Hidden Figures – Almost a Review

Really liked this review. A huge thanks to Trent for that wonderful post!

Trent's World (the Blog)

hidden-figures

A few weeks ago, I read the book “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly.  I really liked the book and can’t imagine the movie covering one tenth the ground it did.  There is so much context and background in the book, and yet I know the author was still only scratching the surface.

This is not a review of the book (review = excellent.  Read it).  I just want to say something about the book, something that I thought about as I read it but that is even more relevant after the recent events in Charlottesville.

A lot of this book is about racism at its ugliest, but also how some people were able to rise above it, or perhaps “rise in spite of it” would be a better phrase.  A little background about how hard it was for people of color, and blacks in particular, to get ahead in…

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Review: Anything for You by Kristan Higgins

Anything for You is the fifth book in the Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins. It’s the story of the other twin, Connor and the book that I couldn’t wait to read once I read Colleen’s story. Certainly it’s one of a series, but it’s also a fantastic stand alone book, so don’t let that deter you from this fantastic author.

Anything for You is Connor’s story. He’s been in love with a girl forever and then some. The only problem is that she doesn’t think they can work things out. So, Connor waits and hopes and waits.

Jessica met Connor when they were only little and in a terrible accident involving their dog and her little brother who happens to have special needs. Since then, they have both tried to move on and leave things be but couldn’t. Jessica in particular, has been busy trying to give her brother a good home, a supportive environment and a good income. In her mind, her brother, who has very special needs due to nothing he’s ever done, deserves to have things made as easy as she can for him. Since their parents were both alcoholics and completely unreliable, Jessica has taken it upon herself to give him the best future she can.

It’s not an easy situation for Jessica, she works without a break, moves them from a rental home to a more permanent house always, always putting her brother first. When Connor comes along supportive, loving and caring, it’s almost beyond her to push him away. She’s had a life of nothing but sacrifices. It’s almost inhuman to have to push her one love away.

But there are issues to work out and her brother is only one of the problems standing in their way. Their father suddenly reappears in town interested in establishing a relationship with them, there is someone at work creating trouble for Jessica and Connor wants more than a simple relationship from her. He wants forever.

The way these two work things out is yet another triumphantly beautiful story by Kristan Higgins. The town is fast becoming a favourite of mine with those lovely, hilarious secondary characters and their antics made me laugh out loud more than once. Still, they are secondary to this lovely story and finally, Connor and Jessica do get their happy ending.

Absolutely another book I’d recommend from Kristan Higgins. She’s truly a very special writer, one that can weave sadness and humour into her stories without belittling the struggles or dimming the humour. Her books are a great choice and I have yet to read one of hers that’s a dud. Still, this one is truly special, so if you’re looking for a great read, one that will take you in and introduce you to a great set of characters while telling you a beautiful love story, look no further.

(credit:goodreads.com)

(credit:goodreads.com)

Note: Click on cover to go to site.

Something unusual this way comes…

So I was at the book store yesterday and I strayed away from my beloved Romance section. It might have been the weather, the helpful clerk or my third cup of coffee but something possessed me and I ended up with three lovely books that are nothing like my usual reads.

Still, can’t wait to read them!

If we were having coffee…

(credit:7 Themes)

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how yours is. I was at a coffee shop only yesterday and got a terrible cup of java that made me regret ordering it. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who hates to complain…so I just added more milk and drank as much as I could. I wasn’t about to critique the efforts of the poor teen behind the counter.

(credit:Church Designer Magazine)

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I just finished reading ‘On Second Thought’ by Kristan Higgins and I absolutely loved it. It’s the second book I read from her that’s a little different from her usual books and I think it’s only an improvement. The last two books have been an almost mix of chick-lit and romance and I think Kristan Higgins has hit it out of the ball park with each of them. I hope she writes more like these and soon. They were awesome.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that our garage is almost done and I was actually able to put my Jeep inside today…and it stayed dry. My husband and I spend a delightful 20 minutes sweeping the inside and just enjoying the place. I know, sweeping? But the entire garage is empty, dry-walled and looks super clean and tidy. Sweeping it was an excuse to just admire every corner and inch.

(credit:java-nation.com)

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that yesterday we had a terrible storm. So bad, I stayed up watching the radar online for the obvious tornado until I was so tired, I couldn’t care less if a funnel cloud or the Rapture was coming.

How about you? How are things on your end?

The Weekend Coffee Share was created by Part Time Monster and is now hosted by Nerd in the Brain.

Review: Still Alice

This is another unusual read for me. I picked up this book and got caught up in the premise. What happens when a renowned Harvard professor gets diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. How does she cope? How does her family cope? How do priorities change and how does the way they relate to each other change?

Alice Howland is that Harvard professor. She’s known far and wide for her knowledge and insight. She leads a very busy, fulfilling life with her husband, also a hard-working professional and their three grown children.

We meet her as she’s rushing from one conference to another, presenting here, lecturing there. She’s professional, intelligent, able to multitask…and then she can’t remember a word at her presentation. It’s nothing that hasn’t happened to everyone at least once, but it keeps happening to Alice. Then there are the little things that she just can’t find and one day, she gets lost while running the same, familiar route.

Not being stupid, Alice realizes something is wrong and goes to check it out. The doctor not only confirms something is wrong, he explains it has probably been wrong for quite some time, she has just been able to cope because she’s very intelligent and she hasn’t noticed.

Once Alice finds out her diagnosis, the book becomes a map through the coping mechanisms of Alice and her family. We get to see it all through Alice…though she isn’t always the most reliable witness and gets worse as her illness progresses. She forgets who the characters in the book are and, at times, we have to decipher where she is or who she’s talking to from clues in her description.

The relationships in the family change with the illness. The relationship that I found most interesting was the one with her youngest daughter. Alice’s most troubling daughter, Lydia slowly becomes a supportive ally. Alice has to learn to think differently when she can’t simply use dialogue and words to analyze others. And through her new lenses, she sees things in Lydia that she had missed before.

This is definitely not a romance book or something I would normally read but I found it fascinating. One, it was really realistic. I could tell the author had done her research on the disease. Two, it was paced really well and we went from not knowing to knowing, organically and smoothly. And finally, the writing was magnetic. I really couldn’t put the thing down. I wanted to know what was going to happen and what the result would be for Alice.

Certainly, it’s not a book I’d recommend for someone searching for romance. It’s a book I’d recommend for someone looking for an interesting, quick, captivating read. It’s a story of a family coping with a life-changing event and how their relationships alter and change as they do. The book’s portrait of the illness is respectful but still manages to carry a punch in the story. All of it added up for a great read for me and explains why the book became not only a New York Times Bestseller but also a movie.

(credit:goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Review: The hour I first believed

A friend of mine loaned me the book, The hour I first believed by Wally Lamb. I had to have it read quickly because she needed it back. At over 700 pages, it’s not a tiny book, still I gave it a go…and I got hooked.

It’s odd because this, again, is not my type of book. I’ve never read Wally Lamb and the characters suffer so much that I wanted to stop reading; I’m a big wimp when it comes to characters not being happy. But the story and the writing refused to let me go. This book haunted me for the two days it took me to read it.

The story is about Caelum Quirk who starts out as an unhappy man in his third marriage, stumbling around life and not being very successful at living it. Then, while things around him unravel, Caelum slowly starts to confront the knots that are keeping him prisoner in his own life.

A lot of books are great stories, but few are an amazing experience. This one is. I can see why Oprah would have chosen this author as one of her favourites and picked his books a couple of times. I can see why he made the Bestseller list.

Wally Lamb manages to write the ordinary, haphazard occurrences of Caelum’s life into a masterpiece of miracles. Along the way, Caelum is transformed. His beliefs and doubts have completely changed. And, as the reader, I got to see it all.

His wife, Maureen is a nurse at Columbine when tragedy struck. This book is based on that fact but the story is only born around it. Maureen suffers from severe PTSD and becomes one of Caelum’s challenges. Along the way, Caelum meets other characters who teach him and push him further along his journey.

There are many things that I absolutely loved about this book. Though I had to read it quickly, I can see how sitting with it and savouring it would be divine. It’s got details and little nuances that need to be noticed along the way. Nothing is really left to chance, this book is written carefully and with clear attention to detail. It took the author 9 years to write and, in my humble opinion, it was worth every moment of those years. From the tone of the narrator, to the pace, to the twists and turns, this is a book to cherish.

(credit: goodreads.com)

 

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

It’s happened to me before, I grab a book and, a few pages later, I have to buy it. Well, it happened again. This time it was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It’s a negative dystopian novel, so definitely not my usual read but it was still incredibly addictive. I couldn’t put the thing down.

It was also terrifying. I dreamt about the book for two nights in a row.

Without giving too much away, the story is about Offred who is a Handmaid in the future of the US. In this setting, humankind is suffering from the inability to have children and, among other things, they have forced women who have working ovaries into being surrogates.

I say among other things because the entire civilization is incredibly controlled. With high-level monitoring, people only have to say the word and a black van comes and takes someone away. The entire country runs on a mixture of cultish religious mix and political agenda that’s really scary.

To better subdue the women they capture into willing handmaids, the women are taken to a centre where they get a dose of brainwashing mixed with a healthy amount of ‘religious beliefs’ and some physical torture to finish the deal. Everything from their name to their rights are completely taken away. They are named after the couple they are given to and are to pray that they get impregnated quickly so they can bear their couple a healthy baby.

The Handmaid’s Tale is part warning, part narrative. Offred is our guide through this terrifying world. She’s trying to survive so that she can find her daughter (also taken away) and escape.

I loved how well thought out the world was. Pretty much everything from the shopping stores to the clothing was carefully designed to fit into the story and it completed the picture perfectly. I particularly loved their dialogue and scripted answers to greetings. It depicts cults perfectly and gives a very real impression of what total control of government/cult can look like.

I also have to add that the book was actually written in 1986, where computers, the web and all our technological advances were mere figments of the imagination. The book still does a very competent and accurate projection of what the future will look like. There were no jarring shocks of mistakes along the lines of computers or technology.

To boot, there’s a new series on TV based on this book running right now and it’s getting great reviews. I saw the first episodes of it and it seems like a great adaptation of the book; really faithful to the writing and storyline.

So, absolutely, this one is a book I’d highly recommend. If you’re into dystopian society or just interested in a fun, entertaining read, check it out. I honestly couldn’t put the thing down until I had read the last page. It was mesmerizing.

(credit: amazon.ca)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Victoria

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin is not my usual genre of books. It’s the story of Queen Victoria from the time she became Queen to when she married Prince Albert. It’s written by Daisy Goodwin who has a degree in history from Cambridge and has written other New York Times bestselling novels all about historical figures. I have never read a book by Daisy Goodwin and I rarely read nonfiction. I picked this one up for a moment, read a paragraph and was hooked. I tried to put it down, I actually did slide it back on the shelf, then I walked away and I knew that paragraph would be haunting me for the rest of the weekend and I’d have to return to find out what happened.

I bought the book instead.

I’m glad I did because Victoria was just delicious. I’ve gone and done a bit of searching since just to see if it was accurate and the truth is Daisy Goodwin got all the facts straight. On top of that, she wove them into a wonderful story. That certainly takes talent.

One of my favourite parts about this story is the transition of Victoria from the shy, protected girl we meet at the beginning of the book to the Queen we have in the end. It was quite the transformation. Her mother kept Victoria ‘protected’ while she was a child by not allowing her to see or meet anyone. She was carefully schooled by people she chose and saw only those she approved, which meant that, by the time she was eighteen, Victoria was so sheltered she was very ill equipped to reign.

Her mother’s plan had been to make her daughter dependent on her and so reign through her, but Victoria refused to become her mother’s shadow and to bow to her wishes. Instead, she tries to do things on her own. How she manages to not only succeed but to do so well is the meat of the story.

Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch in England until Queen Elizabeth II just surpassed her only a few years ago. She also married Prince Albert not out of necessity but out of love, something unheard of in that time period and had 9 children with him though she hated being pregnant. She was an incredible queen, something that was due to her determination, perseverance and talent because she started off with odds severely against her.

This isn’t a romance story, it’s historical fiction. But I was looking for something different. I like women’s lit and, in spite of the time period change, this is certainly the story of a woman coming of age and finding her purpose and role from a very challenging set of circumstances. It’s incredible how fast those pages turned when I read this book. It seemed to end too quickly.

I would absolutely recommend it. It’s got a fantastic story of triumph over adversity, historical facts, a love story and historical kings and queens all in one great book. Plus, it has a ton of intrigue but not a lot of fighting, which I adore. If you’re a fan of fiction or history, this one is a great one to try. If you do, let me know what you think of it.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Review: Waiting on you by Kristan Higgins

Waiting on you is the third Blue Heron novel by Kristan Higgins. It’s still a complete stand alone story and well worth picking up by anyone interested in contemporary romance. It’s the story of Colleen, one of the two twins who run their own little business in the tiny town.

Waiting on you tells the story of Colleen, a happy, beautiful girl who specializes in giving advice about love. She has made matches around the little town she lives in and they have all ended up at the altar. However, Colleen stays away from matching herself. She was burned years ago and once was enough. Now she’s happy with helping her brother run their pub and keeping others happy. Herself? She has her big, silly Rufus, her adorable Irish Wolfhound, to keep her company.

Lucas is our hero and the man responsible for Colleen’s heart break all those years ago. Lucas has been glad to stay away from the only girl who’s ever mattered to him. Years ago, life made him leave and he’s not one to ignore duty. He’s been dealing with it, working away for years.

Life, however has other plans for both Lucas and Colleen and suddenly, Lucas is back in town. Neither is prepared for what meeting again face to face will do to them. Easy-going, never quiet Colleen is at a loss for words and Lucas can’t seem to find his reasons for leaving the town again.

These two have a history, a beautiful delicious history that we get to see as the book goes on. They also have more than one reason to be together but they seem unable to see it.

Colleen and Lucas have to work out their history, unravel what happened to mess up their first attempt at love all while surviving the issues of their quirky families. The story of how they do just that is hilarious, touching and beautiful. I loved it so much I had to go back to the store to get the next book in the series. I just couldn’t go without another book by Kristan Higgins.

This one is certainly one I’d recommend to contemporary readers of romance but also to those who would like a book with humour and a great family story. Kristan Higgins’ secondary characters are absolutely a delight and in this instalment they certainly don’t disappoint. This one is a great read and a keeper on that wonderful keeper shelf.

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Review: The Obsession by Nora Roberts

I read the back cover of this book a while ago and I’ve been waiting and waiting for the soft cover for months. It just sounded sooo good.

This is the cover of the book:

“Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, she revealed her father’s horrible crimes and made him infamous. No matter what she does, Naomi can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.

“Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kidney residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up–especially Xander Keaton.”

There’s more to the cover, but I didn’t need to read it, I was already caught. I loved the premise of a woman with a wound from her past that was trying to find herself, define her future in her own terms in a small town. I loved that she was trying to renovate a massive, old, rambling house and that she was a photographer with a flexible job. To boot, this book was written by Nora Roberts–if there’s one unfailingly reliable Queen of Romance out there, it’s got to be her. I could barely wait until it came out on paperback.

I got it this Friday and, by Saturday, I had read the entire thing. I gobbled it up. Still, I’ll add that it was sooo delicious that I forced myself to take breaks and savour the writing, the description and the story. It was really, truly superb.

There are many parts of this book that I adored.

I loved the back story. Usually, it’s a deterrent and something that I want to get through as quickly as possible in order to get to the main story but this time, I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved young Naomi, born in tragedy and battling to find her own way even as fear ate away at her. I loved her wise and strong brother, Mason. Realistic, cute and even funny, he became a hero after my own heart and I wished he would get his own book every time I met him in the book.

The abuse and patterns of behaviours in the story were solid. There were no sudden changes of behaviour, no unbelievable defeats of addiction or cures that could never take place in real life. I honestly and truly believed they would have happened just as described and that made the book all the more gripping for it’s realistic zeal.

The renovation of the old house, built slightly outside the small town was incredibly appealing. I’d love to have the chance to do just that, to sit by a beautiful view with a cup of coffee and stare at the rising sun. And the characters in the little town were cute, funny and so real I could see them.

One of the best parts was Tag, the dog Naomi rescues and falls in love with. A mutt with a gold heart, I loved him from the moment he came into existence and adored both the rescue and the funny bits he added to the story.

Of course, Naomi and Xander are the leads and are fantastic leads at that. Nora Roberts is known for her strong female leads and Naomi didn’t let me down. She was strong, confident, hard working and determined to stand up for herself. An amazing heroine worthy of hottie Xander.

Nora Roberts is an ace at contemporary romance and I, for one, believe this her at her best. I have read other books by her that weren’t as fascinating, fun and enjoyable and I was delighted to find her writing back to her amazing, winning style. It might be an old recipe for her, but it’s a winning one for me. This book is staying home with me, kept in its spot on the shelf for future reading. It’s just that good. Whether you’re a fan of her or a fan of romance, this one is one you don’t want to miss.

(credit: goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.