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Book Review: “A Flickering Light,” by Jane Kirkpatrick

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Genre: Christian fiction; historical fiction; romance; coming of age story

Plot Summary: 15 yr. old Jessie dreams of becoming a photographer in the male dominated era of the turn of the century.  Her family are in poor straights leaving her and her sisters to get work wherever they can in the Midwestern city of Winona.  Jessie is fortunate to find employment with the Bauer portrait studio, and as the years go by she learns much about the business, her talent and capabilities, and about forbidden love.

My Book Review: I’d heard good things about the author Jane Kirkpatrick, so I was interested in reading my first book by her. A Flickering Light is the first in a two-book series called “Portraits of the Heart”.

The tale kept me going because I wanted to find out what would happen next, yet at the same time it had a very slow pace. I started to get bored about half way through because not much of anything new was happening by way of the plot.  However, things started tightening up a bit about 2/3 of the way in and my interest picked up.  I really liked how the book was interspersed with vintage photographs which made me wonder if this was based on a true story.

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Mr. Bauer’s Studio in Winona.

It turns out, it is. Jessie is based on Jane Kirkpatrick’s own grandmother and we get to learn much about her as a young girl and what life was like in the early days of photography.  This escalates the appeal of the book even further.  It is interesting to see how photographers were able to accomplish so much without digital technology or even film.  We even get to ‘witness’ historic firsts in the art.

Another thing I appreciated was the taboo nature of the plot. SPOILER: Our character Jessie falls in love with her married employer (many years her senior) and struggles with what she knows is right and wrong.  We don’t often read of this in a Christian novel, and I think it makes for an interesting study. Jessie and Mr. Bauer don’t start out with wrong intentions.  Instead, a series of innocent events leads to a little more and then over a long period of time things turn into a lot more than they’d planned to.  Thankfully, Jessie comes from a good family who loves her and when they come to a realization of the truth they take it upon themselves to intervene. END OF SPOILER.

I am looking forward to reading the sequel (An Absence So Great). I did look up some of the history behind the real characters, but I would advise anyone else not to because it did create a spoiler for me as to what happens in the second book.  If you can be patient with a quiet, slow-moving story, I think you will appreciate this read.

If you enjoyed this book, I also recommend:

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Listen to “The Man Who Was Thursday” on BBC

Are you in the mood for a little G. K. Chesterton?  I enjoyed reading “The Man Who Was Thursday” a few years ago (see my book review here), but I am enjoying Geoffrey Palmer’s reading of it even more!  For a limited time, you can listen to it for free on BBC Radio 4.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Book Review: “Lavender & Old Lace,” by Myrtle Reed

7622682Genre: classic; romance

Plot Summary: Set at the turn of the century, career woman Ruth Thorne is on leave from her job as a journalist to stay at her aunt’s house by the sea.  While there, she uncovers a mystery in the attic concerning an old wedding dress, some newspaper clippings, and a lantern she is instructed to leave by the window every night.  How do all of these things tie together?  Who is the reclusive neighbor dressed in lavender and old lace?  And who is that charming young fellow down the lane?

My Book Review: Another sweet, light vintage read for me this year, simply dripping with mystery, lace, and romance.  I think I probably wanted to read this just because of the title.

I loved the character of Miss Ainslie the most! This is the reclusive older woman who lives next door to Ruth’s aunt, and the two used to be close friends.  I simply loved the description of her eclectic house and garden, and it made for a beautiful atmosphere.  Any scene which took place with Miss Ainslie had my attention.  The following is one of my favorite quotes I took from the book:

“The world had seemingly given up its beauty to adorn Miss Ainslie’s room. She had pottery from Mexico, China, and Japan; strange things from Egypt and the Nile, and all the Oriental splendor of the India and Persia.”

I also enjoyed the witty, humorous banter between Ruth and her lover. However, the book felt somewhat unbalanced as their romance took place too fast.  Then halfway through the story, Ruth’s aunt came back home from vacation dragging her long lost man behind her and that plot twist just felt too painful.  I was expecting Aunt Jane to be a mature, interesting person and looked forward to meeting her, but when she was introduced to the story I found her to be pitiful and short-sighted.  I would have felt sorry for her new husband, but I didn’t much like him either.

As much as I liked Miss Ainslie, she was also to be pitied as she goes through her daily ritual of being true to her own long lost love with no compensation after decades of loyalty. I found the whole story too unbelievable and miserable.  Honestly, I was glad when I was done with it.

If you like the hopelessly romantic stories of L. M. Montgomery, you may find some enjoyment out of this. Otherwise, I personally did not enjoy it and don’t particularly recommend.

You can listen to this book for free here.

I also recommend…

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “The Melting of Molly,” by Maria Thompson Daviess

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Genre: classic

Plot Summary: Molly, a young widow, has a problem: she needs to lose weight and fast!  An old beau is renewing his acquaintance by coming back to his old hometown where she still lives, but she looks nothing like she did 10 years ago.  The only one who can help her attain her goal is the next door doctor.  But he likes her as she is.  What’s a girl to do when several men start to pay her more attention?

My Book Review: This was a fast, enjoyable read!  I originally discovered it on Librivox (listen to it for free here) and soon after found an old copy of it at a library book sale.  I found it cute that, in a story about a girl on a diet, a bookworm chewed a neat little hole through the edges of the pages.  🙂

The story takes place in the Gibson girl era, where things were not much different than they are today in that a woman’s worth was often judged on the dimension of her waistline. Only they had corsets back then to help them out.  Molly is a delightfully funny character, honest and vain, but thoroughly woman.  I loved the old illustrations throughout the book as well.  And the doctor was a swoon!  Perhaps one can see the ending from the start, but poor Molly can’t and it’s fun to watch her transformation when all the time she has a good man’s unconditional love.

This book is a simple read. Don’t expect too much out of it.  But if you are wanting to get into a cute little love story, this entertaining novel will probably satisfy.  Just ask the bookworm.

I also recommend:

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “The Phoenix and the Carpet,” by E. Nesbit

Genre: classic; children’s fiction; fantasy

Playlist…

Plot Summary: Four siblings- Cyril, Anthea, Robert, and Jane- experience magic adventures once again, as they happen across a unique egg that hatches into a beautiful Phoenix.  Along with the egg comes a magic carpet that will take them on one wild ride after another, and that is only limited by their imagination.

My Book Review: One of my most popular posts on this blog has been my book review of E. Nesbit’s “Five Children and It.”  I’m glad to know these children’s books are treasured by new generations of readers.  The very definition of a classic is that it is timeless- it’s relatable, a standard, and often imitated.  Nesbit really did break the mold in children’s fiction.  Her stories tell of ordinary children who happen across magic in their daily life.

I did not grow up with Nesbit.  Instead, I became interested in her works after I discovered Edward Eager’s Tales of Magic series in the young adult section of my library in my late teens.  After reading several of his novels (in which he always pays homage to Nesbit), I decided to try her books as well.  To be honest, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic over Five Children and It.  Maybe there’s something wrong with me but being spoiled with Eager books, the Nesbit children felt bland in comparison.  However, I decided to keep trying because I don’t give up that easily.

I have to say I liked this second novel in the Psammead series much better than the first.  I believe these were both early works of hers, but she had a little more writing under her belt by the time she wrote this one.  One reason it appealed to me more was the exotic locales the children travel to on their magic carpet.  All the around the world we go- from India, to Persia, and a remote island in the Pacific.  Such fun!  But there are local adventures, too, such as when the Phoenix demands to be taken to his holy temple—the local fire insurance company!

The chapters are long, and I still find these four children boring and unrelatable compared to Eager’s children.  Perhaps that is because Eager wrote his books fifty years later.  I’m not sure.  And of course, there are different opinions out there and some may like Edith Nesbit much better.  To each his own.  But I still plan on continuing with more Nesbits…

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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C. S. Lewis Audio Drama

I wish it had not taken me so long to listen and pass this excellent audio drama on to you, but such has been my [lack of] blogging activity lately I’m afraid!  The Northern Irish Man in C. S. Lewis* stars Geoffrey Palmer as that famous author, who reminisces about his childhood in Ulster.  The acting felt very realistic and it was interesting to find the pieces of Narnia that inspired Lewis as a boy.  Settle in and enjoy, but don’t forget that this is only available for a limited time!

*For some reason cannot insert link to text, so click on picture to take you to the drama!

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2017 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Book Review: “The Club of Queer Trades,” by G. K. Chesterton

18834844Genre: mystery; classic

Plot Summary: [from Wikipedia:] “The Club of Queer Trades is a collection of stories by G. K. Chesterton first published in 1905.  Each story in the collection is centered on a person who is making his living by some novel and extraordinary means…  To gain admittance one must have invented a unique means of earning a living and the subsequent trade being the main source of income.”

My Book Review: If you’ve come to this blog post thinking you were going to read something on sexual identities, sorry to disappoint.  Once upon a time the word ‘queer’ was used to mean ‘peculiar’.  (I suppose ‘peculiar’ means something else now, too.  We’re so creative as to assign a double meaning to every word that already exists.)

There are ordinary men who lead ordinary lives with their chosen ordinary careers. And then there are others who take a different route in life.  They are the eccentrics, the colorful, and the crazy.  …Or are we, as ordinary citizens, the crazies?

If someone asked you to invent a whole new career that had never been thought of before, do you think you could do it and make money from it? Not merely recycling an existing career, substituting one thing for another, but actually coming up with a line of trade that’s never been done before.  It’s harder than it at first seems.  Of course, there would have to be a market for it.  And in the case of many of the extraordinary tradesmen in this collection of short stories, their careers are kept secret either because of the nature of their work, or because they would be thought insane.

As one would guess, this leads to many bizarre circumstances of ordinaries encountering these oddbodies (or geniuses) in society. The facts are there in front of their noses, but they can’t make sense of them.  It takes a remarkable fellow straddling the best of both worlds to make sense of the mysterious cases brought before him.  It makes for a curious read.

4b4f62db81ff23d0d0a99f7b0870ecddAlthough I usually dislike short story collections, I was glad this was written as it was. I didn’t particularly feel in the mood for a novel-length Chesterton at the time.  Sometimes he’s best taken in ‘doses’ because he can be so thick in his nonsense.  🙂  Really, G.K. was such a Mad Hatter!  Chesterton is never for those wanting a nice little story.  And it definitely isn’t my favorite book of all time.  But I enjoyed reading it anyway, because he picks you out of the mundane and makes you view the world at a different angle.  It gives the brain a good exercise!

I would say my favorite chapter story was “The Adventures of Major Brown”, in which a man is caught in an awfully good escapade, but doesn’t realize how much fun it was until it was over! How often are we the same in life?  We read novels for “escape” or to pseudo-live other “experiences”, but when some adventure happens in real life we are too overwhelmed to enjoy it in the moment.  Then of course, there’s the debate over modern-day video games.  Guys are so eager to play at fantasy games because it feeds something deep in their souls- the need for adventure.  But what happened to living real life?  Life is full of exciting experiences if only we accept its opportunities.

You can listen to the audiobook on Librivox by clicking here.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…:

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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