Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall

by Shannon Kirk

I loved this book.  As with most books I loved reading, I am having a difficult time finding the right words and thoughts to describe The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall.

The story is mostly told from Vivienne's point of view as she lies dying in a hospital bed.  Although she is in immense pain and is, almost completely, covered in casts she is well cared for by a male nurse who reads another woman's journal to her and helps her cope with her pain in humorous ways.  Marty is a delightful character with story of his own that is revealed too quickly.  One of my only complaints is that I wish his story would have taken more time to reveal itself.

So here we are in the hospital shifting from Vivienne's telling of a childhood friendship that blossoms into true love with Noah, to the woman's journal - this woman had been in a year-long coma but had just recently died under Marty's care, Marty's story, Vivienne's retelling of moments in her life with important people, her visits to these people's "heavens" in an attempt to choose what she wants her heaven to be like.  Her escort to these different heavens is her boyhood sweetheart, Noah.

Occasionally, there are notes dated and written by Vivienne's son, Ivan, who mentions often about rereading a favorite childhood book every year on his mother's birthday.  Ivan's birth father, Jack, is a remarkable man who is married to another woman.  He felt great remorse for being unfaithful to his wife.  Vivienne loves him immensely because of his goodness and the wonderful father he is to Ivan.

As I read back over this review it sounds like there is a lot going on.  And there is.  Even more than I've written about. I didn't even mention Vivienne's mother and her best friend, who is Noah's mother.  However, all these stories are easy to keep track of and each has a richness that adds to the overall elegance of this novel.

The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall has depth of meaning and beauty.  I feel like I need to reread it, now that I know the story, and focus of the symbolism and different layers of meaning.  It was such a captivating story and so easy to read that I only paused occasionally to appreciate the beauty of the words.  I think it is a lovely, endearing, heartbreaking, and hopeful story of love, life, death, heaven, hell, caring, and perspective.

I strongly recommend this book and would love to hear others' thoughts about their experience with this story.  

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Net Galley.  This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Monday, November 28, 2016

by Chelsea Radojcic

I started this book, then stopped because I thought it was a children's book minus the pictures. My copy was a galley so I thought they just hadn't been put in yet. Then I saw several 5-star ratings on Goodreads so I started over and read to the end.

I had a hard time buying into the idea of a stuffed animal who could walk, talk, and drink tea. And then the teddy bear left home and met up with other people on his journey to find his best friend Janie. These people interacted with the teddy bear like it was just part of everyday life. It was too silly. Even the ending was silly.

I cannot recommend this book. I felt like it was a waste of my time.

The Whole Town is Talking

by Fannie Flagg

I loved the other two Fannie Flagg books I've read: Welcome to the World, Baby Girl and Can't Wait to Get to Heaven.  They were upbeat, a little wacky, and definitely fun.  So when I saw this title offered by NetGalley I jumped on it.

Although, The Whole Town's Talking was upbeat I did not enjoy it as well.  I really can't say that character develop was totally lacking because, over the course of the book, I felt like I knew a few characters pretty well, but there were too many characters.  Names zipped by in quick succession.  Time zipped by, as well.  I feel like one of the themes of the book was the fleetingness of life, so the way the story was told supported that theme.  

I did a bit of research on this book as part of writing this review and discovered that there are three prior books set in Elmwood Springs, Missouri - the two I mentioned above and Standing in the Rainbow.  I suspect that reading these books first helps in knowing the characters.  

I was delighted to see some characters I was familiar with, especially Aunt Elner Shimfissle, who is a breath of fresh air.  Norma & Macky were included but I missed hearing more from Neighbor Dorothy and her radio show.

The Whole Town's Talking is published by Random House and will be released on November 29, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Net Galley.  This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Light Between Oceans

by M.L. Stedman

Oh my gosh!  What a book!  This is book has been around for a few years but I just barely read it.  I've been rather busy with life and haven't read others' reviews as much as I use to so I didn't know very much about the story line.  In many ways that adds to the anticipation as I am reading trying to unravel what will happen.

I must live in a bubble because I didn't know The Light Between Oceans was made into a movie.  Just now as I was looking for a picture of the book for this post I discovered the movie.  Can't wait to watch it!

What I liked about this book: 

1. The slow, mesmerizing build up that is quite tantalizing.  How Tom & Isabel meet and fall in love, then move to their own little island with a lighthouse.

2.  The setting.  The island of Janus, the small community where Isabel grew up, both in Australia during the 1920's, mostly. 

3.  The idioms.  Some of them had me guessing as to their meaning.  Many I shared with my husband.  One even showed up in a movie we watched the very day I read the phrase in this book.  Serendipity I guess.  It amazes me how often that happens.  I need to share a few with you. 
"She chucked a wobbly."  Which means she threw a fit.  
"I'm hardly a full bottle on it."  Meaning, I guess, I'm not an expert on the matter.  
"You're carrying on like a two-bob watch."  ??   
"What was he thinking?  He must have had kangaroos in his top paddock."  
"No. This was the place for the child, with her true family.  She'd have the top brick off the chimney."  "People will think he's got no lead in his pencil."  The way we would say that around here is, "He was firing blanks."  
"They get a bit dark with us if the prisoners cark it before trial."

4.  The story.  It's beautiful and heart-wrenching.  Excellent.

5.  The symbolism.  I'm a bit fuzzy on how to put it into words but I'm aware that it's there.  The lighthouse that safely guides boats through the darkness, the island and the desire to be isolated from others, the two oceans that come together at Janus Point and mixing and clashing of two families lives.  There's more, I know.  This is where a book group would come in handy - sharing the meanings picked up by other readers.

6.  The telling of the story.  I think Stedman did an wonderful job of telling parts of the story about the different characters and revealing those tidbits at just the right time.

I think I've covered enough of the highlights of the book - at least the highlights from my perspective. There are more but reviews can only drag on for so long before they become tiresome.

If you one of the few who have put of reading this book, as I did, I suggest you quit the stalling and read The Light Between Oceans.  You'll be glad you did.

I checked this ebook out from my local library.

The Visit

The Delightful History and Origin of The Night Before Christmas as recalled by Dinghy Sharp.

by Mark Kimball Moulton

I love this book.  Moulton has written an easy-to-read and easy-to-listen-to poem about the history of The Night Before Christmas written by Clement Moore.  The background for this book came from Moore's great-great-granddaughter, Dinghy Sharp.  (Where did she get a name like Dinghy is another story I'd like to read!)

Growing up my parents and 6 siblings gathered in the living room for a Christmas Eve program, of sorts.  We sang Christmas carols, read the story of Christ's birth from the Bible, and shared various stories and talents before setting a bowl with our name attached on the sofa so Santa would fill it with a few nuts and an orange.  One of my siblings, usually the second oldest brother, would read The Night Before Christmas. 

I am now 65-years-old and as many of us and our families who are in town still gather on Christmas Eve for a program of singing, present exchanges, reading the nativity story, and reading The Night Before Christmas.  I've always loved hearing it reread through the years.

Another Christmas tradition dealing with Christmas stories started when we children grew up and had families of our own.  My mother would buy each family a Christmas book and give it to us in early December.  It was a tradition much loved by her offspring.  

In view of these two traditions, I bought this book to share with my family since Grandma isn't with us anymore.  I am looking forward to gathering them around after a Sunday dinner in early December to share The Visit with them.  And on Christmas Eve I will share it with all the siblings & spouses, and nieces & nephews after we first hear The Night Before Christmas.

I am in awe of  Moutlon's ability to tell this story in such a delightful and lively poem.  I read it to my husband when it first arrived in the mail a few months ago and we both adored it.

The Visit is published by Lang Books.