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bookworm–the year in books …

February, so far, has been a busy month,  reading-wise, and hugely disappointing.  Three out of the four books I have read have not lived up to expectations.

 

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My Darling Cecilia
If you're reading this, then I've died . . .

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret - something so terrible it would destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick achieved it all - she's an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia - or each other - but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband's devastating secret.

I was mesmerized with the first few chapters, kept greedily turning the pages. But then I realized that things were getting shallower and shallower instead of deeper and deeper. It was like walking into a pool expecting to swim once you hit the deep end and discovering that you're wading in the kiddie pond. All of a sudden, it was clear that I didn't genuinely like any of the characters and that everyone--everyone!--seemed to be sour and/or dour and/or unhappy.  Not a cheerful read by any means.

 

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In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.
Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.
However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.


I've never been a big Chevalier fan, but this is by far the most useless work that she has written to date. Some could argue that the lack of maturity in the plot mirrors that of the main character, who is thrust out on her own in an unfamiliar world at the age of 20. For all the hype about it being historical fiction, it felt like a lame romance novel written with adolescent language.  From it I learned something about Quakers and quilt-making and a little about slavery, but the story just didn’t grab me – it was all so predictable.

13588138When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to return to Lansquenet, where she once owned a chocolate shop and learned the meaning of home. But returning to one’s past can be a dangerous pursuit, and Vianne and her daughters find the beautiful French village changed in unexpected ways: women veiled in black, the scent of spices in the air, and—facing the church—a minaret. Most surprising of all, her old nemesis, Francis Reynaud, desperately needs her help. Can Vianne work her magic once more ..

 

 

 

 

 

I really struggled with this book. I really wanted to like it, it was billed as a sequel to Chocolat,   but I just couldn't get into it, the action was so repetitive and I couldn't seem to rekindle my love for the characters.  I think Ms. Harris has squeezed one book too many out of this series.

 

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Eithne is the keeper of secrets in her family. When her sister Beatrice disappeared from her home in the dark woods of Co. Meath, it was 13-year-old Eithne who uncovered the forlorn evidence of her life: a string of pearls, a pink beret, a compact and her beloved sketchbook. Their mother, Sarah, was so grief-stricken that she did not speak for five years, and her father Joe, sank further into drink-filled rage.
Now, as an adult, Eithne is an artist, and tries to remember her sister in her sketches of the dark wooded bogs behind her house. For there was something else about Beatrice that was rarely spoken of in the household, a dark, guilty secret that her disappearance only made worse. And now, almost twenty years later, all could be revealed when a stranger appears .

I can’t quite make my mind up about this book – it was beautifully descriptive but the dialogue was a little lame and although the pace of it kept me wondering what was going to happen next it became fairly predictable.  The female characters didn’t seem to have any control over their lives and let themselves become victims and she could have enlarged the plot around a couple of interesting characters that just became secondary to the story.

The next book from my pile is

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As late summer steals in and the final pearls of barley are gleaned, a village comes under threat.  A trio of outsiders – two men and a dangerously magnetic women – arrives on the woodland borders triggering a series of events that will see Walter Thirsk’s village unmade in just seven days: the harvest blackened by smoke and fear, cruel punishment meted out to the innocent, and allegations of witchcraft.  But something even darker is at the heart of Walter’s story, and he will be the only man left to tell it …

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am joining in with Laura at A Circle of Pine Trees for February’s – This Year in Books.

Comments

  1. I think I looked at My Husband's Secret as a possible read - glad I did't buy it. Sounds like it is full of soaps characters - aren't they all miserable?

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    1. Whilst I was reading it I guessed the outcome right from the beginning - I just wanted her to get on with it - it did drag on a bit.

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  2. I know what you mean about some books not appealing to you. I know instantly on the first couple of pages whether I'll like a book. If it doesn't grab me from the start then I know I'll not enjoy it. Good for you that you read them to the end. x

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  3. That's too bad these books were all disappointing. For me, it seems finding a good book is not so easily done nowadays and I particularly the newer women writers leave much to be desired. Writers seem to not invest much of themselves any longer. It's like the book you spoke of where it began with some depth and then lost it. I've read books like this; as if the author herself gets bored.

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    1. When choosing a book I often read the first paragraph before I buy - but more often than not - the first paragraph is probably the best bit.

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  4. Hi Elaine, I am ploughing on with My husbands Secret at the moment. I have found it hard to stick to.I intend to finish it but I cant say I have particularly enjoyed it.

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    1. No - I must admit that it wasn't really my kind of book.

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  5. Canada is having a nationwide book debate on the book with the potential to change the way we think about varies issues in our country. Five books were chosen, I'm struggling with the first one, don't care about the characters and the writing is stilted. May just give up and read Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, all my friends are gushing praise for it. I wish I was the cat in your first image.

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    1. I have heard good reports on Goldfinch - will probably put it on my 'to be read' list.

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  6. So disappointing to find a read starts off well and then fizzles out. I don't have time for much reading so it's nice to find books that will reward the time investment. Have you read any of Kent Haruf's books? They're still among my favourite reads.

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    1. I must admit I have never heard of Kent Haruf - I'll have to check him out.

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  7. I feel for you. As I get older I get far more impatient with books and far more choosy about what I want to read and if I actually want to finish it. So disappointing. This seems to be regardless of genre and recommendations, too! There are few new(er) books that appeal to me, yet I consider myself a person of varied interests - but it's giving me an opportunity to go back and reread a lot and to see if I want to rectify my opinion on old favourites (which helps when it comes to decluttering - if I don't want to reread it, it can go LOL!).

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    1. I have a shelf full of books that I re-read constantly when I can't find anything new that appeals - perhaps that says a lot for the standard of writing these days.

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  8. I have to confess that I too struggled with 'Peaches for Father Francis' infact I gave up on it! I normally love Joanne Harris's books but this one just didn't grab me at all. I quite enjoyed Lollipop Shoes which was the second book with the characters from Chocolat but neither were as good as the first one:)


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    1. I agree Rosie - I enjoyed Lollipop Shoes so had great expectations for the follow up - I have read all Joanne Harris's books, in fact, Blackberry Wine is one of my all time favourites - I don't suppose authors can get it right all the time, never mind eh!

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  9. Shame about the books. I know how you feel as I've just given up on a book half way through it which is most unusual for me.

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    1. Funny isn't it - sometimes a book just doesn't appeal and you aren't really sure why.

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  10. Interesting to read your thoughts about these books Elaine although I've only read one of them up to now that being 'Peaches For Monsieur le Curé'. I wonder if you have an American copy of the book which has a different title. I thoroughly enjoyed it and did not suffer from Vianne fatigue. I'm drawn to 'The Husband's Secret' by the cover which is ridiculous reason for wanting to read any book :) 'The Last Runaway' is on my reading group's list for later this year. Have not read any of the author's books yet so will keep an open mind. Off to find out more about 'Beatrice' which I like the sound of.

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  11. I couldn't find the edition with the cover that I read which was Peaches for Monsieur le Cure - I didn't realise they did different ones for America. Like you I am often drawn to books because of their covers - I hope you enjoy reading The Last Runaway more than I did - it's all a matter of personal taste isn't it.

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  12. I think out of all of them I would try the Tracy Chevalier book because I did enjoy The Girl with a Pearl Earring. But it's interesting to read your thoughts on it. I would try the last one too, so I look forward to hearing how you get on with it.

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    1. My friend really enjoyed it so I borrowed it from her but I kept putting off reading it - now I know why - it just wasn't my type of book although it was well researched.

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  13. It is so interesting to have your opinion on these books, Elaine. None of them tempt me! How is your own writing coming along? Perhaps that is the answer to unsatisfactory reading material. I'm in a book group so quite often have to read books that wouldn't be my personal choice. Sometimes this is rewarding but mostly not. However it is fascinating to note what different responses come from reading the same book. Tomorrow evening we'll be discussing the novella, 'Train Dreams.'
    I am attracted to books by their covers but reading the opening paragraph is the deciding factor.

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    1. You are probably right about my writing affecting what I read - maybe it is making me too judgemental - and I agree about the opening paragraph.

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  14. What a shame the books aren't up to scratch, I'm glad you wrote these reviews, I shall give them a miss. Now Harvest sounds rather interesting....xxx

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    1. Reading Harvest - so far so good.

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  15. I'd read some similar reactions of of the Moriarty book and though the premise tempts me now and again, I shall definitely remember the reviews! Started to listen to Chevalier's book and was bored bored bored. One of the few times I didn't finish and took advantage of Audible's "return" policy. I was so irritated by the protagonist's constant whining about the new country -- the towns were laid out too squarely, the trees weren't up to snuff, the food was too dull, the hills didn't impress.

    And thank you for your honest reviews of the others on this list. Like Snowbird, I shall gladly give them a miss!

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one who didn't enjoy it - you can't win 'em all.

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  16. An impressive month's reading :)

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    1. I do tend to read a lot more in winter.

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