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For The King's Favor

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For the King’s Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick

Set in the days of Richard the Lionheart of England, For the King’s Favor is the tale of the heir to the earldom of Norfolk, Richard Bigod, and how he came to marry the King’s former mistress, Ida de Tosney.

I was very pleased with this novel.  It reminded me a lot of Sharon Kay Penman’s style:  rich historic backdrop, with excellent character development and a great (and very true) storyline.  She fills in aspects of relationships that are not known, but likely to be true, without taking anything away from important historical facts.  Having read Penman’s books on Richard the Lionheart, I was pleasantly whisked back to that story, but with the emphasis being Bigod and de Tosney.  I’ll definitely have to read more by this author.

4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2008
544 pages

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Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

From Goodreads:  “In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.

Their brave adventures – their pleasures and their difficulties – are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature.”

I absolutely adored this novel.  No wonder so many people are recommending it.  Add me to that list!

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2015
188 pages

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The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

I’m glad I listened to author Stephen King’s advice in the introduction to the first book of the Dark Tower series.  He recognized that the first book is a bit of a slog, and begged the reader to give the series a chance by reading the second book.  King claimed that things really get going in The Drawing of the Three.  Oh boy, was he right.

The Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead faces a challenge in the form of three doors.  Behind each door is a person who becomes instrumental in Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower. This book reminded of all of King’s best work.  I’ve heard that many of the characters and places are found in some of the authors other works.  So far, nothing jumped out at me.  But I haven’t read all of his books, and most that I did read were quite a long time ago.  Nevertheless, it’s definitely a page turner, and makes me eager to read more of the series.

4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2003
463 pages

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My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell

Author Colleen Carroll Campbell had it all:  a great job working in the White House, the perfect husband, and an extremely bright looking future.  Why then, did it seem as if something was missing?  This is an excellent memoir that faces the challenges of secular feminism versus the reality of being a woman in today’s society.  The author traces her own faith journey, giving credit to some very wise female saints along the way.

Although it was recommended to me years ago, I’m convinced God found it serendipitous for me to read it right now.  My teenage son has recently been confronting me with concerns he had with the Church.  “It’s sexist,” he claims.  He doesn’t understand the Catholic Church teaching that men and women each have unique gifts and a particular role to play in marriage and in society.  He looks at me, a woman who had two college degrees and a great career, and thinks I was somehow forced to give it up for my religion.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Like the author, I also felt like something was missing.  Campbell’s story points out what so many people miss:  that oftentimes secular views of womanhood dismiss our natural yearning to be mothers.  Sure, there are many women who have careers and children, but some people, like myself and Colleen Carroll Campbell, wanted to give our whole selves to the raising of our children.  And do you know what?  The Church applauds us for dedicating our lives to raising good human beings.  It’s not sexist – it’s sex affirming.

I loved the author’s personal journey and hope my son will be willing to read this memoir.  I highly recommend it.

5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012
224 pages

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Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey

Wool Omnibus

From Goodreads: This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

All I can say is wow!  From the first pages to the last, Howey had me in his grip.  In this world, people live underground in a Silo, but an unusual number of residents end up dead or being sent out to “clean.”  From the first moments of this book, there is one huge mystery/conspiracy.  I didn’t want the story to end, because there always seemed to be more to it.  I know I’m really late to be reading this (because I’m probably one of the few who hadn’t read it before now), but guess what?  There are more books now!  Yay!

5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012
509 pages
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The Luck Of The Weissensteiners by Christoph Fischer

The Luck Of The Wiessensteiners

The Luck of the Weissensteiners is the story of a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia who faces tumultuous upheaval as Hitler rises to power.  I appreciated the glimpse into the life of this family, as they face decisions about keeping out of trouble, keeping their livelihood, and keeping their family together.  Bit by bit, as the story unfolds, you can’t help thinking what you would have done, without the benefit of hindsight.

The writing style was fairly stripped down, with mostly simple narrative and dialogue.  I suspect the author only wanted his readers to get inside the heads of the characters, but not so deeply that one becomes too attached.  I’m not sure how I felt about that.  On the one hand, the horrors of the Holocaust are well-known, and heart-wrenching stories abound.  It’s difficult not to feel badly for the Weissensteiners, but at the same time, the author keeps us at a distance.  Perhaps Fischer didn’t want the tragedy to distract from the perspective he wanted to present: how the slow unfolding of events and hidden truths make it difficult to discern the larger picture.  Another excellent aspect of this novel is the ability to get into the heads of the non-Jewish people in the novel.  Fischer allows us to glimpse their attempts to rationalize the events taking place,  to struggle with their own views about people different from themselves, and the inner turmoil which causes them to act – out of selfishness or selflessness.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2012
360 pages

Amazon Book Preview of The Luck Of The Wiessensteiners

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