Friday, June 24, 2022

Book Review - The Foundling; Ann Leary


The Foundling; Ann Leary
Simon & Schuster Audio - 2022
Scribner/Marysue Ricci Books - 2022

Mary Engle was raised in a Catholic orphanage when her mother died shortly after her birth. Her best friend there was Lillian Henning.  

Fast forward to 1927, Mary is now eighteen and has been hired  as a secretary by Ann Vogel, a psychiatrist she met at a lecture. The brilliant Dr, Agnes Vogel runs the Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age.  She believes that weak, feeble minded women are preyed upon by unscrupulous men and should be confined in an institution where they can do farm labor to earn their room and board.  Unfortunately, many of the women at this institution were not feebleminded, instead they were dumped there by spouses and parents if they were deemed difficult or in some cases unmarried and expecting a child.  The institution is located in a remote area and conditions at the institution were horrific to say the least.

One of the women at Nettleton is Mary's former friend Lilian Henning. She has been confined there for having the child of a black man who she was not married to.  Lillian begs Mary to help free her.

Mary was a frustrating character at times who failed to see what was going on before her very eyes. Quite naive to say the least, I gave her a pass at times because of what she went though as a child. The novel is a fictionalized account of Laurelton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age which was located in central PA. 

The story was frightening at times forcing you to think about what went on back in the day when women were deemed unfit to have children.  We learn about eugenics -- selective breeding and removing undesirables from the race, forced sterilizations and the prohibition of mixed races from marrying as well as individuals with mental and physical disabilities. 

I thought the author did a good job getting her story across.  This is my third book in the last few years that has focused on the treatment of women in the 1920s. It was disheartening to see women considered as mere chattel back in the day regardless if they were rich or poor. I originally started the audiobook, read by Laura Benanti, but,  I then switched to the eBook which I preferred.

Rating - 4/5 stars

NOTE:  I received an audio and eBook download from the publisher at no cost in exchange for my unbiased review.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Book Review - Tin Camp Road; Ellen Airgood


Tin Camp Road; Ellen Airgood
Riverhead Books - 2021

I have to admit, it was the title and cover art that had this book scream "summer read" to me.

The premise of this novel is a struggling single mother trying to provide a decent live for her 10 year old daughter while vowing never to leave her roots in Gallion, Michigan.  Laurel works as a maid at a local motel and she and her daughter Skye live a no frills life.  Skye seems more mature than her age but, she is often left alone unsupervised when Laurel picks up an extra shift.  Mother and daughter argue and their relationship is one of sacrifice.  When their landlord notifies them that they must move as he has decided to convert their cabin into a more lucrative seasonal rental on the upper peninsula, Laurel and Skye must pack up and find another place to stay, which turns out to be more difficult than anticipated.

The author writes about life in the area where she grew up and where she worked as a waitress for nearly 20 years.  While I loved the setting of this book and its depictions of small town lake life, I found it almost painfully hard to get through at times -- it took me over a week. The mother makes some poor choices that are not in the daughter's best interest and even has CPS intervening.  There were too many unnecessary details and the book had an overall unfocused feel. This one started off well but, it ended up disappointing me. 

RATING - 2.5/5 stars

Book Review - A Long Petal of the Sea; Isabel Allende


A Long Petal of the Sea; Isabel Allende
Ballantine Books - 2020

This title was our book group pick for June and, although initially, I didn't think I wanted to read about the Spanish Civil this summer, in the end I was mostly, but not entirely, happy that I did.  My book group definitely helps me to branch out and try books I might have passed on.

The story begins in 1938 and ends in 1994, taking readers from Spain to France, Chile and Venezuela and ending in Chile. From the Spanish Civil war and political upheaval which includes a 1973 coup in Chile where the democratic government elected to power is overthrown.  It's also a bit of a love story in the midst of war and political crises.

The writing is good but, the translation felt a bit off at times.  I thought the author took great pains in getting all the real life historical details just right, as this is in part based on a true story. However, I felt that the characters themselves lacked depth and emotion and more focus should have been given to the characters themselves.  The portrayal of refugee camps was hard to read about and, I thought the author did a good job demonstrating the impact of war on its people.

Our group had mixed reactions to this book, a few really liked it, a few disliked and others had similar issues to mine.  Have you read this one? What did you think?

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Hotel Nantucket; Elin Hilderbrand


Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book ReviewsEach week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read soon.  This one comes from my (20) Books of Summer list.

The Hotel Nantucket; Elin Hilderbrand
Little Brown and Company - 2022


The Cobblestone Telegraph

Nantucket Island is known for its cobblestone streets and red brick sidewalks, cedar-shingled cottages and rose-colored arches, long stretches of golden beach and refreshing Atlantic breezes--and it's also known for residents who adore a juicy piece of gossip (which hot landscaper has been romancing which local real estate mogul's wife--that kind of thing!)  However, none of us are quite prepared for the tornado of rumors that rolls up Main Street, along Orange Street, and around the rotary out to Sconset when we learn that London-based billionaire. Zavier Darling is investing thirty million dollars in the crumbling eyesore that is the Hotel Nantucket.

Half of us are intrigued. (We have long wondered if someone would try to fix it up.)

The other half are skeptical.  (The place, quite frankly, seems beyond saving.)

For me, it's not summer without an Elin Hilderband and Nancy Thayer book on my list - my love of Nantucket Island is always satisfied.

What do you think, read more or pass?

Monday, June 20, 2022

Brief Book Review - Cloud Cuckoo Land; Anthony Doerr


Cloud Cuckoo Land; Anthony Doerr
Combo - Read/ Listen (mostly read)
Scribner and Simon & Schuster Audio - 2021
(audio narrated by Marin Ireland and Simon Jones - very good)

It took me a while to wrap my head around what turned out to be an impressive story. I started with the audio book which is expertly narrated but, I quickly decided this one would work better for me in print because of the concentration required.

This expansive novel is almost like five separate stories about five characters in different centuries.  From medieval Constantinople to modern day Idaho and even on an intergenerational starship on a 592 year journey. Each of the characters, some elderly and some young, becomes fascinated by an ancient Greek manuscript called "Cloud Cuckoo Land" which was believed to have been written by Antonius Diogenes. As the story plays out we also learn more about "Cloud Cuckoo Land." The chapters of this novel are short and the stories that go back and forth between centuries are beautifully written and sometimes a little sad as we read about the struggles and hardships of individuals along the way.  The way everything comes together in the end was not only amazing but, it was incredibly moving as well.  

If you are ready to put in some effort, I think you will be rewarded by this one.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

NOTE: I was provided a copy of both the eGalley and the audio download from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Sunday Update - What I've Been Reading


This has been a rough week for a variety of reasons. I only left the house for appointments, mine or the hubs and, although I wasn't active at least I was able to relax and listen to audio books.  This week means several appointments. I do hope to make our book group meeting on Wednesday and lunch with the group beforehand. We read - A Long Petal of the Sea; Isabel AllendeOh and my DIL has had COVID since Thursday but, so far my son and granddaughter are okay. 

We did go to a local vintage car show held locally yesterday for a bit - How's this for a paint job on this vintage truck?

Finished Reading

3/5 stars

3.5/5 stars

no review yet
3.5/5 stars

Currently Reading or Listening to:

(Tin Camp Road - midway point - it's a slow moving story but I really like it.)

The Foundling; Ann Leary - (almost done -  perhaps tonight - very good)

After Cath -Read-Warbler logged about enjoying several of Nora Roberts suspense novels, I wanted to give her a try after a long hiatus.  Legacy, an audio book with January Lavoy as narrator is excellent - at about the 38% mark.)

Still Need to review

How was your week? Read any good books?

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Brief Book Review - It All Comes Down to This; Therese Anne Fowler


It All Comes Down to This; Therese Anne Fowler
Macmillan Audio - 2022 - Library download
(Barrie Krenik - narrator - very good)

This is a story about family and sisterhood that had great potential but, fizzled out fast for me.

The story begins with the not unexpected death of Marti Geller who was dealing with cancer.  Marti was a planner and had all her final wishes clearly spelled out with few surprises. Her modest estate is to be split equally among her three daughters: Beck, Claire and Sophie.  One puzzling provision is that the Maine family cottage must be updated and sold.  The sisters do not understand why and are not looking forward to selling the property.  The sisters are  quite different and not close and each is dealing with their own issues.  When a southerner named CJ Reynolds enters the story as an interested buyer for the Maine cottage, things get a bit more tense and interesting.

It All Comes Down to This, is a character driven novel which I usually love.  Unfortunately, for the life of me, I could not connect with any of the characters. They felt flat and their issues uninteresting to me,  This was a story about family secrets, past betrayals and regrets. It had  a convenient ending as well. I'm giving this one a generous 3/5 stars but, it clearly isn't a book I can recommend.  Other readers may feel differently.  Barrie Krenik, a favorite audio book narrator, couldn't even help save this one for me even though she did a great job.

Rating - 3/5 stars