Blog Posts by Auntie Anne
Anne is a cheese-fed daughter of Wisconsin, but don’t hold it against her. She wishes that the band Led Zeppelin never broke up. And she enjoys fitness and exercise so that she can play with her two awesome granddaughters.
Fast forward to 2011. Laurel, now a successful actress, and her sisters are gathered at Greenacres Farm, their childhood home, to celebrate their mother's 90th birthday. Dorothy's health is failing so this may be Laurel's last opportunity to get answers from her mother about that horrible incident that has plagued her memories from fifty years ago - answers that can only be found in Dorothy's past.
The story is expertly told in three time frames. The author hooks you immediately with the shocking event that takes place in the 60s, then goes back to World War II England during the blitz, and forward to the present. The gradual layering of the narrative seamlessly assembles all the missing pieces of the mystery, enhanced with a passionate love affair, betrayal, and exploitation amidst the ravages of war. Just when you think you have it all neatly figured out you're hit with a zinger of an ending!
The Secret Keeper was the first of Kate Morton's books that I've read. Her characters are very well developed as is the story rich with vivid detail. I will definitely watch for future novels from her.
The Kingmaker's Daughter is the fourth installment, and possibly the best so far, in Philippa Gregory's popular Cousins' War series. Set in 15th century England, it is the compelling story of the daughters of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick - particularly Anne, his youngest. Warwick was an English nobleman, administrator, and military commander who was the wealthiest and most powerful aristocrat of his age, with political connections that went far beyond the country's borders. He was one of the main powerbrokers in the War of the Roses, and was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, which earned him his nickname of "Kingmaker". Since Warwick had no sons and heirs, he of course used his daughters as pawns in his political games of kingmaking.
One of Warwick's grand schemes was to win over the York King Edward's brother George, Duke of Clarence, possibly with the prospect of installing him on the throne. George was secretly married to Warwick's oldest daughter, Isabel, and joined Warwick in a rebellion against his brother, the king. Eventually he defected back to the York side and realigned with his brother, King Edward. So at the age of fourteen, Anne Neville's father married her off to Edward of Westminster, the son of deposed king Henry VI, in an effort to align himself with the Lancaster cause. Long story short, Warwick and Edward of Westminster were killed in battle against King Edward, thus leaving Anne Neville a widow and without the protection of the wealth and power of her father, the aftermath of which was the struggle of King Edward and George of Clarence to gain control of Warwick's enormous wealth. Enter Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest brother of King Edward. Very conveniently madly in love with Anne, they were married, thus taking care of half that fortune. Richard had ever been loyal to his brother the King. But George was put on trial for treason against his brother, and executed in 1478. Five years later, Edward IV died, and his youngest brother became King Richard III, making Anne Queen of England.
There are several fascinating aspects of this story, one of which is to see her grow from a weak and powerless teenager to a strong and intelligent woman, in spite of her constant vulnerability. Her rise to the pinnacle that her father had envisioned for her was marked by the tragic loss of everyone she loved, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. It seemed as though her father's political ambition had rubbed off on her, however, which enabled her to stand up to the overwhelming power of the royal family and become a player in her own right in the kingmaking game. As always, Philippa Gregory is spot-on with the historical details, creating a vivid picture of these important and turbulent events in British history.
True Sisters is an inspiring, yet depressing story. The sheer strength, spirit and determination of the four women - Nannie, Louisa, Jessie and Anne - was the only thing that got them through this ordeal. The caring, love and unselfish support they showed each other was truly inspiring. There was little to smile about in the book, however. It was difficult reading about the way these pilgrims blindly followed their leaders, resulting in tragic loss of life. The children that died was particularly painful to read about. But the historical aspects of this book, particularly the foundations of the Mormon faith, is very interesting, shedding some light on the faith of Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"Let me tell you something, son. When you’re young, and you head out to wonderful, everything is fresh and bright as a brand-new penny, but before you get to wonderful you’re going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, stop and take a good, long look, because that may be as far as you’re ever going to go.” This is the advice given to 5-year-old Sam Haislett, the speaker of which should have heeded his own advice.
Charlie Beale was a handsome, charismatic 39-year-old war veteran in 1948 when he wandered into sleepy Brownsville, Virginia. He carried with him two suitcases, one full of money, the other full of knives. Charlie liked what he saw in Brownsville and decided to stay. He talked the local butcher into giving him a job (hence the suitcase full of knives), and soon he became well-liked by the townspeople, and adored by young Sam, the butcher's son. The day that beautiful, young Sylvan Glass walked into his life, Charlie Beale was never the same. "She went off in his head and his heart like a firecracker on the 4th of July."
Sylvan Glass was the teenage wife of Boatie Glass, the richest, greediest, and most mean-spirited man around. Sylvan was raised in a backwoods berg to dirt-poor parents who were sadly desperate enough to sell her to Glass. Although she had no education, Sylvan was wily enough to reinvent herself into a Hollywood starlet wannabe, fashioning her new persona from movie magazines and afternoon matinees. So when Charlie, along with young Sam always in tow, entered her life, she saw him as a means of playing out her fantasy life. Unfortunately, Sam was always there as an innocent witness, reading comic books at Sylvan's kitchen table, while she and Charlie were upstairs. It's obvious from the start that this flirtation can come to no good. And the reader gets a personal accounting from adult Sam Haislett who narrates tragic events of the story.
Heading Out to Wonderful reminded me of a runaway train. It started out nice and calm, even passing some beautiful scenery along the way. But soon enough you realize that the train is out of control as it picks up speed. You're hoping that the crash won't be that bad because you have become invested in the book's very well-developed and interesting characters. Then comes the crash, and, wow, you never saw that one coming!
A Booklist reviewer says that Goolrick, in Heading Out to Wonderful, "creates a mesmerizing gothic tale of a good man gone wrong." It is mesmerizing indeed, a book you won't want to put down. It is implied at the beginning of the book that Charlie Beale had somewhat of a checkered past, and I sure would like to have found out where he got all that money in his suitcase. The author unfortunately bypasses those key bits of information. But other than that, I give this book two thumbs up.
Wow! This is one very powerful book! Set in Appalachia, it is the story of two brothers, Jess and Stump Hall. Stump, the older brother, is autistic and has never spoken a word in his life. His younger brother, Jess is precocious, adventurous, curious, and very protective of his older brother. But it is Stump, who in spite of their mother's stern warnings, can't resist spying on someone. The consequences are horrific when he gets caught in the act. Stump's mistake unleashes unspeakable evil, and Jess is powerless to help him.
The story is told by three characters - Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral compass; and Clem Barfield, the town's sheriff, who has his own set of demons to exorcize. Their voices resonate like a ballad of Appalachia, the lyrics of which sing with love, forgiveness, tragedy and evil-doers. Check out the interview below to watch author Wiley Cash tell of his own childhood growing up in North Carolina, the inspiration for his killer debut novel. One reviewer calls Cash "a new, strong, Southern voice in American fiction." After you read A Land More Kind Than Home, you will anxiously await his next killer novel.
The Three Weissmann's of Westport has been labeled a modern-day homage to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. It's a very well done read-alike, I might add. Her characters are engaging, humorous and sad all at the same time. This book is full of wit and wisdom that will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye.