Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Lake House

Author: Kate Morton
Pages: 492
Rating: PG (a few mild swear words, but that's really it.)

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories.

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. He is never found, and the family is torn apart, the house abandoned.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as a novelist. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old Edevane estate—now crumbling and covered with vines. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

My Thoughts: Initially, I felt like the pace of this novel was too slow. It is, after all, quite long. I admit, I skimmed through to the end to find out whodunnit, and for some reason, that helped me have the patience to start back and the beginning and actually read. I was glad I did, because there was a lot more to the story than I had gleaned from my skim-through. One thing I liked about this novel is that even though it's mainly told from the perspective of Sadie and Alice, most of the other important characters, including Baby Theo, get a chance to voice their thoughts for a few pages. Also, the summary doesn't tell you, but Sadie is staying in Cornwall on a sort of unofficial leave of absence. She refused to let a police case go, even after it was formally closed. This case continues to gnaw at her, and is eventually solved along with the Edevane case, which is very satisfying.

I loved that this book kept me guessing. There are many times when it seems so clear what is happening, only to be proven wrong a few pages later. The whole event (the disappearance of the boy) is much, much more complicated than anyone originally assumed. Love, honor, keeping promises, war, a secret affair, etc. It's all part of it. I added the label of Historical Fiction to this post because World War I and the "shell shock" the soldiers experienced plays an important role in the storyline. And just so you know, Sadie does manage to uncover exactly what happened to Baby Theo, but I won't tell you what it was. That part was a surprise, even though I already knew who was responsible and why, from my look-ahead.  If you like a good mystery, you may want to pick this one up.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Moon Over Manifest

Author: Clare Vanderpool
Pages: 342
Rating: G

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

My Thoughts: This is a children's novel, suitable for elementary through middle school age students. I thought it was interesting, but the Rattler didn't play nearly enough of a role in the story, and ended up not being very important in the end anyway. Abilene seemed to be on a much bigger quest to learn about her father and the history of the town, which you get in snippets from Miss Sadie. What I did love is the historical fiction part of the book. The history of Manifest involves a lot of immigrants and World War One as well as lots of information about Prohibition and bootlegging. In the end, the book is really all about a 12 year old girl, trying to find a home for herself. I enjoyed it, but didn't feel it was super memorable.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Behind Every Great Man: The Forgotten Women Behind the World's Famous and Infamous

Author: Marlene Wagman-Geller
Pages: 329
Rating: PG-13 (a few of the people profiled were very sexually open and into drugs, etc. But there is no language)

From ancient times to the present, men have gotten most of the good ink. Yet standing just outside the spotlight are the extraordinary, and overlooked, wives and companions who are just as instrumental in shaping the destinies of their famous―and infamous―men.
This witty, illuminating book reveals the remarkable stories of forty captivating females, from Constance Lloyd (Mrs. Oscar Wilde) to Carolyn Adams (Mrs. Jerry Garcia), who have stood behind their legendary partners and helped to humanize them, often at the cost of their own careers, reputations, and happiness. Through fame and its attendant ills―alcoholism, infidelity, mental illness, divorce, and even attempted murder―these powerful women quietly propelled their men to the top and changed the course of history.
Meet the Untold Half of History, Including:
•Alma Reville (Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock)
•Elena Diakonova (Mrs. Salvador Dali)
•Winifred Madikizela (Mrs. Nelson Mandela)
•Ann Charteris (Mrs. Ian Fleming, a.k.a. Mrs. James Bond)
•Ruth Alpern (Mrs. Bernie Maddoff)
And 35 more!

My Thoughts: I felt that this book was really very interesting. I loved learning about the women behind some of these famous men. My favorites were Mrs. GandhiMrs. Schindler, and Mrs. Charlie Chaplin. I had no idea that Gandhi's wife fasted right alongside him, and usually was imprisoned with him as well. Schindler's famous list was a joint brainstorm between husband and wife. You always just kind of think of these men as single, you never consider that they had wife who was just as much involved in their rise to fame! Each chapter is only 4-5 pages long, so it's easy to read small pieces at a time. My biggest complaint is that sometimes the sentence structure is awkward, occasionally there's a phrase that doesn't seem to fit within a given paragraph, and it's a little disjointed. The author tends to jump from topic to topic without smooth transitions. I got a little lost more than once. Other than that, this was an informative, fun read.