Thursday, August 30, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I must admit that I have always been something of an Anglophile.  There is just something about that island and its people and rich history that fascinate me. I'm also a great admirer of the Queen. It amazes me to think of all that she has seen and done during her reign.  The English monarchy was forever changed by the divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales and Diana's subsequent death. The classic "stiff upper lip" mentality didn't seem to suffice anymore.  Kuhn's book provides a sympathetic imaginary portrait of the Queen as she grapples with her own bout of depression.

After feeling low for quite some time, the Queen tries to figure out what would make her happy. She wanders down to feed the horses in the Mews and gets caught in inclement weather.  A stable girl lends the Queen her hoodie for protection from the weather which has the suprising and unexpected effect of also offering the Queen a bit of anonymity.  When the Queen finds herself outside the castle walls, she decides to make her way to one of her happy places in Scotland.  When it is discovered that the Queen is missing, some of her closest staff come together to try and find her before the press is alerted to her absence. What follows is an enlightening and introspective day out for the Queen and her staff that may very well change them all forever.

I thought this was a particulary charming book. It is a quick and easy read and I loved the parallels between the Queen's day out and Shakespeare's Henry V.  I thought Kuhn's portrayal of the Queen was both gentle and sympathetic.  I also enjoyed the characterizations of the staff and how Kuhn attempted to depict the everyday difficulties these individuals go through in the course of their service to the Crown.  While none of the characters are well fleshed out or of any particular depth, they are all quite likeable and entertaining. The Queen, however, takes center stage. As well she should.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. A very sweet contemporary tale of the Queen in the tradition of Roman Holiday.  While this is not a particularly literary tale, it is charming and pleasant and would make a lovely vacation read. 

You won't understand how funny this image is until you read this book but I have to admit this really gave me a chuckle:  LINK.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A New Kind of Book Club

I am in the middle of reading Will Schwalbe's END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB and I am really really enjoying it.  I was reading it over my lunch break and I got so lost in the story that I was shocked to look up from the book and see that I was sitting in a restaurant.

Favorite quotation so far:

"One of the many things I love about bound books is their sheer physicality. Electronic books live out of sight and out of mind. But printed books have body, presence.  Sure, sometimes they'll elude you by hiding in improbably places: in a box full of old picture frames, say, or in the laundry basket, wrapped in a sweatshirt.  But at other times they'll confront you, and you'll literally stumble over some tomes you hadn't thought about in weeks or years.  I often seek electronic books, but they never come after me.  They may make me feel, but I can't feel them.  They are all soul with no flesh, no texture, and no weight.  They can get in your head but can't whack you upside it."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker

It is no secret that I love a good apocalyptic novel.  There seems to be a very large number of new books in this genre coming out in the Young Adult book world lately.  Although AGE OF MIRACLES is not technically a young adult title, I think it works most successfully at that level. At first glance, Walker's book appears to be a clever take on the Apocalyptic genre.  However, I would argue that this is much more a coming-of-age story that just happens to take place when the world is falling apart.

One morning, Julia awakens to discover that the rotation of the Earth has suddenly begun to slow. At first, everything stays relatively normal as people grapple with the implications of this change.  Slowly, however, as the days and nights begin to lengthen, the world must figure out how to adapt.  The 24-hour clock no longer applies and living things are beginning to be affected by the change.  The world splits into factions as people try to decide how to deal with the changes.  As the Earth's rotation continues to slow, normal life is suspended.  In the midst of all these changes, Julia deals with the everyday issues of a young teen's life--her parents' struggling marriage, bullying, first love.  It is in these moments that the book is most poignant. This period of time in a yong person's life is already fraught with change.  To juxtapose this period of growth with the slowing of the Earth's rotation makes for a wonderful story.  However, I was left wanting more.  I wish Walker had gone in a different direction with some of her storylines.  I did really like the idea of the slowing of the Earth's rotation.  It is frightening in that no one can escape this catastrophe and it affects everything. Very chilling and very moving.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. A lovely coming-of-age tale that takes place in a period of great change and loss. I think this book works best as a young adult title but there is something to enjoy for everyone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


There haven't been very many novels written yet about the Iraq War.  Perhaps we are still to close to the events to have enough perspective for those type of books.  That makes it all the more interesting when one pops up.  BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK follows a day in the life of a young Iraq war hero.  Billy and his fellow Bravo Squad members are on a Victory Tour of the United States after surviving a firefight with Iraqi insurgents. During this brief but highly visible encounter, Bravo Squad became known as the "heroes of the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal."  For a government that needs some positive press surrounding an unpopular war, these young men are a goldmine.  The men have been sent around the country as war celebrities in an attempt to rally public sentiment.  They are even connected with a Hollywood producer who is trying to sell their story and make them rich.  The novel takes place on one of the final days of their tour before they are sent back to Iraq.  The young men are celebrity guests at the Thanksgiving Dallas Cowboys game. 19-yr-old Billy Flynn is a Texas native and won a Silver Star as a result of his actions in the famous battle.  He is conflicted by his many feelings about both being back home and by his participation in all of these events as a reputed war hero.  As the day progresses, Billy must confront some truths about himself and what he really believes about the war.
I thought this novel was skillfully done.  It really brought home the effects of the war experience on many young men and how our nation struggled to understand the Iraq War.  The war was so tied up with our feelings about 9/11 that it was difficult to separate the two events.  Everyone felt compelled to support the war or risk being labeled as unpatriotic at best and traitors at worst. The young men who fought in the war dealt with even greater issues.  I think Fountain did a great job bringing out some that inner conflict in the character of Billy Lynn.  That being said, I was little disappointed with this book.  I expected so much more.  It felt really slow and I had a hard time engaging with the characters.  It wasn't a particularly enjoyable read and, for such a short book, I really struggled to finish it.
BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended with reservations.  While the book is well-written and the subject matter is interesting, the book probably has more appeal for individuals with first-hand experience of war.  I found the book really hard to get through and very slow.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

CITY OF WOMEN by David R. Gillham

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

There are times when I feel as if there is nothing new to say about WWII and then I find myself surprised by another author's take on the subject.  Gillham takes us to 1940's Berlin where Sigrid Schröder plays the role of dutiful soldier's wife.  With her husband away at war, Sigrid goes to work each day and comes home each evening to care for her difficult mother-in-law.  Her life is like that of most German women except for her secret---she has a Jewish lover.  A few chance encounters with several tenants in her building pull Sigrid into the secrets of others and involve her in a dangerous world she never knew existed. Sigrid must choose sides and decide what she believes is right and wrong while Berlin is bombarded by bombs.

I thought this was a wonderful book!  It was so interesting to view this slice of history through the lens of a German woman living in Berlin during the height of the war.  Sigrid is such an interesting character as she is the perfect hausfrau on the outside but full of unexpected secrets and yearnings.  I think the best thing the story does is to remind the reader that not everything is black and white.  People are complicated and war can bring out the best and worst in all of us. Sometimes, the difficult choices we make can mean life and death for those around us.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A very compelling read that is difficult to put down. Gillham offers us a look at WWII from a very different perspective and creates a wonderfully complex character in Sigrid Schröder.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Big Day

Today was a momentous day.  Something I have been waiting for for four years. 

My son brought home his first Scholastic book order sheet.

(image source)

When I was a little girl, I looked forward to Scholastic book order day like it was Christmas. I brought my order sheet home and my mom and I would carefully go over it together. We didn't have a lot of money growing up but my mom always made sure I had plenty of books.  When the orders were delivered, I always felt as if I had an embarrassment of riches. 

Books are highly valued in our house and, while I don't let my child have every toy or tchotchke that he wants, it is VERY hard for me to say no when he wants a book.

Noodle and I took his order sheet and sat in the backyard tonight going over it very carefully.  It was so much fun making our selections.  It will be so fun when the books get delivered and we can sit down and read them together.  I'm so glad that this is one childhood tradition that hasn't disappeared!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wisdom from Harold Fry

"He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too.  The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.  Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human."


Review coming soon....

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

LBC on Pinterest

I created a new board on Pinterest entitled "Highly Anticipated Books."  I will try to do a monthly roundup of upcoming books that are getting a lot of buzz.  The latest batch for Fall are now up.

Go here to see the current batch.