Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why I've Been Gone

I have been taking a break from blogging because my mom has been in the hospital since February 8th. After more than a week the doctors believe they have finally found what is wrong, a rare disease called limbic encephalitis. Since starting the new treatment my mom has improved a lot and is now awake and able to eat and move and they will be moving her out of the ICU soon. It is truly amazing to me to see how God is healing her.

During this time I have been reflecting on how much I love my mom and how I haven't always been present when I visit her. I let myself get distracted by other things and didn't always give her my full attention when she was trying to spend time with me. I last saw her when I was home for Christmas and I hate to think how much of that time I spent on the computer either using Pinterest or on this blog. For some people blogging is a hobby that is just a part of their life and an activity they enjoy. For me it became something that I perhaps have devoted too much time to over the past few years. Honestly I haven't enjoyed blogging since 2011 but I've kept at it because I do like the community and I love to read and I didn't want to just quit. 

I am so glad my mom is doing better and I plan to spend as much time with her as I can. Her hospital is 3 hours away but I will go visit her as much as possible. In order to devote more time to my family and to get my priorities straight and because writing book reviews is frankly not something I want to think about right now I am going to be taking a break from it for the next several weeks. 

Thank you for reading my blog. I truly appreciate it. 

Saying goodbye for now,

Christina T

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Review: The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings
By Sue Monk Kidd
Published: January 7, 2014

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty "Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

My review:

The Invention of Wings is mostly an excellent novel that explores slavery, abolition, and women's rights through the eyes of Sarah Grimke and her fictional slave Handful. Although Sarah Grimke was a real person, it is Handful that feels more real and her character shines from the page. 

The novel is detailed in depicting life in Charleston during that time period for both the high society slave owners and their slaves as well as life for Quakers and abolitionists in Philadelphia. The inclusion of real life historical persons such as Denmark Vesey, the Grimke family, and Lucretia Mott adds to the authentic feel of the story. 

The character of Handful is unforgettable. She is strong and determined and intelligent. I also really liked Charlotte though her actions could be infuriating at times with all the risks she took. I loved how she used her quilt to tell her story and how she had such spirit. 

The one slightly disappointing thing about this novel is that Sarah becomes less vivid as a character as she becomes an adult. I started longing for the sections from Handful's point of view because I found that I didn't care about Sarah as much. The writing style seems to change during Sarah's parts of the story as she becomes a Quaker and moves to Philadelphia. I just lost interest a little bit because of the way the story is told but I did admire Sarah and her sister Angelina for their efforts on behalf of abolition and women's rights. Sarah, Handful, and Angelina were held back by the rules of the world they lived in but they fought back in an inspiring way.

Readers of historical fiction should definitely add this book to their TBR list. The author put a lot of research and detail into the book which really appealed to me as a fan of historical fiction. While the segments from Sarah's point of view are not always as strong, I thought this book was really good in spite of minor flaws. Though I don't usually go for "Oprah books" I think this one lives up to the hype (though I have heard it is better to read the Kindle version without the Oprah notes rather than the annotated Kindle edition). Other similar books I'd recommend are Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill and The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review: The Promise of Stardust

The Promise of Stardust
By Priscille Sibley
Published: February 5, 2013

Matt Beaulieu was two years old the first time he held Elle McClure in his arms, seventeen when he first kissed her under a sky filled with shooting stars, and thirty-three when he convinced her to marry him. Now in their late 30s, the deeply devoted couple has everything-except the baby they've always wanted.

When an accident leaves Elle brain dead, Matt is devastated. Though he cannot bear the thought of life without her, he knows Elle was afraid of only one thing-a slow death. And so, Matt resolves to take her off life support.

But Matt changes his mind when they discover Elle's pregnant. While there are no certainties, the baby might survive if Elle remains on life support. Matt's mother, Linney, disagrees with his decision. She loves Elle, too, and insists that Elle would never want to be kept alive on machines. Linney is prepared to fight her son in court-armed with Elle's living will.

Divided by the love they share, Matt and Linney will be pitted against each other, fighting for what they believe is right, and what they think Elle would have wanted resulting in a controversial legal battle that will ultimately go beyond one family . . . and one single life.

My review:

The Promise of Stardust is a gut-wrenching story. There are no easy answers and the author does a good job of presenting both sides of the argument. The book shows both the current situation in the hospital and courtroom as well as the past and how Matt and Elle met and various key moments in their relationship. This helps the reader to get to know Elle as she is already in a coma at the beginning of the novel. 

Matt and Elle are the most well developed characters in the book though we also learn more about Linney and Elle's parents. Some of the other characters are not developed at all like Matt and Elle's siblings. This did not detract from the story however since it is Elle and Matt that take center stage and are most important. 

Overall I loved this book though there were some minor flaws. This is the sort of book that makes you think and feel strong emotions while reading.  It is both a beautiful (and tragic) love story and an exploration of parent/child relationships, death, and life. This book has been compared to Jodi Picoult's works and while it should appeal to her fans, I prefer The Promise of Stardust to any of Picoult's books I've read so far. It would make a great selection for book discussion groups. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (171)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I am glad that January is behind us but I am a little worried about February, my least favorite month of the year. We are supposed to get 4-8 inches of snow from Tuesday to Wednesday but fingers crossed that it won't be that bad...

Books reviewed:

Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

Books read:

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

This book was fun once I got used to the e-mail exchanges. It wasn't as good as Rowell's newer teen novels but I could see the beginnings of Eleanor and Park and Fangirl in the writing style.

Come Home to Me by Brenda Novak

After enjoying the other Whiskey Creek novels, this book was a big disappointment. I liked the main character and wanted to see her have a happy ending after all the struggles she has been through but a secondary plot line really derailed my enjoyment of the book in a major way.

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

Though I didn't care for all the foreshadowing of doom I still really enjoyed this creative retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

Currently reading:

The House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

This is really good so far. I like the humorous tone that offsets some of the creepy suspense. It reminds me a little of Hex Hall and similar novels.