All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood – Book Review

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One question that I’ve got to ask myself is How can I possibly review this novel?  Like the title says, it is definitely about all the ugly and wonderful things.  The ugly in this novel are also the most beautiful things about it.

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Wavy’s life has been one of despair, neglect and intense emotional and verbal abuse.  She has managed to raise herself and her younger brother, Donal as best she can.  Her father is a drug dealer, user and abuser; her mother is an addict and is mentally unstable.  However, Wavy has managed to carve out a life for herself and her brother when Kellen, one of her father’s “workers” enters their lives.  Kellen is the one who makes sure there is food in the house, that Wavy and Donal have clothes to wear, and that they get to school.  He is also the sole provider of all things “family”, including the care and emotional support that any young child needs.

Kellen himself is in need of connection, love and family.  As a survivor of childhood abuse and neglect, the family that they manage to make between the three of them is in itself one of the “wonderful things”.

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I don’t want to give too much away, so I urge you to read this novel yourself.  Greenwood gives us a lot of food for thought here.  She brings up difficult issues, makes us re-think what we know about abuse.  Mostly, though, she gives us a new view of “family”, what it means to love, and whether or not that love is “appropriate”.  I’ll be thinking about this novel for a long time to come.  Well done, Greenwood!

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The Widower’s Wife by Cate Holahan – Book Review

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I must say that I loved this book.  This was another novel that I stayed up late until I finished it.  It’s a really good thriller, and a real page-turner.  When Ana Bacon falls from the deck of a cruise ship, Ryan Monahan, the insurance investigator smells a rat.  Tom, Ana’s husband, certainly does himself no favors with his demeanor and attitude.  As Ryan investigates this strange case, Holahan tells us Ana’s story by taking us back in time.

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I actually loved how the story was told in small snip-its, forcing the reader to both pay attention to details, and to the different characters’ words and actions.   I like when an author assumes that the reader will pay attention to the little things.  I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Holahan!

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Cate Holahan

 

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes – Book Review

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Fellowes, apparently, is the fellow who authored Downton Abbey (so sorry – I just could not resist), so I was pretty happy when I found Belgravia at my library.  This was a pretty fast read, and I must say that it was an interesting novel, with plenty of betrayals and secrets to keep me turning the pages.

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The novel is set in Victorian England, with the whole dynamics of inequality, women as property, and stifling social caste.  I did find the fact that the poor resented the rich to a degree that the rich simply didn’t seem to understand, to be rather amusing.  Let’s just say that the rich are not and have never been, the same as you and I.

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Great ball gowns!

I enjoyed this book, as Victorian England is certainly an endlessly interesting place to visit.  I thought that the characters were well written, the relationships between them were fraught with true-to-life issues, and I felt that I could actually “see” the Victorian world in all its glory.  I highly recommend this novel.

 

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory – Book Review

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First of all I must admit that I love Philippa Gregory.  I always look forward to her latest books, and I have to say that this one is just as interesting and enjoyable as all her others.  In this novel we are treated to the story of Margaret Tudor, the eldest sister of the well-known (and might I say, notorious Henry VIII); her younger sister, Mary, and their sister-in-law (twice-over), Katherine of Aragon (first married to Arthur Tudor, and after his death, to Henry).  These sisters become, Queens of England, Scotland and France.

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Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland

The novel actually follows Margaret Tudor, from her early marriage to James IV of Scotland, her husband’s death (at the hands of her sister Katherine) to her widowhood, disastrous second marriage, struggles to remain in control of her son, James V, to her divorce and third marriage.

Telling the history of Katherine and Mary through Margaret, Gregory leads us in a merry re-telling of the lives of these three strong-willed and fabulously interesting women.  This is of course, another wonderful novel by a fantastic novelist.  I highly recommend this book.  Well done Gregory!