Saturday, December 29, 2012

You can read in the dark, but not in the cold

Christmas 2012 was not what we expected.
The weather forecasters predicted 2-4 inches of snow -- we got 10.  Additionally, prior to the snowfall, icy rain plagued us for most of the day, which weighed down the many trees in our area.  With the additional snow, trees began to snap and break like twigs.

Thus, most of Little Rock looked like the above.
Nearly 200,000 homes lost power -- including us.
The temperature in the house leveled out at 48 degrees.  Far too cold for us to "tough it out."  Luckily we had generous friends (who were some of the few who retained power) graciously offer to house our family for 3 days.
Fortunately, our power was restored yesterday.
Unfortunately, nearly 30,000 homes in the area are still without power, and probably won't have it restored until next Tuesday.
But one thing I learned...reading by candlelight is easy, reading when your fingers are blue from holding a book, is not.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review -- The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon ReaderThe Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source:  Personal copy (birthday present!)
Genre:  Fiction -- novella
Objectionable material:  crude mention of sexual act -- and I'm not sure why?

Royal waves, tiaras, weddings, princes, princesses…suffice it to say, I’m a closet royalist.

Diana, Katherine, William, Elizabeth – I love them all (except maybe Camilla) and would gladly live as a royal for at least one day.

With that obsession background – it’s only obvious that I would adore Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader – a reimagining of Queen Elizabeth, in her later years, becoming a voracious reader.

With the appearance of the mobile library in the palace courtyard, Queen Elizabeth’s day to day life is about to change dramatically. Once focused on the needs of her subjects, The Queen is now eager to read the next book in her TBR stack.

I loved this book. In addition to being witty, original, and uniquely British – it was also a lexiconic wonderland of words like opsimath, amanuensis, and solipsistic.

Additionally – the Queen had some great quotes (and thoughts):

“…briefing is not reading. Briefing is terse, factual and to the point. Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting.”


“Pass time…books are not about passing time. They are about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to pass…one just wishes one had more of it. If one wanted to pass the time one could go to New Zealand.”


Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included.

My only quibble with this book – there was a reference to a sexual act that was odd and totally unnecessary. Really muddied the entire experience for me.

Aside from that – if you fancy a jolly good read (you can read this in one sitting), please pick up this book.  In the end, you’ll realize that you and the Queen have far more in common than you once thought.

Keep calm & carry a good book.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

May you be blessed with family, friends, and books on this glorious day!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review -- Mr. Churchill's Secretary

Mr. Churchill's SecretaryMr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Source:  Personal copy
Genre:  Fiction (not quite historical fiction, not quite mystery)
Objectionable material:  language, including the F-bomb (infrequent at best, though, and totally unnecessary).

Maggie Hope – American, Wellesley grad, gifted mathematician, expat in London, and working directly for Winston Churchill – what more could a girl ask for?

But Maggie’s life is far more complicated: on the eve of World War II, Maggie’s position as typist (well beneath her intellectual capabilities – but she was a WOMAN, after all) provides her access to many of the intimate details of the Battle of Britain. It also puts her in harm’s way – as a potential target for enemy sympathizers. When an innocent “advert” appears in the daily news, Maggie’s keen eyes, and penchant for secret code, puts her at the center of a conspiracy to bring down not only Winston Churchill, but one of London’s most visible landmarks, St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Susan MacNeal has written a spot on period piece, featuring a spunky sleuth, and vivid detail of WWII London. Although a work of fiction, the author used autobiographical details from secretaries who worked for the prime minister, as inspiration.

However, as much as I appreciated her central character and foggy London streets, I thought the “mystery” of the novel was elementary at best: a missing father, an IRA spy roommate, a dead co-worker – with Maggie saving the day in the end – was all rather MacGyver-ish, at best.

But, I did like Maggie enough that I would be willing to read author MacNeal’s second installment in Maggie Hope’s escapades: Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.
For those who love Maisie Dobbs or Bess Crawford, Maggie Hope would be a comparable read.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Review -- Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars (I'm not sure you can actually ENJOY this book)
Book source: Personal copy
Genre: Fiction; Psychological Thriller
Objectionable material:  Almost everything -- profanity, graphic sexual innuendo and situations -- if it was a movie it would be R rated.

Amy and Nick. Nick and Amy. A match made in heaven? Or a match destined to be destroyed?
Gone Girl is the IT book of 2012. I was determined to read it before the year ended.
The difficulty in reviewing a book like this, is there is SO much to talk about, analyze, discuss, but in doing so, would reveal far too much of the book’s plot and direction.
So I offer the following:
• Gone Girl is possible one of the best technically crafted books I’ve read. Clearly, Gillian Flynn can write. She mixes wit with trauma, romance with tension, suspense with sympathy. Things that normally make me put aside a book (F-BOMBS – YIKES!), I over looked (or closed my eyes) just to keep reading the novel.
• There is nothing to like about Nick or Amy. Nothing…but Flynn keeps you reading just the same.
• Secondary characters are woven into this novel like embroidery thread. You never know how they will fit in to the narrative – but they do – and successfully. Keep in mind one in particular: Desi.

That being said – this was not a pleasant book. It was much like a match: the first 100 pages exploded off the page – but the longer it read (or burned) the less brightly it continued. By the end, I was SO ready for it to be over.

Speaking of the ending: many of the reviews I’ve “skimmed” complain about the ending. I was completely satisfied with the way it ended. Is it how I imagined it would end? No. But it made total sense – and was in complete harmony with the characters.

Ultimately – I can see why this was a 5 star book for many – but because of the language, sexual innuendo, and overriding evil that pervades this book, I can only manage 3 stars.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Review -- Wonder

WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source:  Personal copy
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Objectionable material: None

Born with severe facial birth defects, August Pullman (Auggie), must for the first time face, what’s tough for even typical kids, the rigors of public school.

He is taunted and teased, jeered and ignored – he is the one all other 5th graders consider to have the “plague” because of his deformities.

But among the cruelty, there are a few points of light – his friends Jack and Summer, his parents, his sister Via, and his dog, Daisy.

Auggie has every reason to give up on school – and life – but through the eyes of author, RJ Palacio, we see Auggie for what he really is – a truly WONDER of a little boy.

This was a remarkable novel about how the viciousness of school aged kids is directed at one student, and how kindness from a few, brings hope to all.

There were several remarkable aspects to this novel: Auggie’s determination, his relationship with his parents, the resiliency of a few friends, the support of teachers – even the love of his dog. Auggie’s plight was visceral and real.

However, the one aspect of the novel I really struggled with was the age of these students: purported to be 5th graders in “middle school,” the dialog and scheming of the students involved really felt like kids in 7th or 8th grade. As a mother of a 5th grader – a kid like Auggie going to our school (K-5) might be looked at funny – and whispered about – and certainly experience unkindness (unfortunately) -- but the lengths at which some of the kids go to isolate and berate Auggie seem out of line with the social maturity (or lack thereof) of a 5th grader. Also, at the end of the novel, Auggie’s friend Jack makes the comment, “When did Summer get so Hot?” Yeah…my 5th grader has no clue about girls – the only thing he thinks is HOT is the new football he’s playing with on the playground.

Aside from that, Wonder is exactly what it says…a wonder.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review -- The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Source:  Personal copy
Genre:  YA Fiction
For the sensitive reader:  premarital sex; some language (I think?)

Hazel and Augustus -- both with cancer, both in love, both trying to live longer than expected.

This was a smart, brave, emotional journey of two teenagers who are fighting for one more day with each other.

It was a tender love story -- with very adult situations and results.

Only complaint: their obsession with a reclusive author, whom they track down in Sweden. He is a drunk and dysfunctional. For me, it was awkward and unsatisfying.

The last few pages of the book include one of the best "love letters" ever. Cue tissues.
*(It's been several weeks since I finished this book -- and a vacation too -- hence the brevity -- my brain only retains so much).

View all my reviews

Monday, November 12, 2012

Occupational Hazard

It's happened.
The dreaded occupational hazard that lurks around every page and at the end of any unsuspecting book.
It can't be predicted. 
It's not the same for everyone.
But every book blogger will experience it at some point in their blogging life.

A Reading Rut.

I can't seem to get past 12 pages of any book I pick up.  The more I read...the fewer pages I finish.
My eyes glaze over at my Nook or a paperback.
Even the books I've been dying to read for months are tossed aside like empty candy wrappers.
Maybe it was the election.  Maybe it was football season.  Maybe it's the impending holidays.
I can't identify the cause...but I do know that this is not the first time I've experienced a rut...nor will it be the last.  But I do know, I will crawl out of the literary hole I am in, and will be refreshed by the time away from pages and words.
In the mean time...I hope your reading flourishes, while I am trying to find my mojo.
Check back in after Thanksgiving.  We are taking a road trip to Disney World...surely 16 hrs trapped in the car with my kids will force me to take refuge in a book.   Because that's not just reading...that's survival.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review -- The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book source:  Library
Genre: Juvenile/YA fiction (won the Newbery Award (juv), but cataloged at our library in the YA section)
Sensitive reader:  the opening scene (a murder) could be difficult for young readers -- but it's something I would let Daisy Daughter (11 yrs old) read.

What do you get when you combine a horrific murder, an orphaned baby, and an ancient graveyard: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman -- the perfect book to read for Halloween -- ghosts, witches, ghouls, spells, caskets, crypts – and an unlikely survivor, Bod Owens.

I really enjoyed this book. Just the right amount of spooky without being terrifying. Just the right amount of sinister without being evil (except for the murder part). A group of ghosts that were amazingly creative, unique and loving – like the people they once were. The author does a great job creating an atmosphere of Dickens’ England, but set in modern day.

I think my only quibble with the book (OK 2 quibbles) is: the reason Bod survives his family’s massacre and why he has been targeted by the “Order of Jacks” is fuzzy at best. The author failed to make the correlation the least bit clear. And anytime you include an orphaned boy, the boy’s mentor, a female friend, a pit with a snake – one is immediately reminded of ANOTHER book with an orphaned boy, a boy’s mentor, a female friend, and a pit with a snake. Surely a talent like Neil Gaiman could have come up with something else. Come on. Give it a try.

That said, I still really liked the book. A good choice from my friend Liz.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October Book Club -- Destiny of the Republic

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a PresidentDestiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source: Personal copy
Genre:  Non-fiction; presidential history
Objectionable material: none (unless you get woozy at descriptions of oozing infectious masses).

Clorox wipes? Hand sanitizer? Soap and water?

So many “sanitary” tools that we use to keep our modern day world germ free.

Not so in the late 1880s. And it ultimately proved fatal to our 20th president, James Garfield.

Candice Millard builds an engaging multi-layered narrative around the humble life of James Garfield, his insane stalker Charles Guiteau, his team of highly trained (for the time period), but completely inept doctors, and one very popular inventor, Alexander Graham Bell.

To look at this work with modern 21st century eyes you gasp with the thought of -- how on earth could this have happened: A president unguarded with a stalker on the loose, medical professionals probing an injured body with filthy instruments and fingers, and a family waiting in agony as their beloved father and husband writhes in septic infection.

This was a very informative book – I knew nothing of Pres. Garfield. He was a footnote at the bottom of any history book. But he was a man beloved by a nation, who had no desire to become President of the United States. But when called upon, he accepted the nomination.

My only grumble – the writing was a bit flat and a few of the storylines felt incomplete. For instance, when describing Garfield’s romance/courting with his wife Lucretia, in once sentence you get the sense that it is a glorious romance, in the next line you aren’t sure whether they love each other at all. It was fuzzy at best.

Overall however, this was a remarkable history lesson about a man and a president where you can honestly say, “oh, what might have been...”

October Mother Daughter Book Club -- Stargirl

Stargirl (Stargirl, #1)Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Daisy Daughter's rating 4 of 5 stars
Source:  Library
Genre:  YA Fiction
Objectionable material:  None
From Amazon: Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.
Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

This was an extremely powerful book. Such a strong message on the necessity of maintaining your personal uniqueness in the face of overwhelming peer pressure.

The story of Stargirl and Leo has resonated for generations, and is timeless for generations to come.

Staying true to yourself, your beliefs, your soul, your identity, is complicated and difficult to say the least. Not only for a high school student, but for adults as well.

But this book is an essential reminder that our distinctiveness should never be sacrificed, but revered.
I was unable to attend our Mother/Daughter book club meeting, but Daisy daughter reported that the girls really enjoyed this, and committed to keeping their inner "Stargirl" alive!
Our November Mother Daughter book club selection:
The School Story by Andrew Clements

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review -- Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s. Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s. by Jennifer Worth
My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars
Source:  Library
Genre: Memoir
Sensitive reader:  Explicit detail on child birth, venereal disease, and prostitution.

A time capsule.

That is what Jennifer Worth has given us in her memoir, Call the Midwife, a perfectly captured time-capsule of her life in London’s East End, where she trained as a nurse, midwife in the 1950s.

This was a glorious book. Her storytelling was superb. I was immediately transported to post-War London, walking foggy streets, among ramshackle buildings and immense poverty. But among the ruins, is a group of midwives, The Sisters of St. Raymond Nonnatus, who care for the greater population of women of the East End.

We learn to love, hope, dream, care, cry, and mourn for her patients: Mary, a 15 yr old prostitute; Molly, the very young abused mother of 3; Sally, a 21 yr old expectant “mum” who suffers from eclampsia; Mrs. Jenkins, whose story is so tragic, it could be a book unto itself; and Concita Warren, a mother of 25 (take that Michelle Duggar!), who speaks no English, but raises her family with love and courage.

She also gives us a great history lesson about the East End and the “Cockney” residents. It was an education just trying to understand how they spoke!

I wanted to read Ms. Worth’s memoir BEFORE I watched the mini-series. I’m so glad I did. It will be one of my top 5 favorite books of the year. I loved it.

Call the Midwife is the first of a trilogy of books that she wrote – the second, Shadow of the Workhouse, and third, Farewell to the East End. I’m eager to read those as well.

Sadly, I learned that Ms. Worth died last year. I wonder what she would think of her memoir being adapted to a mini-series?
Finally, here is a lovely video of Ms. Worth reminiscing about her work in the East End.  It is a treat.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 1, 2012

September Mother Daughter Book Club -- The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
My enjoyment rating: 2 of 5 stars
Daisy Daughter enjoyment rating:  4 of 5 stars
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Source:  Personal copy
Objectionable material: None

Mother Daughter book club – year #4!

We’ve made it to Middle School! We’ve lost a few members, but the girls were glad to be back together.

Our selection this month was The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Mr. Stewart is a local author, so it seemed appropriate to read a book by a “neighbor.”

There were several aspects of this book that the girls enjoyed discussing: What determines a family? What are your strengths/talents? Does this book exemplify teamwork? How well would you have worked as a team?

Daisy daughter and her friends enjoyed this book much more than I did. I found the depth of the story lacking, and had a really difficult time maintaining interest. The four society members had some really interesting tests to accomplish in the beginning that were VERY clever. After that, it meandered, and introduced a "whispering machine" that I still don't quite understand. I didn’t finish it until 3 days after our discussion. That being said, Daisy daughter is already on book #2 of the series. I think I am done.

Although the book was a bust for me – I can tell you that I am thrilled that after 4 years, we are still meeting. As the girls mature, their comments are more thought provoking and in-depth. And the moms get a chance to talk about our developing pre-teens. It’s a joy!
Our October selection:
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Part fairy godmother, part outcast, part dream-come-true, the star of Spinelli's novel shares many of the mythical qualities as the protagonist of his Maniac Magee. Spinelli poses searching questions about loyalty to one's friends and oneself and leaves readers to form their own answers.

Friday, September 21, 2012

September Book Club & Book Review -- Someone Knows My Name

Someone Knows My NameSomeone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill
My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars
Source:  Publisher (received three years I hang my head in shame)
Genre:  Historical fiction
Sensitive reader:  violent acts against humanity, sexual situations, deprivation.

Epic: heroic, grand, majestic, poetic.

All of the above could be used to describe Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill.

Aminata Diallo has been stolen from her tribe, witnessed her parents being killed, and has been trekked by slave traders to the Slave Coast of Africa to make her long journey to America as a slave. All at the age of 11.

Fortunately, she’s been taught well by her parents and knows both her mother’s trade as a midwife, and her father’s gift of languages. They will be essential to her survival and future.

Her journey takes her to the low country of South Carolina, to the urban centers of Manhattan during the Revolutionary War, on a ship to the coast of Nova Scotia as a Black Loyalist, to the new colony of Freetown Sierra Leone, and finally, as an abolitionist for the British.

This was not a pleasant narrative. Slavery is awful. But I was engrossed in Aminata’s (ah MEEN a tah) tale from the first page: her struggles, her pain, her loss – but also her endurance, her talents, her wisdom, and ultimately, her survival.

I haven’t read a novel with such heart and scope since The Poisonwood Bible or possibly, Gone With the Wind.

If you want to get lost in a difficult story and life of an incredible woman, open your soul to Aminata.

You’ll be glad you know her name.

Our October book club selection:
Destiny of the Republic: The Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

TLC Book Tour & Review -- The Unfinished Garden

My enjoyment rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars (4 without the F-bomb)
SourceTLC Book Tours
Genre: General Fiction; Romance; Chick Lit
Objectionable material: Multiple uses of the F-bomb.  Lots!
Publisher summary:  James Nealy is haunted by irrational fears and inescapable compulsions. A successful software developer, he's thrown himself into a new goal—to finally conquer the noise in his mind. And he has a plan. He'll confront his darkest fears and build something beautiful: a garden. When he meets Tilly Silverberg, he knows she holds the key…even if she doesn't think so.
After her husband's death, gardening became Tilly's livelihood and her salvation. Her thriving North Carolina business and her young son, Isaac, are the excuses she needs to hide from the world. So when oddly attractive, incredibly tenacious James demands that she take him on as a client, her answer is a flat no.
When a family emergency lures Tilly back to England, she's secretly glad. With Isaac in tow, she retreats to her childhood village, which has always stayed obligingly the same. Until now. Her best friend is keeping secrets. Her mother is plotting. Her first love is unexpectedly, temptingly available. And then James appears on her doorstep.
Away from home, James and Tilly forge an unlikely bond, tenuous at first but taking root every day. And as they work to build a garden together, something begins to blossom between them—despite all the reasons against it.
No expectations.
I love it when I start a book with absolutely no expectations – and I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it!
Barbara Claypole While weaves a narrative full of complicated characters that are flawed and broken, and uses the literal and physical metaphor of a garden to help them heal and grow, both individually, and as a couple.
I was amazed that she could develop a character – James Nealy – who is plagued with obsessive compulsive disorder, and make him appear ill and struggling, as opposed to a caricature who is dysfunctional with ticks and outbursts.  And in the process, provided the reader with an opportunity to learn more about the condition.
Her descriptions of gardens and the lush estates of England were glorious:  Birds, bugs, flora, fauna, “The Chase,” ancient woodlands – I felt like I needed to dress up in Jane Austen-like attire and find Mr. Darcy at Pemberley.
Her characters were also equipped with steely dialogue. Tilly and James had very complex discussions about the state of James’s OCD, and Tilly’s past relationships.  In addition, those sharp conversations were extended to friends Rowena and Sebastian.
One of the highlights, for me, was the focus on the relationship and the developing love story between Tilly and James without the sex scenes!  I suppose that might be a disappointment to some, but it was a breath of fresh air to be free of throbbings and heavings.
However, the biggest downfall of this otherwise delightful novel – the use, and overuse of the F-bomb.  Once or twice I can manage…but it was littered throughout the novel.  Maybe it was a necessary element of James’s OCD…but I grew tired of having to read it. Again. And again.
Ultimately, a bright novel about two imperfect people who learn to help one another through their love of life and nature.
I'd like to thank TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.
Show Mo

Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Review -- Edenbrooke

Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance
Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book source:  Library
Genre: Fiction, Regency Romance
Objectionable material:  None

Summary from book: Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she'll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

This was a predictable regency romance: girl meets boy, boy is a jerk, girl forms bad opinion of boy, boy and girl meet up again on a luxurious estate, verbal repartee begins, feelings for one another take shape, girl and boy have misunderstanding, girl thinks all is lost, boy comes to the rescue, concludes with smoldering kisses, breathlessness, and promises of unyielding love and lots of money on previously mentioned luxurious estate.

There was nothing particularly new in this book. It was cute. It was fun. But nothing special. One thing I missed while reading this book – the writing. Author Julianne Donaldson chose to write this in a very 21 century-type dialogue. There is something to be said for the rich, formal, fussy, even complicated language of traditional regency romances (like Georgette Heyer). It just didn’t “feel” like the 19th century. Could have been any romance, with the exception of carriages and corsets.

A quick, simple, weekend read.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review -- The Tennis Player from Bermuda

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Source:  Publisher (I was not compensated in anyway for my review.  My comments are mine alone).
Genre:  Fiction; British chick-lit
Objectionable material:  fornication

From the publisher:

…In 1962, the tennis players at Wimbledon were all amateurs -- there were no entourages for players, no lucrative product endorsements, and little money. Tennis fashion design was the domain of the extraordinary Teddy Tinling.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club was a tiny 13 acres with only 16 grass courts, including the famous Centre Court.

In The Tennis Player from Bermuda, Fiona tells how she qualified for Wimbledon in 1962 and became the best friend of Claire Kershaw, the number one woman player in the world. Fiona fell in love with Claire’s brother, a handsome Royal Marines officer, and their love affair played out against the dramatic Championship match between Claire and Fiona.

Fiona’s story combines friendship and love with one of the greatest sports competitions of all time…

I started playing tennis late in life – like two years ago. Who knew you could fall in love with a sport at middle age – and be good at it! Although my tennis career has taken a hiatus in the past 6 months, it’s still an absolute joy to get out on the courts for a match.

When I saw this book advertised in The New York Times Book Review, I KNEW I had to read it! Thanks to Troubador for sending me a copy.

What I liked: Ms. Hodgkin’s narrative about the actual game of tennis was a thrill to read. So much of my game is the determination to get the ball over the net and not hit it out. I loved the portion where the author talked about the physics of the game: speed, velocity, force, drag – good heavens – I had no idea I needed to be a scientist to be a good tennis player. I learned so much.

I loved reading about the history of Wimbledon. I remember watching the Bjorn Borg/John McEnroe match back in the 80s. I haven’t been there – but after reading Ms. Hodgkin’s book and the addition of my personal TV memories – I feel like I have.

I loved Fiona and her cast of friends – Claire (her best friend and Wimbledon opponent) and Rachel (her coach) – and her family – they were fun, quirky, and enjoyable.   Also, it was the perfect book to read on the heals of the London Olympics.  Makes me want to book tickets immediately! 

What I didn’t like: while Ms. Hodgkin excelled at writing about the game and nuances of tennis and Wimbledon – her romance writing (Fiona had two love interests) was lacking. One of her relationships ends abruptly, and where there should have been this great sense of sadness…there was really no emotion at all. There was also a veiled reference to “date rape” that was really uncomfortable. When I read that particular scene I thought, “ummm….she didn’t just blame herself for that did she?”

Ms. Hodgkin didn’t actually play at Wimbledon in 1962. I had to constantly remind myself that this was a NOVEL not a memoir, and Ms. Hodgkin used herself as a the main character.

If you are a tennis player, a fan of the game or a fan of Wimbledon – or even a fan of British chick lit – this was overall an amusing and entertaining read.