Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Sea Captain's Wife

Beth Powning has written in novel form the life of a sea captain's wife.  There were those who sailed with their husbands and those who stayed behind, waiting for his return.   This book gives the narrative as taken from extensive historical research but written with such heart that I felt the story in my bones!  Azuba Galloway is the heroine in this tale.  She sails with her husband Nathanial on his merchant ship, the Traveller.  Bringing along their young daughter Carrie, on a life changing journey, they set sail from Whelan's Cove, New Brunswick.  A typical voyage for a ship such as this one would be 2 years.  That is enough time to see life, death and birth!  Azuba longs for the sea and the freedom it brings.  Nathaniel longs to keep her safe from the savagery and violence of life on the high seas.  She convinces him to take her and Carrie along, as many captains take their wives and children.  Ms. Powning writes these characters with passion and humanity. The intensity of emotions is almost exhausting! You will not soon forget the lives of these seafarers and families.  I could barely put it down for the compelling writing that brings these characters right off the page.  Set in the 1860s, during the sunset of the Age of Sail we read of the passing of a way of life that was the lifeblood for many a sailor and captain.  This is a masterpiece of stellar fiction.  I give The Sea Captain's Wife five stars!  Read more about this fascinating life and more of Beth Powning's works at the links I have included below.
Beth Powning
Maritime History of the United States


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This is the story of a small island in England that was occupied by the Germans during WWII.  The Literary Society started quite by accident but filled a need in a bleak time.  I liked the characters well enough and the variety of personalities that were each a part of the book gave it needed depth.  However, not quite enough depth for my taste.  Without giving away the plot let me just say the story is told in a series of letters written back and forth.  The letters come to be written because one of the main personalities in the story has been tasked with writing a series of articles about life on the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation.  The book moves along fairly well as varied people are drawn into the letter writing via word of mouth or references to the young lady writing the articles; people who lived through that time want to write her with their experiences.  It does have a good amount of situations that made me chuckle.  It has a well written romantic development.  The letters are written just the way we would have a conversation and are easy to read; in other words, the way we used to write letters to one another.  Despite all this, I just couldn't get into the story, for lack of a better way to put it.  In fact I did not finish this book, which was disappointing to me but I stayed with it halfway through, wanting to give it a good run!  So, knowing that I was not engaged in it I committed the unpardonable literary sin;  I skipped to the back and read the ending.  This did not give me satisfaction.  The end is merely the last letters written by the main characters to and from one another.  Since I gave it up many pages before that, the importance of the ending was mostly lost on me because of developments in the last half of the book, which I did not read!  This book was published in 2009 and I have read rave reviews for it.  So, don't take my word for it.  What I write here is only what I think.  Get it and read it if you want.  Many reader reviews gave it 4 to 4 1/2 stars.  I give The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 3 stars.
See you soon!
Book cover

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Keepers of the Covenant

How do I begin? The story itself is a bookfull! Let me start by saying this is the book of Ezra personified for the contemporary reader.  Lynn Austin has written Book 2 of the Restoration Chronicles with an eye to the human story behind the story.  God's story, as recorded in the two books I mentioned has so many lessons for us about His covenant relationship, his mercy, obedience to God's law, but it also documents the history of the return of all the of Jews from exile and captivity in Babylon.  Keepers of the Covenant relates the return of that remnant that did not go back the first time.  It is filled with God's people trying to do the right thing.  The author writes believable characters that speak to the reader in their human flaws and foibles.  It reads easily and moves smoothly from chapter to chapter.  I had a difficult time reading the story of Reuben, a Jewish boy who's father is killed in the battle on the 13th of Adar.  The story begins with Haman convincing King Xerxes to have all Jews annihilated.  A second decree allows the Jews to defend themselves.  None the less, Reuben's father is killed in that battle.  The ensuing anger on Reuben's part was hard to read but very convincing.  He turns to a life of thievery and drinking.  Ms. Austin writes this book as it may have been (probably was) lived.  She does a good job of writing so we can relate to it.  My only criticism would be that the author sometimes writes the dialogue and situations in a modern frame of mind and language making it a little confusing.
It stands out as an example of God's mercy and grace.She draws a clear picture of how we can sometimes drift into the way of the world without noticing it, just as some of the Jews did after living in Babylon for several generations.  Living in the world as a Christian is a hard thing to do and not be drawn in.  The main character, Ezra, says the following to his wife about that when talking about the earlier battle; "...believe there was a genuine spiritual renewal going on.  It was easy to rise up in faith and heroism when we faced a clear-cut enemy.  It's much harder to resist the enemy of gradualism and assimilation, much harder to maintain a passion for God when we're bogged down in the daily routine of life."  Amen!  Ain't it the truth?!  This reminded me that faithful people since the beginning of time have faced the same struggles we face today.  While not a blockbusting, all consuming read, I enjoyed this enough to think I would like to go back and read Book 1 of the Restoration Chronicles.  I give Keepers of the Covenant four stars.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House, the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.  These words are my opinion.

Cover Art

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini's survival at sea after he was shot down in World War II in the Pacific.  You may be familiar with the author's other story, Seabiscuit, written about a horse that came from an unremarkable background to win the Kentucky Derby and become a national legend.  Laura Hillenbrand is the name of the lady who wrote both of these stories.  I did not read Seabiscuit.  I saw the movie and was moved to tears.  Absolutely excellent.  Unbroken, not so much.  It is a horrific story of a WWII catastrophe, and true for sure.  The book includes pictures. (who had a camera for this?) And yes, my heart goes out to our survivors and grieves for our lost.  I live in a family with military history, all four branches of the service including my husband, son, brothers, and others. This account is not lost on me.  I get it.  It is a story extravagant in its scope and pretty well written.  It covers Zamparini's life from childhood to his 81st birthday when he is one of the carriers of the Olympic Torch, in Japan no less in 1998.  This book was published in 2010.  I read it about two years ago.  A friend had recommended it right after it came out.  I did not get around to reading it until my son gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card for Christmas in 2012.  I remember, and you may as well, when this came out it had mediocre reviews from some who thought that the minute detail was too detailed for someone his age to remember so many years later and be able to recall especially with the emotional and mental trauma that had occurred. Thus, it was said the story was too good to be true.  And it goes on a long time.  I think it is true but I think she should have stuck to the WWII disaster that was his life during that time.  That was the story.  This is a biography.  The bibliography alone takes up 65 pages. She did her research.  And she interviewed Louis about 75 times.  She spent seven years writing this book.  This was obviously a labor of love for Ms. Hillenbrand.  I give the narrative and the writing five stars.  I give the finished product  3.5 stars.  It is worth the time it will take to read it, but you may find yourself wondering is this embellished for the sake of story telling?  Or, does he just have a fantastic memory and she is a fantastic writer with the raw material before her?  I really don't know.
This quote is at the front of the book  "What stays with you latest and deepest?  of curious panics, Of  hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest remains?"    ---  Walt Whitman, "The Wound-Dresser"

Thanks for being here.  See you soon!