I picked this up with a bit of hesitation. In spite of the great reviews that it got, I must say the title made me expect something quite different from what it was. I expected a book filled with scientific details about marshes and birds that would be difficult to read. I was genuinely surprised and pleased to get drawn into the story and to find that it was not an exposition on the science of the marsh masquerading as a novel but a well written, enjoyable and easy to follow story.
The story is about Kya a young girl born in the marshes of North Carolina, USA who is left to fend for herself by her family from the tender age of 7. The town people consider her strange and refer to her as Marsh Girl. She somehow manages to take care of herself all alone in the Marsh with only the occasional journey into town to get supplies.
She is lucky enough to make a friend who teaches her how to read and helps her make use of her knowledge of the marsh to make a respectable living. When one day, Chase Andrews, the son of one of the town’s most prominent families is found dead in the swamp, the town people cannot help but suspect that the strange Marsh girl had something to do with his death.
This is an interesting book about survival and overcoming all odds to make a good life in the face of extreme hardship and hostility. Though I must admit at times I found it difficult to believe that such a young child could survive alone in such difficult circumstances and that none of the residents of the town bothered to do anything about this situation, the story is touching in many ways. It would be amazing if anyone could actually survive such a childhood and manage to turn their life around as Kya did.
I also enjoyed learning about the marsh and the different species to be found there and seeing the beauty in nature through Kya’s eyes, as she explored her marsh and got to know it better than anyone else.
I rate this book 4 out of 5. If you enjoy reading coming of age historical fiction stories and are a lover of nature, you will absolutely love this book. If you are the skeptical and cynical type, you might find it a bit implausible. Happy reading!
My most recent read is this gem of a book by Elizabeth Gaskell, based in Victorian England. Margaret Hale is the daughter of a parson. At age nine, her parents sent her away from the sleepy hamlet known as Helstone, where her father serves as the Parish Priest, to go live with her maternal aunt in London’s Harley Street so she could get an education along with her cousin Edith. Nine years later, aged eighteen, she returns to the village home of her parents and is longing for a quiet, peaceful life walking in the forest and spending her days tending to the needs of her father’s congregation.
“She took a pride in her forest. Its people were her people. She made hearty friends with them; learned and delighted in using their peculiar words; took up her freedom amongst them; nursed their babies; talked or read with slow distinctness to their old people; carried dainty messes to their sick; resolved before long to teach at the school, where her father went every day as to an appointed task, but she was continually tempted off to go and see some individual friend–man, woman, or child–in some cottage in the green shade of the forest.“
When her father suddenly announces that he is moving the family North to the manufacturing town of Milton-Northern, she is shocked and grief stricken and wonders how this change will affect her family, most especially her mother.
Life in Milton is as different as expected – the air is heavy with smoke, the streets are bustling and the people are rough. Margaret tries her best to ease her mother’s worries and anxieties. With time, she gets to meet some of the people of Milton and make friends with them, in spite of the differences in behaviour, customs and mannerisms. She manages to get herself embroilled in the politics of the town and finds herself in the middle of a strike.
She also manages to draw the attention of Mr. Thornton, a mill owner and one of the wealthiest manufacturers in the town, who is also her father’s pupil. John Thornton finds Margaret haughty and thinks she treats him with contempt while Margaret finds him hard and unfeeling and only interested in getting wealthy at the expense of his poor workers. Yet the two are brought together time and time again by fate. Will they be able to overcome their differences and find common ground?
“If Mr. Thornton was a fool in the morning, as he assured himself at least twenty times he was, he did not grow much wiser in the afternoon. All that he gained in return for his sixpenny omnibus ride, was a more vivid conviction that there never was, never could be, anyone like Margaret; that she did not love him and never would; but she –no! nor the whole world –should never hinder him from loving her.“
This story is engaging and well written. It demonstrates what happens when there is a clash of cultures. Margaret and her family are used to Southern mannerisms and she struggles to understand the industrial town and its people. She has also had a privileged life at the her aunt’s London home which is very different from the life her own family leads.
Through the eyes of the other characters, we get to experience the industrial revolution and the inevitable clashes between the mill owners and their workers as each strives to protect their interests. I loved how the author presented us with different view points of the lives of the people of Milton – that of the owners, workers and outsiders in the form of the Hale family.
“After a quiet life in a country parsonage for more than twenty years, there was something dazzling to Mr. Hale in the energy which conquered immense difficulties with ease; the power of the machinery of Milton, the power of the men of Milton, impressed him with a sense of grandeur, which he yielded to without caring to inquire into the details of its exercise.“
This was my first Elizabeth Gaskell book to read as part of my 50 classics in 5 years’ challenge. Having gotten used to Jane Austen books where the biggest differences in social class were as a result of inheritance and the sort of family that one came from, it was refreshing to read about self-made characters who were not trapped in the lives that they were born into.
North and South has been adapted for TV three times. I watched the above 2004 BBC adaptation. It was a four episode production featuring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. I absolutely loved it and found the characters very fitting for their roles, save that the ending was to me a bit too different from the actual ending in the book. I would have loved to see that ending played out here, though I must admit that it did not come out very nicely in the last episode of the 1975 adaptation that I managed to find on YouTube!
I enjoyed every part of this book and recommend it to all lovers of classics. I rate it 5 out of 5.
I totally fell in love with Marian Keyes after reading Sushi for Beginners. It led me to her other books which I also absolutely loved. I know it says ‘gloriously funny’ on this book’s cover – a quote from the Sunday Times – but it was more of drama than humor to me. This is especially so when I compare it with some of her other totally hilarious ones, like Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married and Rachel’s Holiday.
The book is based on the Casey family, complete with a family tree, so we know who fits where – and once you tally all the children, they are quite a number. The three Casey brothers are close and spend a lot of time together, despite their estrangement from their very cold and distant parents.
The family is fairly well-to-do (or at least Johnny and his wife Jessie are) so a good portion of the book features them at elaborate dinners or on holidays in picturesque destinations. We see the usual family dynamics play out, as the different characters encounter their own unique challenges.
The book is quite voluminous at over 600 hundred pages. It took me a while to get into the story, I suppose due to the many characters, each with their own backstory and peculiarities. In fact, this felt more like several stories told together. Thankfully, once the story got going, I found myself pretty much drawn into it and I was easily able to follow the different story lines. I enjoyed the way that Marian expertly combined them into one tightly woven tale and, towards the end, I could not put the book down.
Whilst the story was not ‘laugh out loud’ (at least not for me), there was a lot of humor in it together with all the family drama. The characters felt pretty familiar to me. I loved the interactions between them, as I got to know them and watch as they evolved. Marian explores some pretty serious themes in the book as she reveals the characters’ strengths and weaknesses.
There was no part of this story that I did not like and I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys warm family stories about relationships and the trials and tribulations that we all have to deal with in every day life. I especially loved that this story does not take itself too seriously and none of the characters is reflected as being perfect.
I rate this heartwarming story as a 4. The only reason why it did not get a 5 is because I enjoyed some of Marian’s books so much more and actually laughed out loud!
Lily Bloom is upset following her father’s very emotionally draining funeral and just wants to be alone on a rooftop where she can breathe in the fresh air and unwind. She does not count on meeting handsome Ryle, a neurosurgeon with whom she makes an instant connection. During their brief chat, they tell each other some ‘naked truths’ about their lives.
Lily is trying to overcome complicated feelings around her father’s death and the life that she left behind when she moved to Boston. Ryle is struggling with his own demons that plague him. After their initial rooftop encounter, Lily doubts she will ever see Ryle again, as they want different things from life. When they reconnect several months later, she finds herself unable to resist him.
In addition to starting a new business, and settling her mother in Boston, she reminisces about her first love, Atlas. She met Atlas as a teenager, at a time when he was lost, and she saved his life. When she unexpectedly bumps into him again, she believes she will finally get the closure she needs to be able to move on with her life.
This is a love story, but not just the usual love story. It is a love story that almost made me cry in some parts and left me frustrated in others. Colleen Hoover is a bestselling author of romance, young adult, thriller and women’s fiction. “And maybe a ghost story soon,” as she says in her Goodreads Bio. It is no wonder then that this was not just a romance story, even though romance is at the heart of the book.
I really rooted for Lily and Ryle and the twist caught me by surprise. I honestly did not see it coming. As it turns out, this is a tale about life and relationships – and how complicated both can get. I found the story gripping, even as it took an unexpected turn. The author uses first person to narrate the story, so I felt all of Lily’s emotions intensely, as I followed her thoughts and experiences.
I loved Lily as a character and wish I had her strength. The other characters were also well developed and easy to relate to. This story seemed so familiar to me, yet the author managed to show me that some circumstances in life are not as they seem at first glance. She shows how easy it is to judge people unfairly when we do not fully understand what they have been through and what makes them act the way they do.
Ultimately, this is a story about one woman’s journey and her quest to overcome her past and build a fulfilling, meaningful life for herself. It tells us that we are not bound by our past – or even our present circumstances and we can make the decision to break patterns. No matter what path we take, there is always time and space to course-correct. This may not always be easy and it requires a lot of reflection to recognize where we went wrong and the right path. It also requires the courage to do what is right as opposed to what is easy.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and rate it 5 out of 5. I recommend it to anyone who loves a good story with romance and a bit of a lesson.
The Woman in the Window is a psychological thriller by A. J. Finn. The main character, Dr. Anna Fox, suffers from severe agoraphobia and is unable to leave her house. From the windows in her living room and her bedroom, she observes her neighbors. She knows all their goings and comings and sees everything that happens on her street.
One day, she witnesses something shocking through her window. Unfortunately, no one believes her because of her condition. Dr. Anna Fox is an unreliable narrator. She has a severe anxiety disorder. At times, she either forgets to take her medication as prescribed, or takes double dosses after forgetting that she has already taken the medicine.
She takes copious amounts of wine, even though she lies to her doctor that she will not take alcohol. She spends days and nights in her house, watching old thrillers shot in black and white. It is no surprise, therefore, that no one believes what she says. After a while, she even starts to doubt herself.
I was drawn into this story from the beginning and it kept going at the same enthralling steady pace. It was full of twists and turns and a lot of suspense. At some point, I figured out part of the main character’s back story, but the main twist still caught me by surprise.
I loved the way the author was able to clearly show us what Anna was going through, though at times, even Anna was confused and unclear about some of the events. I do not know anybody who suffers from agoraphobia, but I was able to feel the intensity of Anna’s fears, as they were set out so vividly.
The characters were well developed. Most of the story is focused on Anna, but there is a good mix of supporting characters, who help to build the story. At the beginning, I thought this would be just a story about a nosy woman at a window spying on her neighbors – especially given how the story started. It turned out to be so much more.
I’m glad I picked this as my last read of the year as I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I rate it 5 out of 5 and recommend it to anyone who loves psychological thrillers.
A film based on the book, starring Amy Adams and Julianne Moore, is currently under production and is expected to air in 2020.
I’m looking forward to watching it and hope it remains faithful to the book, as I could not bear the disappointment if they mess it up.
Genre : Literary Fiction/Science Fiction and Fantasy
Publisher : Penguin Random House
Year of Publication : 2019
Number of Pages : 401
My Rating : 5 out of 5
This book is a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. It is set fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale. The author, Margaret Atwood, is an accomplished author whose work has been published in more than forty-five countries.
An adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale is now an award-winning TV series. Though I haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale, I caught a few of the episodes which gave me some background into Gilead. The Testaments still reads well as a Standalone and prior knowledge of Gilead is not really necessary to follow the story.
Atwood was selected as a joint winner of the Booker Prize in 2019 for The Testaments.
This book takes us back to Gilead, a dystopian society that can only exist in one’s worst nightmare. It is a country set up after the so called ‘Sons of Jacob’ overthrow the US Government. They are deeply unhappy with a country bedeviled by numerous ills and want to make it better. I didn’t know there was a place in the Bible known as Gilead, but it makes total sense that the country would be named after a biblical place. Or maybe it was named after another actual town in the US called Gilead.
The Sons of Jacob set up a theocratic government that has retrogressive views on the role of women in society, deeming them unsuitable for any positions of power. All steeped in religious bigotry. Women are not allowed to do any professional work. They can only be Wives, Aunts, Marthas or Handmaids.
Marthas are domestic workers for the elites whilst the sole role of Handmaids is to get impregnated and carry babies for couples who are sterile. The world has a severe fertility crisis and most adults are sterile. Many babies are born with serious genetic defects and do not survive. As in many such societies, it is the women who are assumed to be infertile, hence the Handmaids are meant to bear children on their behalf. This makes the Handmaids extremely valuable and they are forced to perform their role with no escape.
The story is narrated through the voices of three women, whose connection becomes evident as it progresses. These are Aunt Lydia, who featured prominently in The Handmaid’s Tale and two young girls, Agnes and Daisy.
Aunt Lydia is one of the founding women of Gilead. She is extremely resourceful, powerful and greatly feared. To ensure her own survival, she maneuvered her way into being placed in charge of all the women. She runs the revered Ardua Hall where Handmaids are trained and no men are allowed. She protects her position by ensuring she has incriminating information on all the senior members of Gilead’s governing council.
Agnes is a fifteen year old girl, born after Gilead was formed. She is the daughter of a high ranking Commander. Through her story, we get an insider’s perspective of how life in a Commander’s house is and the sort of upbringing that Gilead girls have. She lets us in on life at school and the transition from being a girl to becoming a Wife. Eventually, she ends up at Ardua Hall under Aunt Lydia and gives us a front seat perspective of the lives of recruits selected to become Aunts.
Daisy is a sixteen year old girl living with her parents in Canada. She only knows of Gilead through what she learns in school or sees on the news. She gives us an outsider’s perspective of Gilead, through the eyes of a young girl. She eagerly participates in anti-Gilead matches and disdains the Gilead Pearl Girls, who walk around her neighbourhood looking for fresh recruits to take to Gilead, thinking them ignorant.
This is a story of horrific treatment meted out to others in the name of religion. Those in charge take it upon themselves to decide the fate of others with rigid oppressive laws, rules and guidelines. Spies are everywhere. Disobedience is severely punished and life in Gilead is full of fear, violence and death. Serious crimes by powerful men – such as pedophilia – are, for the large part, ignored and victims are more likely to be punished for speaking out than the perpetrators. Handmaids occasionally gather to carry out a horrific execution.
Whilst this is not a story that one can call at all enjoyable, it was an intriguing look into what could happen when there is unchecked power. I loved the style that Atwood used to tell the story as I got a clear, firsthand view of events from different angles as represented by the three main characters.
Whilst I really hated Aunt Lydia in the TV series, she somehow comes out as sympathetic in this book and I found myself empathizing with her, in spite of my better judgement. I suppose that is what happens when you are able to see a character’s motivation articulated so clearly.
The book has quite a number of characters. Though many of them are totally unlikeable, they play a vital role in showing us the treachery, deception and vindictiveness pervading in Gilead. Some of them are heroes, working to end the tragedy that is Gilead. A few are even unsung heroes.
All in all, what I loved most about this tale of woe was the ending. It gets a well deserved 5 out of 5. I recommend it to anyone who loves literary fiction.
My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
I’m in a coma.
My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
Sometimes I lie.
This is the opening of Alice Feeney’s debut novel, Sometimes I Lie. Amber is in a coma, unable to move any part of her body. She was in an accident whose details she does not remember.
As she lies in a hospital bed, she hears everything that is happening around her and tries to tie together the fragments to figure out what happened to her.
I have always wanted to read this book but I’m only now getting round to doing so. I saw a lot of people discussing it online and the views presented made me want to read it.
This is a gripping thriller that I really loved. The author tells the story using Amber’s experience as she lies in hospital, flashbacks to the days leading up to her accident, and diary entries from her childhood.
At first, she appears to be a sympathetic character and I started off feeling sorry for her. But that is only because I had not paid enough attention to the “Sometimes I lie” bit at the beginning.
As the story progresses, it becomes quite clear that Amber is anything but a sympathetic character.
Ultimately, I started having many questions. What really happened before the coma? What of her childhood? Does her husband Paul really not love her anymore? What is the role of the sister/best friend Claire, in all this? And the mysterious Edward who appears in the story to leave a distressing and shocking footprint?
I liked Alice Feeney’s writing style. Amber is likeable and sincere, until she is not. I empathized with her as the victim of serious wrongdoing, then discovered that perhaps that may not be so. She is such an unreliable narrator.
I must say that I was very confused. As I went along, I had to undo all the impressions I had in my head about all these characters, most especially Amber.
In any case, since Amber is a self declared liar and no other point of view is presented to help us discern what is really happening, how do we know what part of the narrative is true and what part is not? This is the point of the story, I guess……..
By the end, I was still not sure what was going on. I felt a strong inclination to re-read the book and try and garner new facts from hints that I may have missed. Like the significance of the colour red and the events as set out in the diaries, use of the name Taylor, among others.
Amber is shown as clearly having an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). She has to check everything 3 times. We later see that she also suffers from anxiety and the OCD developed as a result of that. This story is full of twists and turns and I kept wondering what would come next.
I have seen many people speculate about a lot of aspects of the book, especially the final twist. For me, I was totally sure that this was a case of someone who had a Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID) and was heavily medicated in a mental institute!
It would make sense (to me anyway) if these characters (or at the very least Amber and Claire) are all the same person, especially as the lines are so blurred between Amber/ Claire/Taylor – and it’s not even clear who the villain in this story is! Or maybe I have just been reading too many books with DID characters recently!
I loved the suspense and mystery in this riveting psychological thriller and rate it 4 out of 5. It would have been a 5 if it didn’t confuse me so much! I recommend that you pick it up today, if you love psychological thrillers full of twists and turns.
You will enjoy trying to figure out what is going on. If you have read it, let me know whether you were as confused as I was!
I am joining a classics challenge! I was super excited to come across this challenge. It is run by the classics book club which is a community of lovers of classics. The idea is to read at least 50 classics and blog about them, within a period of 5 years.
This is meant to increase the number of people blogging about classics. Since I love classics, I have decided to join the challenge. Not bad, yeah? I can do that in 5 years. It is bound to be a refreshing experience.
My first task is to choose 50 classics that I would like to read and review. In selecting my list, am including books that I have read in the past and would like to blog about. That’s not cheating, it’s allowed.
The first one on my list has to be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, my favorite romance. I’m looking forward to blogging about this one! I have read it multiple times. I picked it up again last year after watching the 1995 BBC adaptation (yes, the one with Colin Firth diving into the lake). I don’t know why it took me so long to find this series, but I loved it once I did.
I am also including several others that I read years ago, as it has been a while and I need to refresh my memory to do them justice in a blog post. The Classics Club has helpfully provided a list to pick from, though you can include any book that is considered a classic. I have created a separate page for this project here where I will update my progress and post my reviews. Feel free to either join me or follow my progress!
Compiled by : Jack Canfield, Mark Victor & Wendy Walker
Publisher : Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing
Date of Publication : 2009
Number of Pages : 381
My Rating : 5 out of 5
Why Read This Book ?
Somebody in my family gave me ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul – Power Moms’. I still do not know who it was as it was part of the Secret Santa Christmas gift exchange that we do every year with my extended family.
At the time, I wondered why this beloved relative thought this was an appropriate gift for me. Not that I did not consider myself a Power Mom. On the contrary, I knew this description had aptly described me for many years since I became a mother. The issue was that this series consisted of 101 Stories Celebrating the Power of Choice for Stay-at-Home and Work-from-Home Moms.
You see, I did not consider myself as either one of these. I had almost always been a Work from Work Mom, except with my most recent job where I had occasionally been allowed to work from home, one day a week. Before that, apart from maternity leave and the other usual leave days, I was not to be typically found staying at home or working from home.
Not that I did not want to, the choices were just limited. None of my previous positions had provided for a flexible working schedule. So why did this relative think that this book was a good gift for me? Perhaps he/she was predicting my future. You see, for the better part of that year; I had been at home. This was not out of choice but due to a retrenchment exercise, which led to me being laid off.
In as much as I had been home, I did not consider myself a Stay-at-Home-Mom. I was busy searching for employment and any additional day I spent at home and not in an office genuinely felt like a punishment. I did not expect to take so long to get back into employment. Thus looking for work had become my full-time job.
Given that, I did not fully appreciate how good it was that I was at home. I felt that my kids were grown, at 15 and 11 years, and did not need me around. Besides, my son was away at a boarding school and was only around during the holidays.
There are only so many CVs you can send out in a day, so I had plenty of free time. My favorite thing to do with free time is read, so I decided to read the book and see what it was about.
Inspiring Stories by Power Moms.
The book comprises 101 short stories mostly written by Moms about their working lives and the choices they made after getting children. There are also some stories from a few men. It was compiled by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Wendy Walker. There are stories from Jane Green, Melora Hardin, Liz Lange, Jodi Picoult, and Lynne Spears, among many others. The foreword was written by Lisa Belkin.
Moms who share their stories have different professional backgrounds. There are lawyers, doctors, writers, marketers, professors, journalists and so on. The stories are grouped into 10 chapters, based on different themes. They detail the reasons why many women decide to quit their jobs and stay at home. Through their stories, different Moms share experiences that they went through after they made this critical decision.
They talk about financial sacrifices and the effects of spending days with babies or young children at home as opposed to adults in a professional environment. They highlight the satisfaction that ultimately comes from being there for your children and watching them grow without missing out on any important milestones.
Several Moms tell us how they dealt with additional challenges such as children with special needs. Moms who work part-time from home as they care for their children share the struggles involved in balancing the two roles as well as successes achieved as they carved their paths.
We also get to hear from several men. They write about experiences with stay at home moms, be it their wives or mothers. Some men also share their own experiences of staying at home and caring for their children. Finally, we take a look at how it feels when it is time for the kids to move on and start their own lives. The writers relate their experiences with letting go and watching their children start their own lives.
My Reflections on The Stories.
Once I started reading these compelling stories, I instantly realized how I had inadvertently been presented with a golden opportunity to be with my two children and spend more time with them. The genuine joy of being at home to greet my daughter when she came home in the evening was beyond anything I had ever experienced in the past. Previously, I had always arrived home after her. To a greater extent, I would be too exhausted to constructively engage in any meaningful conversation.
Now, we could take a stroll around our gated compound as she narrated to me what had happened to her in school that day. I got to properly know her problem areas in school and could adequately support her as she completed her homework. When schools closed and my son came home for the holidays, we were able to spend time just talking or playing all manner of board games. I guided them to explore different skills like cooking, baking and even ironing. We danced, exercised and told stories.
With time, I came to sufficiently appreciate the opportunity that I had to be home with my children. It is not just a simple issue of being there physically when they need me. It is about being fully present as I am not bone-tired every night from an exhausting workday and a long commute.
The stories started to resonate with me. My kids are much older than those featured in the stories and I do not have the crazy schedules that they narrated. Still, I remember those days. These remarkable women demonstrate to us how rewarding it is to be present in your children’s life. They highlight the key challenges and the rewards of doing this. Additionally, they illustrate how a proper balance at times becomes necessary and show us how they were able to achieve it, either by taking on part time work away from the home or working from home.
I respectfully salute all these women for their amazing strength and incredible dedication. Many of them fully deserve the noble Super Mom title! I was inspired by their tales to look for work opportunities that allow me to spend more time on that most important job of all- being a Mom!
I fully recommend that you pick up this book and browse through these inspiring stories. Whether you are looking for some practical advice, comfort or just a laugh, this book has it all!