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

Kingdom of the Blind will be released next Tuesday! This is an enticing promo!

If you’ve read My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie and provide a review on social media or Amazon, you can fill out this form to receive FREE bonus content!

Have you voted in the 2018 Goodreads Awards?  Final voting is Nov 13-26. To vote, follow this link. Honestly, I’m discouraged with this year’s voting because my favorites of the year didn’t make it to the final cut in most categories. Did yours?

Have you seen The Hate U Give movie? Here’s the THUG trailer. 
I’ve read positive reviews with some saying it could be one of the best movies of the year. Of course, the movie is never as good as the book so don’t miss this important read.



Looking Ahead to December

Of course I’ll be reviewing Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny next Friday, and then I’m planning posts that will include a November Wrap Up, a bookish gift guide, a Winter TBR, and end of the year recap. After that, I’ll see what library holds come in and watch for kindle deals. I’m definitely looking for some lighter reads in December.



My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often! Only one more read after Kingdom of the Blind until I complete my Fall TBR. Did you make a fall reading list?



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What do you think about including harsh realities in children’s literature? Do you have some examples of this being done well?

I’d love to hear updates on your November reading! What are you looking forward to reading in December?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.