Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay -- Book Review


Book Description: "One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care. While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late."

My Review: This was a difficult story for me. Reading it over the course of 24 hours, I had to walk away a couple times as it was really stressful. This was NOT a good Shabbat read — I had a lot of anxiety today. Haha! The three women in the story have their own issues to work out, but one in particular hit too close to home. One woman has an affair which wrecks her husband, alienates her children, and destroys her marriage. She has her own redemption story, and I’m thankful for that, but having my own mother do the same thing when I was a child— well, let’s just say it was very difficult to have sympathy for this character or to rejoice in her growth. All the attempts to make me feel compassion for this woman… My thoughts went to: “but has she apologized to her daughter?” “This is what she deserves for leaving.“ “Your choices have consequences." “How dare you feel jealousy when he tries to move on when you’re the one who left him?” All thoughts I’ve thought and words I’ve said to my own mother over the years. (We have a great relationship now, by the grace of God). 

 This line from pg. 157 sums up the epitome of the thinking that gets dissatisfied women to the place of having an affair: ”Seth shone whenever I came near, and the adoration made me glow too. … When did feeling that glow, chasing that adoration, become more than loving that man?” Water your own grass, ladies. Then it will be green on your side too. 

 This book is about taking responsibility for our actions and trusting God’s plan for refinement. It’s a great story — I just had to get far enough in to see it. I did struggle early on because I felt there were way too many characters to keep straight so early. At about 20 pages in, I went back and started over so I could get everyone straight. It was also difficult because there was a lot of alluding to peoples’ issues but it took a long time to get to any backstory for context. I liked this book better the more I got into it, but it’s definitely not something I could have put down and come back to. Way too much going on with too many similar characters. 

This book fulfills the Alphabet Soup Challenge

Sunday, July 23, 2023

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout -- Book Review


Book Description: "Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Her unexpected visit forces Lucy to confront the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of her life: her impoverished childhood in Amgash, Illinois, her escape to New York and her desire to become a writer, her faltering marriage, her love for her two daughters.

Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, one of America's finest writers shows how a simple hospital visit illuminates the most tender relationship of all-the one between mother and daughter."

I can't say that I liked this book, but I'm glad I read it. In fact, I find that every 12-18 months, I sort of put myself in that position--- to read something totally out of my genre and comfort zone. Maybe I do this to help me be more relatable to lifestyles very different from my own? What usually happens, though, is what happened this time. I find that the stuff in my life that I've stuffed is the stuff that causes me to relate all too well. This is the kind of story that inspires self reflection of the most difficult kind. It forces you to face the stuff you swear you've forgiven.

At first I saw this as a book of weird, stream of consciousness sort of remembrances. I feel like I should know these people? On one hand, it’s all stories of the past—-yet there is zero backstory. I came to learn that the story is the backstory. 

Regardless of the stated fact that the Mom in this story loves her daughter, she is emotionally stunted and extremely selfish and she refuses to heal from the obvious generational trauma that is going on there. The toxic thing about all this is that it makes a daughter want to bend over backwards to please her. I understand this completely. This desperation for the one who has rejected you to just prove they love you. Why is that? Have I carried the trauma of my experiences with my parents into my own healthy and happy relationships with my children? Do I try to make up for my hurt when I carry way too much mommy guilt when I'm not able to entertain or please them?

The author describes the sculpture of Ugolino and His Sons. The sons are gathered around their starving father saying, "You can eat us alive --- just please don't be sad, Daddy!" That’s what it’s like. To give up all that is precious in an effort to try to be number one to someone whose number one is themselves. I’m glad I stopped doing that. My relationships with my parents have survived into my mother's older age and my father's death --- but it is because of the boundaries I was wise to construct.

The story also made me think about my recent revelation that relationships between parents and children really are two-way streets. I had to have my own children grow into adults (and have a couple very strong-headed children) to realize this. One of the biggest revelations of my life was the understanding that my actions had hurt my father and it was too late to directly ask his forgiveness.

I understood the response of the emotionally abused Sarah Payne --- "I'm just a writer. That's all." A writer has a gift of communication that is envied by all who lack it. It's a huge thing to be a writer. When we realize that, we soar.

The most heartbreaking part of all of this to me was the narrator's self-reflection about her motherhood after her divorce: "I am the one who left their father, even though at the time I really thought I was just leaving him. But that was foolish thinking, because I left my girls as well, and I left their home." For 32 years, my mother has tried to convince herself, through convincing me, that she didn't leave us kids when she left Dad for the sleazebag. But she did and we both know it. I appreciated the narrator's words. Her acknowledgment is the acknowledgment I’ve yet to hear.

There were several mentions of the Chrysler Building, and it features on the front cover, so I knew there must be some symbolism to it. Having lived most of my life on the west coast and the last 10 years in the South, this meaning was not immediately obvious to me. I looked into it a little and it seems the building is a symbol of New York City's persistent optimism, even in the face of less than optimal circumstances. Perhaps it was used to draw a parallel to Lucy who also seems to be forcedly "happy" in situations a non-traumatized person would see as toxic.

Book fulfills the following challenges: Alphabet Soup Challenge 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Reading Update and a Book Giveaway!


Hello, I've not blogged here in awhile. Moving on now.

Need to update with the following reads and a general review/giveaway and then I'm off to choose my next book.

Since last update, I've read the following:

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

Book Description: "Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people - though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her superhero-themed notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she's invisible.

All of that changes when a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her best friend - her grandmother Zelda - who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda's past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever."

My Review: This was just a genuinely sweet book. The main character was lovable but also someone you could really respect. (I like how she knew she needed to change but she finished her commitments first. Maturity.) The supporting characters were all lovable, too. The Father was horrid---his scenes made me sick---but there was no raunchy anything and hardly any language.

I can't fully recommend it as it has some unBiblical elements promoted in a positive way, but I got a lot out of it and really appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the story.

(Fulfills Alphabet Soup challenge)

Little Miss Stoneybrook...and Dawn by Ann M. Martin

Cheesy...yet nostalgic.

(Fulfills: Children's Book Challenge , Alphabet Soup challenge)


Since then, I've been reading through all these books by my favorite author:

Counted With the Stars by Connilyn Cossette

Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette

Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette

A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

Until the Mountains Fall by Connilyn Cossette

Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette

(Fulfills Alphabet Soup challenge , Historical Fiction Challenge)

I've got a giveaway going on now through July 30th. Check that out at the video below: