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Search tags: Castle-in-the-Air
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review 2018-01-15 21:36
The Women in the Castle
The Women in the Castle - Jessica Shattuck

Three women are bound together by fate and their husbands choices made during World War II.  The husbands of Marianne von Lingenfels, Benita Fledermann and Ania Grabarek were all involved in the failed plot to assassinate Hitler in July of 1944.  Appointed "the Commander of Wives and Children" by her husband, Marrianne takes her duties seriously and decides to round up those she can find in the aftermath of the War in the relative safety of her family castle, Burg Lingenfels.  While Marianne succeeds at the impossible task of finding the dispersed  women and children, her harsh steadfastness combined with Benita's gentle inward intuitiveness, Ania's survival drive and the children's collective shock makes for a difficult group to have under one roof.   The secrets that each woman must keep combined with their sense of camaraderie creates  a very different post war experience for Marianne, Benita and Ania.


The Women in the Castle is an epic story that creates a great range of feelings and complicated and scenarios.   It also shines a light on the role of women and children before and after the war, but more importantly, the resistors.  In thinking of the heroes of World War II, I don't often think of the Germans who were strong enough to resist Hitler's pull, even in little ways.  All of the women's characters were strongly developed and I enjoyed that they showed their strength in different ways.  At first, I was pulled toward Marianne's conviction and dedication to her task, but as each woman's story unfolded and the layers peeled away, I felt more and more connected to their stories and understood their reasoning.  The writing does jump back and forth through time and each woman's perspective.  Keeping track of the time jumps and point of view can become a bit confusing; however, you do learn things at appropriate times instead of being bombarded with too much information at once.  There are many, many more things I could say about this book, but most importantly, it provides a different perspective of World War II, and comments on the importance of friendship, compassion and resistance.

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review 2018-01-14 03:21
The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan
The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home - Denise Kiernan

Biltmore is an enormous Gilded Age estate in North Carolina. It was built on the orders of George Washington Vanderbilt II in the 1880s-90s as a summer retreat and became the largest private home in America. Biltmore is situated on a plot of land to match, over 10 square miles, the bulk of which is forest and now a National Park.  The house itself, astonishingly, remains in private hands. How this came to pass makes for an entertaining bit of history.

I hadn't known much about the origins of Biltmore or its role in the early environmental movement and was impressed. Kiernan veers away from the story of the house to dwell on Vanderbilt family drama, but its to be expected. Not many people just want to hear about stone korbels and inspiration for plasterwork. The Biltmore Vanderbilts lived interesting lives, Edith (George's wife) in particular with her involvement in an Arts & Crafts cottage industry around the estate. The other family members, especially where it seemed Kiernan had to fill gaps of information with speculation such as with Cornelia Vanderbilt (the original heiress), was less interesting. Thanks to this book, Biltmore and its gardens and the park surrounding it have risen above the 'cottages' of Rhode Island as a must-visit for me.

The fact that Biltmore, such a white elephant from the beginning, survived intact through a century as destructive as the last one is remarkable.

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review 2018-01-01 06:20
Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
Castle Hangnail - Ursula Vernon

From the blurb:

"When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is."


This is an entertaining, charming and amusing children's fantasy novel, with adorable (and original) characters, but also manages to deal with some "grown-up" issues and social issues that may be encountered by any child.  Beautifully written, possibly "educational" without bludgeoning the reader over the head with it, and lovely illustrations by the author.

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text 2017-12-28 16:47
My Five Favorite Books From 2017
The Sunne in Splendour - Sharon Kay Penman
The Blue Castle - L.M. Montgomery
Evergreen - Belva Plain
My Dead Parents: A Memoir - Anya Yurchyshyn
How the Light Gets In - Louise Penny

It's that time of year again!!

 

In looking at the books I read this year, I realized I had a lot of ho-hum reads. Which means I will be examining my reading choices in 2018 more closely.  It was a busy year- planning a wedding, getting married, moving my grandmother into my parent's house and becoming a caretaker for her ... That all may have something to do with it. BUT I did read some winners and here are my favorites. 

 

#5 How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny

 

Just a great addition to the series and tied up the overall arc nicely. I was on the edge of my seat at the end of this book. If you haven't read this series, please do.

 

#4 The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery 

 

A pleasant surprise.  I had never heard of this book and a good friend of mine did a buddy read with me. This book is witty and entertaining. I will definitely be doing a re-read. 

 

#3 Evergreen by Belva Plain

 

Epic, sweeping historical fiction following one woman's life through all its ups and downs and a few wars. When I was reading it, I couldn't stop talking about it. I could not wait to pick this book up. Loved it. 

 

#2 My Dead Parents by Anya Yurchyshy.  

 

This memoir was riveting. I was impressed with how she expressed herself and how she shared her life with the reader.  Her journey was universal, trying to understand your parents as well as yourself. Though I will be reviewing it next year when it comes out, I read it this year and had to include it on this list. 

 

#1 The Sunne In Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

 

This isn't a real surprise. I LOVED this book. It's one of the best books I have ever read. Historical fiction doesn't get better than this. I will definitely be reading more of her in 2018.

 

Those are my five faves!

 

Looking forward to hearing your favorite books of 2017. 

 

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

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review 2017-12-20 23:52
Review: Death Plays a Part
Death Plays a Part (Cornish Castle Mystery, Book 1) - Vivian Conroy

With her theater closed for renovations, Guinevere lands a summer job cataloging books at a castle on Cornisea, a small island off the coast of England. Together with her little dachshund Dolly, she sets off, expecting an idyllic summer exploring the tiny island. When she arrives, she’s delighted to learn that the castle is hosting a re-enactment of a historic trial, but when a man is found murdered in the dungeon and her new employer is accused, Guinevere jumps into action to find the real killer, uncovering a greedy plot and family secrets.

 

Thoroughly enjoyable first in a new series, with a charming location, rich plot and of course, an adorable Doxie.  What more can you ask for in a cozy?  I loved this from the very first page,  I felt like I was right there along with Guinevere as she got off the train heading for Cornisea, I could almost feel Dolly tugging at the leash!  The pace was perfect, introducing the characters with just enough detail to make them jump right off the page and setting up the puzzling plot full of twists and turns that kept me glued to the book.  I enjoyed watching it all unfold, locked room mysteries are my favorite and I really appreciated Guinevere’s thought process in solving it,  no sudden AHA! moment for our girl, she sat down and figured it all out rationally.  Go LOGIC!

 

Overall, Death Plays a Part charmed the socks off me and I can’t wait for the next book to come out in August.  Will Oliver and Guinevere let their sparks fan into a relationship? Will Lord Bolingbrooke ever catalog all of his books? Will the treasure be found? I’m gonna stay tuned for more!

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