Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Reviews

I've taken a short break from the Game of Thrones saga.  I've read books 1 and 2 and they are enthralling!  But I needed a short change of pace before getting caught up in book 3.

Here are three books I've read this week:

The first is from the Aunt Dimity "cozy" mystery series from Nancy Atherton.  They are not truly mysteries. Rather they are usually puzzles or hunts.

Aunt Dimity Down Under (An Aunt Dimity Mystery, #15)Aunt Dimity Down Under by Nancy Atherton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this installment,  the Pym sisters are dying, and they ask Lorie to "Find Aubrey."  Aubrey is their ne'er-do-well brother, banished from the family at a young age.  Lori promises and finds herself in New Zealand in her quest for Aubrey's kin.  This is a gentle story and was a welcome break after some of the heavier reading I've been engaged in.  Lori discovers the beauty of New Zealand, and accomplishes her quest in a different way than she envisioned, all the while guided by her husband's Kiwi friend Cameron and of course, Aunt Dimity and Reginald.

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The second book is very different.  Not exactly escapist reading.

SaplingsSaplings by Noel Streatfeild
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Noel Streatfield is better known for her "Shoes" books, particularly Ballet Shoes, but she also wrote adult novels.  Saplings tells the tragic story of the four Wiltshire children whose lives are devastated by World War II.  The book opens on the eve of the war, as the Wiltshire family enjoys an idyllic holiday at the shore.  Alex Wiltshire, head of the family, is an industrialist working on military projects, while his wife Lena, is a charming, but shallow woman who actually resents the intrusion of her children into her relationship with her husband. As the war unfolds, the children are first sent to live in the country with their grandparents, and later, when Alex is killed in a air raid, and Lena suffers a nervous breakdown, they are parceled off to various relatives.  The story is told almost entirely from the childrens' perspective, and Streatfield gets their emotions and thinking right.  All of the adults in their lives believe they are doing what is best for the children, but in reality, they totally misunderstand the effect they are having on the children.  This is a sad and extremely powerful story. It's a timeless story also as wars continue to wreak havoc on the lives of those on the homefront.

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The final book is the first book written by Tracy Chevalier.  Again, it's a different sort of story, but one I enjoyed a lot.

The Virgin BlueThe Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved The Girl with the Pearl Earring so I was pleased to receive this book as a RAK.  While not quite on the same level, this was a very good story, and I read it in less than a day.  Ella Turner moves to France with her husband Rick.  While he is off working, she explores her new community and starts to dig into her family's French past.  When she meets the local librarian who aids her in her research, her marriage is threatened.  Parallel with this story is the unhappy story of Isabelle de Mouline.  She lives in 16th century France during a time of religious turmoil.  With her red hair and her skill in midwifery, she is viewed with suspicion in her small village.  She marries into the Tourniere family from which Ella is descended.  The stories of the two women connect as Ella delves deeper into her family's history.  While I didn't particularly like the ending of the story, I did really enjoy the book.

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