Category: Books

Book Review–The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

beekeeperFirst, thank you Kerry from Love Those Hands at Home, who recommended this book. It is a winner! My only regret is that the volume that came up first from “on hold” land was the audio version. It was great to sew and listen, but I enjoyed this one so much that I may buy it so I can hold it in my hands and read it again and again. The  Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King, was published in 2010, so it’s been around awhile, but I had never seen it. 

The story is the first in a Sherlock Holmes series set during World War I. Mr. Holmes is now retired, but meets the precocious orphan Mary Russell. The story details their friendship, Mary’s subsequent training and a case or two that cements their friendship and collaboration. 

When they first meet, Mary is a gangly teenage with a smart mouth, and the story is told from her point of view, in first person. And yes, you will learn a little something about bees as well! There are more in this series, and I will be checking them out from my digital library, you can be sure!

Book Review–My Brilliant Friend

 My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is a great read. Yes, there is some drama, and intensity, but I most appreciated the look into real life growing up poor in Italy in the 1950’s. I am very interested in seeing how the two protagonists’ lives progess. I would definitely take this with me camping or on vacation, it’s not so involved that you can’t put it down, but makes you want to go back and find out what happens next, perfect for a summer read. Here’s an “official” synopsis; it provides an overview much more eloquently than I can.

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.   Europa Editions

Book Review–America’s First Daughter

I read and listened to this book, because I was unable to finish it during my library checkout period, but was alerted I could continue through one of our library’s online partners. The book is 587 pages, the audio 23 hours, but Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph.  It was fascinating; the era, what she witnessed, the human quality the authors were able to capture, an amazing reading/listening adventure.

America’s First Daughter is a novel, but the biographical research was quite meticulous, drawing from thousands of letters and original sources. Being a novel allows the authors some storytelling and assumptions that the records point toward, but do not confirm, creating a pretty engaging and informative look at some very exciting times. I was impressed by their desire to make the story compelling, while keeping things as accurate as possible. There is a section at the end where they explain where they left the historical path and moved into fiction and the reasons for those departures.

While this book may be most interesting to US residents, it covers a very rich part of world history, and provides insight into the revolutionary mindset in America and France.

Book Review–About Grace by Anthony Doerr

I must admit I had a little trouble getting involved with this story, just because it was disturbing. David Winkler dreams things and then they happen. He dreams terrible things, and as a result gets very little sleep and does some pretty scary stuff, and makes some bizarre choices. I am only a quarter of the way through the book, and it goes back to the library tomorrow because it’s on hold for someone else…of course, in just the last chapter I am finally hooked! I’m putting it back on hold and will finish it when it comes back to me.

I loved Mr. Doerr’s other book, All the Light We Cannot See, so I have to believe that my initial lack of interest came from my current mood, rather than any fault of the book!  The writing is excellent, and the storyline is unique. And, while it took me some time to get committed, I didn’t stop reading it, I just didn’t make it a priority.

Book Review–Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

This novel about the teenage Victoria was a light read and enjoyable. I don’t know how accurate it was; I’m certain that details were added or left out to make the story flow for the author, but it was a nice weekend read. The author made the characters accessible and human, and made me interested in picking up a true biography to learn more. I saw this book several months ago, and It has been on hold since then, so when it popped up on my overdrive a account, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to check it out. I don’t think I would buy it outright, but that’s the beauty of library books!

Book Review–1906

I listened to this book, because I needed a diversion while driving to and from Pierre last weekend (190 miles one way). It was an engaging listen, formatted much like a police report, with dates and times. The author,  James Dalessandro, took the events in and around the San Francisco earthquake, created some characters for the story, and wove them in and out of the real life events and characters. I was ready to hunt the actual history when I finished. It was an enjoyable listen, and a very interesting piece of history I knew little about. It also kept me alert on the drive home, which was well past my normal bedtime, so while not riveting, it was definitely entertaining!

If you enjoy historical fiction, you may want to check this one out. I’d never read/listened to anything by this author, but I’m going to see what else he’s written. Happy Friday!

Book Review – Radio Girls

This historical novel, by Sarah-Jane Stratford captures a bit of the flavor of the post WWI era and the beginnings of the BBC. I was intrigued by the the subject, and am always willing to give a historical novel a try. I am an avid library user, both books and e-books, so I’ll give most things a go.

I enjoyed the story, and the history, and appreciated Stratford’s note at the back outlining where she went “novel,” and where she stuck to straight history. I think her current sensibilities filtered some of what she wrote, but it was still an enjoyable, relaxing read, which was perfect for me this week.

If I see other stories by this author, I’ll at least read the book jacket to see if I’m interested. I think the topic will be more of a draw than the author, but I could be wrong!