It has been a while since I talked about the books I’m reading and movies to recommend. For those getting my posts via email, you might not know that I link my Goodreads reviews on the sidebar so you can see my latest reviews. I like to read a variety of books, lately becoming bored with murder mysteries though, so I am reading more general fiction. I have a giveaway today too, so here we go! Affiliate links are provided to all the books, just click on the titles.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – A compelling and thought provoking novel about the horror and heartbreak of living in Nazi occupied France during the second world war. Vianne and her sister Isabelle are forced to make one terrible choice after another, taking grave risks as they try to survive, each in her own way. Isabelle joins the resistance, while Vianne is forced to billet German officers in her home. Hunger, poverty and cruelty become the way of life for four years, as Vianne takes one day at a time while Isabelle risks her life to fight back. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would have reacted in their position. Very well researched and written, difficult to put down, The Nightingale is highly recommended.
The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio – Interesting easy read with a mystery involving a rare camellia bush and the untimely death of a lady of the manor. It is told in two time periods, one just after the death, and the other years later when the manor is sold. Both women attempt to find out the truth about the lady’s death and the location of the rare camellia. I have enjoyed other works by this author. Her style is easy to read, yet the story is compelling enough to make you want to read more. However, the mystery is ultimately a bit superficial. Still, it is an enjoyable novel, and nice for times when concentration isn’t required.
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro – A totally predictable story, no surprises. The writing is ok, and the book is a nice read, but not a groundbreaker. There was a mystery of sorts, as the protagonist Grace tried to figure out why a total stranger would leave an inheritance to her, but the plot was thin and easily figured out. The only enjoyable thing was the information on perfumes, and the making of complex fragrances. When I started this book, I thought about doing a post on perfumes, as I like wearing pretty scents and have different ones for different seasons. But, so many people nowadays cannot stand to be around it, that mostly I use perfume very sparingly, mainly for my own enjoyment and DH’s.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt – What would you do if your best friends committed a crime, although maybe unintentionally, then told you about it? Then what if one of them threatened to turn in everyone, including you? That is essentially the premise in the story, and it isn’t as cut and dried as you might think. I am still wrestling with how the story progressed and the choices made by the characters, particularly at the end of the more than 500 page novel. In the author’s fashion, the days go by slowly and in excruciating detail, which will annoy many readers. But I find this kind of character study interesting and engrossing. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
Never Change by Elizabeth Berg – In some ways this was a difficult book to read, dealing with serious issues about dying and loneliness. A home care nurse in her 50s is assigned to care for her high school crush as he deals with the end of his life from a brain tumor. It is disturbing that a nurse would cross the line between personal and professional, but in a way that was the point. Her personal issues cloud her judgement. Her loneliness makes her reach out for personal attachments in inappropriate ways. Also a nurse, I found some of the ethical medical issues in the book unrealistic. I cannot imagine taking one patient to another patient’s home, especially when the second patient is a drug dealer. However, it is a necessary plot point which becomes clear later. Overall, this was a thought provoking novel, with a lesson on reaching out and making connections.
Now that DH is retired and we can see movies more easily, we are going a bit more. First, run to the theater to see the award winner “The Post” with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It was nominated for six Golden Globe awards, and 2 Academy Awards, along with 73 other nominations from various film critic organizations. The story is compelling about the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s. Recent widow and new head of the Washington Post must decide whether or not to challenge the government and support the freedom of the press in publishing classified information about the Vietnam war. It was astonishing how much of this movie rang true to the problems today with government’s assault on the press. The scenes of the printing of the newspaper with the typesetters alone are worth the price of admission. It has great writing, superb acting, and fabulous set design. I’d like to see it again.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri, also a multi-nominated film, is a strange movie that I am not sure I can recommend. Frances McDormand has a very strong role as a mother of a murdered girl at odds with the local sheriff over the lack of an arrest in the case after months. The film was made here in western NC in Sylva and Asheville, so of course I want it to be successful. You may not know that North Carolina has a significant number of movie productions here every year, notably Hunger Games and Dirty Dancing, among others. But the amount of F-bombs in this movie made it not so appealing, along with the unresolved nature of the storyline and a weird ending. It is racking up awards for acting and writing, and is reminiscent of Fargo in the darkness of the story, with spots of genuine humor between grief and raw tragedy. Still, I think I would have rather spent money on something else for the theater and waited for this one on DVD.
Next movies on my to-see soon list are Phantom Thread and Winchester. Phantom Thread focuses on the fashion industry in London during the 1950s, is nominated for a number of awards and is supposed to have lavish costuming. It stars Daniel Day Lewis. Winchester stars Dame Helen Mirren in the role of the heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester, allegedly haunted by the people killed with those guns. She builds the Winchester house, the legend saying that she believed that she would live as long as she continued to build on the house. The Winchester Mystery House is in San Jose, California, and if you are ever in the area, it is a must see attraction, loads of fun whether the legend is true or not. I saw it many years ago, and the curator organization was in the process of refurnishing many of the rooms on the tour.
I’ve been thinking about trying out Amazon Prime. The Prime Original series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, won two 2018 Golden Globes Awards: Best Comedy Series and Best Television Actress – Comedy, Rachel Brosnahan. The show is about a woman who had everything and lost it all, then found a talent she didn’t realize she had – doing comedy stand up. Big Little Lies was the another winner of four Golden Globes this year. With a free trial of HBO on Amazon Channels, Prime Members can watch this hit drama, where the apparently perfect lives of three mothers of first graders unravel to the point of murder. Amazon Prime members can also see other award winning shows like Get Out, and Amazon original movie The Big Sick. Lots to binge watch with a free trial, plus see more original programming too. Join Amazon Prime – Watch Thousands of Movies & TV Shows Anytime – Start Free Trial Now
For those who have Netflix, DH and I have been watching episodes of Travelers and Stranger Things, also award winning shows. Travelers is a sci-fi fantasy, where people from the future inhabit the bodies of people just seconds away from dying and prevent their deaths. The team is given missions to do, to try to avoid the apocalypse that is their future. It is a fascinating show, new travelers arrive every week with new missions. Sometimes, actually saving the future means improvising in the present. It stars Eric McCormack of Will and Grace fame. Well written and engrossing, give this one a try if you have Netflix.
Stranger Things stars Wynona Rider, and is about the search for a missing boy, secret experiments, supernatural occurrences, and a very strange little girl in a nod to sci-fi horror movies from the 1980s. No affiliation, but Netflix also does free 30-day trials. This is also where you find the series The Crown, about the early years of Elizabeth II, and House of Cards which will make its final season without Kevin Spacey.
And last, but not least, a new collection of five charming short stories about quilters by an author I have recommended in the past, Frances O’Roark Dowell called Margaret Goes Modern. The stories are engaging and wonderful, and every one of them would have been great developed into full novels. I devoured this book in just a couple of hours, just couldn’t put it down!
Margaret is bored with the traditional quilts in her guild, and when her granddaughter asks for a modern quilt, her world opens up to a brand new inspiration for quilting. Amanda and Lucy are on the brink of financial ruin, and the solution may be in an unexpected direction, with just a touch of magic in the air. Lisa is dealing with the death of her best friend, finding an unexpected solace in quilting. Liz is an imperfect mother with a love of quilting and an irritating, near perfect, somewhat judgemental neighbor who doesn’t quilt. Melissa believes she has a perfect single life, until it is upended by a 10-year-old charmer, an unexpected man and a quilt that permeates her dreams. Frances is offering a giveaway on a copy of her short story collection, enter via Rafflecopter using this link –
The giveaway will be open until Friday, and the winner announced Sunday. Please, Frances, keep writing! With every single story I wanted more!!
What have you read or seen at the movies recently?