Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffery Archer

This is the first Archer book I have read and it won't be the last! I was hooked on the character of Danny Cartwright as soon as he was willing to go down on one knee in a posh restaurant to ask his sweetheart Beth to marry him.  Clearly he has wonderful taste from the beginning to ask someone named "Beth" to be his wife!! :)

But soon after this exciting moment both of their lives begin to unravel - as Danny is accused and charged with murdering Beth's brother during a bar fight -her brother who was Danny's best friend.

There are four witnesses to this infamous fight - a lawyer, a real estate tycoon, a famous TV actor and a drug addict.  And the story they tell in court doesn't match Danny or Beth's.  But, they are from the upperclass side of London and Beth and Danny aren't. The court won't believe their side of events.  And Danny ends up in prison.

At the moment that his life belongs to the prison - it also takes a drastic turn that is the first step in owning his life for good.  Danny is put into a cell shared by 2 other men - Nick Moncrieff and Big Al. Nick takes Danny under his wing and begins to teach him how to leave the East End of London and speak and act as a person with more potential.

The book is about the opportunity to change, about the potential you are born with and about prison your birth can create.

It was a great and quick read - a 2:00 in the morning finish!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Elske (The Kingdom Series #4) by Cynthia Voigt

The last book in the series.  And like the last one - this starts completely differently.  This book begins with Elske, a child of the Wolfers.  She has been raised by her grandmother, a woman stolen by the Wolfers, and freed by the sacrifice of her grandmother to the big unknown world.

Elske has a worldview that matches no one. She is without most of the angst and neurosis of main characters. Instead, she simply lives her life as it unfolds - without guile and remorse.  And because of that she finds herself in unexpected situations.

As she wanders from her grandma she is taken in by a father and two sons as they make their way to the large northern city of Tradstad.  They find her a place as a maid and she eventually becomes the maidservant for a headstrong out-of-control princess from a far away land.  And her life changes again.

Elske is caught up in the politically intrigue of the Kingdom - and her unique past become very important.

I liked this book. Elske is an interesting main character.  Her attitude and her presence change those around her without her even knowing.  In the world of YA main characters - that is something unusual!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The WIng's of a Falcon (The Kingdom Series #3) by Cynthia Voigt

This time it starts with a boy, a no-name boy on a no-name island run by a horrible man.  This boy has a friend, sort of, named Griff.  And the two of them figure out how to escape in a boat with some of the leaders gold and jewels.  And as they flee they end up on a rocky island over night. And on this island the boy finds names carved in to the rock - ORIEL and BIRLE and so a new Oriel continues this story.

Oriel and Griff know nothing of the world outside of their island - they don't know about the people or the Kingdom. They only know pain and loss and suffering.  They are captured by Wolfers - a primitive tribe of warriors who kill for treasure to please their king.  They experience the horrors of a new kind of slavery.

And then they are freed by an avalanche and stumble through a pass into an amazing world of the Kingdom.  They are saved by a young girl - Beryl, the puppeteer's granddaughter (the original Oriel) who teaches them the ways of the people.  But there is a contest - a fight to the death for those who want to become an Earl - and that is Oriel.

After all the pain and anguish of this path - they aren't finished yet.

This was my least favorite of the 4 books.  The characters were clearly drawn and I was invested in each of them...but I just didn't like the story path.  It was so full of pain and so full of the dark side of the Kingdom, all the things that the romantic in my doesn't really want to focus on.

So - I was happy this wasn't the last of the series.

On Fortune's Wheel (The Kingdom Series #2) by Cynthia Voigt

Let me say how much I HATE the title of this book!  It doesn't do justice to the story!

Ok - that's off my chest so I can tell you about the book.

The Kingdom series continues. This an intriguing twist on a series - because this doesn't follow regular idea of a series.  Instead of following Gwynn in this story - it skips ahead to her granddaughter, Birle.  There are definite parallels between the books - at least at the beginning.  It's about an Innkeeper's daughter who is supposed to be ready to be married - and has chosen very wrongly!! And then there is a twist.

Her path crosses with a strange young lord who is running away from something or other.  And that is the start.  There is love at first site for Birle - but is it the excitement of the journey or the cornflower blue eyes or the chance for something different or a little of all three?  Whatever the draw - they (Birle and Orion) travel together to the edges of the known world and the end of all they know - including their freedom.  Along the way they share their stories and their dreams and their hopes and eventually their love.

And then they make their way back home - to Orion's home where he is an Earl and Birle is only one of the people.  So then what?

I really liked this story!  I think it was my favorite of the series.  I loved Birle - her steadfast love for Orion was just what the romantic in me loves!  And yes - this book completely demonstrates the wheel of fortune turning.  But that title makes sense for me reading this as an adult...not so sure it would for YA readers.

Jackaroo (The Kingdom Series) by Cynthia Voigt

Cynthia Voigt wrote a series of books about a kingdom in a far off land, in a far off time, in a far off place.  And I have never even heard of them!! I'ver read many of her other books, Izzy Willy Nilly, Dicey's Song, A Solitary Blue and I have really enjoyed them.  So  - how did I miss these??

Jackaroo is the March book for our new family book club and I was excited to read a well-loved author in a completely different way!

Jackaroo is a fable - a made up character who swoops in and saves the downtrodden just like Robin Hood. He wears a mask - appears and disappears in a moment.  And he is the savior of the people.  That is what they are called - the people.  There are also Lords and Earls and a King.  But they are far off - and rarely seen. The Kingdom is carried along by the people who toil in the Inns, and the fields and barely make it. Because the Lords and Ladies take their money for taxes.  The people are not allowed to learn to read.  They work and they live and then they die - young!

Gwynn is an Innkeeper's daughter who has refused to marry and knows she will spend her days working for her brother when he runs the Inn - women are not allowed to run a business.  And then there is a mysterious Lord and his son who show up at the Inn and ask for Gwynn and her servant to take them on a mapping trip.  And then there is a snowstorm!

Gwynn is stranded in a cottage - snowed in - with a moody young Lord who is not to speak to her.  And then she makes an unexpected discovery.

I really liked Gwynn. She is the girl that I wanted to be - sure of herself and willing to take the consequences of changing the world she lives in for what she needs.  And with her courage she is able to see the world make a little change!

Great start to the series

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

image by LibraryThing
I want to start out by saying this is one of my favorite books!  I LOVED it!

Now - you can decide if you want to continue to read this to see why, or if you just want to go out and find the book to experience it on your own.  Your choice - but I would recommend one or the other!!

This is the story of a journey by a rumpled, stoic, retired, non-starter named Harold Fry.  In the first pages he receives a letter from a woman - Queenie Hennessy to thank him for his friendship and to tell him she is dying.

Harold rushes to write a reply and tells his wife he is going to the mailbox to send it.  But, he isn't ready to stop walking at the mailbox - so he continues across town passing postbox after postbox and at each one he feels the need to continue moving.  And that is how his 500+ mile journey to deliver his letter to Queenie in person begins.

His pilgrimage begins in a flurry of self-righteous stupidity - sounds like too many of my self-help journeys! :)  He relishes the simplicity and the ease and all the new truths surrounding him.  Then it gets hard and he must depend on the help of strangers.  Then the help of strangers becomes his new focus - he is saving them by allowing them to help him.  Then things become a bit commercialized and he looses himself in the process.  Then everything falls apart and he is left bare and old and withered and the journey is still in front of him.

And when he arrives at the end of his journey...then what...

This is a story of a man and his marriage and his son and his mother and father and the life that he has so carefully created in a very English way.  This is the story of what happens when you dare to step aside and really feel what is around you.

I dearly loved Harold - but honestly I loved Maureen, his wife, every bit as much.  Maureen must watch and wait and remember and choose to live.  Her pilgrimage takes place in her small cottage while she cleans and disinfects and eventually takes down the net curtains and lets the sun into the 'best room.'

Please read this!!!

Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler

image by LibraryThing
I haven't read an Anne Tyler for a while, so I anticipated this vacation read and it didn't let me down!

When I read Tyler I am struck by the ordinariness of the world she creates.  It makes me want to open my eyes wider and look around at my own life and see what is happening!

The irony is that Liam, the main character in this story, is utterly unable to notice the world around him. He has recently been let go at the school where he was teaching 5th grade, he should have complained that he had seniority, but why bother.  Because of his shrinking salary he moved to a much smaller and less desirable apartment, and the first night he spends in this new apartment he is attacked by a thief and wakes in the hospital.

When he awakes, he remembers nothing of the attack.  Because he can't remember the events that brought him to the hospital he is utterly fixated on his memory loss.  Fixated in a way that he has not experienced before.  The reader finds that out as his ex-wife and three daughters enter his hospital room and his apartment and his life.  Liam was clearly not a part of their lives - at least not on purpose!

And so this story follows Liam as he 'wakes' up to mess he has created by not being present even when he was.

I loved this book.

I love the way Tyler creates her characters. I have a feeling I would not really like Liam if I were to meet him in my work.  But on the pages, it is completely different!

Instead,  I loved the way Liam relished in his aloneness until he was really alone and in that moment he understood what he had missed. I loved the relationship that he created with Eunice Dunstead, a professional rememberer.  And I loved his relationships with his daughters - each one completely different and yet quite the same.

This is a quiet book about a huge event.  And I loved it!!