Book Reviews

Review: Mistletoe and Magic for the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

51bMSf53B-L

My Interest

ZI enjoyed the first two books in this series, but had a hard time getting the next book on audio, so haven’t read that one. This book is book #6 or so, although at least one book has a different title in the USA, I think this one is the same on both sides of the Atlantic. I love the midwives! Each book focuses on a different member of the local midwife team–think Call the Midwife, but set today and in Cornwall. I’ve liked them all so far.

The Story

Back home after a failed marriage in New Zealand, Nadia and her two young children are currently living with her mother in very tight quarters. She’s missing her beloved Labrador who had to stay in New Zealand with her estranged husband. Her job is her sanity at the moment, but with Christmas approaching and ratty soon-to-be-ex-hubs Ryan off living the life with a new girlfriend, his Facetime appearances with his two kids are getting further and further and further apart. Meanwhile, the father of one of her daughter’s classmates, Hamish by name,  is a doctor and he’s well…he’s pretty much everything Nadia has always wanted in a guy. He loves his kids, treats her and her children very nicely and is an all-around good guy. So now what? [No Spoilers]

My Thoughts

Like Jenny Colgan and Judy Leigh, these are pleasant books–nothing too angst-inducing. I love the villages in which these ladies live, enjoy their family stories, like the local businesses like the Fish & Chips place and the Cookie Jar and the rest of them.

Nadia’s story though, did induce a little angst. I could just see so many of my friends as we went along through the parenting years. They’d all have to lie for the divorced dad who couldn’t get his act together and do the right thing. Sadly, then many were burned when the “fun Dad” years began and he reappeared dangling a car in front of a 16 year old to get back in good graces and then lied about everything. Thankfully, they couldn’t keep the act going and at least 1 car was repossessed. I hope Nadia doesn’t go through all that was what I was thinking!!

Hamish was believable and likeable as was the story with his elder daughter. Oh, and dog lovers? This one I’ll give a brief spoiler on. Never fear–ok? The dog makes it back to those who love her.

My Verdict

3.25

 

My Reviews of other Cornish Midwives books

  1. The Cornish Midwife
  2. Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife (this may be the one with a different title in the UK)

 

20-books-for-christmas-reading-challenge-1

Book Reviews

Review: The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

My Interest

Who doesn’t love a quirky old book store?

The Story

Carmen has always been in the shadow of her successful sister, Sofia. Sofia is a lawyer, with perfect children, perfect husband, perfect nanny, perfect home in the most perfect of all Edinburgh neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Carmen partied, didn’t try in school and now even the dull job in a fusty local department store has deserted her. Her mother and sister conspire and she gets a new job in a bookstore lawyer Sofia is trying to get profitable enough to sell it as a going concern so her client will at least get out from under it. And, she’s been given a new home–a former servant’s room in her sisters basement. Next door to the perfect nanny.

Meanwhile, the bookshop hasn’t been dusted since soon after the war and the man who runs it is afraid of his own shadow. His cataloging system defies imagination and he is prone to giving the books away. But, it’s Christmas in Edinburgh, the shop is on the main shopping street and a host of good-looking men come in, including mega-selling author Blare. Maybe Carmen’s life is looking up? In spite of helping with her two nieces and one nephew who go to schools so posh they remind each other constantly to be “kind?”

My Thoughts

I especially liked the way the relationships improved between Carmen and the children, Carmen and her sister and Carmen and her boss, “Young” Mr. McCredie. These were wonderful. I liked the men in the store, too. Ramsey would have been my pick if he wasn’t so encumbered!

But my very favorite characters were Phoebe and the little girl who loved the Little Match Girl. Those were little girls to whom I could well relate!

This was a good book to escape into. I loved it. The Muppet Christmas Carol watching scene was classic!! (Stick around for the aftermath of that!) And then there was the magic of creating the window display with the train set and the house of sweet little mice and on and on and on. Only one tiny thing–Eric’s father–seemed not to fit. I’m not sure why the author did that, but it’s her book and not mine. I loved this book–have I said that already?

Just read it!

My Verdict

4.0

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

20-books-for-christmas-reading-challenge-1

Book Reviews

NonFicNov Review: A Christmas Far From Home by Stanley Weintraub

51Uexwhr6JL._SY346_

My Interest

Since moving here to Southern Ohio in 2008 I’ve met two Korean War veterans. One died during the Covid epidemic, the other, my next door neighbor, is still going strong at 90-something. Of course, I have a near life-long interest in U.S. history, too, so that figured into decided to read (well, listen to) this book.

Author Stanley Weintraub has made an industry for himself writing nonfiction stories set at Christmas during the various wars. Finally, I was a child of the 70’s. The movie M*A*S*H was one of the first “grown-up” movies I watched. I also read the book  (and a couple of the sequels) at a tender age. Then there was the t.v. show [see the bottom of this post] that ran about 100 times longer than the war itself. So, in memory of all those people who fought in Korea and were immortalized by the book, movie and tv show characters, I had to read or listen to this book.

The Story

Louis_Mountbatten_with_Douglas_MacArthur

Mountbatten (left) and MacArthur (right)
photo credit

General of the Armies Douglas MacArthur, was an early believer in public relations–p.r. Much like Lord Mountbatten (“Uncle Dickie” on The Crown), he was a self-promoter who was often regarded as having over-reached. MacArthur had at least some of the traits of a narcissist. He ran away and deserted our troops, fleeing to safety in Australia with his much younger wife, their toddler son (and his nanny) when the Japanese over-ran the Philippines. For this he managed to earn the nation’s highest award for bravery: The Congressional Medal of Honor.

When the Korean “War” began, Arthur hadn’t lived in the USA for many years. He’d commanded the Philippine Army, then been away in Australia during World War II, then oversaw the occupation of Japan. His last big experience in the United States had been leading the Army, with the help of his assistant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, through Washington D.C. and to the camp of the “Bonus Marchers” or “Bonus Army”–the unemployed, homeless, desperate veterans of World War I marching on Washington to try to make Congress pay them their “bonus” for service in WWI several years early. It didn’t work. MacArthur and Ike led the tanks and troops in moving the marchers out of their encampment. (Where many of them were subsequently put on trains and sent to south Florida where they would die in a hurricane). He survived that black mark how? Public relations. He also had a notorious affair with a showgirl called Bubbles who called him, wait for it, “Daddy.” Yeah.

When the U.S. entered Korea Mac Arthur was in charge of the Command area that included Korea. He did not take the whole thing very seriously and insisted, as have so many commanders in so many wars, that our boys would be home for Christmas.

Only, they weren’t. And, many did not even have winter uniforms. [This mix-up of seasons and uniforms is a specialty of the U.S. Army. In the Spanish American War, a tropical war, they had heavy woolen uniforms]. This book tells what the men went trough from Thanksgiving until what we remember today as the Chosin Reservoir aka “The Frozen Chosin” was over. Thankfully, President Harry S. Truman, got tired of MacArthur’s grandiose insubordination and fired him. Who knows how long the war would have lasted with “Doug Out Doug” in charge (the name comes from hiding in a dugout).

My Thoughts

My next door neighbor was a young and bitterly cold U.S. Marine during this battle. It must not have affected him–he used to mow the equivalent of 3 acres with a push mower every week and raise 7 kids on a city cop’s salary. All but 1 went to and graduated from college. He’s still tough. It’s pretty obvious from this story that he wasn’t the only one.

Harry Truman was a remarkable president for standing up to an icon and winning. MacArthur should have been revealed of command when the Philippines fell. Instead he let another general take the surrender while he went on living his life with his family in Australia. His Congressional Medal of Honor should have gone to all of those who survived captivity under the Japanese. He is remembered well, however, for changing Japan to a more democratic form of government. Nonetheless, Truman kept a potential despot from running for president by firing him over Korea. We should be grateful.

My Verdict

3.5

A Christmas Far From Home: An Epic Tale of Courage and Survival During the Korean War by Stanley Weintraub

 

My Review of Another Book by This Author

41e2DqK12uL._SY346_

Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War December 1941 by Stanley Weintraub

Book Reviews

Review: Pastoral by Nevil Shute: Updated

51ctRq7nxpL._SL500_

My Interest

This was my pick for Classics Club Spin #30. Then I lost my job. It’s been lingering–and that is NOT due to any faults with the story.

I’ve been reading Nevil Shute’s books. I’ve read A Town Like Alice twice, but must admit I did not recall reading it in Peace Corps when I listened to it a few years ago. Peace Corps was 1989–1991. It was odd that I didn’t remember it though. No matter. I’ve since read another of his books, Far Country, which I loved. Often today it seems books are aimed at either men or women–his books seem to be for both. [Yes, that was also true in his day, I know. Still….]

The Story

“The silvery radiance that filled the clearing, ebbing and flowing with the passing clouds….”

RAF Lt [pilot] Peter Marshall (that name! I kept thinking of THE Peter Marshall–of A Man Called Peter) flies bombers over Germany. Gervase Robinson is a WAAF (woman in the RAF) who deals with signals. A love of nature brings them together. But, this is not a straight forward ‘boy meets girl’ romance. Gervase has principles. And, there’s the war they are serving in.

This is not Downton Abbey. This is the real England. A young man who worked as an insurance agency clerk and a young woman who’d been at home. Peter does mention maybe getting to fly after the war, but he also knows he may need to support a wife and child on his insurance clerk’s salary. That’s very real. Especially for a man with nearly 60 bombing missions completed. Gervase seems to understand that the war is an interlude. She will be at home, getting husband off to work and future children off on the school fun. These are very “real” characters. You can see them moving into a 1920s semi in a smaller city (or, perhaps not–perhaps they’ll live abroad if he flies?) Maybe taking out school fees insurance to be sure the son gets an education if fails the 11 plus. That sort of person.

My Thoughts

“Just an average pilot, marrying one of the girls from his station.”

There was a lot of technical talk about flying and fishing that I could have done without. But, I assume many of the men who read it when it was published enjoyed all of that.

I couldn’t decide if Gervace was a prig or if it was just the lack of knowledge and education on what happens to you when you fall in love. Not knowing what happens to you when the chemistry is so right must be horrible! I had very liberal parents so this wasn’t a problem. But in the 1940s? And all the women’s services (UK and US) beat morality into their “girls” with a big stick. Still, I found it very hard to like Gervase for most of the book. Peter was easy. And, having been so hopeless with guys, I can see that since she became difficult he was even more interested–lol. (The hindsight of being 60 years old.) In the end, I liked and respected her. Still, I think she should have lightened up earlier in the book.

I’m sad there is no sequel.

Note: There is one phrase used near the end that is would be considered very offensive today.

Note: Gervase is such an odd name. I don’t think we have it the USA–even in the era of this book. I’ve only read it before as a man’s name–Beryl Markham’s son was Gervase, if I remember correctly.

Pastoral by Nevil Shute

Book Reviews

Review: Cradles of the Reich by Jennifer Coburn

51iZi-Gq0kL._SY346_

My Interest

Liebstraum is one of my programs used to punish the horrific Nazi eugenics ideas in real life. Whether the children were born to unwed Aryan mothers who could prove the father also was Aryan or they were born to a young, willing, Aryan woman and an SS Officer or even that they were stolen from the “conquered” lands and taken back to Germany to be adopted by SS or other high-ranking Nazi families, all brought about the same end: furthering the numbers of Aryans.

This novel is what I’ve taken to calling a “Book Twin”–two books on the same subject appearing at about the same time. The earlier book was, The School for German Brides by Aimie K. Runyan (my review is linked).

The Story

NOTE: Lots of spoilers! Sorry! I just couldn’t hide them.

The story is told in a conventional way. Characters reflect various stereotypes. The nurse who has never married and is let down by her current beau takes a job in one of the Leibenstraum houses for expectant mothers or for “mothers in training.” The young women are stereotypes, too. One comes from a proudly Nazi family with a father who ignores her, the other, you guessed it, is the picture of Aryan everything but in love with a Jewish man. Only she goes along with the program and helps her gay friend by saying he, with an impeccable Aryan family, is the true father of her child.

Instead of experiencing all the normal Nazi events as she nears her due date, X flashes back on the events. The other, sadly can’t help herself and brags to one of the holiest of holy Nazi’s about who the father of her child is. Naturally, there is a big scene in which it all crashes down.

My Thoughts

This book was so “meh” I almost threw it back. If you are about 14 and know nothing of Nazi history it might be spellbinding. I had to wonder if this author was asked to write something to “compete” with the other book. I’m sure the author has better stories than this in her, I hope she is given the chance to tell those stories.

My Verdict

2 Stars

Cradles of the Reich by Jennifer Coburn releases on October 10, but is available now for pre-order.

Book Reviews

Review: Switchboard Soldiers by Jennifer Chiaverini

51h-seI0FyL._SY346_

My Interest

World War I and it’s preceding and following historical epochs are favorites of mine. President Wilson, long admired for his foreign policy ideals (he suffered a debilitating stroke trying to get the US into the League of Nations) was in truth, not what people thought. He re-segregated the government, for a start. It is a fascinating time. He had backtrack on the promise “He kept us out of war” that got him re-elected. But the war did bring some opportunities to women and gave the promise, finally, of women’s suffrage nationwide.

In addition, I enjoyed a previous book by this author, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, and, to a lesser degree, another of her books, Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters.

The Story

One of the careers that opened to provide women with careers outside of domestic service was the new telephone industry. Women were employed as switchboard operators. Like every other type of women’s employment of the period, they were subjected to morals clauses that men did not have to endure, but it was still a way to earn a living without “living in.”

In the World War I, bilingual telephone operators (English and French fluency required) were recruited for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. While treated as though holding the same rank as Army nurses, they were not granted Veteran’s Status. Our story concerns three women popularly (and annoyingly) known as “Hello Girls” or “Switchboard Soldiers:” Grace, Marie, and Valerie who all volunteer to serve. After training, they embark for France where they help General Pershing and the American “Doughboys” put down the Kaiser and help win the war. French or Belgian, or of French Canadian roots, the girls are fluent in French, well educated, and have the manners and mores of the middle class.

Once overseas the women give their all to serving our country. Along the way they make good friends, help the local community and even find love. Thankfully, they each too seriously that they were “the first” and had to obey each rule to the letter–so there is no modern day jumping in and out of beds with guys. No Spoilers, but I was left admiring one character for knowing herself. That’s all I’ll say on that.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this story, but thought the author was a little to “prescient” in sounding the music of doom with things like the Spanish flu–it wasn’t known at the time it entered the story that it would be a worldwide killer. Also, imposing the recent COVID-era mask debate into the story wasn’t helpful. (At least I didn’t catch any references to the Republicans!).

I thought the characters were likeable and mostly believable. All behaved in a way believable for the historical era, but none of the three really stood out to me. They were fairly “generic” though, admittedly, that could really just be from my “blues” of the moment. I liked the book very well and liked that other than the mask problem, nothing “modern” seeped into the story.

There was a bit too much for my taste of telling news headlines and historical scene-setting, but sadly today much of that is necessary. Does anyone even learn about World War I today? I wonder. I recall my kids doing a sound byte history of the world from the ancient Egyptians to Desert Storm in one school year, so I’m trying to not get as “peeved” by this pet peeve in historical fiction as I used to!

I did tear up (again) when the tragic story of one of my history crushes, General “Blackjack” Pershing was told. So sad. I’m glad that was included.

My Verdict

3.5

Switchboard Soldiers: A Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini

My reviews of other books by this author:

Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters (click to go to my review)

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker (from my old blog):

“I was enthralled by Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker! Elizabeth Keckly deserves a place of prominence in Civil War-era history and beyond. Mary Todd Lincoln’s mental illness is portrayed respectfully and accurately here. Mrs. Keckly’s ability to cope with “The Hellcat” as President Lincoln’s aides termed the First Lady, let alone her ability as a designer and seamstress, was vividly portrayed here.”

 

Book Reviews

Review: Age of Misadventure by Judy Leigh

5154Ks9wXoL

My Interest

When I like an author I usually decide to read/listen to their entire back list. This is, I believe, Judy Leigh’s 2nd novel. Once again, I was in need of an audio book. I was out of Audible credits and nothing I’d requested was in from the library’s e-audio collections, so I found this in my Chirp stash. Chirp does not pay me to mention them–but if you haven’t found them for great deals on audio books check then out! New deals daily, so if you enjoy audio books make sure to get their emails–and best of all, there is no subscription fee.

The Story

Georgina Turner’s life in Liverpool is in a bit of a rut. She has her own business as a “beauty therapist” that she runs from her home. Her adult daughter, Jade, is a personal trainer who lives with her mother and has her gym in the basement. Nearby lives Georgina’s aunt known to all as “Nanny” or “Nan” and her sister, Bonnie, married to the sleazy Adrian “Ady” who finds himself in the grips of an unforgiving mobster like business partner.

Jade meets a professional footballer [soccer player] who lives in Brighton. Georgina takes frozen dinners, and some home cooked ones, to unappreciative but dependent old Aunt Nanny as part of her weekly routine. Bonnie is constantly treated badly by philandering husband and his “wandering womb weevil,” but this time he owes money and its become dangerous to stay in Liverpool. So, Georgina decides to make a get-away that keeps them all safe from the angry mobster, but provides bonding time. Jade, newly in love, only wants to go to Brighton to start living with her soccer hero boyfriend. Along the way they have a very stressful “misadventure” that lands them in another soccer players apartment with a 24/7 police presence protecting them. But then there’s that bracelet, eh, “Bon-Bon?” And what does a vegetable spiralizer have to to do with it all?

My Thoughts

For a second novel, this isn’t bad. While it isn’t as warm and fun as Leigh’s later novels, there is the warmth of family and friendship ties that are hallmarks of all of Judy Leigh’s novels. In this one, she was still finding her way with story lines. This one, to me, was a tad unbelievable, but then I wasn’t a Sopranos fan!  Ha! I loved the way Georgina took charge and made everyone comfortable when possible. Nanny was just plain fun! Bonnie was like so many wives who trust their husband’s too much–vulnerable and afraid to live.

I loved the touch of romance that gave the story a rosy overtone. It is hard enough to make platonic friends at 50+ so when a romance happens that’s worth having, I celebrate.

In spite of this, I felt the story was a bit belabored–the road trip maybe a stop too long, the life in the soccer player’s flat with the police just a little too long.I also did not think the police would dither like they did. No matter! Judy Leigh tells a good story and her books are all worthwhile.

My Verdict

3 Stars

The Age of Misadventure by Judy Leigh

My Reviews of Other Books by Judy Leigh:

  1. The Highland Hens
  2. A Year of Mr Maybes
  3. Lil’s Bus Trip
  4. Chasing the Sun
  5. Heading Over the Hill
  6. The Old Girls’ Network

 

 

Book Reviews

Review: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

51W5Kgv0MgL._SY346_

I’m so caught up in Queen Elizabeth’s death that I forgot to post this earlier today.

My Interest

I’ve enjoyed previous books by this author–especially Daisy Jones and the Six, so when I heard this one was coming out, I knew I’d read or listen to it. Tennis is fine–I’m not a huge sports fan, but I was a little worried about how I’d do with that part of the story.

The Story

“We live in a world where exceptional women have to sit around waiting for mediocre men.”

“One of the great injustices of this rigged world we live in is that women are considered to be depleting with age and men are somehow deepening.”

“Luckily, I did not need to be pretty. My body was built to wage war.”

Carrie Soto, daughter of a South American tennis champion turned club pro, is raised on the public tennis courts. Her father, Xavier, brings her up to love the game and to play it at the highest levels. The hard work pays off–she is the GOAT–the “greatest of all time” in tennis. She leaves the game. Now she’s attempting a comeback–at almost age 40 she is competing against another generation of would be-GOATS, some of whom have changed the game–just as she did in her day. Can she do it? Meanwhile, men’s champion Bowe Huntley, is also attempting a come-back. He and Carrie were briefly an “item” in the tabloids years ago. Can the “battle axe” (as the press dubbed Carrie) and Bowe make it back to the top of their game?

My Thoughts

Taylor Jenkins Reid delivers in this book. While I DID, sadly, find some of the description of the matches Carrie plays to be tedious, the author’s command of her characters kept me interested overall. I loved Xavier–a good man, a good father, a brilliant coach. Who wouldn’t win with him at the helm of a career? Bowe, too, came across as likeable even if he was portrayed as a lot like John McEnroe. Unfortunately, I never really warmed up to Carrie herself. I admired her determination. I liked that she respected her father in s….[No Spoilers]. But she was not very likeable.

That this book was mostly set in an era when I was aware of tennis helped. I thought of McEnroe throwing his tantrums, the young phenom Tracey Austin with the two-handed backhand, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, and so many others.  I loved the tongue-in-cheek reference to another of the author’s books worked in as Carrie’s reading material! I love things like that. I loved what Xavier and Bowe did.

Whether or not you are a tennis fan, this is a good novel–very compelling. I already wonder who will play Carrie in the movie that is sure to come of it.

And, how fun that Patrick McEnroe was one of the performers on the audio version?!

Note: “The perfect creases” in her tennis skirt? I think the word Reid was searching for was “pleats.” Odd.

My Verdict

4 Stars

 

Carrie Soto is Back: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My Review of Other Books by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising

Daisy Jones and the Six

Book Reviews

20 Books of Summer Round Up: My 20 Books & My Favorite Book of Summer 2022

20-books

Blogger 746 Books hosts this event each summer. It runs from June 1 to September 2.

 Least Favorite Book That I Finished

512r+OqaPeS._SY346_

My 3rd Favorite Book of Summer 2022

(Same book but showing both USA & UK titles/covers)

My 2nd Favorite Book of Summer 2022

51tm4HrXSwL._SY346_

fdpoigpdraoigfdpoig

dfspofgio

My Favorite Book of Summer 2022

51MKWBiGe1L._SY346_

All of my 20 Books of Summer 2022

 

If you’d like to see my reviews of any of these books, you can either leave me a comment and I’ll reply with the post url or (if you are on your phone or tablet) scroll to the very end and you’ll find the search box. On a laptop or PC the search box is in the right sidebar.

25 books read and reviewed, plus a few other in the categories I do not review.

Did you participate in 20 Books of Summer this year? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

20-books

20 Books of Summer is hosted annually by blogger 746 Books. Why not visit her blog and see all the great post she’s written? Leave her a comment. Bloggers live for comments.

Book Reviews

Review: Young Clementina by D.E. Stevenson

51JMZVF+pKL._SY346_

My Interest

Once again, I needed an audio and this time I thought “Dean Street Press.” Sadly, none were available on audio. I found an audio of this D.E. Stevenson and used my monthly Audible credit to buy it. I’ve enjoyed a few of D.E.Stevenson’s other books and have linked my reviews at the bottom of this post.

The Story

“Death is not the saddest way to lose somebody you love.”
“It is a terrible thing to be angry with the dead.”

Charlotte and Garth grew up playing together. They were “made” for each other. But World War I intervenes. Garth goes off to the war while Charlotte, the Vicar’s daughter, waits. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s little sister, Kitty, grows up and decides she will be the mistress of a great house. She doesn’t need to love the man–she just needs the house and the wealth. You can imagine what happens!

NOTE: A “SORT OF” SPOILER is coming in my thoughts! You are warned!!

My Thoughts

Having forever been the “friend” of great guys, but never the “girl friend” I just KNEW the course this story would take. But, happily I was wrong–in a way. That made it all worthwhile. If you loved (and cried over) One Day by David Nicholls, you will love Young Clementina.

My Rating

3.5

Young Clementina by D.E. Stevenson

 

Other Books I’ve Enjoyed by D.E. Stevenson

  1. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment
  2. Spring Magic
  3. Winter and Rough Weather