Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:

At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Scotland, teacher extraordinaire Miss Jean Brodie is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with the bachelor music master, Gordon Lowther, and—most important—in her dedication to "her girls," the students she selects to be her crème de la crème. Fanatically devoted, each member of the Brodie set—Eunice, Jenny, Mary, Monica, Rose, and Sandy—is "famous for something," and Miss Brodie strives to bring out the best in each one. Determined to instill in them independence, passion, and ambition, Miss Brodie advises her girls, "Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth, and Beauty come first. Follow me." 

And they do. But one of them will betray her.

My Review:
I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time, and just this last year it was chosen as a book club selection with my group.  I have heard many glowing reviews of this novel and now that I have read it, the reviews have me confused.  I am not part of the crowd that found enjoyment from this book.

For the most part, this book was boring for me.  When it wasn't boring, I think it actually made me angry.  As a teacher in a girls school she would hand-pick a group of girls to be her prodigies.   All the girls in school wanted to be a part of the "Brodie set", so you can imagine the status given to the girls that are selected.  This part of the book made me angry, that these girls were thought of as being better than the rest.  Since when is it ok for a teacher to cultivate dividing lines among students?

Once the girls are chosen, Miss Brodie would meet with them during the schooldays.  These meeting should have been full of teaching instruction and lessons, but they were everything but that.  Contrary to the summary above, it didn't seem to me she was bringing out the best in them, as much as flaunting her own good fortune of love and beauty.

I had a hard time with the dialogue and timelines in this book.  Many times the book would be a flashback from present time and there were not always clear indicators of this change.  This book was hard for me to read and understand, and most of my book club agreed.  If you are one of the people that loved this book, I would love to know what, exactly, you find inspiring.

With themes of love, deception, and beauty, maybe you would like this book more than I did.  I know many people found more enjoyment from this novel than me.

My Rating:  2/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this book from the local library and read as a book club selection.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Teaser Tuesday-July 21

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from A Daily Rhythm. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

This week my teaser is from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak:
He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.
She was the book thief without the words.

pg. 80

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Audiobook Review: Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy and Becky Hepinstall

Title:  Sisters of Shiloh

Authors:  Kathy and Becky Hepinstall

Narrator:  Xe Sands

Unabridged Length:  Aprox. 7.5 hrs

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:
Libby's husband, Arden, joined the army not long after their wedding and died in the Battle of Antietam. Libby finds his body on the unimaginably bloody field, Josephine already, suspiciously, at his side. Libby, mad with sorrow, decides to disguise herself as a man, and she sets off to kill twenty-one Yankees, one for each year of her husband's life. Josephine, disguised as Joseph, goes along with her sister. As Libby proves herself a competent soldier, Arden begins to appear to her in dreams, driving her on and whispering accusations about Josephine. Josephine then finds herself caught in another kind of danger: she's falling in love for the first time, but she is desperately afraid of revealing herself to the object of her desire.

My Review:
Novels set in the time period of the Civil War are hit or miss with me, and this one was a hit!  I'm sure Xe Sands narration skills helped the enjoyment for me as I find myself enjoying almost any book she is reading to me.  I must say that I also find it interesting that two sisters wrote this book together, that happens to be about two sisters.

Libby and Josephine grew up in a good home with all their needs provided for.  Libby has always been a gentle soul while Josephine seemed to handle some of the hardships of life better.  When Libby's husband dies in a battle, Libby's grief pushes her mind to a scary place.  Not only does she talk Josephine into the two of them disguising themselves as men to join the army, but she even acts like a man at times when it is not needed.

The lives of the two sisters take a dramatic turn after joining the army.  They have to be secretive with all their actions, lest their secret is discovered.  When Josephine finds herself becoming attracted to a fellow soldier, Libby finds herself getting angry with Josephine's carelessness.  It comes down to Josephine making a decision and having to choose between her only sister or the only love she has experienced in her young life.

As I indicated earlier, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this novel.  With themes of mental illness, familial obligations, and love, you may enjoy it as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by the publisher through the Audiobook Jukebox program in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 22, 2015

What Are You Reading?

Sheila over at Book Journey hosts this meme that gives you the opportunity to share the books that you have been losing yourself in lately and also the ones that you are looking forward to picking up next.

Here is what I finished listening to:
Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy and Becky Hepinstall turned out to be a fascinating book to listen to.  I'm going to try to get this review done soon, so stay tuned!

What I'm reading now:
I walked in our school library one day and saw a co-worker reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  She generously offered to borrow me the book when she was done after telling me how much she was enjoying it.  I'm not quite halfway through it yet, but this could be my favorite by Kristin Hannah so far.

What's next:
Every summer our book club picks a longer book to read and this year it is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It has been tough not being able to watch the movie as I really want to read the book first. 

So those are the books that have been keeping me busy lately.  If only I didn't have other things going on in my life, I could read so many more!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review: Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college, raising her delightful three-year-old genius son Natty, and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Catholic mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stick-up in a gas station mini-mart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son.

Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god Thor has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: It’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice.

Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head on, in a funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness,; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem—or what we hope they will be. It’s a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.

My Review: 
Shandi's life as a young, single mom is changing, as she loads all of her belongings to move her and her young son to a new life.  Once she gets there, she will be able to finish college and actually make a living to support herself and her son, Natty.  But, when they make a normal pitstop for gas, snacks, and potty, her life changes in ways she could never imagine.  

There is a robbery in the gas station, bringing people from all walks of life together, making them count on each other to survive.  Shandi has always been drawn to older men, so when William Ashe, a fellow victim, with his muscular, solid body, is forced to get very close to Shandi, she doesn't push him away.  She accepts William's help, as his actions may be needed to keep her and Natty alive, but does she feel another kind of bond with this man?

Once the hold-up is over, Shandi finds herself as a part of William's everyday life.  She learns that William was trying to deal with the loss of his wife and daughter, that happened exactly one year before the robbery.  She can't help think that fate drew them together on that anniversary, putting her in his path to help him get on with his life.  

This was an enjoyable novel to read as new friendships flourished and mysteries were solved.  Many characters found themselves physically attracted to characters that did not return those feelings.  We just had to wait for events to play out leading our characters to the individuals they were truly in love with.  The title was very fitting in that respect.

Jackson once again created a novel keeping me on the edge of my seat with the suspense of the robbery and the mystery that I will not even start to describe.  You can read the book for that!  With themes of love, family. and friendship, you may enjoy this novel as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this book for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mailbox Monday-June 8

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive. You can check out the Mailbox Monday blog to see what everyone else found in their mailboxes.

This showed up in my mailbox:
 Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

This was from the bargain shelf at the bookstore:
The Son by Philipp Meyer

Those are the newest additions to my bookshelves.  What new books came your way?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Audiobook Review: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Title:  We Are Not Ourselves

Author:  Matthew Thomas

Narrator:  Mare Winningham

Unabridged Length:  20 hrs, 51 mn

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website:

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away.

Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.

My Review: 
Let me tell you that this sweeping novel narrated by Mare Winningham was an amazing listening experience.  We are able to follow all of young Eileen's hopes, dreams, fears, and losses throughout her life.  You can't help but want more for her as she struggles from day to day.  Nothing will stop Eileen from acquiring her American Dream.

As a young girl living in a small apartment in Queens with her immigrant family, she watches her parents struggle to get by.  As Eileen gets older she does everything she needs to find success.  Eileen finishes nursing school, but throughout her career eventually decides to pursue medical administration.

When Eileen marries Ed Leary, she hopes all her dreams will materialize quickly, but that does not come to pass.  They both have good jobs, but Ed is comfortable with his routine.  Renting an upstairs apartment is about all of the commitment that Ed is willing to invest in.  After many years Eileen is able to talk Ed into purchasing the building they live in, so they finally have something of their own.

It isn't until decades later that Eileen decides she wants more from this life once again.  Ed is nearing retirement and their son is in high school, getting ready for college soon.  Eileen does all she can to achieve her dreams, and even though she gets everything she wants, their lives start a downward spiral.  She realizes that everything that it has taken her whole life to achieve, she could lose in just a few months.  

Although this wasn't an action-packed novel, I found myself looking forward to listening to it.  With themes of family, love, illness, and immigrants, you may enjoy this book as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this book for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.