Friday, October 28, 2011

Sweeping Historical Novel: 22 Britannia Road

22 Britannia Road
By Amanda Hodgkinson

This is the story of a newly married Polish couple, Janusz and his wife Silvana. Both swept up by the war, Janusz must leave his newly married wife and child Aurek, and report for duty.  They are separated during the war.

Silvana and their son Aurek are forced to flee their home. They are forced into hiding in places you wouldn't dream of.  They were forced to go from place to place and hope for the best.  At times they were kept safe. But, toward the end of the war they were forced into the forest to live like animals. 

Then, in alternating chapters we learn that Janusz is is hurt and separated from his unit.  A family finds him, and their beautiful daughter, Helene nursing him back to health. They both fall in love. You don't find out what happens to Helene till the end of the story.

Janusz reaches England and asks the Red Cross to find his family. The Red Cross brings them to England and they are reunited.

Both Silvana and Janusz want to move on and forgot their past, and move on to 22 Britannia Road. But, it is not possible till they can forgive each other and accept what each one has done and heal each other, separately, and together.

Most of the story I can't devulged without ruining the story.  I will tell you there are alot of twists and turns and surprises. The entire book played out like a movie in my mind.

One part of the story I was upset what happened. I thought to myself no mother would do that. But, once I was immersed in the story, and got deeper and drew me in, I forgot about it, and got over it.

In the beginning I did not care for the characters, but once I was captivated.   I was just swept in by the story. Something like, "Calgon take me away". I think the story became more important than the character flaws. 

What worked was the alternating time of place of Janusz and Silvana in Poland, and then in England.

I was very surprised reading this. I thought it would be a literary read. But, it was I felt a mixed bag of things, and I can't put my finger on it. But, it worked and I enjoyed reading 22 Britannia Road.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Year We Left Home: Book Review

The Year We Left Home
By Jean Thompson

This is the story of the Erikson family in Iowa, in 1973. The story spans 30 years from the time they are coming of age into adulthood, to their middle age years.

The story is about each individual family member, Anita, Blake, Torrie, Ryan and their cousin Chip, and of course their parents.  Each of them, leave home, in different situations. The affect it has on them for them when they reach their 50's.

The confrontations, the battles, the tragedies, and the ties that bind them as individuals and as a family.What happens to this family, and turns the family to extended family, as Great Grandmother, Grandmother, Great Grandfather, Grandfather, Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Sister, Brother, Cousin, Nephew, Neice, etc.

There are three children, Blake, Torrie, Anita, and Ryan, and their cousin, Chip.  At the opening scene, Anita is getting married. She pictures a perfect marriage and family. A house, with a white picket fence, with of course a dog and 2.2 children. Just like everyone else did, in the 70's. But, unfortunately, life does not go as planned.  Her husband becomes a alcholic.

Ryan, has to find himself and his dream. He ends up working in computers. Somewhat of a loner. He marries, and has kids. Later in their marriage, they end up divorced, and he feels the kids don't care about him.

Torrie, the youngest daughter, is in a car accident. Torrie, is left handicapped with physical disabilities.  Torrie feels her mother, smothering her and does allow her to be as independent. Torrie escapes by finding her creativity, in photography. Her mother allows her independence and leaves home.

Blake, has not much to talk about. He is just there in the background. He has a happy life. At the end of the story we learn his son, wants to join the military.

Their cousin, Chip is a drifter. He doesn't seem to ever get it together. The Vietnam War, has forever changed him.

My thoughts, I enjoyed reading this novel. I connected from the start. The Year We Left Home, is not for everyone. There is historical background, and politics that appear in the story.   It is slow moving, but it was fluid, and came together. There was not any part of the novel that was disjointed.

I may have connected to the story, because I am middle aged. I don't think a younger person would have enjoyed, or related to the Erikson's as much. That is just my personal opinion. 

I loved the ending of the story, and the character development. The author, did a good job writing this novel. I have never read any of her books before. I hope to read her other one's in the future.
The only critque, I have is why Blake is not developed more in the story? For what reason, she did not give Blake more story line, and why Chip is in the story? I am not sure if Chip made the story more interesting or not, or was the author trying to put another spin to the story.

The borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt

Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt
By Beth Hoffman

Cee Cee, is living in Ohio. She  is a 12 year old young girl. She has to grow up fast because of her mother's psycotic ways.  Her father, is rarely around for Cee Cee.

Her mother, Camille struts in  to town most days in a tiara on top of her head and her old prom gown that she wore in a pagent in 1954.

When Cee Cee was small  she did not know any better. She appreciated her mother's eccentric and crazy behaviors. But, as Cee Cee became aware of her mother's crazy behavior, she became aware that her mother was not normal.  Her father conviently left town when things got tough for Cee Cee.  Cee Cee was forced to grow up fast, and to learn to develop a tough skin, because of the gossip, and humiliation, and embarrassement her mother caused.

Her only friend was Ms. Odell, the elderly next door neighbor. She always watched over Cee Cee, giving her hugs, and grandmotherly advise. Her other escape was reading, she loved to escape into books.

One afternoon, her mother decides she wants to walk into town with her usual attire, her tiara and her colorful prom dress. Unfortunately, she is hit by a car.

Her father realizes, he can not raise Cee Cee. He decides the best thing, is for her to live with her Aunt Tootie, in Savannah Georgia.

Aunt Tootie, is a elderly, wealthy, and eccentric woman. Cee Cee meets Aunt Tootie's friends and neighbors. All of them are colorful and eccentric, and a bit off.

Cee meets her Aunt Tootie's housekeeper, Oletta Jones, her neighbor, Mrs. Goodpepper, and the town hussy, Mrs. Hobbs.

Her Aunt Tootie's housekeeper, Olletta Jones, is a godsend for Cee Cee. She finally learns to live, laugh, and have fun, and learn life lessons from all these colorful characters. Cee Cee has a entire summer to learn these life lessons.

My Review: I would like my readers to know that this novel was not sent by a publisher, but borrowed from the library. I truly did not know what to think about this small novel at first. I usually don't read books about coming of age. I am glad I read, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, I loved it.

Reading a story about a young girl coming of age from the south, in her perspective was refreshing.  This book blew me away. I just loved the small little tidbits of wisdom, Mrs. Odell and Oletta gave her.

There were tears, laughter, joy, and heartache, I felt for Cee Cee, and all the quirky characters. Especially at the end, was all those mixed emotions.

Aunt Tootie had the garden party.  It all came to a head, a confrontation between Mrs. Goodpepper, and Mrs. Hobbs, the town hussy.

  I could see all these upper class  ladies tongues wagging with gossip, and gawking at the spectcle.

The entire book, I was cheering on the side lines for Cee Cee.  Cee Cee was haunted by her
mother's illness, and her past, but with the help of these women she was able to finally let go of her mother's past, and heal emotionally. With all these women chararcters giving her love, support, and encouragement along the way, especially Oletta, Cee Cee was able to let go and move on.

The book was a fun and great read, I recommend it highly.  I am going to spread the word, and recommend our book club to read it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Story of Beautiful Girl

The Story of Beautiful Girl
By Rachel Simon

This is the story about how four peoples lives intercept at a single night in 1968, and how it changes their lives forever.

Lynnie,  is developmentally challenged, young woman, and Homan is a Afro American deaf young man. They are on the run after escaping,The School for the Incurable and Feeble Minded.

 They find a farm house, and Martha a elderly widow.  But, unfortunately, the authorties find them.

Lynnie is caught, before she is taken away she whispers something in Martha's ear, hide her.

This statement changes Martha's life. She names the baby girl, Julia and moves away.
Homan, in the dark night escapes the authorities. He discovers a new way of life, and learns life lessons, and makes new friends.

Lynnie is caught and taken back to the intstitution.   After a few years, society learns of the atrocities of the condition of The School for the Incurable and Feeble Minded.  The school is closed down.  Lynnie learns to live a semi- independent life.

Then they lives intercept again. I am not going to tell you how since that may spoil it for you. This book is so good, I am hoping you will read it.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed reading The Story of Beautiful Girl.  It is slow in the beginning, but it grabs you from the start, and doesn't let go til the end.  There is a bit of Jewish themes immersed in the novel, which made the story more interesting.

 I enjoyed the author's writing style.  The author used the voices of what she thought Lynnie and Homan would think and talk. At first I had a hard time grasping it, but after a while I started getting pulled in.

The story begins from 1968 to the present.  I enjoyed reading Homan, and Lynnie's true voice, the separate lives they had, and what was happening to them.  This made you want to keep flipping the pages, and wanting to stay up in the wee hours of the night.

The Story of Beautiful Girl, was part mystery, part suspense, part romance, and also social history, and social commentary, of what happed to the physically and mentally challenged during the 1960's.

When you were physically or mentally challenged, you were usually put away in a institution and forgotten and never spoken about again.  The autrocities in these places were unspeakable. 

Thanks to JFK, new laws were put in place to protect the mentally and physically challenged.  The citizens that were physically and mentally challenged were not easily put in institutions.  They finally had rights.  Institutions started to close up. 

Unfortunately, this left some of them with not a place to go, and left them homeless, and without medical care. You were fortunate if you had family to care for you, or at least look out for your welfare.

The author, Rachel Simon read a story about a deaf, Afro American man escaping a institution. She wanted to give him a voice, and tell his story what it was like.
But, also her sister, is developmentally challenged. She wanted to discuss the treatment and conditions of the developmentally challanged during the 1960's when she was growing up.  How some people autrocized, and how society treated them before laws were changed.  Her sister was lucky, her parents never thought to give up her sister to a institution.

The Story of Beautiful Girl, would be a good discussion for a book club. There is so much to talk about.  I can't see why no one would enjoy this book, it has everything, like I said before, romance, mystery, love story, suspense, and history, and social commentary, and social history.   The social issue part of the story, stirs up your juices and gives you a voice. I can see many arguments in anger during this discussion, if our group decided to select, The Story of a Beautiful Girl.

The only thing I did not like was the end, it was too predictable. The conclusion made a romantic happy ever after ending.  But, still recommend this to my blog readers.

 I am very glad I read, The Story of Beautiful Girl.   Thank you, Rachel Simon for a copy,