No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: The House of Unexpected Sisters

December 1, 2017

Before Louise Penny’s popular Inspector Gamache series set in Three Pines, there was Mma Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series set in Botswana, Africa.

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency: The House of Unexpected Sisters
by Alexander McCall Smith

House of Unexpected Sisters 2

Genre/categories: women’s fiction, contemporary fiction, detective/mystery, African culture (Botswana)

Summary:

The House of Unexpected Sisters is the eighteenth installment of this charming, easy reading series. All the usual characters are present, reflecting on life, drinking tea, embracing tradition, and investigating human nature in sunny Botswana. In this newest story, Mma Ramotswe is challenged with four problems to solve: she is asked to investigate the unfair firing of a female employee, she is faced with an unwelcome visit from someone in her past, she learns about a potential risk to her assistant’s husband’s business, and she bravely meets an unexpected family member that causes her to question the integrity of her beloved father who is “late.” Loyal readers will be rewarded with a delightful read. Amazon Rating (December): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts: 

In the most soothing of ways, the story is predictable to the other stories in the series: readers grow to appreciate the beauty of Africa (Botswana is almost a character in the story); there’s always time for a cup of tea at work or a visit with your dearest friend and confidant (Mma Potokwani); and the characters are likable, quirky, and seem real. Mma Romotswe founder and owner of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, is a “traditionally built woman,” gentle, honest, inclusive, compassionate, full of common sense, thoughtful, gracious, and wise. In fact, she always chooses kindness and forgiveness as her response and never revenge. Idealistically, she believes that people are good and kind and want to enjoy themselves and take care of each other. She is a proponent of the old Botswana morality and the traditional ways (especially the old way of greeting others). The focus of her work at the Ladies’ Detective Agency is on righting small injustices.

“Both of these matters had been resolved satisfactorily, which meant in Mma Ramotswe’s view that all those concerned had been persuaded to see reason. That, she felt, was the key to the solution of any problem: you did not look for a winner who would take everything; you found a way of allowing people to save face; you found a way of healing rather than imposing.”

It seems as if Alexander McCall Smith enjoys these characters as they are consistently and warmly drawn from story to story. From the way the story is told, readers might infer that the author greatly admires and respects his main character and her philosophy of life.

Family is an important theme in this heartwarming story (and in the others). She takes care of everyone who comes into her life as family.

“Families come in different ways, she thought: sometimes they are given to you, but sometimes you find them yourself, unexpectedly, as you go through life. That is perhaps not all that well-known, but it is still true.”

Even though this is an eighteen book series, readers could easily read The House of Unexpected Sisters as a stand alone. It might be a little tedious or repetitive for readers who’ve read all the stories, but Alexander McCall Smith does an excellent job of providing all the background information a reader needs to understand the story and characters.

I’ve read all the books in the series and I think this one stands out as one of the best. If it’s been a while since you’ve read one, I’d encourage you to pick this up.

I admit that my rating of 4 stars is subjective because reading these books is like coming home to old friends. If I had read this as a stand alone and didn’t have an emotional attachment to the series or characters, I think my objective rating would be 3.5.

I recommend The House of Unexpected Sisters to those readers who are familiar with the series, for readers who love Africa, for readers who desire a quick, easy, escapist read, for readers who need a comforting read at the moment (perhaps to relieve stress or to take on vacation or to recover from a surgery), and for readers who want a “clean” read with a touch of humor for themselves or as a gift for a lady (no graphic violence, language, or sex).

I caution readers against binge reading or speed reading the series. They are best read as stand alone stories…perhaps one every few months. Even though it’s comforting to return to the homes of old friends, I think life might be boring if every evening were spent with them. The books in this series need to be read when you’re in the mood for a slow-paced, character driven story with an abundance of reflection and description. It could be classified as the coziest of the cozy mysteries genre and a true comfort read. It seems that we always feel like we can be better people after spending time with Precious Ramotswe

cup of tea

Make yourself a cup of tea, and read this for yourself and meet Mma Precious Ramotswe!

My rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

House of Unexpected Sisters

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra). More information at http://www.alexandermccallsmith.com/

 


Extra:

A Wrinkle in Time

Do you reread classics or have you read one for the first time as an adult reader?

Do you plan to reread (or read) Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle before the movie releases in March 2018?

More Information Here

Official Trailer Here


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“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


Looking Ahead!

Help me decide between Lincoln in the Bardo and The Bear and the Nightingale
for my next read.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read either one.

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo Information Here

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale Information Here

***12/2, edited to add that I’ve chosen The Bear and the Nightingale as my next read. (I suggested to hubs that we could buddy read Lincoln in the Bardo and after he listened a bit to the audio version, he decided that it wasn’t a good read for him.)


Sharing is Caring!

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!

I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series or if you have an opinion on what I should read next.

Advertisements

The Other Alcott

November 17, 2017

My favorite book to review: a woman author’s debut novel about strong, independent women! The author says that she is “drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told.”

Was Little Women one of your favorite reads as a younger reader? I think Little Women was my first “book hangover,” and I felt so accomplished reading a “long” book!

The Other Alcott
by Elise Hooper

The Other Alcott 2

Genre/categories: historical fiction, women’s fiction, biographical, sisters

Summary:

If you’ve read Little Women, you are familiar with the author, Louisa May Alcott. It’s also well known that Miss Alcott’s family provided inspiration for the book and its colorful characters. While many readers loved spirited Jo March (the character based on the author Louisa May Alcott), Jo’s younger sister Amy March was not quite as popular with readers. In Elise Hooper’s new release and debut novel, The Other Alcott, the author reimagines the world of the Alcotts from the perspective of Louisa’s real life younger sister, May (Amy in Little Women). Hooper’s story explores the relationship between Louisa and May which might have been fraught with jealousy, competition, and sibling rivalry.  Through Hooper’s story telling, we follow May as she studies and travels abroad to carve out her own career as an artist in a man’s world at a time when women who wanted a career often had to forgo dreams of a family. Although the publication of Little Women substantially helps the struggling Alcott family financially, May experiences conflicting feelings about the way she was portrayed in the book through the character of Amy. Eventually, this causes May to want to distinguish her own life from the selfish, spirited, and spoiled character of Amy. So in real life, the optimistic, stylish, outgoing, and creative May pursues art in Boston and in Europe. At first, she is convicted about not working too hard (as she’s seen her sister do) because she also values happiness and enjoyment of life. This is a story of art, ambition, and of a brave, determined young woman finding her voice and establishing her identify. Amazon Rating (November): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Like returning for the reunion of the Gilmore Girls or Full House or other beloved shows, I am drawn to the Alcott story because Little Women was one of my first positive literary experiences with a “long” book. As I indicated above, it was probably my first “book hangover.” I’m sure I’m in good company in being captivated by Jo’s  independent and feisty spirit; thus, peering into the Alcott family through reading The Other Alcott is enticing.

“At a certain point, you just have to move forward and hope for the best. You have talent. For more than just art. I envy your ability to rise along over the waves that threaten to tug the rest of us down. You’re unsinkable.”   ~Louisa to May

Although the relationship between Louisa Alcott and her sister May is highly imagined, the story is well researched and the historical details are evident in the various settings and fascinating event descriptions.

If you’re an art student or artist, you might enjoy reading about the years May spent in European art studios, competitions, and communities establishing friendships, skills, and her artistic reputation.

I appreciate important themes of determination, making difficult choices, complicated sibling relationships, feminism in the late 1800s, reconciliation, and forgiveness. In May’s words, “The bar has been set high in my family for what a woman can achieve.”

“…You have to work endlessly to make your visions a reality. Stake a claim to your ambitions. If you wait around for other people to define you, you’ll be saddled with their expectations–and that’s dangerous territory for a woman.” 

In addition, I appreciate the author’s extra information in the Afterward. Sometimes readers forget about the extensive research that is required of authors writing historical fiction.

While I rate this a solid 4 stars, there are two areas of weakness for me. One, I would have enjoyed more action to propel the story forward. And two, I would like to have felt a deeper emotional connection with the characters. These are minor concerns as I enjoyed the overall reading experience. It almost felt like reading a sequel of my beloved Little Women.

The Other Alcott is recommended for readers who appreciate themes of how women achieved careers and independence in an earlier time, sibling relationships, and ambition.  Of course, The Other Alcott is also recommended for childhood fans of Little Women. Last, I recommend this for readers who are looking for a solid, easy reading historical fiction selection, and for readers who might be looking for a “clean” read (no cautions for language or violence).

My rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

The Other Alcott

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper

Although a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise now lives with her husband and two young daughters within stone-skipping distance of the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound. When she’s not writing, she’s in her classroom trying to make American history and literature interesting for high school students.

She’s drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told. THE OTHER ALCOTT is Elise’s first novel.

Please learn more: http://www.elisehooper.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elisehooperauthor/
Instagram: elisehooper
Twitter: @elisehooper


Extra:

Little Women

Some readers love to reread Little Women during the Christmas Season because the story begins at Christmas time. This would also be a great time of year for a first read.

If you’ve never read Little Women or would like a reread, get it FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited (Amazon Prime) or at 99 cents for Kindle.

Purchase the Kindle Version of Little Women Here for 99 cents.

 

 

 


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“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 enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Looking Ahead!

The Deal of a LifetimeI’m eager to read Fredrik Backman’s newest novella release, The Deal of a Lifetime.

Backman is author of Beartown,  A Man Called Ove, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and  Longer (novella), and Britt-Marie Was Here. 

I’m anticipating this will be the perfect read for Thanksgiving week. Will you “buddy read” with me?

Purchase Information Here.


Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. We recently reached 2,000 views (and counting). Every share helps us grow.


Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear if you read the classic Little Women in your younger years. Or perhaps you read or reread it as an adult? Or maybe you haven’t yet read it and it’s on your TBR.

I’d also like to know if you are on the Backman bandwagon. If so, which of his works are your favorite?

 

 

Little Fires Everywhere

October 13, 2017

Are you a rule follower? Do you believe that following all the rules will lead to a successful and happy life?

Little Fires Everywhere
by Celeste Ng

 

Little Fires Everywhere

Genre/Categories: literary fiction, family life, mothers and children, transracial adoption

Summary:

Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, strives to be a perfect planned community. In the words of the author there is a “propensity to over achieve and a deep intolerance for flaws…a utopia.” Every winding road is thoughtfully laid out, the list of house colors is a strict, guideline, trash pickup is conducted in the alleys and all trash cans are out of sight, and tradition is revered and informs the future. Generations of Elena Richardson’s family have lived in Shaker Heights, and she ensures that her family follows the rules and lives up to expectations. All through her life she has followed the rules and this is wholeheartedly embraced as her highest value. Part of her personal code of following the rules is giving back to those that are less fortunate whenever she can, and she’s the type who keeps a mental list of her good deeds. Elena especially wants to use her inherited rental property near her home to benefit others. She earnestly seeks out renters that could gain from the advantage of living in her perfect neighborhood in Shaker Heights. Mia Warren, a free-spirited artistic non rule follower, and her teenage daughter, Pearl, are the most recent beneficiaries of Mrs. Richardson’s benevolence. Although when Mia is less than grateful for Mrs. Richardson’s offer to buy one of Mia’s photographs, Elena Richardson makes a mental note and this slight continues to bother her and becomes motivation for her future relationship with Mia:

“That’s very generous of you,” Mia’s eyes slid toward the window briefly and Mrs. Richardson felt a twinge of irritation at this lukewarm response to her philanthropy.

As the story unfolds, the two families become more involved with each other rather than simply remaining tenant and landlord. Soon the children become friends, Pearl spends her afternoons at the Richardson home, and Mia accepts a part-time position as a light house keeper and cook for the Richardson family.  Izzy Richardson, a teenage child who shares Mia’s artistic interests and temperament, and Mia develop a close relationship while Izzy learns photography skills in Mia’s darkroom. When one of Mrs. Richardson’s best friends is in the process of adopting a Chinese-American child,  the community is divided on the ethical issues and Elena Richardson and Mia Warren find themselves on opposite sides of the custody battle between the birth mother and adoptive mother. This conflict triggers Mrs. Richardson to find out about Mia’s motivations, her secrets, and her mysterious past. All of this has devastating consequences for the two families. Amazon Rating (October): 4.4 Stars

My Thoughts:

I give 5 stars sparingly and I won’t tell you a book is amazing without experiencing a “book hangover” at its completion. Little Fires Everywhere is already high on my list for my best reads of 2017. It’s an engaging, complicated, and complex story filled with family drama and a highly debated ethical issue regarding adoption rights. The story explores the multidimensional characters from all sides and the author causes the reader to seriously think about various situations and fall in love with these “real” and memorable characters.

While reading, I kept imagining Emily Gilmore of Gilmore Girls as Elena Richardson. Some of you might relate to that comparison. Elena is referred to as Mrs. Richardson throughout the story and rarely as Elena. I think this helps the reader appreciate the difference in status between Mrs. Richardson and Mia Warren.

An interesting structure of the story is that in the first chapter we find out about the devastating fire that occurs and throughout the remainder of the story we become intimately acquainted with the characters and explore motivations involved in the tragedy. How could this happen in a perfectly planned, ideal community? It reminded me of shows like Desperate Housewives where everything looks perfect from the outside and then we find out about their messy lives.

Also interesting is that Celeste Ng is from Shaker Heights! Thus, she has an authentic voice here.

Title and Theme

I think the title Little Fires Everywhere is brilliant and Ng weaves its meaning throughout the story. Here’s one example from the end of chapter seven:

Something inside Izzie reached out to something in her and caught fire. “All right,” Mia said, and opened the door wider to let Izzie inside.

Ng further explores the theme as she illustrates the differences between Elena Richardson and Mia Warren brilliantly in these passages (from Elena’s point of view):

All [Elena’s] life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly; a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or, perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that never–could never–set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity. The key, she thought, was to avoid conflagration. This philosophy had carried her through life and, she had always felt, had served her quite well. Of course she’d had to give up a few things here and there. But she had a beautiful house, a steady job, a loving husband, a brood of healthy and happy children; surely that was worth the trade. Rules existed for a reason; if you followed them, you would succeed; if you didn’t you might burn the world to the ground.

Yet here was Mia…….dragging her fatherless child from place to place, scraping by on menial jobs, justifying it by insisting to herself…she was making Art. Probing other people’s business with her grimy hands. Stirring up trouble. Heedlessly throwing sparks. Mrs. Richardson seethed, and deep inside her, the hot speck of fury that had been carefully banked within her burst into flame. Mia did whatever she wanted, Mrs. Richardson thought, and what would be the result? …. Chaos for everyone. You can’t just do what you want, she thought. Why should Mia get to, when no one else did?  ~from Chapter 11

As you can see, Ng’s writing is beautiful and there is a great deal to think about here and the above passage represents a small portion of the thought-provoking content that Ng so liberally provides the reader. In addition, to following rules, other themes involve art and expression, adolescence, motherhood, friendship, family and family values, loyalty, secrets, privilege, and transracial adoption.

One weakness for me, and this is a personal trigger for me, is Ng’s viewpoint toward women who choose to stay at home rather than work outside the home as well. Her viewpoint is more obvious in her first book Everything I Never Told You, but it is evident in this story, too:

A part of her wanted to stay home, to simply be with her children, but her own mother had always scorned those women who didn’t work. “Wasting their potential,” she had sniffed. “You’ve got a good brain, Elena. You’re not just going to sit home and knit, are you?” A modern woman, she always implied was capable–nay, required–to have it all.

I think women should be able to choose their career path without judgement, criticism, or demeaning comments from other women (including authors). My mother chose to stay home with her children for her career and I appreciate her sacrifice and the stable and loving home she created for her family. I think feminism should support all women and honor their individual choices. (she said stepping off her soap box!)

When I first heard the buzz about the release of Little Fires Everywhere, I noticed that other reviewers were excited because they had loved her first work, Everything I Never Told You. Therefore, I set about reading Everything… before the Little Fires… release date. Although Everything… is beautifully written and others have loved it, I was disappointed. For me, it was too sad and depressing with little hope or redemption. Nevertheless, I wanted to give Everything … a try because of the excellent early reviews and because Ng is a beautiful writer. I was not disappointed! Little Fires Everywhere is an amazing read! Not all reviewers agree with me that Little Fires… is better than her first work. If you’ve read both, what is your opinion?

A last small concern is that a few characters seemed stereotypical. Does this concern you as you read? It was something I noticed but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story.

Little Fires Everywhere is highly recommended for readers who might enjoy taking time to appreciate beautiful and complex writing, to understand intricate details of entangled relationships, to explore different perspectives on motherhood, and who are looking for an intriguing, compelling, honest, and thought-provoking read.

My Rating: 5 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

Little Fires Everywhere

Buy Here.

Meet the Author, Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio.
She attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of
Michigan. Her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, won the Hopwood Award, the
Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and the
ALA’s Alex Award and is a 2016 NEA fellow. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website at http://celesteng.com or follow her on Twitter: @pronounced_ing.

Happy Reading Everyone!

“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 spoils you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Extras

Read an interview with Celeste Ng here.

Another interview with Ng here.

(There are several more to choose from if you search Google.)

FREE! If you enjoy Christian Historical Fiction (and have a Viking heritage!), the Kindle version of God’s Daughter is FREE during the month of October! *Note: I have not read this, but free is always good, right?!

 

God’s Daughter
by Heather Day Gilbert

God's DaughterAmazon Rating (October) 4.4 Stars

Amazon Summary: In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a journey to North America. But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself–and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart. Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God’s Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir–daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America. This novel is based heavily on the Icelandic Sagas and is written from a Christian worldview. Get it Here.

I continue to hear buzz about Refugee which is highly recommended by librarians and teachers for middle grade readers (grades 5-8). *Note: I haven’t read it but it’s on my TBR.

RefugeeRefugee
by Alan Gratz
.

This is a story from the perspectives of three young people as they leave their countries of origin (Nazi Germany, Cuba, and Syria) as refugees to seek safety. Recommended for mature middle grade readers and above. This might be a good selection for a parent child book club. Good literature can be enjoyed by all ages!

More Information Here.


Looking Ahead:

I’m planning to review the YA selection Turtles All the Way Down by John Green next week. He’s a popular author with YA readers and most known for The Fault in Our Stars. Because the topic of this book is OCD and anxiety in a teen’s life and is receiving a lot of buzz right now, I’m curious to check it out. If you’d like to “buddy read,” click the link below for more information.

Turtles all the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down
by John Green

 

More Information Here.

 

 


Sharing is Caring!

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!

I’d love to hear in comments if you’ve read Little Fires Everywhere (or Celeste Ng’s first book). What do you think about Mrs. Richardson’s values of always following the rules for a happy successful life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alice Network

August 4, 2017

The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn

Alice Network

 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary:

In this page-turner, a courageous female spy (Eve), recruited to work in the real life Alice Network in France during World War l, and a young American college girl and socialite (Charlie), searching for her cousin after she disappeared in World War ll, join forces in 1947 to find revenge, redemption, truth, friendship, and a bit of romance. As present day Eve and Charlie search for truth, the story alternates between two time periods (1915 and present day 1947). In this complex and multi layered narrative, the reader learns about Eve’s backstory as a spy right under the enemies’ noses and Lili, the “Queen of Spies,” who manages the spy network. In the present day, Charlie deals with a grieving and angry Eve and an unplanned pregnancy as they search for the truth in Eve’s past and the whereabouts of Charlie’s cousin, Rose. Amazon rating (August): 4.7 stars

My Thoughts:

This week’s selection is a continued focus on female authors writing about strong female protagonists. The Alice Network is receiving a lot of buzz (as evidenced by Amazon ratings of 4.7) and it’s currently on the must read list of many readers who love a fast paced story filled with drama, intrigue, and suspense. I would categorize this story as moderate intensity as compared with other historical fiction selections (placed between intense reads such as Lilac Girls, The Nightingale, Salt to the Sea, Underground Railroad, and Between Shades of Gray and lighter reads such as The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society).  My reason for rating it moderate intensity is because there’s one section that’s difficult (emotionally) to read and I chose to skim over; whereas, in more intense reads there are multiple sections that are difficult (emotionally) to read. In my opinion, the weaknesses in this story include the too gimmicky or coincidental similarities between Eve and Charlie, some less than smooth transitions between the two story lines, and the focus on plot driven narrative writing rather than the beautiful writing of literary fiction (such as The Light Between Oceans). I loved the active role of Eve in both story lines and that it was a gripping and engaging page-turner featuring two courageous women. All the drinking and smoking while pregnant was disturbing….but perhaps this was accepted in 1947? As with all historical fiction, I enjoyed the knowledge gained…in this case about female spies in WW 1. Recommended to readers of historical fiction who are looking for a page-turning, gripping, engaging story about strong independent women. Rating: 4 Stars.

Alice Network

Buy Here

Meet the Author: Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before moving to the 20th century with the “The Alice Network.” All her books have been translated into multiple languages. Find out more here.

Happy Reading Everyone!

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

Looking Forward:

Next week, I’ll be reviewing a favorite The Glass Castle (a memoir) by Jeannette Walls in anticipation of the movie release August 11th if you’d like to “buddy read.”

Glass Castle

Buy Here

Please Share:

I’d be honored if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog.

Talking Books:

Please share your reflections on The Alice Network in the comments section. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you currently reading?

 

 

 

 

 

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

July 28, 2017

Welcome back! Thank you for reading, sharing, and following along! I think you’ll find this week’s featured selection fascinating. I love historical fiction and supporting women authors who write about strong women. You can also find me on Goodreads.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
by Jennifer Ryan

 Chilbury

Genre/category: historical fiction, contemporary women’s fiction

Summary:

A notice pinned to the Chilbury Village Hall notice board, Sunday, 24th March, 1940 reads: “As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close.” (Signed The Vicar)

Facing an impending Nazi invasion, the ladies of Chilbury, England pull together under the strong leadership and persistent encouragement of new choirmaster, Prim, to resurrect the choir as a ladies choir. This heartfelt historical fiction story is told from multiple perspectives and voices in diary and journal form. As author Jennifer Ryan states: “At the beginning of the war, an organization known as Mass Observation began, encouraging ordinary individuals to keep diaries and journals and send them into headquarters, where some would be published in a newsletter.” The ladies were serious in supporting the war effort in every way and their earnest writings combine to tell an inspirational story of what it was like to be a woman in the wartime 1940s, working outside the home to support the war effort, finding their voice, and their exploration of independence without their men. Some readers might be concerned that this is simply a collection of these writings: however, I can assure readers that this reads as one complete work and the individual perspectives flow seamlessly from viewpoint to viewpoint and add to the complexity and richness of this heartfelt, charming, and inspirational story. Throughout the narrative, a cast of charismatic and memorable characters emerges as the women face the uncertainties and hardships of war, resolve village problems as they arise, and a few enjoy a bit of romance.    Amazon rating: (July) 4.4  Stars

My thoughts:

Church choirs. Even though the choir in this story has ties to the church, it functions more as a community choir. How many of you have participated in a traditional small church or a community choir? If you have, your experience will add to the enjoyment of the story as you read. I was reminded repeatedly of the dear choir director at my home church. Directing the choir was one small part of her ministry. She developed a supportive musical community and she actively recruited and sought out new members because she sensed that each could benefit from the other. This musical community was safe and members were unconditionally loved. Yes, the choir performed a musical function in the church but so much more was being accomplished in the members’ personal lives which in turn enriched the others in the wider community. The way the community choir functions in this story reminds me so much of my experience with our cherished choir director! When a reader can make a personal connection it adds to the richness of the reading experience! I wonder if this story will affect you in the same way. The choir represented themes of unconditional love, commitment to a group, the importance of belonging, and the healing power of acceptance. The music teaches us that beauty can be created in the worst of circumstances, and illustrates the power of music to unify, inspire, and uplift.

This is an uplifting story of strong independent women making a difference in their world. It’s humorous, romantic, and filled with interesting characters of all ages who show us a fighting spirit. It speaks to the power of love and song. Also appreciated is that this was not difficult, heavy, or intense historical fiction (as so many are). I’m hoping this story will be made into a movie as I could envision a movie in my mind as I read! Highly recommended for readers who love historical fiction (light) and a story about strong women. Appropriate for young adults.   My rating: 4 stars  

Chilbury

Buy Here

Meet the Author: Jennifer Ryan

 Jennifer Ryan

“The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is my very first novel. Before becoming a writer, I was a nonfiction book editor, editing books about politics and economics, travel and health, and biography and memoir. I worked in London before moving to the Washington, DC, area ten years ago with my husband and two children.”

“I was born in a village in Kent, England, not too far away from the fictional village of Chilbury. The novel is based on the stories of my grandmother who was twenty when the Second World War began, mostly hilarious tales about bumping into people in the blackout, singing in the air raid shelters, and the freedoms women had during the war years–the excitement and romance. She also belonged to a choir, and her choir stories dramatized the camaraderie and support they all took away; the knowledge that they weren’t in this alone. The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir uses my dear grandmother’s stories as its backdrop.” More about Jennifer Ryan:  jenniferryanbooks.com  Twitter: jenryanbooks

 

Happy Reading!

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

Looking Forward:

Next week I’ll be reviewing “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn (historical fiction) if you’d like to “buddy read.”

Buy Here

Please Share:

I’d be honored if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog.

Talking Books:

Please share your reflections on The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir in the comments section. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you currently reading?