Month: October 2010

What I’m Reading Now: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

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Simonson tells the tale of Maj. Ernest Pettigrew, an honor-bound Englishman and widower, and the very embodiment of duty and pride.

As the novel opens, the major is mourning the loss of his younger brother, Bertie, and attempting to get his hands on Bertie’s antique Churchill shotgun—part of a set that the boys’ father split between them, but which Bertie’s widow doesn’t want to hand over. While the major is eager to reunite the pair for tradition’s sake, his son, Roger, has plans to sell the heirloom set to a collector for a tidy sum.

As he frets over the guns, the major’s friendship with Jasmina Ali—the Pakistani widow of the local food shop owner—takes a turn unexpected by the major (but not by readers). The author’s dense, descriptive prose wraps around the reader like a comforting cloak, eventually taking on true page-turner urgency as Simonson nudges the major and Jasmina further along and dangles possibilities about the fate of the major’s beloved firearms.

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My Thoughts On The Postmistress

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I will have to email the author and ask her why she called this book “The Postmistres” because, well, there is a Postmaster in this book and she absolutely hates the term “Postmistress”.

This was an interesting book. It is set during World War II before the United States has entered the war. Everyone is worried about if/when Germany is going to attack the East Coast.

Amidst this storyline we meet three women: a Postmaster, a young wife and a reporter. The reporter is in London, trying to broadcast what is happening to London during the nightly bombings.

At one time the reporter goes to Europe. She knows that there are trainloads of Jews trying to get out of Germany and she wants to talk to them and get their stories.

When I reached this part of the book, I just rolled my eyes and dreaded the next few pages. It just did not seem that the author would be able to tell THAT story very well.

But, it was amazing. I was at the gym, reading, and I started crying on the treadmill over one section. It was truly embarrassing.

I do have two problems with the book. First, these characters would have the deepest conversations with total strangers, and I found that to be improbable. But maybe that’s what war does — it gets rid of the silly chitchat.

Also, I spent a long time waiting for the story to ‘start’ and for the characters to come together. I think I missed a lot of the story while I was waiting for something bigger to happen. This book is what it is.

What I’m Reading Now: The Postmistress

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Weaving together the stories of three very different women loosely tied to each other, debut novelist Blake takes readers back and forth between small town America and war-torn Europe in 1940. Single, 40-year-old postmistress Iris James and young newlywed Emma Trask are both new arrivals to Franklin, Mass., on Cape Cod. While Iris and Emma go about their daily lives, they follow American reporter Frankie Bard on the radio as she delivers powerful and personal accounts from the London Blitz and elsewhere in Europe. While Trask waits for the return of her husband—a volunteer doctor stationed in England—James comes across a letter with valuable information that she chooses to hide. Blake captures two different worlds—a naïve nation in denial and, across the ocean, a continent wracked with terror—with a deft sense of character and plot, and a perfect willingness to take on big, complex questions, such as the merits of truth and truth-telling in wartime. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

My Thoughts on Whistling Dixie in a Nor’easter

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This is a book that you can judge by its cover. It’s just as nice and pretty as the cover. Nice, clean, at times funny, and oh, oh, oh so highly predictable. Actually, I take that back. There was one part at the end with the “new buyer” that I did not see coming.

At the end of the book the author sets you up for a sequel. I’ll read it because the heroine in this book did not get her 100% happy ending, and I’d like to see that.

That said, this book will not make you think, call your neighbor to discuss, or stay with you in the years to come. It’s just “nice”.

What I’m Reading Now: Whistling Dixie in a Nor’easter

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In Patton’s plucky debut, naïve daddy’s girl Leelee Satterfield acquiesces yet again to her spoiled husband, Baker, who wants to move the family of four from Leelee’s beloved Memphis to middle-of-nowhere Vermont to buy and run an inn.

Leelee grudgingly agrees to keep the inn as is for a year while the former owners, less-than-personable German siblings Helga and Rolf Schloygin, dictate how the delicate Southern belle should run her home and the business.

Though readers will initially agree with Helga’s stern pointers, they will inevitably adore Leelee as she weathers each storm, gaining backbone while simultaneously shedding the helpless princess persona. Her transformation is (of course) accomplished with the aid of boisterous best friends, unlikely new allies and a heaping helping of girl power.

The author is none-too-subtle about the changes (Leelee, for instance, never, ever would have had the nerve to say any of the things I did if Daddy were still alive), and, though owing heavily to formula, Patton’s novel delivers on its feel-good moments and inspiring fantasies of finally making it on your own.

My Thoughts On The Day The Falls Stood Still

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Usually I do not like books or movies that have an underlining environmentalist message. It’s just not my thing. But in this fiction novel, I was fascinated by the underlining theme.

This is a book about a girl who loves a young man who loves the river and Niagra Falls. It’s during World War I and the United States is advancing technologically. There are power plants going up along the river, but unfortunately they are taking away the water and diluting the grandeur of Niagra Falls. Did you know that even during tourist season Niagra Falls is only 50% of what it used to be? And at night and off-season only 25%

That’s the underlining story of The Day The Falls Stood Still. Bess is a girl whose father used to work for the power plant. And, of course, she falls in love with the young man who despises them and what they are doing to the river.

It’s a nice love story, interspersed with periods of pain that always happen in life. I liked this book and I did not even mind the author’s agenda because it was so interesting.

What I’m Reading Now: The Day The Falls Stood Still

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Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this epic love story is as rich, spellbinding, and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she had left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating–and harboring a secret.

The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him–against her family’s strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel.