Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Last Song

Wiseman, Eva. The Last Song. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2014.

Set during the Spanish Inquisition, this story for teen readers relates the story of Isabel and her family who became "good Christians" to avoid Jewish persecution. Isabel herself never even realized that her family was Jewish until she hears other Christians calling her family names. To try to avoid what they see as impending persecution of Jews who became Christians and still practice their faith, they arrange a marriage between Isabel and a Christian boy. Isabel detests the boy and protests the marriage. It's even apparent the boy will be a spousal abuser. The book contains arrests, a burning scene, and some glimpses of hope. The families are not sure who their friends are and who their enemies are because it is obvious there is an informant in their midst. It's a piece of historical fiction for young adults covering an era that has a story that needs to be heard, but it's likely to be more popular with female readers than male ones. Most characters are developed adequately for their roles in the story. The narrative did not always flow as naturally as it could have nor did the tension mount as it could have. It's still a great read. This review is based on an e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Love So Amazing

Rhodes, Pam. Love So Amazing. Oxford, UK: Lion Hudson, 2014.

Pam Rhodes has told the stories of 40 hymns, giving the background for the writing of the hymn and its application to us today. She has done a great job. There is a mix of older hymns and newer ones. There are a few that Americans may not recognize since she is from the United Kingdom; however, the majority of hymns are sung in churches on both sides of the Atlantic. This was just the book I needed at the right moment. While the book is not being sold in the United States, I will be purchasing multiple copies of it upon its release in the U.K. in late October.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

November Boughs

Whitman, Walt. November Boughs. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2014.

I tend to think of Walt Whitman as a poet, but this is a collection of essays written by the author better known for his poetry. Among my favorite essays in the collection is "The Bible As Poetry." His essay on "Slang in America" offered observations into how slang terms often become part of the core vocabulary of a language. Another couple which stood out to me because of my familiarity with works discussed were "What Lurks Behind Shakspere's Historical Plays?" and "A Thought on Shakspere." Whitman also offered his thoughts on Robert Burns and Tennyson. One of the most important aspects of this collection is that it offers reflections on 19th century life from interaction with Native Americans to theatre to the Civil War. He offers glimpses of various cities through diary entries, articles, and essays, such as New Orleans, New York, and St. Louis. Whitman must have been interested in the Quaker religion as he tells the stories of Elias Hicks and George Fox in biographical sketches.  An e-galley was received from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Victorian Murderesses

Hartman, Mary S. Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2014.

This is a well-researched book detailing the murders committed by several English and French women during the Victorian era. The author takes a look at some aspects of the crimes in relation to the era in which they were committed. While the dastardly deeds may be milder than those we often hear about in 21st century news, the crimes were "unspeakable", as the subtitle suggests during the time in which they were committed. It bogs down a bit in places, but it is still a fascinating look at the subject. I would have preferred footnotes to end notes, particularly since the author often elaborates a bit more in those. This review refers to Dover's 2014 edition which I received from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Nora Webster

Toibin, Colm. Nora Webster. New York: Scribner, 2014.

Normally I love Toibin's books, but I've found one to which I really never warmed. Nora Webster is a newly widowed mother who must come to terms with her new status and find her own place in the world. I never truly warmed to her character. The book focuses on her relationships with those in the community around her--her neighbors, her children, her co-workers, the schoolmaster, teachers, her voice teacher, and many others. While the writing is good and the author probably had an overarching theme with Nora's progress in the midst of her tragedy, most readers will not pick it up. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation that a review would be written. Honestly, if I had not felt that obligation, I probably would have abandoned the book. It simply didn't work for me. I do think that many others will appreciate the book more than I did. The quality of the writing pushes it to a higher star level than I might otherwise give it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Claude on the Slopes

Smith, Alex T. Claude on the Slopes. Atlanta, Ga.: Peachtree, 2014.

Claude (the dog) and Sir Bobblysock (his sidekick, a sock) learn about the dangers of "too loud voices" in relation to snow and avalanches in this tale. It's a cute story that children will enjoy. Claude is certainly leads an interesting and adventurous life. I really enjoyed the illustrations in this chapter book. The review is based on an advance e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review. The book is scheduled for release 1 October 2014.