The Many Lives of John Stone by Linda Buckley-Archer – Book Review

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While this novel is a Young Adult, I have the feeling that it will resonate with many older readers as it did with myself.  I really enjoyed this book.  Stella Park (known as Spark), has dealt with many issues in her life, from her father dying when she was young to her becoming the mainstay caretaker due to her mother’s mental illness.  When she takes on a summer job organizing an archive for John Stone, her life takes an unexpected turn.

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The archive includes notebooks written in a cipher that Spark cannot read.  However, the reader luckily gets to read them.  They chronicle the early life of John Stone (who was born Jean-Pierre approximately 350 years before).  Calm your hearts, he is not a vampire, simply someone who seems to live for a long time.  I must say that I liked the notebook parts of the novel the best.  But then again, who wouldn’t as they concerned the French court of the Sun King at Versailles.

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If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Buckley-Archer!

 

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The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay – Book Review

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I loved this novel.  In 1919, the Turner family is suffering from poverty when it unexpectedly turns into extreme poverty after an accident leaves Mr. Turner’s hand crippled, and him out of work.  Mrs. Turner who has always had dreams of a larger life, turns the sisters acrobatic act into a Vaudeville act and takes Nell, her recently widowed eldest daughter (along with her baby) and her three teenage daughters, Gert, Winnie and Kit on the road in order to earn enough money to keep the bills paid and the family fed.

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The unexpected freedom that comes from life in Vaudeville is an awakening to all the sisters, but the novel follows Gert and Winnie most closely.  There are interesting and kind people in Vaudeville along with the all the backstabbing and danger.  Gert begins a forbidden friendship, then a love-affair with a kind man, and Winnie has unsettled feelings as she worries about the loss of education.  Nell suffers from loss of her husband and the life they had envisioned together.  All the sisters learn many lessons along the way.  Love, heartbreak and maturity are just a few of them.

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I really found all the information regarding Vaudeville just wonderful.  The characters of all the performers that the sisters met, the acts (which were actual vaudeville acts) just brought a whole new level of authenticity to the novel.  I highly recommend this book.  Well done Fay!

Ode to my Library

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This should be read aloud, preferably with Operatic intent – the more dramatic, the better!

Oh, my library – my one and only!

I have been like a woman lost in the desert,

Thirsting for the knowledge of your pages.

Like a lover pining for her missing love,

my heart is heavy with the loss of your presence.

When, oh longed-for one,

when will you re-open?

I have almost given up hope, I fear I will fade away

before I stand in your presence again.

The long days between September 6th and November 1st

have dragged, and so has my heart with them.

I so miss your presence!

The smell of the books, the hard surfaces of your bookcases,

The plushness of your chairs, the austerity of your tables.

Oh, my library…will the day ever come?

Can I last until November 1st?

I miss you with my whole heart!

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The library books that I borrowed. I finished them all. (Yes, I’ve got tears on my cheeks).

 

Steeplejack by A.J.Hartley – Book Review

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This was such a good novel. First of all, just so that you know, this novel is considered young adult.  The story of Anglet Sutonga was so compelling, the world building was fascinating, and the crime/thriller aspect kept you on the edge of your seat.  For one thing, I found the social commentary wrapped up in the detective sleuthing rather interesting and quite poignant when one takes our own society into consideration.  Anglet is quite the character.  For one thing, she’s the best steeplejack in the city, for another, she stands up not only for herself but also for those weaker and less fortunate than herself.

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Anglet’s world is one of poverty, extreme wealth, sexism, racism and the struggle to feed and clothe herself.  I loved the real-life aspects of the novel.  This is a world that was completely imagined and brought to the page, warts and all.  Anglet is a hero for us all, and one who we would do well to emulate.

I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Hartley!

Farthing by Jo Walton – Book Review

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This novel is a murder-mystery, set in an alternative history where England has come to a peace treaty with Nazi Germany; America elected Charles Lindbergh as President; and fascism is running rampant.

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Lucy, a daughter of” The Farthing Set” (the group of political families that brokered peace with Nazi Germany) married outside her “station” when she married David Kahn (a Jew), and they have been invited to her parents’ country estate for the weekend.  During that time, Sir James Thirkie has been found murdered, and suspicion has fallen on David, solely due to his status as a Jew.

I really found this novel to be well-written and intriguing.  The family relationships between Lucy and her mother and father seemed quite natural and made the novel more interesting.   The alternative historical aspects of the novel were rather intriguing due to the fascism that is gaining ground in the world today, making the book extremely relevant.  This novel is part of a series that I have not yet finished, but I feel that it stands well on its own.  I highly recommend this novel.  Well done, Walton.