Thursday, January 9, 2020

Lady Clementine

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict 336 pages

Fans of Melanie Benjamin’s “The Aviator’s Wife” and Paula McClain’s “A Paris Wife” are going to love Marie Benedict’s latest novel, “Lady Clementine.”

Clementine is the wife of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. One of the many things I learned about is that the pronunciation of her name rhymes with “Josephine.”

When Clemmie and Winston first meet, it is love at first sight. She becomes his “Cat” and he her “Pug,” and they refer to their children as their “kittens.” It is a sweet love story set among the backdrop of two world wars and countless other strifes. They marry in 1908.

Readers will get to know a Winston Churchill as we have never known him before: sensitive, insecure, a neglected child that lurks below the surface, a man who depends on his wife in so many ways, especially politics. In the political arena, Clemmie often reminded me of Mary Todd Lincoln. It was heartbreaking to read. Clemmie shares those same traits and experiences. He suffered from fatherly neglect and an overprotective mother; she from motherly neglect and and absent father. And if the rumors were true, the father she barely saw wasn’t her father at all. But when they are with each other, they find they can be their true selves.

Winston admires Clemmie for her assertiveness, her willingness to speak her mind and to learn about the politics he so greatly enjoys. The novel is written in first person from Clementine’s point of view, but Winston is rarelu out of the picture. it is truly a novel about the woman behind the man.

We watch Clemmie struggle with her alcoholic and promiscous mother, with her own motherhood as she lacks maternal instincts, with the ups and downs of her most unusual marriage, the death of a child, Winston’s adoration of his mother, her need to prove herself worthy in everything she does, and the feelings of failure that haunt her.

A remarkable story of a remarkable woman that history, or at least American-told history, has chosen to virtually forget. That’s a shame. Therefore,  “Lady Clementine” receives 6 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Imperfect Women

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall   334 pages   I read a galley - due out June 2020

How can I resist a story that begins with a quote from Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood? Considering I've read that book 10+ times, I figured that was a good sign for this book.

Even close friends have secrets. That's what Eleanor and Mary are learning since the death of their best friend, Nancy. From the outside, Nancy's life looked like it was prefect. However, the investigation into her death is revealing some dark secrets and it's clear now that maybe Mary and Eleanor didn't know Nancy as well as they thought. And maybe they don't know each other, or themselves, very well either.

This is an immersive, gripping psychological suspense story but it's also an exploration into friendship, guilt, and the decisions that friends can make that alter their relationships forever. At the heart of the story, of course, is the mystery of who killed Nancy. With alternating viewpoints, the author uses sharp insights (and sometimes, biting humor) to explore the complex friendship between these three women. The steady pace, combined with interesting (and not always likeable, but compelling) characters, makes for a fantastic read.

For LibraryReads: Even close friends have secrets. That's what Eleanor and Mary are learning since the death of their best friend, Nancy. From the outside, Nancy's life looked like it was prefect. However, the investigation into her death is revealing some dark secrets and it's clear now that maybe Mary and Eleanor didn't know Nancy as well as they thought. And maybe they don't know each other, or themselves, very well either.

Good for readers who like Liane Moriarty and Fiona Barton. Also for readers who enjoy The Robber Bride and/or Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood.

Painted Glories

Painted GloriesPainted Glories: The Brancacci Chapel in Renaissance Florence by Nicholas A Eckstein, 208 pages

The frescoes painted by Masolino and Masaccio in the Brancacci chapel of Florence's Santa Maria del Carmine have been drawing admirers since they were painted in the early fifteenth century, although, as Nicholas Eckstein relates, their intended influence was not merely aesthetic, but simultaneously devotional, memorial, and didactic, shaped in both their conception and reception by a continually changing social and religious context.  Most notably, Eckstein contends, the chapel was transformed after Florence's defeat of a Milanese army in 1440, a victory that was attributed to the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul and the Florentine Carmelite Bl Andrea Corsini.

Little documentation of the creation of the Brancacci chapel has survived down to the present, leaving a number of intriguing mysteries which Eckstein attempts to solve with a combination of careful deduction and informed speculation.  The result is a vibrant portrait of Florence in the midst of the Renaissance.  If there is a major flaw to the book, it is that the focus sometimes seems lost, so that the art begins to disappear behind the history.

The Lying Room

The Lying Room by Nicci French   417 pages

Neve was just having a mid-life fling, a small indiscretion that should have been a secret. However, when Neve pays a a visit to her lover, Saul, she finds him dead in his apartment. And not just dead, but brutally murdered.  After scrubbing all traces of her existence from the apartment, Neve thinks her life can return to normal . . . but did she forget something in the apartment?  Once the investigation into Saul's murder starts, it's clear that Neve's network of lies is about to unravel. It's also clear that as she tells more lies, that something dangerous is at play and it could have been that it was supposed to be her that was murdered, not Saul.

This psychological thriller starts with the discovery of a murder, and the pace is steady throughout the story. Neve is a great example of a realistic character who gets into something with not much intention, but then finds herself caught up in lie after lie.  The whole time that Neve is trying to stay one step ahead of the investigation, it becomes clear that things are become more and more complicated. Her troubled daughter, Mabel, is clearly involved in something with Saul -- did she kill him?  Did Neve's husband find out about the affair?  There are some interesting twists and turns here that keep the story interesting until the very end.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

SLPL team December totals

Happy New Year!   In December:
5 people 
read 42 books
for a total of 22859 pages!!

Shirley J. had a grand total of 20 books, but Regina C. outdid her on pages, logging a whopping 11,898 pages for the entire Wheel of Time series!

Onwards to a new year!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Heartbreak of a Hustler's Wife

Heartbreak of a Hustler's Wife by Nikki Turner    224 pages

Des a pastor, whaaaaaaat?    Yeah, you have got to read this book in the Hustler's Wife series.   Yes,  Des becomes a pastor preaching from the pulpit!   When Des sees how high on the hog pastors are living tax free he thinks that is a better, safe racket than pumping drugs into the neighborhood and sets up his own churnch.    Yarni as first lady of the church prays desperately and daily that God moves on Des' heart to truly become a preacher and teacher of the gospels.   Des is a wonderful preacher and he truly touches the hearts of his congregation who hang on his every word.   Yarnie wants so much Des to be touched by God so that his heart and soul belong to the Lord so much so that every word, every prayer, every teaching he shares is sent straight to him from God's heavenly presence.   Then somebody robs the church and the congregation prompting Des to promise to reimburse everyone who lost something during the stick up while contemplating his retaliation on the offender or offenders,    Nothing is ever easy and the street never forgets nor forgives no matter how far back, how long ago nor how far you have come since then.   You can be in a crowd and still become a victim.   Be careful the toes you step on today they could be attached to the lunatic waiting in the shadows one day.    Great book.    I love this series.   I like Yarnie.    I don't always like all the things Yarnie does, but, dang, she sure knows how to keep on keeping on.    I highly recommend this series.    Excellent story line.   Situations, language and explicit talk about everything, sorry kiddies, again I have to say this one is for adults but as soon as you grow up read it. (Wink, wink!)

Forever a Hustler's Wife

Forever A Hustler's Wife by Nikki Turner    288 pages

The sequel to a Hustler's Wife.  Another total thrill ride from Nikki Turner.   After all that happened in the first book Des is accused of killing his attorney.   Not that he didn't kill somebody, just not his attorney.    The police have him on circumstantial evidence but a crooked cop and a crack head conspire to stack the deck against Des and things are not looking good.      It helps to have an attorney for a wife and between Yarnie and the team she brings together all hell is literally about to break lose and Yarnie is about to find out how far away from the truth a little trust can take you.   A real surprise ending with divine intervention.    Another great book from Nikki Turner.   Another recommendation for adult readers, sorry kids!  Nikki Turner weaves another tale of murder, malice, greed, and how the street can twist it all together and the stories come out with tortured souls needing God's redemption.  Just keep the dollar signs out your eyes, pastor!   Great story.   Great series.

A Hustler's Wife

A Hustler's Wife by Nikki Turner     304 pages

An ongoing series featuring the character Yarnie, who is 15 years old and living in Richmond, Virginia which plays so much a part of the story with locations, businesses, streets, roads, etc. that Richmond is pretty much a character too.    Yarnie has had an upper class upbringing but oh those bad young men are so tantalizingly attractive, now aren't they.    Through a phone prank played by her best friend one night on the telephone while sleeping over at Yarnie's they end up talking to Des a drug dealers' name and number Yarnie's friend called out of the blue from a book of telephone numbers she stole from her brother.  Pranking him telling him she got his number from her brother because Yarnie had seen him and wanted to get to know him.   Yarnie is madly shaking her head, "Don't tell him that!   I don't know him!  I've never seen him!"   One thing leads to another and Yarnie ends up talking on the phone to Des.    He is impressed by her poise, class and confidence.  He makes it his business to see what this young lady looks like.   They do finally meet and Des is blown away by her charm and good looks.    She is nothing like any of the street hoochies he has been messing with.  Long story short, Des falls head over heels for her and she admits to him that she is only 15, he on the other hand is 7 years older than her.    Her life up till now has been pretty tame, she even calls her mother, Mommie.   This sweet young thing is about to find out what life with a street hustler is all about, and she is in for it all ride or die.     How Des finesses her mother to let him date her baby and how life changes for Yarnie after is certainly worth the read.    Nikki Turner knows how to keep her readers interested and on the edge of their seats.   Excellent story.   I highly recommend it to young adults on up - while the subject matter, the language and the descriptions are likely things mature teens know of - I still want to protect their thoughts and recommend this for adults on up. 

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey From "What Will People Think?" To "I Am Enough"

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't):  Making the Journey From "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough" by Brene Brown      336 pages

All women and honestly all men should check this read out.    Brene Brown did a study on how women shame themselves and go through life constantly nit picking about every little imperfection they detect within themselves and blow it out of proportion to the point they don't feel they stack up to what is expected of them, belittling themselves inside while pasting a smile on their faces for the world to see.    With interviews of several of the women in the study and several conversations on just how the world can force unrealistic ideals on women that men in the same categories do not have to share.  Weight, gray hair, aging, career goals, perfect homemaker, perfect mom, perfect career.   Between role distinctions, media hype, peet pressure and even family expectations - ladies - what we don't put on ourselves as mega goals - the world puts upon us and we feel shame when we don't meet the expectations of everyone.   I call, "Who Says?"   "Who Says we have to do all that?"   Be happy in who you are because you are you and a most valued and talented individual.   Naysayers be damned.     And that is pretty much the message of this book brought out in the best possible ways, Brene Brown presents the womens condition and offers insight and strength for the struggle.  Excellent book.  Sistas unite.   We are wonderful as we are.   Women you will see yourself over and over throughout this book.   Men, really read and grasp what is being shared here and be the difference in the lives of all the women in your life.   Great book I highly recommend it to one and all as soon as you are old enough to understand what is being said here.   This book will make men better men through understanding and it will empower the women who read it.

And In the Vienna Woods

And In the Vienna Woods Trees Remain by Elisabeth Asbrink   464 pages

As y’all know, I don’t read nonfiction that much. I do, but it has to really caprture my attention.  And this one, by author of the internationally bestselling “1947” did. 

It’s the story of Otto Ullman, a thirteen-year-old Jewish boy who is sent form Austria to Sweden at the eruption of World War II. Alone. His story is fascinating. One of the things that enticed me was the back blurb mention that Otto becomes BFFs with Ingvar Kamprad, who grows up to become the founder of IKEA.

I believe that this is an important book for scholars of the period and those seeking this type of knowledge. There is lots of information on Sweden’s, Austria’s, and even Switzerland’s positions during the War. However, it is too much information for nonscholars like me. I was ready to abandon the book by page 75, but instead I just read the parts about Otto and how he esacaped the Nazis and his life in Sweden. He was part of Kindertransport-like event to save the children of Austria.

I was disappointed that Ingvar Kamprad didn’t show up until near the end. And in my opinion, I didn’t much see the relationship. I did learn how the name IKEA came about: he added his initials to the village’s name. Ingvar Kamprad Elmtardy Agunnaryd (IKEA).

“And in the Vienna Woods Trees Remain” seems to be thoroughly researched, and as I wrote earlier, I believe it is an important book for those studying this perios. Therefore,  “And in the Vienna Woods Trees Remain” receives  2 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world.