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.