Monday, June 29, 2020

Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Author:  Jane Austen
Publisher:  Sweet Water Press (2018) (first  published 1818)
260 pages
Genre:  Classic

First Line:  "Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage:  there he found occupation for an idle hour and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents;  there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs, changed naturally into pity and contempt."

Anne Elliot is the daughter of Sir Walter Elliot.  She is the middle of three daughters.  Only the youngest daughter, Mary, has married and made a home away from Kellynch Hall.  

Eight years ago, Anne was betrothed to Captain Frederick Wentworth.  However, she was persuaded by Lady Russell, her friend and mother figure, that such a match was not in her best interest and broke off the engagement.  Soon afterward Captain Wentworth left the country.  Anne regretted the break up immediately.  She has never stopped loving him.  

Anne's father can no longer afford to pay for Kellynch Hall and decides to move the family to Bath.  It is decided that Kellynch Hall will be let to Admiral Croft and his wife, who happens to be the sister of Captain Wentworth.  Will Anne cross paths with Captain Wentworth?  Will he still have feelings for her?

My thoughts:  This is a short novel, but very well done.  I often find it takes several chapters before I can get into a Jane Austen novel.  The first few chapters often leave me feeling lost.  This one did as well, but once I got the hang of who all the characters were I found the chapters to be succinct and well paced.

I really like the character of Anne Elliot.  She stands in stark contrast to the other members of her family.  She is sensible, kind and often serving others. While her father and Elizabeth are quite vain and Mary is silly and excitable.  

Captain Wentworth is portrayed as a good, honest, caring man.  However, his behavior is confusing at times.  There is that tension often found in romance stories of neither party being able to tell the other how they feel.  But when he and Anne finally talk, Captain Wentworth explains his confusing behavior, which was satisfying.


"Captain Harville was no reader; but he had contrived excellent accommodations, and fashioned very pretty shelves, for a tolerable collection of well-bound volumes, the property of Captain Benwick."

"He was evidently a young man of considerable taste in reading, though principally in poetry; and besides the persuasion of having given him at least an evening's indulgence in the discussion of subjects, which his usual companions had probably no concern in, she had the hope of being of real use to him in some suggestions as to the duty and benefit of struggling against affliction, which had naturally grown out of their conversation."

"One man's ways may be as good as another's, but we all like our own best; and so you must judge for yourself, whether it would be better for you to go about the house or not."

"Everybody has their taste in noises as well as in other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity."

"A submissive spirit might be patient, a strong understanding would supply resolution, but here was something more; here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from nature alone."

"Here and there, human nature may be great in times of trial; but, generally speaking, it is its weakness and not its strength that appears in a sick-chamber:  it is selfishness and impatience, rather than generosity and fortitude, that one hears of."

"'They come on the Admiral's account.  He is thought to be gouty.'
'Gout and decrepitude!' said Sir Walter.  'Poor old gentleman!'"

"If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk."

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Book Review: Project 333 by Courtney Carver

Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really Is So Much More
Project 333:  The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really Is So Much More
Author:  Courtney Carver
Publisher:  Tarcherparigee (2020)
224 pages
Genre:  Non-fiction

Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge created by Courtney Carver as a way to remove excess clutter from her wardrobe.  She had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and determined that she needed to remove stress from her life.  One area that caused stress was her closet.  She had too many clothes and nothing to wear.  She created this challenge for herself and started a blog to document her journey.  That was ten years ago.  Courtney still dresses with 33 items of clothing for three months and always has enough to wear.

To take the Project 333 challenge you agree to dress with 33 items or less for three months.  The rules for the challenge can be found here:

I discovered Courtney's blog about six years ago.  At the time I was looking for direction with my wardrobe.  I have never had an overstuffed closet, but I still had too much and didn't really like much of what I had.  This project helped me discover what I liked and what I needed.  When I began the project, I didn't follow the rules exactly.  I live in Wisconsin where we have 4 definite seasons.  Some months have temperatures from below zero to 80 degrees.  I was afraid I wouldn't have what I needed if I followed the rules by adhering to the seasons as Courtney separated them.  So I would just rotate things in when I wanted to wear them.  A couple of years ago, I decided to follow the seasons exactly and see what happened.  That was really helpful because I noticed what I really needed and realized that I always had enough.  I have created a Project 333 wardrobe each season since and I continue to learn more about what I like and need.  Much of the information in this book has been published on her blog over the years.  

The things I found most interesting in the book were the chapters that gave examples of others' Project 333 lists and the chapter called "Questions".  This chapter had lists of questions to ask yourself before starting the project, during the project and after the project.  Some of the other chapters cover why you should do the project, some of the reasons you might think this project is not for you, what benefits you will discover and how minimizing your wardrobe can lead to other changes in your life.

One of the chapters does explain the project and give the rules, but that was chapter 11.  I found this frustrating and disorderly.  If I was not already familiar with Project 333, I would probably have stopped reading.  I would have felt like I was missing something.  She says in the chapter that she put this later in the book because the "why to" is just as important as the "how to".  She assumed that readers who needed to see this first would flip ahead to that chapter.  I am not one of those readers.  I prefer to begin at the beginning and be led through chapter by chapter.  

The book does a great job of collecting all the information in one spot.  If you are interested in a minimalist lifestyle or are curious about Project 333, this is a great place to start.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Book Review: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road
84, Charing Cross Road
Author:  Helene Hanff
Publisher:  Penguin (1970)
97 pages
Genre:  Non-fiction, Memoir

84, Charing Cross Road is a book written in letters that were sent between Helene Hanff and Marks & Co., an antiquarian bookseller in London.  Miss Hanff has an "antiquarian taste" in books and has difficulty finding the books she wants in New York at a reasonable price. She sees an ad for Marks & Co. in the Saturday Review of Literature and decides to write and ask if they could supply her with any of the books on her list.  

She receives a letter in return letting her know that some of the books on her list are on their way to her.  The letter is signed FPD.  So begins a relationship between Miss Hanff and Marks & Co., Booksellers.  Most of the correspondence is written by FPD, Frank Doel, on behalf of Marks & Co.  However, after Miss Hanff sends gifts to the shop, some of the other employees secretly write to her sending their thanks.  The correspondence begins in 1949 and continues through 1969.  

My thoughts:  This book has been on my TBR list for a long time.  I am so glad I finally got around to reading it!  It was an enjoyable read that left me wanting to know more about the people writing the letters.  We are given a glimpse into the personalities and lifestyles of the writers, as well as little pieces of history that affect their lives.  Miss Hanff likes to send gifts to the shop for them all to share.  She thoughtfully chooses things that might be difficult to find in London at the time such as meat and eggs.  

The book talk is fascinating as well.  Miss Hanff loves old English books and especially secondhand copies.

"I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest."

Her reading preferences:

"Wasn't anything else that intrigued me much, it's just stories, I don't like stories.  Now if Geoffrey had kept a diary and told me what it was like to be a little clerk in the palace of richard III - THAT I'd learn Olde English for."

"You'll be fascinated to learn (from me that hates novels) that I finally got round to Jane Austen and went out of my mind over Pride & Prejudice which I can't bring myself to take back to the library till you find me a copy of my own."

And this was my favorite bit about housecleaning her books:

"I houseclean my books every spring and throw out those I'm never going to read again like I throw out clothes I am never going to wear again.  It shocks everybody.  My friends are peculiar about books.  They read all the best sellers, they get through them as fast as possible, I think they skip a lot.  And they NEVER read anything a second time so they don't remember a word of it a year later.  But they are profoundly shocked to see me drop a book in the wastebasket or give it away.  The way they look at it, you buy a book, you read it, you put it on the shelf, you never open it again for the rest of your life but YOU DON'T THROW IT OUT!"

I'm not sure that I could bring myself to throw out a book either, but I will definitely give books away.  I enjoyed this short book and am glad I finally read it.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Book Review: Home All Along by Beth Wiseman

Home All Along (Amish Secrets #3)Home All Along (Amish Secrets #3)
Author:  Beth Wiseman
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson (2017)
335 pages
Genre:  Amish Fiction

First Line:  "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Charlotte pulled her black sweater snug and looked around at the people in attendance for her mother's funeral, a final good-bye to the woman Charlotte only thought of as Janell despite their shared genes."  

Summary:  Charlotte's mother has just passed away.  In many ways she is relieved.  She had a difficult relationship with her mother.  She is thankful to be surrounded by people that care about her, during this difficult time.  Charlotte lives among the Amish, but she is not Amish.  When she came looking for her brother, an Amish family took her in.  She is now dating an Amish man, Daniel.  

The bishop is pressuring Daniel.  He feels Charlotte has become a member of the Amish community, without actually taking the step of being baptized into the church.  She follows some of their ways, but not all.  And an Amish man should not be dating someone outside of the faith.  Daniel realizes that they could never get married unless she is baptized or he leaves the Amish faith.  

Charlotte loves Daniel, but she is afraid to make the commitment to the Amish faith.  Afraid that she is not good enough and will let God down.  But she can't imagine life without Daniel.  To complicate matters, Daniel's mother is about to give birth at the age of 50 and has some complications, the Amish woman who was a mother figure to Charlotte has cancer and an unexpected visitor shows up at Charlotte's home needing a place to stay.  

My thoughts:  In some ways this was a difficult read.  There are some heavy issues dealt with.  But, what I appreciate about all of the books in this series is that they come to a satisfying, hopeful conclusion.  And that is the case in this story as well.  I also appreciate the growth of the characters, especially in their faith.  

Some of the issues dealt with are:  life after death, the role of life support for a critically ill patient and decisions regarding it, ways of grieving, how the past defines us, greed, doubt and family.  

If you have read the first two books in this series, I definitely recommend this one.  Like the first two books, this one deals with some heavy topics, but it also brings Charlotte's story to a satisfying conclusion.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Book Review: Fidelity by Wendell Berry

Fidelity:  Five Stories
Author:  Wendell Berry
Publisher:  Pantheon (1992)
208 pages
Genre:  Fiction, Short Stories

This is a collection of five short stories about members of the pillar families of Port William, Kentucky.  Wendell Berry's writing style creates an evocative picture of life in rural Kentucky.  A strong sense of family, community and love of the land comes through in each story.  This was my introduction to Wendell Berry and it left me wanting to read more of his writing.  

This collection includes the following stories:

Pray Without Ceasing:  Andy Catlett remembers his grandparents and the story of what happened to his great-grandfather.

A Jonquil for Mary Penn:  Mary Penn has a fever, but doesn't mention it to her husband.  She continues on with her daily work, remembering what a good man her husband is.

Making it Home:  Arthur Rowanberry returns home after the war.

Fidelity:  Burley Coulter is ill and dying.  His family comes together to give him the peace he would want in his last days. 

Are You All Right?:  Elton and Andy are worried about the Rowanberrys who live on the other side of the flooded river.

I loved the sense of belonging portrayed in these stories.  If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be "A Jonquil for Mary Penn".  It was a sweet story of a husband and wife's love for one another.  Fidelity also stood out as a favorite.  It was amazing how the family pulled together without having to discuss anything.

If you love beautiful writing, stories about strong family connections and the beauty of the land I would recommend Wendell Berry's Fidelity: Five Stories.  It was a great introduction to his writing for me and I look forward to reading more in the future.

I read this for the "Collection of short stories" category in The Literary Life Podcast 20 for 2020 reading challenge.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Book Review: Julie by Catherine Marshall


Author:  Catherine Marshall
Publisher:  Avon (1984)
364 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

First Lines:  "As I stood on Lookout Point and viewed Alderton seven miles below, I wondered what changes I would find.  Fifty years had altered the town very little.  The population was now about forty thousand, with the growth centered in residential areas built on higher ground, but downtown Alderton was much as it had been when the Wallace family first arrived in September 1934."

Julie Wallace and her family are moving to Alderton, Pennsylvania when the novel opens.  Her father has resigned his position as pastor of a church in Timmeton, Alabama and is taking over as publisher of The Alderton Sentinel.  Julie loves to write and has dreamed of becoming a writer.  She hopes that the newspaper will give her an opportunity to use her skills.  She will be starting her senior year of high school in the new town.  

The year is 1934.  The United States is in the midst of the depression.  The Wallace family has never been wealthy, and taking over the newspaper requires the use of Mrs. Wallace's inheritance.  When he acquired the newspaper, he also inherited Miss Emily Cruley, an elderly woman who has been at the paper for years.  Mr. Wallace is not sure he will be able to afford to pay Miss Cruley, and he certainly doesn't have money hire any other help.  The entire family will need to help out in order to get the paper published.  Miss Cruley doesn't approve of Julie and her siblings helping out at the paper.  However, Mr. Wallace has no other choice.  

Julie is thrilled to be working at the newspaper.  Her first job is proof reader.  She attends school during the day and arrives at the paper after school.  She has made a few friends and has developed a crush on a Englishman who rescued her family when their car became stuck in the mud on the way into town.  

There is a steel mill in town that employs many men.  The owner, Tom McKeever, "runs the town".  He doesn't appreciate newcomers who are trying to change things in the town.  When Julie and her father begin asking questions about the safety of the dam, Tom McKeever threatens them and their newspaper.  Tragedy strikes when a heavy rain causes the dam to collapse and sends a deluge on the town.  

This is the second novel written by Catherine Marshall.  Her first was Christy.  The character of Julie Wallace, "is in part drawn from Catherine's own memories of her life in Keyser, West Virginia, as an eighteen-year-old."  The flood is based on the Johnstown Flood of 1889.  This is a great piece of historical fiction.  The description of the flood was incredible.  Part of it was told as a reporter would tell it from descriptions of others and part was told as experienced by Julie Wallace.  I felt like I was there.  

I also learned a lot about how a small weekly newspaper was operated during this period of history.  That was fascinating.  Catherine Marshall has a direct writing style that I always enjoy.  She includes many quotidian details that I love to encounter in writing.  For example:

"The decision of what to wear to the office was not very hard for me.  With money so scarce, I made do with a wardrobe of three skirts and five blouses in mixable colors, a blue taffeta dress for Sundays, a rose-colored silk one for parties, several sweaters, and an old playsuit for dirty work around the house.  Everyone wore saddle shoes to school - mine were brown and white.  One pair of good shoes, assorted hats, gloves, belts and underwear completed the wardrobe."

The faith thread in this novel is interesting.  It mostly involves Mr. Wallace.  He had been a pastor and resigned his position.  Julie has never been told what happened to cause him to do that.  What she has witnessed is that he often endures a bout of malaria or illness during a stressful time.  She notices a change in him after he begins meeting with Dean Fleming on a regular basis.  Her dad seems stronger physically and emotionally.  Dean Fleming came to introduce himself to Mr. Wallace, put in an order for handbills and offered his time for 10 hours a week as maintenance man for the printing equipment.  He refused to take payment for his time.  Dean immediately stands out as someone who is different.  He is very generous and wants nothing in return.  Julie is curious what has changed in her dad and asks Dean.  Dean tells her to ask her dad.  As she begins asking questions and getting some answers, her faith increases.  

This is a fascinating work of historical fiction that you won't want to put down.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Book Review: Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chien

Dim Sum of All Fears (A Noodle Shop Mystery, #2)
Dim Sum of All Fears (Noodle Shop Mystery #2)
Author:  Vivien Chien
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press (2018)
291 pages
Genre:  Cozy Mystery

The merchants of Asia Village are gearing up for Chinese New Year.  It has only been a few months since Mr. Feng was murdered, but business has picked up.  There is a new shop, City Charm Souvenirs, in the space where the murder took place.  

Lana Lee's family owns Ho-Lee Noodle House, the shop next to City Charm Souvenirs.  Lana and Isabelle, one of the proprietors of the new shop, have become friends.  They met at the book store in the mystery section.  

Lana's mom usually runs the restaurant, but her parents are needed in Taiwan to care for Lana's grandmother.  Mrs. Lee leaves Lana in charge.  This upsets her older sister, who feels it is her place to be left in charge.  She is the oldest after all.  However, Mrs. Lee feels it would be too much of a burden on Anna May while she is attending law school.
Lana and Isabelle try to get together once a week for a visit to the book shop followed by dinner at the Bamboo Lounge.  Lana stops by to see Isabelle and make sure they are still on for the next night.  While she is there, Isabelle mentions that her husband, Brandon, needs her to stay late tonight to close up the shop, but has promised that tomorrow he will close up so that she can go out.  Lana is not sure she likes Brandon.  He seems to always have errands he has to run and leaves Isabelle at the shop.  While they are at dinner, Isabelle confides in Lana that she is concerned about Brandon.   He has been acting strange and disappearing a lot lately.  She fears he may be having an affair.  Lana assures Isabelle that she doesn't think Brandon is having an affair, but suggests that Isabelle just ask him.  As they are leaving the plaza, Brandon catches up with them and asks Isabelle if she can close up the shop because he has an errand to run. Of course she agrees and says good-night to Lana.

After dropping her parents at the airport the next morning, Lana opens Ho-Lee Noodle Shop for the day.  As Lana is preparing tea service for the first customers, she hears someone banging on the service door.  She and Peter, the cook, open the door and find Kimmy Tran in hysterics.  She is screaming that they should call the police.  When she finally calms down enough to speak, she tells them that she was taking the trash out and noticed the back door of City Charm was open.  She stuck her head inside to call to Isabelle and saw two bodies on the floor and blood everywhere.  Isabelle and Brandon are dead.  What happened?  Was Brandon involved in some shady dealings?  

I really enjoy the characters in this series.  Lana is still trying to figure out what to do with her life.  She doesn't think she wants to work at the restaurant for the rest of her life.  She has an interview set up for a job as an office manager that she is really excited about.  But when her parents decide to go to Taiwan and leave her in charge of the restaurant, she has to cancel the interview.  She doesn't tell her parents about the interview, but just realizes that running the restaurant is more important.  In Death by Dumpling, the first book in the series, Lana becomes interested in Detective Trudeau.  Their relationship continues in this book, but is a very minor component.  Detective Trudeau insists that Lana not get involved in the investigation.  She really tries not to, but people come to her and tell her things and she just can't help getting involved.  Her roommate Meagan doesn't help.  She begins to speculate about what Brandon might have been involved in and when people begin telling Lana things, she encourages her to check them out and even offers to go with her.  

There are some interesting new characters who are family members of the murdered couple.  They provide suspects and lots of red herrings.  The mystery was pretty straight forward, with a few surprises along the way.  In the end it is all unraveled and comes to a satisfying conclusion. 

I enjoyed this second installment in The Noodle Shop Mysteries and look forward to the third.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Book Review: The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus
Author:  Beth Moore
Publisher:  Tyndale House (2016)
480 pages
Genre:  Christian Fiction, Contemporary

Jillian Slater hasn't had any contact with her dad since she was six years old.  She and her mother found it easiest to just pretend he didn't exist.  But when she receives a voice mail from a woman who works for her grandmother telling her that her father was found dead, she feels strangely compelled to go to his private burial.  

When she arrives in New Orleans, she finds that her grandmother lives in an old church that has been converted to apartments.  She also finds that her grandmother, Olivia, had no idea she had been contacted.  Adella, the woman who has worked for her grandmother for years, took it upon herself to contact Jillian.  Olivia is cold and unemotional toward Jillian.  The situation is awkward and uncomfortable.   Jillian is not sure she is wanted there, but stays for the burial.  

After returning to California, she discovers that her live-in boyfriend is having an affair with a co-worker.  She is not sure what to do or where to go.  Going to her mother is not an option because she would try to convince her that she should do whatever it takes to stay with her boyfriend, because he is wealthy and knows all the right people.  But Jillian has had a feeling for some time that things weren't right between them.  The only place she can think to go is back to New Orleans.  She begs Adella to let her stay with her family just for a few days until she can find somewhere else to stay.  When Adella lets Olivia know that her granddaughter is back in town, Olivia insists that she stay in the empty room that once belonged to her father.  As Jillian has no other options, she agrees to stay temporarily.  Will Olivia warm up to her granddaughter?  Can Jillian get back on her feet?

This is a story of second chances and of breaking down the barriers we use to protect ourselves from hurt.  It is about the importance of having a place to belong.  It is about how we are never too old to change.

The cast of characters that lives at Saint Sans, the church converted to apartments, is a lot of fun.  David is a single man who teaches music to high school students.  He is always trying to cheer someone up and usually fixes a meal to bring everyone together.  Caryn is a medical student who spends most of her free time studying, but joins the other residents for meals and whatever else might be going on.   Mrs. Winsee has never been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or even dementia, but seems to still be living during the time her husband was alive.  She often talks to him as if he were still there.  Clementine, the cat, loves Mrs. Winsee and often curls up with her.  Olivia seems to be all business, but underneath has a tender heart.  She truly cares for all of the residents of her building.  

My favorite character is Adella, the house manager.  She comes to Saint Sans everyday, but has a husband and sons of her own.  She is hilarious and the epitome of a southern woman.  She is constantly walking a fine line between doing what she thinks is best and upsetting Olivia.  She often has trouble taming her tongue, but instantly feels regret when she has overstepped her bounds.  If you are familiar with Beth Moore, you will recognize her sense of humor in Adella.  

There is also a mystery and suspense element to the story.  Not long after Jillian arrives in New Orleans, the police inform Olivia that her son was murdered.  The autopsy revealed he had been stabbed.  On top of that, someone has been leaving creepy notes around Saint Sans.  

This was an enjoyable story and quite suspenseful in parts.  My only complaint is that it was too long.  In the acknowledgments, Beth Moore says, 

"Someone needs to pin a gold medal on Kathy Olson, my editor for this project.  Because I wrote the manuscript in edges of time over several years, I paid no attention to its length.  By the time I handed it over to Tyndale, it was a whopping 160,000 words.  It fell to Kathy to trim this baby down by tens of thousands of words, and she did so with tremendous care."

So, I guess it could have been a lot longer.  Even so, it was an enjoyable read.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Book Review: No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer

No Other Will Do (Ladies of Harper’s Station, #1)

No Other Will Do (Ladies of Harper's Station #1)
Author:  Karen Witemeyer
Publisher:  Bethany House (2016)
364 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction/Romance

From the time she was a girl, Emma Chandler had a kind, caring spirit.  She always put the needs of others before her own.  That's not to say she didn't have moments of feistiness.   She was raised by her unmarried aunts and has a little bit of the spunk her Aunt Henry possesses mixed with the gentle spirit of Aunt Bertie. 

"They had been the ones to help her dream up the idea of a women's colony, a place run by women to benefit women.  A sanctuary for those needing to escape, and a place of opportunity for those looking to better themselves."

 When she grew up and came into her inheritance, she purchased a small town of abandoned buildings for pennies on the dollar.  Harper's Station became the colony she dreamed of.  Now someone is threatening the colony by leaving notes around town telling them to leave or he'll clear them out himself.  How will she keep her ladies safe?

Malachi Shaw.  When Emma was thirteen years old, she found a boy hiding in her aunts' barn.  He had no where to go and was cold and hungry.  Emma and the aunts adopted him.  He lived with them for 2 years and grew to love them all.  The first time he saw Emma he thought she was an angel.  He has loved her since that moment.  It has been ten years since they have seen one another.  But Emma knows that if she needs him, he will come. Within minutes of receiving her telegram, he is on his way to her.  Who is threatening the ladies of Harper's Station?  Will Malachi arrive before someone gets hurt?  What will Emma be like now?

My thoughts:
This was the first book I have read by Karen Witemeyer.  It was a lot of fun!  Her writing is full of wit and had me laughing out loud a time or two.  What was surprising to me was the mystery involved in the story.  I expected historical fiction with some romance, but didn't expect the mystery.  That was a welcome surprise!   It kept me guessing until the end.  

The characters are wonderful.  Emma is a young women with a level head, a gift for leadership and a heart for others.  Malachi is a man who is flawed, but desires to do what is right.  He is not afraid to stand against evil and is not about to let someone hurt those he loves.  You can't help but love the aunts.  Henry with her feisty, matter-of-fact ways and 
Bertie with her gentle, soothing ways.  The faith of the characters comes into play in a realistic way.

This was an enjoyable read with a little romance, some history, a mystery and a good dose of justice.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Book Review: Voices From Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

Voices From Chernobyl:  The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster
Author:  Svetlana Alexievich
Publisher:  Picador (1997)
236 pages
Genre:  Non-fiction, History

First lines:  "There are no nuclear power stations in Belarus.  Of the functioning stations in the territory of the former USSR, the ones closest to Belarus are of the old Soviet-designed RBMK type.  To the north, the Ignalinsk station, to the east, the Smolensk station, and to the south, Chernobyl."

Recently, my husband and I watched the HBO Miniseries Chernobyl.  It was very well done and I highly recommend it.  It left me with a desire to learn more about this disaster.  I was in high school when it occurred and I only remember hearing something about it in the news.  I could not have told you much about it.  

As stores are slowly opening in our area, we had the opportunity to browse at our local bookstore.  My husband came across this book and we had to get it.

In Voices from Chernobyl, Svetlana Alexievich interviewed scores of people who lived through this disaster.  The words in the book are their words.  Every one of their lives was changed in some way.  Most of them lost someone they loved.  Many of them are sick themselves.  Hundreds lost their homes.  

What struck me the most was the deep passion the Russian people have for their country and their homes.  It is also very shocking to realize that much of the suffering could have been lessened if the government had not been afraid of looking incompetent in the eyes of the people.  In the Translator's Preface Keith Gessen says this:

"And it's certainly true that Chernobyl, while an accident in the sense that no one intentionally set it off, was also the deliberate product of a culture of cronyism, laziness, and a deep-seated indifference toward the general population.  The literature on the subject is pretty unanimous in its opinion that the Soviet system had taken a poorly designed reactor and then staffed it with a group of incompetents.  It then proceeded, as the interviews in this book attest, to lie about the disaster in the most criminal way."

This book will stick with me for a long time to come.  While I highly recommend the book, I don't think it would have had the same impact if I had not first watched the HBO Miniseries.  That gave me a very good understanding of the situation and what happened and this book fleshed the story out with a deeper insight into the thoughts and reactions of the people.


"Chernobyl is like the war of all wars.  There's nowhere to hide.  Not underground, not underwater, not in the air."

"So then I go to the military people.  They were young guys, spending six months there.  Now they're all very sick."

"And of course we were raised with a particular Soviet form of paganism, which said that man was the crown of all creation, that it was his right to do anything he wanted with the world."

"We had the psychology of oppressors.  Now everyone talks about God.  But why didn't they look for Him in the Gulag, or the jail cells of 1937, or at the Party meetings of 1948 when they started denouncing cosmopolitanism, or under Khrushchev when they were wrecking the old churches?  The contemporary subtext of Russian religious belief is sly and false."

"In those first days, there were mixed feelings.  I remember two:  fear and insult.  Everything had happened and there was no information:  the government was silent, the doctors were silent."

"In the civil defense instructions we had then, you were supposed to carry out an iodine prophylaxis for the entire population if there was a threat of a nuclear accident or nuclear attack.  That was in the event of a threat.  Here we had three thousand micro-roentgen per hour.  But they're worried about their authority, not the people."