Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson


Title:  Life After Life

Author:  Kate Atkinson (Author Website)

Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; First Edition edition (April 2, 2013)

Pages: 544

Format: Advance Copy provided by the publisher via

About the Book: (from publisher)

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.
Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can -- will she?
Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant -- this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.

About the Author:


Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.

When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who also made a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.

Kate was awarded an MBE in the Queen's 2011 Birthday Honours, for services to literature.

Related Media:  Book Trailer


My Review:  I believe this is the first book by Kate Atkinson that I have read.  I must say her writing was outstanding.  I love the concept/ story line of Life After Life.  The whole idea of being able to relive your life with a bit of hind sight is intriguing.  What might you do differently if you would have known what you now know??

Life After Life takes place between 1910 and 1960.  Atkinson superbly portrays this era in history  both in London and Germany.   The main character Ursula was very well developed as were the lesser characters in Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.   I had a bit of difficulty connecting to Ursula as each “new” Ursula was a a little different than the previous one due that Ursula’s past experiences.  This left me with a bit of confusion and a disjointed feeling initially.  But once I got a feel for this I saw how each life added another layer to the story. 

As a social worker I was fascinated by Ursula’s story and the impact a small change or decision would make of the final outcome of her life.  It is amazing how a even a small change can rewrite history.  We have so many choices in life and you never really know how a different choice may impact your life. While in life we may experience hind sight, we don’t get the chance to use that gained knowledge to change our future.   Would be interesting if we could. 

Kate Atkinson crafts her story in such a manner that the reader truly does experience that feeling of déjà vu when reading Life After Life.   This ability to provide the reader with that experience shows the true writing talent of Kate Atkinson.  But this is where I might delineate from my fellow book bloggers…I found the end of one of Ursula’s life to the next very disheartening.  Once I would start reading again and would be at a similar place and the story took a different path I found this very disjointed.   I am a casual reader at heart and like a nice flow to the story.   While Life After Life is amazingly written, I really missed the continuous flow of the story.  In my opinion, Life After Life had many starts and ends within the telling of the story that decreased my enjoyment of getting lost in the story.  This in part could have been due to the fact that I read bits of the story at a time due to my busy schedule and that might have taken away from my overall experience of the book. I think Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is best read in large chucks of time.

My Rating: 4 – I would recommend Life After Life by Kate Atkinson as the characters and writing are amazing and the concept of the story fresh and unique.  I really enjoyed the attention made to the details of the historical significance of the setting.   Life After Life would make for a great book group discussion. 

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Other Bloggers Reviews :


The Bookstop

Book Magnet

Kevin From Canada 


Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Advance copy of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson received from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin


Title: The Aviator’s Wife (author Website)

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Publisher: Delacorte Press (January 15, 2013)

Pages: 416

Format: Advance Copy provided by the publisher via

About the Book: (from publisher)

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles's assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements-she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States-Anne is viewed merely as the aviator's wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life's infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century-from the late twenties to the mid-sixties-and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator's Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage-revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.

MelanieBenjamin About the Author:

Melanie Benjamin was born in Indianapolis, Indiana.

While attending Indiana University—Purdue University at Indianapolis, Melanie performed in many community theater productions before meeting her husband, moving to the Chicago area and raising two sons. Writing was always beckoning, however, and soon she began writing for local magazines and newspapers before venturing into her first love, fiction. As Melanie Hauser, she published two contemporary novels.

By incorporating her passion for history and biography, Melanie, now writing as Melanie Benjamin, has finally found her niche writing historical fiction, concentrating on the "stories behind the stories." ALICE I HAVE BEEN is her first historical novel; THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB her second.

She and her family still live in the Chicago area; when she's not writing, she's gardening, taking long walks, rooting for the Cubs—

And reading, of course.

You can also follow Melanie Benjamin on Facebook to stay up to date with all her latest novels.

Setting:  The Aviator’s Wife portrays the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh from December 1927 when she met Charles Lindbergh in Mexico City until Charles Lindbergh’s death in August, 1974.   The 1920’s and 30’s were an interesting time in history, to give this story a bit of perspective, women received the right to vote on August 18, 1920 and World War II occurred from 1939 to 1945.

Anne Morrow – Lindbergh

Anne-Morrow-Lindbergh-9542041-1-402 3959_640 CharlesLindbergh22
Anne Spencer Morrow  - June 22, 1906 – February 7, 2001 In 1930, Anne was the first woman to earn a first-class Glider pilot’s license.  Anne Spencer Morrow and Charles Lindbergh were married on May 27, 1929
anne-baby-300 lindenberg01 lindenberg04
Anne Morrow Lindbergh with firstborn son, Charles Lindbergh, Jr. This baby was kidnapped on March 1, 1932. .Anne Morrow Lindbergh with three of her children Reeve, Ansy and Scott in 1950. Anne and Charles Lindbergh in 1968

My Review:  I am quickly becoming a huge fan of historical fiction.  My youngest son, recently did a report in school on Charles Lindbergh, so I was excited to have the opportunity to read The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin.  In The Aviator’s Wife, the author tells the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the ever famous Charles Lindbergh.   Anne and Charles met after Charles’ successful solo non-stop flight from New York to Paris in his monoplane, The Spirit of St Louis.   The two met at the home of Anne’s father, while he was the Ambassador to Mexico, in December 1927.  

The 1930’s was a time in history in which women were not as independent as today.  Women had just received the right to vote in August, 1920.   Anne was first known as the Ambassador’s daughter to later become the Aviator’s Wife, which was very appropriate for the time.  Anne was a college graduate with her own opinions and much more independent than she realized.   In her own rights, Anne  was the first woman to earn a first-class pilot’s license.   I loved the sense of adventure and bravery she showed.   Anne learned to fly, navigate, communicate and be a great partner to her husband in the air.  As many women do, Anne went through events and stages of life that changed her and drove her in her pursuit of happiness. 

In many ways her marriage to Charles was very one sided.   Charles was a very guarded man when it came to his childhood and emotions.  He is not portrayed in The Aviator’s Wife as a loving husband and father.   Melanie Benjamin, portrays Anne’s devastating heartbreak of losing her first born son, Charles Lindbergh, Jr. with such raw emotion.   The Lindbergh baby was kidnapped and murdered in 1932.   The author makes the reader truly feel the heartbreak of this young mother and her struggle to be able to grieve her baby.   Anne goes on to have 5 more children and essentially raises them herself.   Her husband, Charles is gone most of the time and she takes care of the children and household alone.   I loved Anne Morrow Lindbergh, her strength, dedication, and perseverance. 

The Aviator’s Wife is very interesting and kept me reading.   I love how  Anne Morrow Lindbergh eventually finds her own voice and life.  The marriage of Charles and Anne was not without it’s problems,  devastating tragedy and hurtful betrayals but through it all Anne decides in the end she does not regret her marriage to her hero.   I feel The Aviator’s Wife is a honest portrayal of a very public marriage and the woman behind the famous man.  

My Rating: 4    The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin will be greatly appreciated by fans of historical fiction and readers who enjoys stories of strong, enduring women.  If you enjoyed The Paris Wife by Paula McLain you will also enjoy The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin.  While I didn’t lose many hours of sleep to complete this book, I did neglect a fair amount of household chores to read! 

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Other Bloggers Reviews :

As the Crowe Flies (And Reads!)

The Book Club Cheerleader


Reviews from the Heart

A Bookish Affair

A Casual Reader’s Blog 



Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Advance copy of The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin received from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Review: Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany


Title: Heart Like Mine

Author: Amy Hatvany (author website)

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Pages: 384

Format: Advance Copy provided by the publisher via

Release Date: March 19, 2013

About the Book:  (from publisher)

When a young mother dies under mysterious circumstances, those she leaves behind begin looking for answers in the past—and find a long-buried secret they could have never imagined.

Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?

At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been the one taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again.

But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.

Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant and hopeful portrait about womanhood, love, and the challenges of family life.


About the Author:

Amy Hatvany graduated with a degree in Sociology only to discover most sociologists are unemployed. Soon followed a variety of jobs - some of which she loved, like decorating wedding cakes; others which she merely tolerated, like receptionist.

In 1998, Amy finally decided to sell her car, quit her job, and take a chance on her passion: writing books. She is the author of BEST KEPT SECRET, OUTSIDE THE LINES (a Target book club pick for 2012 and a Costco's Buyer's pick), THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS, and HEART LIKE MINE.

Amy lives in Seattle with her husband and children.

My Review:  I have to admit I picked Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany from Netgalley, based on the cover.  Amy Hatvany is a new author to me, but one I plan on reading more of.  On Sunday, I decided to start my day leisurely with a bit of reading time.  I started Heart Like Mine and found it very gripping and ended up finishing the entire book in one day.  This is very unlike me as I have a house and family to take care of on the weekends! Heart Like Mine is a story of love, marriage, parenthood and grief.   The struggles of a blended family are amplified by the recent death of the children’s mother, Kelli. 

The story flows very well, even with the transition between times and narrators.  What really kept me reading this book was how well the emotions of the characters were developed.  The tense relationship between Victor and Grace (stepmom) and the emotional roller coaster of the grief, feeling of betrayal and loss of the teen daughter Ava were spot on.   I just wanted to wrap in my arms around the youngest child, Max.
I loved the ending and being able to see how each character came to terms with each other, the past and the future. 

My Rating:  4 – I would have lost sleep to finish this book, if I hadn’t finished it before bedtime!  If you enjoy books by Jodi Picoult or Women’s Literature you will LOVE Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany!  This is the first book I have read by Amy Hatvany, but it will not be my last. 

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany is available in stores today, March 19, 2013.

Other Reviews of Heart Like Mine:

Chick Lit Is Not Dead 

Reviews by Lara Moore

SHE Knows  Book Lounge 

From 7Eight 

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Advance copy of Heart Like Mine received from publisher in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Book Review: Fever by Mary Beth Keane

image001 Title: Fever

Author: Mary Beth Keane

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Pages: 320

Format: Advance Copy provided by the publisher via

Release Date: March 12, 2013

About the Book:  (from publisher)
Mary Mallon was a courageous, headstrong Irish immigrant woman who bravely came to America alone, fought hard to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic service ladder, and discovered in herself an uncanny, and coveted, talent for cooking. Working in the kitchens of the upper class, she left a trail of disease in her wake, until one enterprising and ruthless “medical engineer” proposed the inconceivable notion of the “asymptomatic carrier”—and from then on Mary Mallon was a hunted woman.

In order to keep New York’s citizens safe from Mallon, the Department of Health sent her to North Brother Island where she was kept in isolation from 1907-1910. She was released under the condition that she never work as a cook again. Yet for Mary—spoiled by her status and income and genuinely passionate about cooking—most domestic and factory jobs were heinous. She defied the edict.

Bringing early twentieth-century New York alive—the neighborhoods, the bars, the park being carved out of upper Manhattan, the emerging skyscrapers, the boat traffic—Fever is as fiercely compelling as Typhoid Mary herself, an ambitious retelling of a forgotten life. In the hands of Mary Beth Keane, Mary Mallon becomes an extraordinarily dramatic, vexing, sympathetic, uncompromising, and unforgettable character.

Setting: 1906 to 1915 – New York  & North Brother Island





Newspaper Article About Mary – June 20, 1909

Mary at Willard Park Hospital – April 1907

As of 1910, there were an estimated 200,000 to 350,000 new cases of typhoid fever in the United States. Approximately 3% of those sufferers went on to become chronic carriers.

north-brother-island-ny-state-archives Building%20on%20North%20Brother marys_cottage
Mary was quarantined at North Brother Island from 4/15/1907 until 2/19/1910 North Brother Island Hospital Mary’s cottage on North Brother Island in which she lived until her death.   

Image_of_Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire_on_March_25_-_1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire:  This fire is described as happening while Mary was working at the laundry in New York.   It was such a sad part of the story, that I had to research to see if this had actually happened.   This fire did occur on March 25, 1911.  146 workers were killed in this fire – many jumping to their deaths as the stairwells and exits were locked.   This was a common practice of the time to prevent pilferage and unauthorized breaks.

Once again, Mary Beth Keane show remarkable attention to details of the time with her research. 

Mary returned to North Brother Island after the out break of typhoid at Sloane Maternity Hospital, where she was cooking under a false name.  She remained at North Brother Island until her death at the age of 69 on 11/11/38. 


About the Author:
Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA in Fiction. In 2011, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35. She lives in Pearl River, New York with her husband and their two sons.

My ReviewFever by Mary Beth Keane caught my attention on due to the topic, Historical Fiction being a favorite genre of mine.  I knew little to nothing about Typhoid Mary, so I was intrigued.  Fever caught my attention from the very beginning.   I was impressed by the detail that was presented of life in New York and plight of the working class during this period of time.  

Fever is the story of Mary Mallon, the first identified carrier of Typhoid.   She was a talented cook who worked for well to do families.  The fever seems to follow her, leaving illness and death in her wake.  Mary was a very strong character, but in denial of her condition.  This makes a lot of sense as during that time there was just starting to be talk about the details of disease and how it was spread.  There was some misconceptions about the spread of disease as it relates to garbage and the lack of sanitation in New York.  The author attempts to give a voice to the thoughts of Mary and her reasons for continuing to cook after being ordered to stop.   While I believe Mary was in denial to some extent of the illness she was causing, the author gave little suggestions that Mary might have thought in the back of her mind that she might be causing the fever.   Mary was stubborn and very strong, I didn’t like her disregard of others well-being by continuing to cook, especially at the Sloane Maternity Hospital.  

Fever by Mary Beth Keane captured my attention initially, but I did find the 2nd half of the book to be less captivating.  I completed the book as I was interested in knowing how everything turned out.  I wish there was more depth to the story surrounding Mary and her thoughts, reasons and relationships.  The book was fictional so the author could have built more into that part of the story.  Throughout the story Mary has a love interest, Alfred who struggled with employment, drug and drinking issues.  I am not sure how much this relationship added to the story, but it did give some reason for Mary’s decision to return to and continue cooking.

I commend the author, Mary Beth Keane for a very well researched story.   Her detail to the life and times of the early 1900 in New York was remarkable.  I really enjoyed the detail to the setting and the events during that time. 
My Rating:  3.5 – while I did not lose sleep to finish this book – Fever by Mary Beth Keane is very well worth the read!   If you enjoy historical fiction you will be very impressed by Mary Beth Keane’s research and detail!

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

Other Reviews of Fever:

Start Tribune
Historical Novel Society


Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Advance copy of Fever by Mary Beth Keane received from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.