Review: Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End

thBQ5GCRM5.jpg

Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End

Jennifer Worth

Phoenix

336 pages

This is the third memoir from Jennifer Worth about being a midwife to the working poor of London’s East End in the 1950s. There is a popular PBS television series based off of the books. Jennifer is in her early 20s and, along with a handful of other girls, she is training to be a midwife in the Nonnatus House, which is run by an order of nuns. The memoirs in the series detail the poverty and heartbreak the midwives witness as the service the slums of London, but there are also great stories detailing the other young women working out of Nonnatus House, as well as the nuns that reside there.

I thought the first book of the series, The Midwife, was fantastic. I immediately read the second on and found it just ok. It paled in comparison to the first book so much that I waited three years to read book #3. Farewell to the East End is book #3 in this series. I have to say, once again I was left a little disappointed. It’s a good book with some really great stories. Chummy delivering the baby on the ship at the end is one of the gems of this book. However, there were a lot of chapters that seemed to be fillers. Almost like the third book was a contractual obligation so Worth was struggling to fill it with anything she could think of.

So while I liked Farewell to the East End, it wasn’t as good as the first book. There are some other books published by Jennifer Worth that I have considered that are in the same vein. Letters to the Midwives is a compilation of letters that Jennifer Worth received after publishing The Midwife that caught my interest. I think Worth has run out of stories from her time in the Nonnatus house, but stories sent to her by other midwives could be fun. Worth has also published a memoir about her time as a nurse and ward sister called In the Midst of Life. While I likely won’t ever get around to watching the PBS series, I may read her other books at some point.

 

Have you read any of Jennifer Worth’s books or seen Call the Midwife on PBS?

 

 

Review: Book of the Month Club

Logomark_Navy (1)Two months ago, I discovered Book of the Month Club. Book of the Month Club is a monthly book subscription that has apparently been around for almost a century. You can purchase a subscription in one month, three month, or six month increments.

On the first of the month, just sign on to the BOTM website to see what five selections have been chosen for that month. There are four regular judges and a guest judge, and each will choose a new release. There appears to always be at least one non fiction choice and one psychological thriller/mystery.

I was instantly drawn to BOTM for a few reasons. Number one, I love monthly subscriptions. I currently do Birchbox and Stitchfix but have also tried Sephora and Ipsy.  Secondly, I rarely ever buy books anymore. I am way too much of a spendthrift to ever splurge on a hardcover, unless I find a second hand one for a good price. I thought this was a great way to encourage me to build up my library again.

The biggest reason I love BOTM is because it gets me out of my comfort zone. You can choose to skip a month if you don’t like any of the selections, but I don’t see that ever being an issue for me. I like the idea of reading and discussing a book I may not have otherwise picked up.

BOTM has an online discussion feature where you can discuss your book. Admittedly, I haven’t utilized this feature yet. I have something even better: my family. I gifted my mom a three month subscription for Mother’s Day and convinced two of my sisters to sign up as well (sister #3 lives in London, England, so she has to miss out for now). The four of us will look over the selections at the beginning of the month and decide together which choice we want to read. It is so much fun!

thZ3A61FMS.jpg

This month, we were torn between Before the Fall and Enchanted Islands (I have my eye on Modern Lovers too). We quickly decided to go with Before the Fall, and even though I haven’t started it yet, all the hype has me convinced we made the right choice.

Yet another cool thing about BOTM is that you can add on two additional books per month for $9.99 a piece.  You can choose from the other four selections that month or any of the books selected in previous months. They also have a page called Other Favorites with four or five newer releases that can be added on as well. The Other Favorites page changes monthly, so you have to act quickly on those.

img_9779

This month, I had a really difficult time with my add ons. There were so many choices that I wanted to read that it wasn’t a question of whether I would buy the two additional books, just which ones! I ended up choosing Enchanted Islands, by Allison Amend, and Miller’s Valley, by Anna Quindlen. The latter was already on my Goodreads to-read list and the former had such a beautiful cover, I just couldn’t resist (although the story sounds great too!).

If you are interested in joining Book of the Month Club, use the code SUMMER30 for 30% off.

Have you tried BOTM club? What did you think? Please weigh in on my three book selections too and let me know if I made the right choice!

Book Review: Flowers for Algernon

18373

Flowers for Algernon

Daniel Keyes

Mariner Books

311 pages

Charlie Gordon is a man of lower intelligence living in New York in the late 50s. His IQ is so low that while he is able to live on his own and hold a job, he can barely read or write and basic human relationships are difficult for him.

Charlie strives to learn because he has been made to feel that if he gets smarter, everything will be great. He ends up being chosen as the human subject in an experimental surgery. The research is still in the early days, but the scientists involved have successfully performed the surgery on a mouse named Algernon, and are very pleased with the results thus far.

Flowers for Algernon is told through Charlie’s journal entries, so the reader is able to follow Charlie’s transformation from someone barely literate to someone that all of a sudden has more knowledge than the scientists involved in the study. Charlie has all the knowledge he could have wanted and more, but at what cost?

Thematically, Flowers for Algernon gives the reader a lot of food for thought. Charlie’s character changes very quickly as intelligence sky rockets, and it becomes clear that all of the book smarts in the world won’t speed up the emotional development he has been lacking his whole life. Watching Charlie struggle to understand the new world he is thrust into, especially the relationships he has to maneuver, was the most interesting and provocative part of the book for me.

When I started reading this book, I was a little worried about how difficult it was to read Charlie’s journal. His grasp on writing was very elementary and the spelling errors took a lot of concentration on my part. I thought there was no way in hell I could read a 300 page book styled in that way. Luckily, it improved pretty quickly. Ultimately, I think the technique of styling the book in a journal format had a great impact, and it made the ending resonate with me even more.

Book Review: And Again

25110965

And Again

Jessica Chiarella

Touchstone

320 pages

This is the fictional story of four adults who have been chosen to participate in the SUB Life program. Essentially, they are all dying and they are all given a cloned version of themselves.

Connie is an actress who has faded away from the limelight after being diagnosed with a vicious strain of HIV five years ago. Linda has been a vegetable for the past 8 years after being involved in a car accident. She has been conscious the entire time but paralyzed from the nose down. David is a congressman This is the fictional story of four adults who have been chosen to participate in the SUB Life program. Essentially, they are all dying and they are all given a cloned version of themselves.

Connie is an actress who has faded away from the limelight after being diagnosed with a vicious strain of HIV five years ago. Linda has been a vegetable for the past 8 years after being involved in a car accident. She has been conscious the entire time but paralyzed from the nose down. David is a congressman that is suffering from a malignant brain tumor. Last but not least, Hannah is the youngest, an artist that has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

The actual SUB Life program isn’t really a developed part of the story. I think it would have been an interesting part of the story if Chiarella had gone into detail about the program. As it is, all the reader is really told is that the four participants have a new body grown for them. Not much is known about the effects that the four will endure in their new bodies, and since it is a new program, they are learning as they go.

Because these are brand new bodies that don’t have the experience and wherewithal of a body that has been around thirty or forty years, there are certain things that don’t come as naturally as they did before. Hannah has been an artist her entire life, but although she still sees the world as she did before her operation, she is no longer able to translate that into art. They also have to relearn acquired taste, literally. They all learn this the hard way when they go for their first cup of coffee.

This book posed so many questions, and I found myself thinking that it would be a great book club choice. I found all four stories intriguing and was curious to see how it would continue. It is not the type of book that wraps up neatly, and it left me wondering how all four characters were getting along months and years after the ending. They were all very flawed but recognized that part of themselves, and I liked that aspect a lot.

The ending wasn’t clear for any of them, because although it was a year after the procedure, they all four were struggling to figure things out. I catch myself wondering how their stories progressed after the book ended.

Book Review: Sole Survivor

IMG_6231

Sole Survivor

Dean Koontz

Bantam 

416 pages

I said I wasn’t going to come back and yet, here I am.  I have no idea if this will stick or not, but I feel compelled to try. I blogged about books for almost four years and life got in the way, but a part of me just wants to come back, so here I am.  I am sad to see a lot of bloggers I followed before are no longer around (hell, it’s been three years almost since I disappeared!), but for those of you still blogging, it’s great to see you.

As for my review,

I admit, I have a little bit of prejudice against Dean Koontz.  His books, in my mind, aren’t “worthwhile”. Quick reads, nothing with substance.  This is the same notion I had about Stephen King (I know, shame) until I read 11/22/63. But a friend got a box of books give to her by an acquaintance and let me dig through it and when I saw this, I just thought, why not? A book about a plane crash sounds interesting enough anyway.  So I took it and left it on my bookshelf for months and months, as you do, until one day I grabbed it and started reading.  And it was great.

Sole Survivor is the story of Joe Carpenter.  He is a broken man.  His wife and two young daughters died in a plane crash a year ago when their flight, Nationwide 353, went down in the fields of Colorado. Joe is trying to learn to live life without them but he is failing.  Until the one year anniversary of their deaths, when he meets a woman claiming to be a survivor of flight 353.

This was good stuff. The story started to get stranger and stranger, and the more Joe dug into the crash, the more intrigued I was.  There was no possible way anyone could have survived a 747 plummeting straight into the earth, yet Rose Tucker makes a pretty convincing story.  The deeper Joe got, the more invested I got.  At one point I was reading in the car and the shock of what was happening cause me to toss the book onto the floor with delight.  I had tears in my eyes. My husband implored me not to tell him anymore about the book because he decided he was going to read it next. It was that kind of book for me.

So I’m sorry, Dean Koontz.  I shouldn’t have judged you so harshly.  This was a fantastic read.  Please feel free to tell me in the comments if there are any other Dean Koontz books I must read!

Other Reviews:

Book Chase

TLC Book Tour: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Jenny Wingfield

Random House Trade Paperbacks

352 pages

Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core and setting the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.

With the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield has created an enduring work of fiction.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake was one of those books that I was dying to read when it was first released.  I even started it last summer but had to put it aside for other obligations, so when the opportunity to review it came my way, I was thrilled.  Unfortunately, I realized pretty quickly that this book just wasn’t for me.  I was determined to stick it out, but I wanted to put it down within the first forty pages.

I guess my issue was the Southern, country setting.  I am not usually one for Southern fic, and this was no exception.  Everything about this one grated on me.  The language, the characters–it was not what I expected.

I always feel bad in instances like this because The Homecoming of Samuel Lake has been well received and it was more a case of clashing interests than anything else.  I urge you all to take my review with a grain of salt because I feel like I am in the minority with this one.  In other words, the problem is me, not the book!

About Jenny Wingfield

Jenny Wingfield lives in Texas with her rescued dogs, cats, and horses. Her screenplay credits include The Man in the Moon and The Outsider. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is her first novel.

 

 

Jenny Wingfield’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Wednesday, July 11th:  Twisting the Lens

Thursday, July 12th:  It’s a Crazy, Beautiful Life

Monday, July 16th:  Southern Girl Reads

Tuesday, July 17th:  The House of the Seven Tails

Thursday, July 19th:  The Lost Entwife

Monday, July 23rd:  Book Snob

Wednesday, July 25th:  Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, July 30th:  A Novel Source

Wednesday, August 1st:  WV Stitcher

Monday, August 6th:  A Patchwork of Books

Wednesday, August 8th:  Reviews by Lola

Monday, August 13th:  A Musing Reviews

Monday, August 20th:  Colloquium

Wednesday, August 22nd:  Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Tuesday, August 28th:  Sweet Southern Home

Announcing Genevieve Wells

For those of you that are curious, I had my baby girl this past Thursday, August 2.  I was induced at 38 weeks due to high blood pressure.  After 16 hours of labor, including 3.5 hours of pushing, she was born vaginally.  Unfortunately I did have a few complications but they were pretty minor.  Baby G suffered a broken collarbone and is now battling jaundice too, but I feel so blessed because I know things could have been worse.

We’ve been told that baby has quite a temper on her but I think she is absolutely perfect! As tired as I am, I hate to put her down to even go to sleep because I don’t want to miss a single moment!

I am trying to get back into the swing of things but so far it hasn’t happened.  I haven’t cracked open a book since I went into labor on Wednesday (and I am right in the middle of Broken Harbor! I need to know what happens!) I refuse to stress about it though.  The most important thing is to enjoy my baby.  I am already upset at the prospect of her getting older and growing up.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers