Some Luck

This is a lovely book. Some Luck by Jane Smiley is the first in a trilogy that starts out in 1920 on Walter and Rosanna Langdon’s farm in Denby, Iowa. The book goes from 1920 to 1953, with each chapter being a new year, and a new episode in their ever evolving family. Over the course of time the Langdons welcome 5 children into their family, see the introduction of electricity to their lives, buy their first tractor, and endure all the hardships encountered on your average American farm in the early years before technology  lessened the loads not only on their backs but on their family relationships all round. Spanning over 30 years, this book is also a history lesson. Even the war plays a part in this story, and it was the only aspect of this wonderful book that I didn’t like. I am saturaated with war stories, having read way too many war focused books over the past 3 years or so. I’m done with war! That being said, I really enjoyed this book, and have ordered the second installment of the Langdon family trilogy and can’t wait to start it. Jane Smiley is a wonderful writer and you will enjoy this book.

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A Desperate Fortune

A Desperate Fortune is my first Susanna Kearsley book. She’s written many books but I’ve never heard of her before, which I have to admit is a bit strange since I read everything I can find about new books or authors and I spend lots of time wandering the isles of my local bookstore. Anyway,  I loved it. It’s one of those books that combines 2 storylines, one present and one past. 300 years ago Jacobite exile Mary Dundas wrote a journal – in code – which is very intriguing to modern historian Alistair Scott. He’s intrigued enough to want to crack the code to see what Mary really had to say. Enter Sara Thomas, a reluctant modern day codebreaker who suffers from Aspergers. This syndrome allows Sara to hyper- focus to the point where she discovers Mary isn’t what she appeared to be.  Along the way Sara must confront her future, just like Mary did, and decide for herself which path to take. Combining historical fact with modern-day fiction Kearsley writes a really intriguing book full of twists and turns that really appeals. I loved it. My one tiny criticism was with the endings of both the past and present story. But I won’t say why. I’ll leave it to you to agree or disagree. Kearsley is Canadian! Shame on me for never having heard of her before.

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The Birthday Lunch

I read The Birthday Lunch by Joan Clark in 2 days. It’s not a very big book, but still, it had to be pretty captivating for me to finish it that fast. It’s a simple story. 58 year old Lily is killed by a truck on her birthday in the small town of Sussex New Brunswick. A place where everyone knows everyone, and things like this just didn’t happen. It could have been a very depressing story, but somehow it wasn’t. It takes a good writer to carry a story like this and not make it sad. Left to mourn her tragic, sudden passing are her husband Hal, children Matt and Claudia, and sister Laverne. As in most families there are tensions between family members, especially in this case where huge disagreements and bitter feelings often resonated between Hal and Laverne. And each member of the family mourns in a different way creating even more fisures in the family relationship. Clark explores these feelings and you get a real picture of family life at the worse of times. She is a fantastic writer. One of our own, and she somehow makes this an appealing read, not a depressing one.  I really liked this book. Try it, I’m sure you’ll feel the same.

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In the Unlikely Event

In the Unlikely Event is my first Judy Blume book. I’m the wrong demographic to have read all her famous young-adult books. I must say more’s the pity since I really liked this book. At first I thought it was just an OK read, but the further I got into the story the more I liked it. Blume grew up in Elizabeth New Jersey, and was a teenager when, in 1952 in the space of 60 days, 3 planes crashed into this city narrowly missing 2 schools and a home for orphan children.  Imagine living through this! If there ever was a situation to make you feel paranoid, this was it. Talk of aliens, communists, and heaven only knows what else flourished. This book is the fictional story of those who’s lives were forever altered during that time.  The human spirit is amazing. Some flounder, some flourish, and some just get through. She paints the perfect picture of the style, music, and tempo of the time for 3 generations of families and strangers who are forever united by these terrible accidents. Life goes on. And Blume is the perfect storyteller to paint the picture having had first hand knowledge as one of those survivors. As far as I know this is her first “adult” book. All you “oldies” out there definitely need to read it.

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Matrons and Madams

I was really intrigued when I heard about Matrons and Madams. First time writer Sharon Johnston is the wife of our wonderful Governor General David Johnston. This means, in addition to the many duties involved as the wife of the Governor General, dealing with 5 daughters and who-knows-how-many grand children, and running Rideau Hall, she found time to write a book! And it’s supposedly the first of three she intends to write. You think you’re busy. So you can see why I was intrigued. It turns out – she can write! Her story, based on her family history (talk about strong women!), recounts the struggles of veterans returning to Canada after the Great War. Clara Durling, a British widow with a daughter in tow, arrives in Lethbridge as the new superintendent of their hospital just as wounded souldiers are returning home. Lily Parsons, a widowed school teacher originally from Nova Scotia, ends up in the same city managing a brothel.  (Yes, from school teacher to brothel manager.) The lives of these 2 women intertwine and the story is wonderful. It involves drinkers, prostitutes, gamblers, union organizers, hospital big-wigs, amorous bachelors and wounded souldiers. Quite the picture. And the picture she paints is fascinating! I really hope book #2 comes along soon because I want more. Your Excellency – Bravo!

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The Mountain Story

I couldn’t decide originally if I wanted to read The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens, but I decided to give it a go, and I’m happy I did. I love it when you think a book is OK, only to come away at the end thinking wow, the author really pulled it off well. I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t remember if I’ve read Lansens’ previous books or not. Her first, Rush Home Road, was written in 2002, and there’s a lot of water under the bridge since then. On his 18th birthday Wolf Truly takes the tram up to the top of the mountain above his home in a desert trailer park on the edge of Palm Springs, intending to end his life. He hasn’t had an easy go of it, especially witnessing the death of his best friend Byrd on that very mountain. But fate intervens when he spots Nola, Bridget and Vonn Devine, 3 lost women who are not by a long shot prepared for the adventure they are about to endure. They all end up spending 5 days together without food, with little water, and no way down the mountainside. Trapped as they are with all their personal stories, Lansens weaves a wonderful tale of love and endurance. It’s funny at times, gripping with emotion, and full of respect for nature. Wolf, now a grown man, decides it’s finally time to tell his son what really happened on that mountain. Get rid of those demons and clear his conscience once and for all. It’s a wonderful story. No doubt about it, Lansens is a wonderful writer. I really enjoyed this.

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Mightier Than the Sword

Mightier Than the Sword is the 5th book in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles. Considering the fact that I thought there were only going to be 3 books, each subsequent book has been a real treat. They’ve all been fantastic. Building on the story of Harry Clifton and Emma Barrington, Archer continues his easy reading intrigue, with lots of twists and turns and surprises to delight his loyal fans. And yes, even cliff hangers! No doubt he is a fantastic writer. I won’t give anything away, not even the beginning, since I may ruin it for new Archer readers who haven’t read the previous 4 books. Get with it guys. Book 6 comes out next year, I can’t wait, but I don’t want this series to end. This is a definite must read!

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The Nightingale

I was a bit reluctant to try The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’ve read way too many war books over the past few years and I just couldn’t imagine how this one would be yet again different from all the ones I’ve read. But it is. And I loved it! There was a short bit where I thought, oh no, this is same old, same old. But my feelings quickly evaporated and I got right into the story. Vianne & Isabelle are two sisters who are as different as day is to night. Vianne’s husband Antoine is shipped off to war and she is left tending the home fires along with daughter Sophie in the quiet village of Carriveau, France. Isabelle is a rebellious 18 year old who has been kicked out of one too many schools. She ends up joining the Resistance, and her life is changed irrevocably. This is the parrallel stories of these two women, both fighting for their lives during hardship we can only imagine and read about. It’s a fascinating book. Gritty, full horror and destruction, but above all it shows the resiliance of the human spirit and the power of women to endure the unthinkable. It’s a fantastic read.  Don’t think twice about picking this up. Just do it. Now I’m going to check on Kristin Hannah’s other books. There are 22 of them!

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After the War is Over

After the War is Over is written by Jennifer Robson. Her first book, Somewhere in France, was a favourite of mine last year so I jumped on the chance to pick up her latest when I heard about it. And I wasn’t disappointed. Charlotte Brown from book #1 is the focul point of this great read. She was a military nurse for 4 years and is now back in Liverpool dedicating her life to the betterment of those left behind by the Great War. Edward Neville-Ashford figures largely as well, and there is still some unresolved attraction, hidden though it is in Charlotte, that must be addressed between them. In post war Britain, class issues still exist so Charlotte feels she must dedicate her life to work, not the pursuit of personal happiness. But life doesn’t always march to the beat of a single drum. To enjoy it best, this book certainly deserves to be read after Somewhere in France. Pick them both up and devour Jennifer Robson at her finest. You won’t be disappointed.

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the way life should be

I’ve been on a Christina Baker Kline kick since reading Orphan Train. I like the atmosphere she created in that book, and when I discovered the way life should be is also set in Maine I quickly snatched it up to read while trying to keep warm during this bitterly cold, relentless winter. When Italian-Irish-American Angela Russo’s high powered job as an event planner in NYC bites the dust she high tails it back to her family home in New Jersey to recalculate and try to bring her life back on track. Being half Italian, food figures prominently in Angela’s life with her nona being at the centre of all things yummy. Nona’s a smart woman. She says mediocre restaurant food is soul destroying. Amen to that! Luckily for Angela, she inherits nona’s cooking gene. And luckily for us, the author even includes the recipes that waft poetically from the pages – how wonderful is that! Angela eventually packs it all in and moves to Maine to search out a handsome sailor who loves Italian food and dogs whom she met online. Risky yes!  But hey, the way life should be isn’t always the way you though it should be. Do they hit it off? Well… read the book and see. That’s all I’ll tell you.  Baker Kline is a great writer. Her books are full of atmosphere, well thought out, and definitely great reads for this long, frigid winter, or possibly – should we ever get warm weather again! – the beach. They make you feel better. What can be better than that!

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