Revolution of Love

Revolution of Love

Do small things with great love.

Book Reviews for 2016 – Part 3: July, Aug & Sept

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It’s Day 10 of the #write31days challenge. My topic is 31 Days of Gratitude. You can see my previous Gratitude posts here.

Want to join the writing challenge but are unable to write everyday? Join me for the Weekly Writing Challenge in October instead.

For today’s post I am grateful for the moments when I have some quiet time to read. I am grateful for the authors that share their talent by writing absorbing novels. I am grateful for the invention of audio books that allows me to listen while I work. Lastly, I am grateful for reaching a personal goal.

One of my goals for 2016 was to watch less TV and read more. I pledged on Goodreads to read 12 books in 2016 but my reading has been going so well I hoped to double that number by the end of summer. I’m happy to say that I did it! I have read 27 books so far.

Next, I need to work on finishing the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I still have these four categories left to fill by the end of the year:

  • A book you can finish in one day. (No idea??)
  • A book you should have read in school. (I’m thinking Cannery Row? Maybe Of Mice and Men?)
  • A book published before you were born. (I’m thinking A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or I could chose something I’ve read many times like Pride and Prejudice.) 😉
  • A book you own but have never read. (Hmm… I’ll have to look over my bookshelf. There are a number that could fit this category.)

If you have any recommendations, let me know. In the meantime, I posted mini-reviews for my June reading here.

These are the books I read over July, August and September.

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East of Eden

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Length: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (October 1, 1992); Original Publication (1952)

Amazon Summary:

In his journal, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck called East of Eden “the first book,” and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

The masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. Adapted for the 1955 film directed by Elia Kazan introducing James Dean and read by thousands as the book that brought Oprah’s Book Club back, East of Eden has remained vitally present in American culture for over half a century.

My Thoughts:

I have seen movies of John Steinbeck’s works but I have never actually read one of his books. The fact that I live on the Central Coast of CA, where his stories take place, makes it is even more fitting that I correct this error. So for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, I chose this for the “a book that was banned at some point” category.

The length of East of Eden seemed really daunting at first and there were a few chapters that I thought could have been edited down a bit, but I have to admit the story pulled me in and I couldn’t put it down. I found myself re-readng lines and thinking, “Wow, he really has an insight into human emotion,” or “I love the way Steinbeck painted a picture in my head with his words.”

With that said, the topic material of East of Eden is not easy. It can actually be depressing to witness such sadistic behavior in characters like Kathy. In the end, though I was happy I read it and rate it 4 out of 5 stars. (I didn’t give five stars simply for the chapters that really dragged.) I would love to read another Steinbeck novel and am thinking Cannery Row or Of Mice and Men. Any preference or suggestions?

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The Summer Before the War

  • Author: Helen Simonson
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (March 22, 2016)

Amazon Summary:

East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking—and attractive—than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war.

My Thoughts:

I already had two war time books on my summer list and was reluctant to add a third but then I found out that Tiffany and Cristina were hosting the Late Summer Book Club and this was the book that was voted as the fave and it was said to have a Downton Abbey feel. Well, I had to be a part of that so it was happily added. Plus, I also wanted to count it towards the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I chose this for the “a book published this year” category.

As I was reading the book, some of the others in the reading club said that the story was too slow and a little boring. I honestly did not feel bored. It definitely was not a “grab you by the throat” book. It was more like a stroll in the park book – easy going and relaxing. I enjoyed the pace and if you keep going, by the third part of the book the action picks up and your emotions are on a roller coaster. By the end of the story, I was crying, both sad and happy tears. I was pleased that I added the book to my list. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

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Persuasion by Jane Austen

  • Author: Jane Austen
  • Length: 150 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Amazon Summary:

First published in 1818, Persuasion was Jane Austen’s last work. Its mellow character and autumnal tone have long made it a favorite with Austen readers. Set in Somersetshire and Bath, the novel revolves around the lives and love affair of Sir Walter Elliot, his daughters Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary, and various in-laws, friends, suitors, and other characters, In Anne Elliot, the author created perhaps her sweetest, most appealing heroine.

At the center of the novel is Anne’s thwarted romance with Captain Frederick Wentworth, a navy man Anne met and fell in love with when she was 19. At the time, Wentworth was deemed an unsuitable match and Anne was forced to break off the relationship. Eight years later, however, they meet again. By this time Captain Wentworth has made his fortune in the navy and is an attractive “catch.” However, Anne is now uncertain about his feelings for her. But after various twists and turns of fortune, the novel ends on a happy note.

In Persuasion, as in such novels as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma, Austen limned the plight of young women who could escape the constraints of family life only by marrying, and suggest the foolishness of women who believed they were free and not dependent on the financial and social resources of men. At the same time, Persuasion offers an ironic and subtle paean to the true love that enables one woman to rise above straitened economic circumstances and the stifling social conventions that restricted women to narrowly circumscribed lives in the common sitting room.
Sure to appeal to admirers of Jane Austen, Persuasion will delight any reader with its finely drawn characters, gentle satire, and charming re-creation of the genteel world of the 19th-century English countryside.

My Thoughts:

Although I didn’t quite finish all the books on my Summer Reading List, I decided to end the summer with an old favorite, Persuasion. I also wanted to count it towards the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I chose this for the “a book you’ve already read at least once” category.

I don’t think I really need to review it since I’m assuming most readers of my blog are already fans of Jane Austen. I will admit that Persuasion is my favorite of Austen’s stories and the letter reading scene still makes me swoon. I’m curious, what is your favorite Jane Austen novel?

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The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

  • Author: ML Stedman
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Media Tie-In edition (August 23, 2016)

Amazon Summary:

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

My Thoughts:

When I saw the trailer for this movie, I moved the last 3 books on my Summer Reading List to my Fall Reading List. I really wanted to read the book before I watched the movie since a movie can only fit so much into two hours. There are are always nuances and story lines that cannot be delved into the same way words on a page can. Like Summer Before the War, this book started with a slow burn. Since I knew the story line and the arch problem of the story already, I was constantly waiting for it to happen. When it did, it was heartbreaking.

My heart ached for Isabel and the pain she was feeling with the loss of her three babies. The arrival of little Lucy in the boat with her dead father, did seem like a miracle from God. However, as much I wanted her to keep the baby I knew it was not as simple as a child’s game of Finder’s Keepers. I was truly torn between how I wanted the story to end and how it “should” end. I must say that it was tragic to the last. I had a glimmer of hope for one of the characters but even that was taken away but I don’t regret reading it at all. Emotional drama in a book is always somehow cathartic. However, if you are expecting a Hallmark ending, look elsewhere. I rate this 4 out of 5 stars.

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Big, Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

  • Author: Liane Moriarty
  • Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (August 11, 2015)

Amazon Summary:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

My Thoughts:

I first heard about this book from an article in our local paper. HBO is doing a series based on the book and part of the show was filmed here on the Monterey Peninsula. I read the free sample on Amazon and was intrigued. Being my first Liane Moriarty book, I was not familiar with the author but now I know why she is a favorite. The story completely sucked me in and I was trying to read a page at every free moment. I eventually got the audio version on Audible so I could keep listening as I was driving around town running errands.

Based on three main characters, the story follows their lives after we learn that someone died at a school event with all the parents present. Facts are revealed, story lines intertwine and secrets are slowly revealed. The writing was excellent and it had me completely absorbed and wanting to know how the story would end. At the key point of the story, I was making dinner with my headphones on as the kids were playing outside. Brian came into the kitchen as I audibly gasped. He just smiled and teased me about how into a book I get. 😉

The story is definitely written from a modern worldview and there are adult situations and some language but nothing too graphic. I really enjoyed the book and picked up another Moriarty book (What Alice Forgot) to read in Fall. I rate the book 5 out of 5.

What was your favorite book over the summer?

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