Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Off the Voortrekker Road by Barbara Bleiman



Off the Voortrekker Road is a tale of South African lives and justice written in the same vein as one of my favorite novels, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Jack Neuberger is a young Jewish lawyer that has taken on a difficult case that no one else in his law firm wants.  Johannes van Heerden is a Dutch Reform minister with a loving wife, Laura. After Laura has a difficult birth with their last child, Johannes took over some of her charitable work and met Agnes Small.  Now many people are talking about Johannes and Agnes having an affair.  This would be bad enough as Johannes is a minister, but it’s also breaking a new law that condemns “immoral or indecent acts” with a “non-white.”  Jack has to get to the bottom of what is happening as well as ponder whether this law is a just law.

The novel also flashes back to Jack’s youth.  Jack had a hard life as a kid.  His parents had a very strained relationship, which often led to Jack’s mother leaving his father.  His one stability in life is his friendship with Terence Mostert.  Terence’s father is in a sanitarium for TB, but his mother May is a good person and runs their auto shop with the help of mechanic Walter.  As Jack grows older, he realizes that although May and Walter are both good people, as a white and non-white, talk of them being together is dangerous.

As the threads of the two stories reach a head, Jack has to decide what is right and good, and what the best course of action for the future is.  I read this novel quickly and I greatly enjoyed it.  I also like how it tied up the past and future storylines. I enjoyed the realistic look at relationships within this novel (parent to child, spouse to spouse, and friend to friend) as well as it being a coming of age novel for Jack. 

Overall, Off the Voortrekker Road is a great historical fiction novel that deals with issues of race, humanity, and coming of age.  I highly recommend this novel.  It would also be a great book club book as there is much to discuss.

Book Source:  Author Barbara Bleiman for Review - Thanks!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova



Title: Inside the O’Briens
Author: Lisa Genova
Read by:  Skipp Sudduth
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Audio
Length: Approximately 10.5 hours (9 CDs)
Source:  Review Copy from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

Inside the O’Briens lurks a hidden lethal genetic neurodegenerative diseases in their DNA.  Joe O’Brien is a proud Boston Police Officer.  He married Rosie, the love of his life at 18 and they had four kids in quick succession.  Now at 43, his kids are adults, but they live in apartments in their three story townhouse and all share Sunday dinner together.  Joe starts acting strange including temper outburst, involuntary movements, and problems with writing his police reports.  People think he’s drunk; after all, his mother Ruth was a drunk who died young.  After being confronted by his friends and Rosie, Joe goes to the doctor and discovers after testing that he has Huntington’s disease.  And worse, each of his children has a fifty percent chance of getting the disease.  Inside the O’Briens details Joe’s journey and the hard realities of learning to live with this disease.  It also goes into the viewpoint of Joe’s daughter Katie, a yoga instructor.  She also has to make the decision to get tested and what she should do with her life.  Joe has to show his entire family how to life with Huntington’s disease.

This book was very powerful.  The entire O’Brien family was written to be believable and real people.  I felt like I was a part of the family and I felt their pain.  Lisa Genova not only wrote believably real characters, and family dynamics, but she also did a great job of introducing the disease and how it could impact an entire family and the reality of living with it.  I not only enjoyed this book and getting to know this family, but I learned a lot about Huntington’s disease.  I also thought it was moving when Joe was able to piece together what he remembered of his mother and how after believing she had died an alcoholic, he finally realized she had died of Huntington’s disease and loved him all along.  This part of the story brought me to tears.
Skipp Sudduth had a great voice and sounded like a 43 year old Boston Cop.  It was a great book to listen to and kept me intrigued throughout.  I just felt like I was left hanging a bit at the end.  I understand why the author ended the book the way she did, but I felt like I really wanted to know the answer!

Overall, Inside the O’Briens is a moving audiobook about the reality of a genetic disease hitting a member of a family and the repercussions throughout the family.  It also was a great story of an Irish Catholic family in Boston and how life is changing with the times. I highly recommend this book.  It would also make a great book club book as there is so much to discuss in this novel.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Demelza Poldark by Winston Graham Review and Giveaway



Demelza Poldark is book 2 of the Poldark series.  It continues right where book one, Ross Poldark, leaves off.  Ross and Demelza are happily married with their first baby on the way.  After the baby’s birth, Demelza happily accepts motherhood, but also tries to find her way in society.  She also is obsessed with trying to find happiness for Verity, through trying to find Captain Andrew Blamey.  Ross starts a new venture to try to make copper mining more financially feasible by getting into the smelting business with other like-minded folks.  Ross runs against the upper classes again on several occasions, and also tried his hardest to help the people his land.

Cousin Francis continues his downward spiral into drinking and women, while Elizabeth focuses all of her love on their son Geoffrey Charles.  Verity feels herself fading away into nothing.  She runs Francis and Elizabeth’s home, but has no love for herself.  She is a great friend to Demelza and Ross. 

Mark Daniel falls in love with and weds an actress from a traveling group, Keren.  Keren finds it exciting at first to marry a miner, but then dreams of finding something more. Jim is still in prison and his wife Jinny helps at Ross and Demelza’s home. Worthless servants Jud and Purdy finally go too far and find they are no longer welcomed by Ross.

I love how in the Poldark novels, the story is not just Ross and Demelza, but on an entire cast of interesting characters that live with them as servants, around then as tenants, close to them as neighbors and relatives in their own social sphere.  I enjoy the different interactions they all have together, and how there are still social rules that must be followed like Jane Austen novels, but that Ross has a habit of flaunting these rules.  This habit has dire consequences for him and his family.

I also enjoyed the entire subplot about the copper mines, their problems in the global economy at the time and the scheme to try to start a new copper smelting works.  The scheming that goes on to start the works and by their enemy’s to end the copper smelting works is quite intriguing.  I also appreciated that one of my favorite foods, the Cornish pasty, was mentioned again, this time as a lamb pasty.  I have never had a lamb pasty before.

I haven’t watched yesterday’s episode yet, but the new Poldark series on PBS has been closely following the novels.  It is not only based on book one, Ross Poldark, but also on this novel, Demelza Poldark.  I have been greatly enjoying reading it as I’m also watching the show.  The 2015 PBS production has been quite faithful to both novels.  There are slight changes from the book, but even these changes keep the spirit of the story.  I also appreciate how actor Aidan Turner, as Ross Poldark, is a hardworking man that has to shed his shirt often.  Oh look – Ross is working the field with his shirt off.  Now Ross is in the mine with his shirt off.  I definitely do not have a problem with this.  Reader Jamie has left a comment on the “About Me” section of the my blog and wants to know how I feel about the 1970’s Poldark TV series as compared to the new series.  I take you up on this challenge. After this current series ends, I will watch the old series and write a blog post comparing the two!

Demelza Poldark ends on a sad note.  Ross thinks, “Was all of the last joy gone?  …And his own life; what did it add up to?  A frenzied futile struggle ending in failure and near bankruptcy.  A part of his life was ended too, a phase, an epoch, a turning, and he could not see himself starting again along the same track.”

I want more!!  I’m not ready to stop reading this series and I’m glad there is so much more to read although I’m not sure if the entire series is currently available.  I preordered the third book in the series from Amazon, Jeremy Poldark, and it should arrive this week.

Book Source:  Sourcebooks as part of the Poldark Tour – Thanks!



Grand Giveaway Contest 

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes 


In celebration of the re-release of Ross Poldark and Demelza, Sourcebooks Landmark is offering three chances to win copies of the books or a grand prize, an Anglophile-themed gift package. 
Two lucky winners will each receive one trade paperback copy of Ross Poldark and Demelza, and one grand prize winner will receive a prize package containing the following items: 
(2 ) Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Mugs by Johnson Brothers
(1) Twelve-inch Old Britain Castles Pink Pottery Plater by Johnson Brothersr
(1) London Telephone Box Tin of Ahmad English Breakfast Tea
(1) Jar of Mrs. Bridges Marmalade
(1) Package of Duchy Originals Organic Oaten Biscuits
(2) Packets of Blue Boy Cornflower Seeds by Renee's Garden Heirloom (1) Trade Paperback Copy of Ross Poldark & Demelza, by Winston Graham
To enter the giveaway contest simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on the Ross Poldark Blog Tour starting July 06, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, August 10, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the entrants and announced on the Buzz at Sourcebooks blog on August 13, 2015. Winners have until August 20, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to US residents and the prizes will be shipped to US addresses. Good luck to all!


THE ROSS POLDARK BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:

July 06My Jane Austen Book Club (Preview) 
July 07Booktalk & More (Excerpt) 
July 09vvb32 Reads (Preview) 
July 10The Paige Turner (Review) 
July 10My Kids Led Me Back To P & P (Excerpt) 
July 11Austenprose (Review) 
July 12Laura's Reviews (Preview) 
July 13Peeking Between the Pages (Review) 
July 13Reflections of a Book Addict (Preview) 
July 14Living Read Girl (Review) 
July 15Confessions of a Book Addict (Review) 
July 16vvb32 Reads (Review) 
July 17Paige Turner (Review) 
July 18Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books (Preview) 
July 20Laura's Reviews (Review) 
July 20The Calico Critic (Review) 
July 21Poof Books (Excerpt) 
July 22Babblings of a Bookworm (Review) 
July 23Austenprose (Review) 
July 24Peeking Between the Pages (Review) 
July 25My Love for Jane Austen (Excerpt)  
July 25Living Read Girl (Review) 
July 26Delighted Reader (Review) 
July 27My Jane Austen Book Club (Review) 
July 27Austenesque Reviews (Review) 
July 27Laura's Reviews (Review) 
July 28She Is Too Fond Of Books (Review) 
July 30vvb32 Reads (Review) 
July 30Babblings of a Bookworm (Review) 
July 31CozyNookBks (Excerpt) 
Aug 01The Calico Critic (Review) 
Aug 01More Agreeably Engaged (Review) 
Aug 03Romantic Historical Reviews (Review)