(Review) Charlotte Gray, French Trilogy #3 by Sebastian Faulks

Charlotte Gray

Publisher and Publication Date: Vintage. 2000.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 401.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Recommend. Good.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Occupied France, and the Resistance.

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Have you seen the film Birdsong? It’s available on PBS Masterpiece subscription through Prime Video. The same author wrote Charlotte Gray and Birdsong.

 

Summary:
Charlotte Gray is a young Scottish woman who moves to London during the early years of World War II. She rents a room from a young woman named Daisy. The first night in her new lodging, Daisy invites her to a literary party. At the party, she meets Peter Gregory, an RAF pilot. One evening together and it’s an instant connection. Peter goes on a mission to France and does not return to England. Charlotte makes a bold move by joining and training with G-Section as a courier. Her goal is to find and bring Peter home.

My Thoughts:
•Charlotte is not a dimensional character. She is stoic. I pictured her throughout the book with a straight face. She has events that bring her to the point of showing emotion, but continues to emit a quiet strength. I know little about her life before coming to London. Her father was in World War I and has a difficult time adjusting to life post war. There is a painful memory of this period that is spoken about in brief later in the book. I felt this last aspect was thrown in as a glimpse of a dark childhood. This event is not explored in depth. It is a few crumbs thrown in the story that is a bit of a surprise to me. Charlotte comes across as a straight forward, conservative type gal. Later in the story and while in France, she takes a dip that I didn’t expect. I wondered if the author was exploring a bit with Charlotte’s character by adding these two events? By using these two elements in Charlotte’s character, she became more human and imperfect.
•Peter Gregory is a man’s man. He is not interested in serious relationships. His focus is flying and the war effort. Meeting Charlotte and the relationship that “just” happens, takes him by surprise. Love at first site or there afterwards is not something I believe in personally. Lust yes. Love no. Love take time to grow and deepen. However, Charlotte Gray is a fictional story.
•I’ve read several stories that are about the Resistance and SOE work. Charlotte’s duties are not complex. And her work is limited. The focus of this story is less on the work and more about the relationship with Peter Gregory.

 

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(Review) I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights And Dilemmas Of The Reading Life by Anne Bogel

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Publisher and Publication Date: Baker Books. September 4, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction.
Pages: 160.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Baker books, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Recommend. Very Good.
Audience: People who love to read.

Amazon

Anne Bogel is the originator of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy and the podcast What Should I Read Next? Also, the author of Reading People.

Baker Books is a Christian publishing group. I’d Rather Be Reading is not a Christian book.

Summary:
This book is about the topic of reading. From the type of literary carnivores we are, to how to organize the books on the shelf, to what our favorite books say about us.
Not all readers plan out their next book to read, but some readers do plan and organize. Bogel tries to give a broad brushstroke to all types of readers.
I’d Rather Be Reading is an entertaining and satisfying look at the activity of reading.

My Thoughts:
Bogel begins by listing different types of book readers. For example, people who are English teachers but have never read a classic work beyond college. People who dislike certain series books or people who binge read certain series books. There are all types of readers and Bogel shares their perspectives.
One of my favorite chapters in the book is how reading is a solitary activity, but when one book reader asks another book reader, “hey, what is your favorite book?” This question breaks the ice to become a perfect conversation starter. The book lovers I know recite a long list of books and might give lists for individual genres.
The focus of the book is page 11 through 145. This is a small digestible book for a bibliophile. It does not dig deep in the topic. The chapters are short-an intro and 21 chapters in all.
Bogel inserts a variety of books in the chapters. For example, from chapter eleven: “The Readers I Have Been.” She refers to Madeliene L’Engle who wrote A Wrinkle in Time. This book “won” her over at a young age. She also enjoyed reading books by L’Engle at older stages in life. For example, The “Irrational Season.”
I enjoyed reading I’d Rather Be Reading.
It is a great gift for a reader. It is a great book for a book discussion group. It is a great book to read on a cold afternoon with a cup of your choice.

(Review) The Lost Queen, Book One by Signe Pike

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Publisher and Publication Date: Touchstone. September 4, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 544.
Source: I received a complimentary advanced reader paperback copy from Touchstone, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Recommend. Good.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers who love Scottish history. Readers who love medieval history.

Amazon

Website for Signe Pike

Link for news about a television show based on this book: Deadline news.

signe pike

Her memoir Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World, was a “Best of 2010” Pick from Kirkus Reviews and received glowing reviews from Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Adventure Magazine, and renowned spiritual leader Marianne Williamson among others. Pike has been featured on WPR’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge” in an episode on enchantment along with Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, and A.S. Byatt.

She was born in Ithaca, New York and currently lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

Summary:
AD 550. Land of the Britons. Strathclyde, Scotland.
Languoreth, and her twin brother, Lailoken, are the children of a king. Their mother died. Their nursemaid is Crowan. Languoreth is strong-willed and independent. She wants to become a Wisdom Healer like her mother had been. Instead, she will someday marry a man of her father’s choosing and become a queen. Lailoken has a gift of reading signs from the gods. Languoreth can read Lailoken’s thoughts. They are handsome children. They have a close bond. When the story begins, Languoreth, and Lailoken are children destined for greatness.
The timeline of the story is AD 550 to 572.

My Thoughts:
Medieval history is one of my favorite periods to read about. I love historical fiction. These two combined loves led me to read this book.
I have several thoughts:
The Lost Queen has been compared to the Outlander series and Camelot. I disagree. Outlander is a different period in Scottish history and time travel is involved. Camelot is a larger than life story. It’s a famous story. A story with a bit of magic, and a lot of romance. I’ve not read The Mists of Avalon series (so I cannot compare.)
•Languoreth is the narrator or voice in the story. Her brother is a strong character, but it is her thoughts and words that is prominent.
•For most of The Lost Queen, it felt more like a young adult novel. Until the last quarter of the story, the main characters are young people who are headstrong and valiant. Plus, the story lacked a maturity (probably because of the ages of the twins.)
•Languoreth is in love with a young man whom she’s spent only a brief time with. For me, chemistry and lust is something you feel immediate. Love takes time to grow. Also, love over the years takes dips and turns, it develops roots, and it may or may not look anything like the love that was there at the start.
The Lost Queen showed the practice and culture of people living in this time period. I enjoyed reading about the medicinal arts and mysticism.
•Despite how Languoreth feels, and despite her strong-willed nature, she obeys her father in marrying another man. I love characters who do the right thing despite how they “feel.” Feelings often lead people astray. Of course, I’m in my mid 50’s and I’m reflecting back on those feelings that led me astray. Doing the right thing requires courage, humility, and sacrifice. This gave Languoreth a maturity in the story. This was a sign she had blossomed and developed.
•The romantic element is strong but brief. Brief in that most of the romance is in her mind and heart. She remembered their stolen moments and wonders how he truly feels? She wondered if it was something of lasting value?
The Lost Queen covers at least half the life of Languoreth. I can’t imagine what a second novel will reveal? Possibly it will be the story of Lailoken. He is the basis for Myrddin or Merlin.
•I was not swept away in The Lost Queen; however, I was entertained. I recommend this novel and I’m enticed enough to read its sequel.

 

 

(Review) Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting by Dave Furman

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Publisher and Publication Date: Crossway. 2016.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Compassion. Healing.
Pages: 176.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Recommend. Excellent.
Audience: This book is for Christians who want to minister to those in crisis.

Amazon

This book was recommended by, Crystal M. Sutherland, author of Journey to Heal. I recently took part and became certified as a mentor to sexual abuse survivors through Sutherland’s training program @ “Journey to Heal Ministries“.

When I think about “being there” for a person during a crisis, I think about a story mother told me. September 1, 1957 my mother’s young handsome husband went wade fishing at Galveston. He stepped into a sink hole and drowned. He was in the prime of life. He was an avid outdoorsman. He was an excellent swimmer. Mother was at home fixing dinner and had baked a cake. She and their three children were waiting on him to return, and they’d sit down to eat as a family. He didn’t return. Instead, a family friend came to the house to inform mother Walter had drowned. His body had not been recovered. Mother took to her bed. People came and went out of their home. Family cared for the three young children. Three days later his body was recovered. During the those three days mother stayed in bed. The sister of a friend sat beside mother on the bed. This woman never said a word, but mother knew she was there. Mother was comforted by the presence of another person who was quiet and calm.

In the book Being There, the above story I shared is an example of helping another person during a crisis, just quietly being there.
Dave Furman has a health crisis in his life. His story of the crisis, and the things he learned, is passed to the readers.
Furman is transparent in the stages he went through. For example, feeling sorry for self, the thoughts of, “if only.”
He states, “weep honestly at the loss we’ve experienced.” He is quick to remind us we have, “hope in our loss.” What is that hope? God is always with us, He will not abandon us. Secondly, we have the hope that this life is not all there is, “pain and suffering are not the final word in our lives.” We have the hope of eternity with Jesus Christ.
Page 37 held a gem. I loved this teaching: “We are armed with the Spirit of God.” Don’t be put off by friends who have “negative responses.” Be forgiving. Be loving; and remember God’s love and grace is never ending.
Chapter eight gives several examples of practical ways to help the suffering.
I read this book prior to another book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. Both books compliment one another because of a similar theme: the reality of real suffering in this life that is unavoidable.

Grow in your love for the Lord, and you will grow in your love for the hurting. If you’re going to help the hurting, you need to walk with God. Page 43.

Being There is a practical book for the reader, not just a memoir of a person who is living through a health crisis.

(Review) Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Mary Jo Doig

PatchworkPublisher and Publication Date: She Writes Press. October 23, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction. Memoir.
Pages: 344.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review. Advanced reader paperback copy.
Rating: Recommend. Very good.
Audience: Abuse survivors and PTSD sufferers. Adult Children of Alcoholics. Women ages 25-75.

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Author Info:
Mary Jo Doig is a life-writing enthusiast who has been coaching women to tell their truth for twenty years. She is a book reviewer, editor, and facilitator of women’s writing circles and legacy workshops. Her stories have been published in Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories and Kitchen Table Stories. Patchwork is her first book.

Mary Jo Doig @ website
Mary Jo Doig @ Facebook
She Writes Press @ Facebook
She Writes Press @ website

Link @ Amazon
available in Kindle edition

Summary (provided by the publisher):
A wife and mother enjoying her career and life wants nothing more than to live out her days embraced by the deep roots of family, friends, and her community. Tightly wrapped in a life-long protective cocoon, she has no idea how wounded she is until one starless night following the death of a relative, she has a flashback that opens a dark passageway to her childhood and the horrific secrets buried deep inside her.
Part mystery and part inspirational memoir, Patchwork is the story of a woman striving to live a life full of love, only to endure tragedies with two of her children and struggles in her marriages. Like a needle stitching a quilt, Mary Jo’s memories unravel why she wished she were invisible and how stupid and different she felt in her early years.
Shattered by these revelations, overcome by depression, hopelessness, and a loss of trust in others, Mary Jo embarks on a healing journey through the underground of her life that ultimately leads to transformation.

My Thoughts:
Memoirs are written with a particular memory the author wants to share. For example, the specific time when a person lived through the Holocaust. Another example, the accident and recovery of a traumatic event. Patchwork is the entire life story of Mary Jo Doig. The book begins with her parents and how they met. The year is 1940. The book shares the childhood and young adult life of Doig. Her marriages and children. Her college and career. It is later in the book when the author has memories of abuse that surface. The book shifts to the counseling and hard work of recovery.
For me, the book seemed to be a part of Mary Jo Doig’s way of recovery. Writing out her life helped to work through or reconcile life. Similar to journal writing. It was a way to get the memories out of the mind and onto paper. For some readers, they may not appreciate the detailed/comprehensive description of Doig’s life. They want emphasis placed on the abuse and recovery work. I’m a reader who loves descriptive details, but at times I wanted Doig to move-along and get to the point of the book.
In the news, films, books, and other media sexual abuse is being discussed. I have several best girlfriends, many of them have began opening up to me about their abuse; and I have begun sharing my abuse story. At the least, the discussion about sexual abuse is a good thing, because people are becoming informed. I’ve heard several men remark, “oh, that’s not abuse, it’s inappropriate but not abuse.” Men and women have minimized abuse, not knowing the definition of what abuse is and that it is more than just inappropriate. A book like Patchwork helps readers understand the horror of abuse, the long term effects, and the hard work of recovery.
Patchwork is a sad story. Both in the abuse and Doig’s recovery work. Working towards recovery doesn’t mean current relationships stay the same. Life is not going to be in a neat package with a pretty bow. It took courage to work towards recovery and to tell her story.
Doig is the voice/narrator in the story. She is the viewpoint character. We read the conversations, but also her thoughts during that memory and current reflection.

For my Christian readers, this book is not a Christian book.