Friday, May 31, 2013

Leaving Everything Most Loved

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear is a departure of a sorts from her usual storyline.  That doesn't mean I didn't love the book, just that she's taking Maisy Dobbs in a slightly different direction.  Or, maybe not so slightly...

Maisy Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, has been hired by an Indian man to look into the death of his sister Usha Pramal.  She was found shot and floating in a canal over two months before, and the police have reached a dead end.  Maisy soon discovers that not much of an effort was made to find the former Indian governess,  mostly because she was the wrong color.  She starts to dig, uncovering ugly prejudice and distrust, but she also learns about beautiful Usha and her ability to heal through touch. When Usha's friend Maya is also found shot, Maisy knows that she needs to work fast to find answers before tragedy strikes again.

This is far from a straight forward investigation, and Maisy has problems of her own that must be tackled.  Her assistant Billy is suffering from old physical and psychological injuries, her father is acting strangely and James Compton is tired of waiting for Maisy to make up her mind on love. Meanwhile, Maisy's deepest desire is to travel the world in the manner of her mentor, Maurice Blanche, and India is calling to her.  Will Maisy solve the mystery and her own problems?  Read Leaving Everything Most Loved to find out which direction she takes.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.

Proof of Heaven is quite a title, but this is quite a story.  We've all heard tales of near death experiences, of tunnels radiating with bright light and close encounters with long-dead relatives, but this is another story all together mostly because of WHO experienced it.

Eben Alexander graduated from Duke University Medical School in 1980. He completed his residency and fellowships at Duke, Harvard and Massachusetts General, then spending 15 years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School specializing in neurosurgery.  He is one smart dude.  Along the way he married, had two sons and in 2006 moved back to Virginia.  Eben led a life that was devoted to scientific study and fact, leaving little room for the unseen or unexplainable, ie: God. Then, on November 10, 2008, Eben's brain was attacked by an extremely rare form of meningitis which was in itself unexplainable.  The part of his brain responsible for thought and emotion was completely shut down, and he was in a coma for 7 days.  His doctors were about to recommend taking him off life support when he suddenly woke up, again, defying any explanation.  That he was able to recover completely from this ordeal and return to neurosurgery was considered a medical miracle.  But that is not why you should read this book.  You should read Proof of Heaven because of what Eben experienced when he medically and scientifically should NOT have been able to experience ANYTHING.  And yet he did, and he is a changed man because of it.

I'm not going to give you anymore details, because I want you to read this book.  But I'll leave you with the first words that Dr. Alexander said when he woke from his coma, "Don't worry...all is well." One more quote from Albert Einstein: "There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as if everything is."

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

I love it when I discover a new author who is not really new just new to me so they have a whole list of books from which to choose in the near future. Anyway... I am speaking about Nancy Pickard, who has written The Scent of Rain and Lightning.

Set in the small town of Rose, Kansas, The Scent of Rain and Lightning is the story of the close-knit Linder family whose lives are forever changed when their oldest son is brutally murdered and their daughter-in-law disappears.  Most traumatized by this is their three year-old daughter Jody, but after no-good Billy Collins is convicted and sent away to prison for the crime,  Jody is lovingly raised by her grandparents, aunt and uncles who protect her from her demons and fears.  Fast-forward 23 years, and Jody has returned to the town of Rose to teach at the high school.  But someone else is also returning to Rose, and that someone may just be innocent of her father's death.  Jody's life has been defined by that tragic night all those years ago, but she is learning that her's was not the only life that changed, and she is not the only casualty in the story.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning is a terrific story.  The characters are real and likable, and Nancy Pickard makes me want to see the Monument Rocks in Gove County, Kansas.  Really!  Google them and you will see. (They play a major role in the book, in case you were wondering.)  Also, I love the title, and rain really does smell lovely. TBC

Ode to Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes 
you work so hard
always showing up Scotland Yard. 
But even you can be 
too much of a good thing for me.
It's elementary
unlike this poetry
which is patheticky.
So, the moral of this story
is to go slowly.
Take one adventure at a time,
and you won't lose your mind, 
like I did after reading all 705 pages
of The Complete Sherlock Holmes Volume II.
That didn't rhyme.
Boo hoo.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary, Etc.

While we're on the subject of World War II, let me tell you about two books I recently read on vacation.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal follows the exploits of Maggie Hope, a British citizen raised in America by her aunt but now in London trying to sell the house of a Grandmother she never met.  This is not such an easy task when bombs are falling all around you.  Through a friend she lands a job as a typist at No. 10 Downing Street, soon working for the great man himself.  But Maggie is no ordinary secretary. Before coming to London she was just about to start work on her PhD in mathematics at MIT, but her grandmother's death changed all that.  Her job with Churchill is important, but in this male dominated world she knows she has much more to offer. Before long Maggie's genius with codes saves the day, but will Maggie be able to save herself?  There is more at stake here than the correct answer to an equation, and Maggie discovers that she and her family are at the center of of a problem that will take all of her wits to solve.

Princess Elizabeth's Spy continues the story of Maggie Hope, now a member of MI5.  She has gone through all the training at spy school, but her petite physique is her downfall, and instead of dropping down behind enemy lines she is dropped into the nursery at Windsor Castle.  Tasked with uncovering a spy in the castle, she is posing as a math tutor for Princess Elizabeth.  Human prejudices lead her in the wrong direction, and the Royal Family is faced with their worst nightmare.  Will Maggie be able to save the monarchy and England with it?  You'll  have to read to find out!

Both are great for the beach...enjoy!  TBC

Ten Reasons to Read The Postmistress

I Loved The Postmistress by Sarah Blake!  Here are 10 reasons why you should read it:

1.  Part of the story takes place on Cape Cod in the year leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.                                    Much has been written about the English resilience during the Battle of Britain and the horrors befalling  the citizens of Europe, but what about us?  How was the threat of war affecting the regular citizen here in the US?

2.  In 1940 The United States Postal Service was VERY IMPORTANT. Of course there were telephones, but most long distance communication was done through letters.  Or the dreaded Telegram-O-Bad-News.  Think about it: no email, no text messages, no emoticons, just good old handwritten letters on actual stationary. I have letters written by my father during WWII.  They are priceless.

3.  The postmaster/postmistress was a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON.  He/she was responsible for all of this very important communication reaching the correct recipient.  In the small town of this story, the residents came into the post office to collect their mail, so the postmistress, Iris James, knows everyone.   

4.  Iris James is a VERY interesting character.

5.  Iris James' boyfriend keeps a vigilant look-out for German submarines in the waters off Cape Cod.  Crazy or clairvoyant?

6.  Part of the story takes place in London in the middle of the Blitz.  Through persistence and hard work Frankie Bard has become a female broadcaster with the legendary Edward R. Murrow.  Defying danger all around her, she reports on everyday life in the middle of bombed-out neighborhoods as people get on with their lives as best they can. 

7.  Frankie loves her job in London but desperately wants to report on conditions in Europe.  She finally gets her chance, naively traveling into the heart of the matter as only a neutral reporter with the correct papers can do.

8.  Frankie discovers so much more than she bargained for.

9. You will find yourself sympathizing with the dilemmas of these two women: Should all mail be delivered, and should all news be reported?

10.  The Postmistress is a VERY GOOD BOOK.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Forgotten Garden

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?  Or when the last puzzle piece fits into place?  Or when the loose ends of a story are all tied up in the end?  To me, the latter is the mark of a REALLY GOOD BOOK, and I have definitely just read a really good book.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton begins in 1913.  A passenger ship has docked in Australia and a little girl is found by the harbor master sitting on her small white suitcase. She doesn't seem to know anything about her family, and without having to deal with the inconvenience of today's customs and immigration, he decides he should take her home for safe keeping. Of course he and his wife fall in love with her and raise the girl they name "Nell" as their own, but his conscience forces him to tell Nell the truth about her past at her 21st birthday party.  This was probably not a great idea.  Nell does not take this news well and spends the rest of her life trying to discover who she really is.  Fast forward to 2005 where Nell is dying in a Brisbane hospital.  Her devoted granddaughter Cassandra is by her side, and upon Nell's death she takes up her grandmother's quest. Learning more than she ever thought she could about her grandmother's past, Cassandra also learns how to embrace her future.  Spanning almost a century, this is a mystery that reaches into the darkest hovels in London's East End, travels to the heat of Western Australia and ends in a mysterious cottage on the once magnificent Blackhurst estate in Cornwall.

I LOVED The Forgotten Garden! The characters are fascinating, and the plot is a page turner, the perfect combination for your reading satisfaction. PLUS, Kate Morton has written several other books!!  Huzzah and thank you, Kate!

Now back to reading...TBC