Sunday, March 17, 2019

"The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding," by Jennifer Robson

"The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding," by Jennifer Robson
London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin? 

Warning: Only plan on reading this book if you have a few hours to spare; as you won't want to put it down😄 

This is a fantastic book and so interesting.  I actually thought it was a true story; but it's a fictional book but the events are true; as in yes it's about Queen Elizabeth II wedding and yes she had her wedding gown designed by Norman Hartnell and the embroiderers from the fashion house did breathtaking work on her gown, but the characters Ann, Miriam and Heather are fictional. 

The details though in this book are fantastic and the way she describes all the rationing and even the weather during 1946 - 1948 is fascinating.  Please make sure you read the "about the author, and about the book" section after you have read the book, as there is an interesting interview among there with Betty Foster, who did actually work on the wedding dress.

Stars out of 5 : 5 I LOVED this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes anything British, the royal family, the 1940's and even mysteries, as there was one to solve.  

This is my own review; I borrowed the book from my local library.

Friday, March 15, 2019

"Finding Gobi," by Dion Leonard

"Finding Gobi," by Dion Leonard
Finding Gobi is the miraculous tale of Dion Leonard, a seasoned ultramarathon runner who crosses paths with a stray dog while competing in a 155-mile race through the Gobi Desert in China. The lovable pup, who would later earn the name Gobi, proved that what she lacked in size, she more than made up for in heart, as she went step for step with Dion over the Tian Shan Mountains, across massive sand dunes, through yurt villages and the black sands of the Gobi Desert, keeping pace with him for 77 miles.
As Dion witnessed the incredible determination and heart of this small animal, he found his own heart undergoing a change as well.  Whereas in the past these races were all about winning and being the best, his goal now was to make sure he and Gobi’s friendship continued well after the finish line.  He found himself letting Gobi sleep in his tent at night, giving her food and water out of his own limited supply, and carrying her across numerous rivers, even when he knew it would mean putting him behind in the race, or worse, prevent him from finishing at all. 
Although Dion did not cross the finish line first, he felt he had won something even greater – a new outlook on life and a new friend that he planned on bringing home as soon as arrangements were made.  However, before he could take her home, Gobi went missing in the sprawling Chinese city where she was being kept. Dion, with the help of strangers and a viral outpouring of assistance on the internet, set out to track her down, and reunite forever with the amazing animal that changed his life and proved to him and the world that miracles are possible.

This book is the choice for the April meeting of the book club I have joined.  The one thing about being in a book club is your exposed to books you may not normally read.  This book is a perfect example of this.  I wouldn't have picked this book up; for no particular reason, just not my sort of book.

However after reading it I did enjoy it.  If you like a feel good book this is for you.  It includes a lovely story about a dog and human, and how an inseparable bond can form.  I learned a lot about a sport I knew nothing about; ultramarathon's.  Who knew there was such a thing?  I learned a bit about China and how even a dog can whip up so many different emotions in a country.  

If I were honest though, despite being a dog lover, I found the whole sport of Ultramarathon more interesting for some reason.  However, Gobi is a cute looking dog!!

Stars out of 5 : 4 Not a bad book.  Pretty easy to read and a feel good story.  Well worth the read.

This is my own review; I borrowed the book from my local library.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

"The Chilbury Ladies' Choir," by Jennifer Ryan

"The Chilbury Ladies' Choir," by Jennifer Ryan

As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to close the choir and instead “carry on singing,” resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past.
An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.

This book was the book club book that was reviewed at the March meeting.  It sounded interesting to me, so I requested it and read it.  What a lovely book.  Each "chapter" is either a letter to someone or an entry in one of the characters journals.  Despite there being a number of characters, its very easy to follow along with the story that way.

The way the characters evolve throughout the book, makes this a great read.  Also prior to the war the women totally relied on the men for the most part.  Now that all the men have gone to war, their attitudes have to change whether they like it or not and that can cause quite a few issues for them.

This book has plenty of twists and turns in it.  Some you will predict that will happen, other's will surprise you.  Set in a small village in Kent not far from Dover, you will see how the war touched these women (and men.)

Stars out of 5:5 A solid five at that.  A wonderful book to read especially if you like all things British!

This is my own review; I borrowed the book from my local library.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

"Broken Bone China," by Laura Childs

"Broken Bone China," by Laura Childs

It is Sunday afternoon, and Theodosia and Drayton are catering a formal tea at a hot-air balloon rally. The view aloft is not only stunning, they are also surrounded by a dozen other colorful hot-air balloons. But as the sky turns gray and the clouds start to boil up, a strange object zooms out of nowhere. It is a drone, and it appears to be buzzing around the balloons, checking them out. 

As Theodosia and Drayton watch, the drone, hovering like some angry, mechanized insect, deliberately crashes into the balloon next to them. An enormous, fiery explosion erupts, and everyone watches in horror as the balloon plummets to the earth, killing all three of its passengers.

Sirens scream, first responders arrive, and Theodosia is interviewed by the police. During the interview she learns that one of the downed occupants was Don Kingsley, the CEO of a local software company, SyncSoft. Not only do the police suspect Kingsley as the primary target, they learn that he possessed a rare Revolutionary War Union Jack flag that several people were rabidly bidding on.

Intrigued, Theodosia begins her own investigation. Was it the CEO's soon-to-be ex-wife, who is restoring an enormous mansion at no expense? The CEO's personal assistant, who also functioned as curator of his prized collection of Americana? Two rival antiques' dealers known for dirty dealing? Or was the killer the fiancée of one of Theodosia's dear friends, who turns out to be an employee—and whistle-blower—at SyncSoft?

This is the latest book from Laura Childs, "Tea Shop Mystery" books series.  I have read all of them and love them all.  You will fall in love with all the characters and it is set in Charleston, South Carolina, a place I love.  The descriptions of Charleston makes you want to visit and search out the places that is mentioned in the book.

I rarely figure out the "who-dun-it" part of the book which is a good thing.  All the different teas that are mentioned, along with the food items described make your mouth water.  As a bonus there are always plenty of recipes and tea time tips in the back of the book.

Stars out of 5:5 I love Laura's books.  I always find her books entertaining and a worthwhile read.  Laura also has a couple of other series the New Orleans Scrapbooking Mysteries and the Cackleberry Club Mysteries that I want to read.   Can't wait for the next in the Tea Shop Mysteries; "Lavender Blue Murder.

This is my own review; I borrowed the book from my local library.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

"The Red Address Book," by Sofia Lundberg

"The Red Address Book," by Sofia Lundberg

Meet Doris, a 96-year-old woman living alone in her Stockholm apartment. She has few visitors, but her weekly Skype calls with Jenny—her American grandniece, and her only relative—give her great joy and remind her of her own youth.

When Doris was a girl, she was given an address book by her father, and ever since she has carefully documented everyone she met and loved throughout the years. Looking through the little book now, Doris sees the many crossed-out names of people long gone and is struck by the urge to put pen to paper. In writing down the stories of her colorful past—working as a maid in Sweden, modelling in Paris during the 30s, fleeing to Manhattan at the dawn of the Second World War—can she help Jenny, haunted by a difficult childhood, unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love of Doris’s life?

Oh my goodness what a book.  If you are getting a little older; 40+ this book is a must read, as you can and will relate to many things in this book.  It's no surprise as to where this book is leading you too; but the journey there is told in such a way you are there with Doris every step of the way.

I too have a red address book and I too have people's names crossed out, due to being dead.  The same way my Christmas Card list gets a little shorter every year.  We all grow old.  I loved the element in the book that despite Doris being 96 years of age, she was very comfortable using her computer and other modern technology.

Stars out of 5 : 5 I had a good cry over the last couple of chapters, as I think you will realize what will happen as you read the book.  However there are a couple of lovely surprises tucked in with this story that will make you smile and feel good about what will happen.  Well worth the read and I think I will put forward this book for selection to read at the book club I have joined.

This is my own review; I borrowed the book from my local library.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

"Josephine Baker's Last Dance," by Sherry Jones

"Josephine Baker's Last Dance," by Sherry Jones
Discover the fascinating and singular life story of Josephine Baker—actress, singer, dancer, Civil Rights activist, member of the French Resistance during WWII, and a woman dedicated to erasing prejudice and creating a more equitable world—in Josephine Baker’s Last Dance.

In this illuminating biographical novel, Sherry Jones brings to life Josephine's early years in servitude and poverty in America, her rise to fame as a showgirl in her famous banana skirt, her activism against discrimination, and her many loves and losses. From 1920s Paris to 1960s Washington, to her final, triumphant performance, one of the most extraordinary lives of the twentieth century comes to stunning life on the page.

With intimate prose and comprehensive research, Sherry Jones brings this remarkable and compelling public figure into focus for the first time in a joyous celebration of a life lived in technicolor, a powerful woman who continues to inspire today.

Although I knew that Josephine Baker was a dancer, and a famous one at that.  I didn't know she was a Civil Rights activist and a member of the French Resistance during World War Two.  This book highlights so many different facets to Josephine's life that it was a true discovery learning the many different sides of her.

However the overall feeling after reading this book; was that all Josephine wanted was to be loved, have a loving husband and a bunch of children.  I am sure she would have given up the fame and fortune to have had all that.

She struck me as a very lonely lady despite being surrounded by all the famous people of the time.  Even having all the material things with the fame, didn't quite give her everything she wanted.  I actually felt sorry for her.  One thing though I did admire was her bravery dealing with the Nazi's and trying to overcome racial prejudice in her home country of the USA.  Her rough and tumble childhood forced her to grow up fast and made me think how good of a childhood I had, had.

Stars out of 5 : 4.5  I don't read many biographies, but after reading this I think I will make an effort to read more.  The only thing with biographies, is you never know how much of the book is "romanticized" to make the book more sale-able?  Well worth the read though and I would recommend borrowing it from your local library.

This is my own review; I borrowed the book from my local library.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

"The Simple Wild," by K.A. Tucker

"The Simple Wild," by K.A. Tucker

Calla Fletcher was two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when her father reaches out to inform her that his days are numbered, Calla knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this new subarctic environment, Jonah—the quiet, brooding, and proud Alaskan pilot who keeps her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. As time passes, she unexpectedly finds herself forming a bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago.

It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

I borrowed this book from the library and read it all in one day, as I couldn't and didn't want to put it down.  Not sure if it was the fact it's set in Toronto for part of the story so I could relate to that, or I have this secret yearning to live in Alaska.........which let me reassure you will never happen.  Or just because the characters were so believable and likable and the story so well written, but I absolutely loved this book.

The whole dynamics between Calla and Jonah were so realistic that you felt as though you were in the same room as them.  This book made me cry, gave me butterflies in my tummy and made me wade through a whole slew of emotions.

Stars out of 5 : 5  Wish I could give it more as it so deserves it.  This is the first book I have read from this author but it won't be the last, as I love her style of writing.  Well worth purchasing or borrowing from the library.

"The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding," by Jennifer Robson

"The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding," by Jennifer Robson London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, bu...