Review: The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable

New England family saga set in a beach town – my cup of tea! Author Michelle Gable puts the reader on Cissy’s bicycle for a Nantucket journey through time. The Cliff House holds memories and secrets – and Gable does a phenomenal job weaving them together. With flashbacks to the 1940s, we find out what the Cliff House meant to Cissy’s mother … then fast forward to find out what makes it so hard for Cissy to leave. 

My favorites parts were the Bess parts. Love that Cissy’s daughter came to “save” her from herself -and Mother Nature.  Bess is a woman I can identify with – good head on her shoulders, self-reliant, smart. When she’s dealt a raw deal, Bess puts it aside to help her mom. And when high school ex boyfriend Evan comes into the picture, Bess lets herself lean on him just a little bit. 

I’m not a flashback kinda reader, so I wish this was actually two separate books. I loved the Ruby-Hattie friendship and the marriage issues described in the ’40s and could’ve read about that all day long.  I also totally enjoyed some of the contemporary romance going on in the 2010s – as well as the mother-daughter dynamic and the environmental issues that arose on the island cliffs. But mostly the romance. 🙂

-Calliope 

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Review: Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

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Shame and honor clash where the courage of a steadfast man is motley like the magpie. But such a man may yet make merry, for Heaven and Hell have equal part in him.” – Wolfram von Eschenback “Parzival

This quote at the beginning sums this novel up nicely.

I think it’s a book that people should read. I think it’s important. Doesn’t matter if you agree with war and politics or you don’t. This book is important.

As I read it, all I could think of was how people often forget that despite the politics and the cause of war…well at the end of the day, the people who fight war…well…it’s often just unsure and untested young people.

You have commanders giving orders based on information that they’ve been told. This information is being gave to them by men that don’t wish to displease him. They might not outright lie, but they certainly don’t give 100% accurate information either….Who wants to be the bearer of bad news to a commanding officer? At the end of the day, the men out on missions are pushed harder than many can endure…harder than any can endure…and the bottom line is, casualties can be offset and justified by the bottom line of damage and killings you’ve done to the enemy. When it’s all said and done, war too is just a numbers game.

My heart broke many times during this reading…and honestly, all I could think of is, “these men are only kids!!!!!!!” I don’t mean to take away from their service. There should be no way my statement could ever do that. However, think back to when you were 18. 19. 20. Now imagine watching your brothers in arm dying…or sometimes, worse, not dying soon enough…and knowing its your job to prevent it…that your decision, or hesitation, or non hesitation could cause it. Imagine knowing that the order from above will get you and your brothers killed, but it’s an order and it’s your job to make sure those orders are carried through. Imagine experiencing all of this, when in reality all you fucking want is to be back home in your lover’s arms…

As wonderful as the book was, I just can’t imagine! I can’t imagine what these young men were going through. We often get pissed at politicians for decisions they make. We often get mad at military situations…right or wrong…well that isn’t for me to decide…sure, I have my opinions, same as everyone else…but what I took from this book is that everyone dehumanizes during the event. People often forget the boys that are just out there doing as they are told. They look to congress, or the president or to the leaders of other countries…they make it an “event” or a “situation” or a “military action”. They don’t face the reality that it’s dirty, gut wrenching, diseased, no time to think reality for men that might not even be of legal age to drink. These are the men that are fighting….not some politician behind a desk…or a faceless entity. These men are brothers, sons, husbands, fathers and friends. They are not just numbers at the bottom of a count sheet…no matter how much the public and the politicians try to make it so…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

Review: A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J Hefti

26542105This is a story about those left behind by war. It just so happens to be that instead of the family left behind it is about the man who was at war who one day finds himself left behind. How he attempts to pick up the pieces after his combat days are over. A story where the young man finds out that although he might have left the war, he now finds himself in a different type of combat…now with enemy soldiers, but with his own personal demons and his feelings about himself. Novels like this do much to show how the image some see of people are never the images that they see of themselves. It also makes it clear that although War Heroes do exist, it is rarely the hero himself that views it as heroism.

Was this the best book I’ve read this year? No, sorry to say it’s not even close. However, it is an important book and I’m glad I invested the time to read it. Does it change my views on war and the destruction it causes? Not on the enemy, lands, or even countries. or on the men and women themselves. But it does reinforce my belief that not everyone can be judged by the outside image they display. Nor can they be defined by the labels that have been placed upon them. We should all give just a moments more time to really try to see and to help the people before us. Lest the masks they wear for us truly hide them until they are suddenly gone as is the person that wore them…

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by Edelweiss for an honest review

Buy it now A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J Hefti

Review: American Sniper by Chris Kyle

11887020I could go all on about how America needs people like Chris Kyle. Yea, I reckon they do. Without people such as Kyle, the world wouldn’t go ’round. My little bit of experience with the military reinforces what I felt about this book. Certain individuals are born for military service and the military is quick to see who they are. They are also quick to *train* them further for their needs.

But, hey ho, I said I wasn’t going to go there….

Why did I hate this book? I, personally, didn’t believe a word Kyle said. Yes, I believe the stories. But I somehow doubt his genuine feelings for his family, his country, and most of all, his modesty. Every single time (okay, maybe only AFTER the first half-dozen times he stated it) he said it was luck and not skill that earned him the title, I felt like he was SCREAMING, “I have to say that, but we all know I’m the BEST.” I just found his entire attitude judgmental (whether or not it was about his wife, his fellow comrades, or the civilians he was sworn to help). I felt he thought his was the most important viewpoint and no one else’s was valid. Even when he spoke of past war combats, he stated that they really didn’t understand what it was like for him. This might be true…but nor does he understand what it was like for them. There could possibly be more than one way to win a war, and certainly more than one objective. Kyle was trained for one aspect of that, and trained well, and he did well at his job….However, that doesn’t mean he’s above those others that trained in different areas and did their absolute best to back him and to do their job, no matter how lacking the conditions might have proved to be for them…

I don’t think Kyle won the war all by himself, no matter how much he might think he did…

Again, sorry for those that loved the book…I might have felt different it was told by someone else…however, there just wasn’t room for any love for me in this one…his ego kept getting in the way…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now American Sniper by Chris Kyle

Review: The Nightingale (revisited) by Kristin Hannah

21853621So are you a fan of Kristin Hannah? Read this book! Wait! You’re not a fan of Kristin Hannah? Oh well, read this book!!!! This is a book worth reading. From start to finish it had me completely captivated.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a customer about the War. I now live in England and of course the War still has a presence here. Sometimes you run into people who remember what it was like. Having to take in strangers that were forced from their homes…and their lives….This customer was one such lady…It was just a random conversation that comes up unexpectedly…but leaves you pondering the entirety of the conversation…voicing my thoughts about what people had to go through…well, it has left me to wonder about life for long hours after the conversation ended. See here’s the thing I pointed out to her….it’s not Hitler I wonder about….it’s the every day people….we are so quick to judge….so quick to say, “I would NEVER do that.”…however…..how can you ever know? If your child is near death and hasn’t a drop of milk and you only have to nod your head when a neighbor’s name is mentioned…what would you do? If you only had to pretend to not hear the knock at your door of a person in need of hiding to protect your family….would you turn a deaf ear? If you were starving and there were five bites of sawdust bread for your entire family, would you be tempted to eat two bits of the bread? How easy would it be to walk away and close your eyes to Jews being marched down the street to their deaths? How hard would it be to take a step forward and show your support knowing you might be forced to join them?

Here is that story that attempts to give you some insight to these hard questions. Here you have two sisters and a father…a father that has already come home from one war and now finds himself watching another….two sisters that each have different views of how to get through this war…Even though all three might have different ways of “living” during this time….who is to say which is the right way? As they perhaps judge one another for the choices they are making it is soon apparent to them all that there is no black and white in such circumstances.

The only clear truth one can surmise is that even though the three all take different courses of action to survive….that there isn’t a right or a wrong choice…

I don’t know what else to say….I love books like this…..because they make me realise how your life can change in an instance….it makes you realise just how bad and just how evil people can be….and just how pure people can be…it makes you realise that everyone has reasons why they make the choices that they do….it makes you realise that no matter how simple it is to judge someone by their actions that in reality you have no idea what is powering those choices…

Such a wonderful read…..not a comfortable read….but a wonderful one…

Until next time…
Urania xx

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Review: Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

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This is a romantic story, in the old-fashioned sense of it being nostalgic and dreamy and sigh-inducing. It blends a historical-coming-of-age story with a contemporary “finding oneself” plot. Rosie leaves London to help her aging great-aunt in the countryside. While she’s there she makes connections that fulfill an emptiness she didn’t even know she had. There’s a happily-ever-after, but it’s a tad bittersweet, kind of ironic for a sweetshop owner. 🙂

I loved Rosie’s story: her capers as a medical nurse, her hilarious clumsy attempts at traveling in the country, and her funny attempts at making friends.

I really didn’t like the flashbacks to Aunt Lilian’s youth. I’d be all into Rosie’s story and then BOOM Lilian’s story would interrupt it. You might like the alternating flashback format, but it seemed disjointed to me.

I really DID like the candy recipes and the editorial comments at the beginning of each chapter. I felt like the author was talking to just me, drawing me into the book!

My absolute favorite favorite parts of Sweetshop of Dreams were: when Rosie (with Edison by her side) tells off the dentist and Edison’s mom; and when Rosie goes careening off her bike head over heels. Yes, head over heels.

Sweetshop of Dreams turned into a contemporary romance after all. “Love is caramel… Always welcome… Easy melting of two souls into one… A taste that lingers even when everything else has melted away.” Lilian may have missed her chance at true love, but Rosie certainly “got lucky” when she moved to Lipton.

-Calliope

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Review – The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam.

Review – The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam.

13129612This was a book that I went into blind. I read a vague description months ago, but when I read it this past week, I couldn’t remember what it was supposed to be about. I am glad that it turned out this way, as it gave me a pleasant surprise throughout my reading!
There are many well-known books that examine what it was like to be fighting in the Vietnam War, particularly from the American side. It is rare that we find a story that examines the war from the perspective of a Chinese immigrant living in Vietnam, and here, Lam has created a perfect cast of characters, all sharing similar experiences.
I’m not going to reveal any of the plot, as that would act as a disservice to the book. However, what I can say is that in The Headmaster’s Wager, Lam has created a world where nothing is perfect, and there is no right or wrong. Lam does not condemn, nor does he laud. Each character has their own faults, and yet their actions are all taken to survive in one way or another. An action that you may believe to be beneficial, may not end up being so, but yet out of that misstep, comes another result that may ultimately be successful. Lam expertly weaves together the idea that every action has a consequence, and no matter if it results in tragedy or happiness, life will go on.
The timeline jumps from various decades, beginning in the 30’s and ending in the late 1970’s. This could seem jarring in many books, but Lam presents in such a fashion that it becomes essential to character building. Like I said above, some of the actions the characters take can seem extreme and excruciating, however, just when we think we hate a character, or what they do seems unrealistic, we are transported back into another decade and some of the motive is explained.
Whilst this is ultimately a story of the human condition in a time of war, there is also an interesting historical element that Vietnam War enthusiasts, or even those with just a passing interest, may enjoy. I knew very little concerning the war before I started reading, and the story teaches you several different aspects to the war, the different people/countries involved, and first hand experiences of what life was like for the people in Vietnam (whilst this book is a fictional tale, Lam’s family emigrated from Vietnam, so some parts are based on recollections that he heard from his family), and so you come away feeling like you understand the time period a lot more.
I hate to make this comparison, but in a sense, it is like the film Titanic; you ultimately know what is going to happen due to hearing bits and pieces here and there about the true life events, but you end up hoping that events take a different course, and you learn about the minor players, the behind the scenes action, and all the cogs that make the motion. This suspense that Lam creates really is brilliant.
If you’re looking for a read that will fill you with the spectrum of emotions, a read that will pique an interest in the history behind the Vietnam War, a read that will make you question human motive, then this is the book for you. Take a leap of faith and jump into this book without reading the blurb, or any plot reviews.

~ Pegasus

Buy It Here: The Headmaster’s Wager