Friday, April 29, 2011

The Postmistress

by Sarah Blake

I love stories surrounding the World War II era. As a time that demonstrated both the worst and best of humanity, it makes an excellent setting for story-telling. So when I saw The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, I was pulled to it as a magnet. Blake's novel follows three American women in the time period before the U.S. has entered the war. Iris is the postmistress in the small cape town of Franklin, who thrives on routine and order. Emma is the newcomer to the town who has finally found a home with her new husband (and the town doctor), Will Fitch. Finally, Frankie is a reporter scouring Western Europe for the truth. While telling their three separate stories, Blake also weaves them together with language that is beautiful, and at times heart breaking.

Blake often refers to the "edges" of a story. Her characters state that there are times when we only know the parts of the story that are told or experience, we do not always see the final outcome or the center of an issue. In the same way, Blake writes about WWII from the perspective of the "edges".  The reader is not following a soldier off to war, we are not with a family hiding their friends in the basement, or walking with those trying to escape from the country. Instead, we are with three women who cannot yet see the enormity of what is happening around the world. They see only the "edges" that they can experience in their own lives. Actually, Frankie tries to press through the edge to the center of the story, and becomes overwhelmed by the horror of what she experiences. Each of the heroines faces their own struggles with purpose and  truth: Iris hiding a potentially devastating letter, Emma facing life on her own after Will leaves to help as a doctor in the London blitz, and Frankie collecting the stories of those fleeing the areas ruled by the Nazis. They come together in the end, with their own sorrows and perspectives on faith and purpose. Although this is not a story with a "happily ever after", Blake tells it beautifully and manages to offer the reader a unique perspective on WWII.

The Rake

by Suzanne Enoch

Short and sweet: This was a great romance novel! Georgiana and Dare are great characters and despite their apparently antagonistic relationship, truly have a deep love for one another. Working through their tumultuous past and trust issues, they re-build their relationship with a satisfying ending! This is definitely a winner for Suzanne Enoch.

Friday, April 8, 2011


by Paul Harding

I'm not sure exactly what drew me to pick this book up in the store... I think it was the title that reminded me of the term used to describe Irish gypsies (or travellers). Upon closer examination I quickly learned that the novel has absolutely nothing to do with Ireland, but was intrigued by its status as a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the positive reviews. Tinkers begins by telling the story of an elderly man (George) on his deathbed, hallucinating about and re-living earlier days in his life. Intertwined in the telling of his own story, is that of his father's (Howard) life and struggles. What I really appreciated most about this book was the depth that it offers to George's life. Instead of seeing George simply as an old, sick man, the reader gets to experience his full life and learns to appreciate him in that light. Both men suffer through Howard's epilepsy, which eventually prompts Howard to strike out on his own after causing injury to his son. The story is a telling of their journeys, and encourages the reader to look at life with a different point of view.

Although this book is only about 190 pages, I will say that it took me a couple of weeks to read. I love words. I love how they can be put together to form vibrant images, to describe life from a unique point of view. Harding is a master of this, and his writing definitely leaves an impression. Harding jumps between the two characters' points of view, "excerpts" from The Reasonable Horologist, and third-person storytelling flawlessly. He manages to describe epilleptic seizures in a beautiful and sometimes frightening way. My one complaint is that a single descriptive sentence sometimes runs the entire length of the page. In addition to words, I also love punctuation... and I never realized how much until I read this book, and started looking around for some more periods. For me, it took a greater amount of concentration to make sure that I was truly absorbing the information that I was reading. If you have the time and some extra brain power, Tinkers is definitely worth a read. Although the title Tinkers was selected to describe the two male characters' abilities to break down and repair things, I find that the story is focused on their wanderings and life journey. So maybe my initial impression of the title is fitting after all, viewing the characters as "travellers" through life.

"And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God's will and His grace toward you and that that is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty, as your own father always said in his sermons and to you at home. And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you've done nothing to deserve it." - Paul Harding, Tinkers, p. 72

Saturday, April 2, 2011

All About Passion

by Stephanie Laurens

If you know me well, or maybe even not so well, then you are probably aware of my love for historical romance novels. They are what you might call my "guilty pleasure", although I think they are a very valid reading choice (I will have an upcoming post on WHY romance novels deserve literary respect).

My review for All About Passion by Stephanie Laurens will be fairly short and concise. This book is the same as the majority of her others. If you like your hero to be dark and brooding, and your heroine to be passionate, a little pushy and the one woman who finally overcomes the hero's emotional walls.... then this is the book for you!  Stephanie Laurens is the master of this type of novel, and does it well. I do like that in All About Passion she adds an element of mystery/adventure to the novel with the introduction of character who makes several attempts on the heroine's life, which lets the reader use a little of their own detective skills throughout the book (I was right!).  The only problem is that I find it necessary to take a "break" between reading her books, because the plot lines and characters are all very similar. Over time, it becomes difficult to differentiate which character was in which story. So in short.... if you like other various Stephanie Laurens' novels, then I am fairly confident that you will enjoy this one as well.

BLOG NOTE: As part of my goal to read forty book this year, I am also trying to branch out and read some books that I might not normally select for myself. So if you have any suggestions, pop on over to my "40 Books in a Year" page (link at the top of this website), and post them there!