Thursday, 22 August 2019

My Favourite Things . . . 
A few of the things which catch my eye, inspire me, pluck at my heart strings, make me smile, or that I just enjoy.  Maybe they will do the same for you.   
Today I am talking about books I have read and loved.  

The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd

A powerful, sweeping novel, inspired by real events, and set in the American Deep South in the nineteenth century, THE INVENTION OF WINGS evokes a world of shocking contrasts, of beauty and ugliness, of righteous people living daily with cruelty they fail to recognise; and celebrates the power of friendship.

It documents the life of Sarah Grimké - a character whom I didn't realise actually existed in history, and did a lot towards the abolishment of slavery and women's rights. It also follows the fictional account of a slave, Hetty 'Handful' Grimké, her mother Charlotte Grimké, and the rest of the slaves and Grimké household. All of the members of the Grimké family are based on real people, the slaves, as I found from the authors note at the back, are fictional accounts, but that doesn't take away from the poignancy, as what these characters went through is undoubtedly what a lot of slaves will have gone through, too.

 Upon being presented with Hetty as a gift for her eleventh birthday, Sarah Grimké begins her journey of disgust and revolution regarding slave labour. She and Hetty strike up perhaps an unusual friendship, considering Sarah's sister, Mary Grimké, also had a slave and had no such relationship. I really enjoyed Hetty and Sarah's relationship, it wasn't forced, and you could see the pain for both of them - for Sarah not being able to help Hetty, and for Hetty, who was the same as Sarah in her lust for life, except born into the 'wrong' colour skin for those times. I also enjoyed Hetty's relationship with her mother, Charlotte, and both of their fiery passion for freedom - not even freedom, just to be treated like a normal [white] person.

 Some years later, the last Grimké sibling is born, Nina Grimké. Sarah projects her passion onto Nina, even becoming her Godmother. The two share a remarkable bond, with Nina being the bullheaded one who wants to get things done asap, and Sarah being the one that theorises and takes her time, but still wanting to get things done. The two did so much, as documented in this fact-based fiction book, to help the rights of slaves and also the rights of women, through a lot of heartache, pain, belief and headstrongness.  A beautifully written, haunting, thought-provoking book that will most likely stay with the reader for a long time.

 Wild, Chery Strayed 

At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise - a promise of piecing together a life that lay shattered at her feet.

I found this book fascinating. I think this lady is very brave on many levels. She doesn't dress up her mistakes and misdemeanours, or in fact make any excuse for them. Her life was a mess, much of it her own doing; she seemingly went from disaster to disaster without any forethought at all. She undertook this journey in the same way, only recognising potential danger when it was almost too late. But whilst the more risk averse of us would not perhaps get ourselves into those scrapes, we wouldn't have had this wonderful adventure and sense of achievement either; and that is our loss. The book itself is well written and entertaining.

A Map of the World, Jane Hamilton

A Map of the World is the riveting story of how a single mistake can forever change the lives of everyone involved--in ways that are beyond imagination. One unremarkable June morning, Alice Goodwin is, as usual, trying to keep in check both her temper and her tendency to blame herself for her family's shortcomings.

Six years ago, when the Goodwins took over the last dairy farm in the small Midwestern town of Prairie Center, they envisioned their home as a self-made paradise. But these days, as Alice is all too aware, her elder daughter Emma is prone to inexplicable fits of rage, her husband Howard distrusts her maternal competence, and Prairie Center's tight-knit suburban community shows no signs of warming to "those hippies who think they can run a farm."

A loner by nature, Alice is torn between a yearning for solitude coupled with a deep need to be at the center of a perfect family. On this particular day, Emma has started the morning with a violent tantrum, her little sister Claire is eating pennies, and it is Alice's turn to watch her neighbor's two small girls as well as her own children. She absentmindedly steals a minute alone that turns into ten: time enough for a devastating accident to occur.

Her neighbor's daughter Lizzie drowns in the farm's pond, and Alice- whose volatility and unmasked directness keep her on the outskirts of acceptance-becomes the perfect scapegoat. At the same time, a seemingly trivial incident from Alice's past resurfaces and takes on gigantic proportions, leading the Goodwins far from Lizzie's death into a maze of guilt and doubt culminating in a harrowing court trial and the family's shattering downfall.

A vivid human drama of guilt and betrayal, A Map of the World chronicles the intricate geographies of the human heart and all its mysterious, uncharted terrain. The result is a piercing drama about family bonds and a disappearing rural American life.

Open House, by Elizabeth Berg 

In this superb novel by the beloved author of Talk Before Sleep, The Pull of the Moon, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along, a woman re-creates her life after divorce by opening up her house and her heart. Samantha's husband has left her, and after a spree of overcharging at Tiffany's, she settles down to reconstruct a life for herself and her eleven-year-old son. Her eccentric mother tries to help by fixing her up with dates, but a more pressing problem is money.

To meet her mortgage payments, Sam decides to take in boarders. The first is an older woman who offers sage advice and sorely needed comfort; the second, a maladjusted student, is not quite so helpful. A new friend, King, an untraditional man, suggests that Samantha get out, get going, get work.

But her real work is this: In order to emerge from grief and the past, she has to learn how to make her own happiness. In order to really see people, she has to look within her heart. And in order to know who she is, she has to remember--and reclaim--the person she used to be, long before she became someone else in an effort to save her marriage. Open House is a love story about what can blossom between a man and a woman, and within a woman herself.

I have loved pretty much everything Elizabeth Berg has ever written. If you are looking for an entertaining and easy read, this is it.

The Deep End of the Ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard 

‘Watch your brother,’ says Beth Cappadora to her seven-year-old son Vincent. Only minutes later she turns again and asks, ‘Where’s Ben?’ It’s the moment that every mother fears: for three-year-old Ben is gone. Despite a nationwide police search, no one can find him. Until, nine years later, a twelve-year-old boy knocks on their door – a boy who does not know them, but who will irrevocably twist their lives a second time.

When I read this book, I still had some fairly young children at home and it really resonated with me. I think as a mother, grandmother, aunt, etc.  it would resonate anyways.  I cannot imagine the heartache that a family would go through when something like this happens, but this book brings you pretty close to the horror and despair.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.

Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too. So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.

One of the most moving and beautifully written stories I have read. Words cannot do justice to the profound effect this book has on the reader. One man’s journey through one of the darkest experiences a human being could ever have. The hope that sustained him amongst the horrors of the concentration camps, and the love he found, is told with sensitivity and grace.

This is not a downbeat tale. The strength of the human spirit shines through on every page. It was hard to put down, I had to keep reading. And in the last pages there are amazing surprises.
A wonderful book about a truly remarkable character. I cannot recommend this more highly. 

Snowflower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See

Lily is the daughter of a humble farmer, and to her family she is just another expensive mouth to feed. Then the local matchmaker delivers startling news: if Lily's feet are bound properly, they will be flawless. In nineteenth-century China, where a woman's eligibility is judged by the shape and size of her feet, this is extraordinary good luck. Lily now has the power to make a good marriage and change the fortunes of her family. To prepare for her new life, she must undergo the agonies of footbinding, learn nu shu, the famed secret women's writing, and make a very special friend, Snow Flower. But a bitter reversal of fortune is about to change everything.

I have always been fascinated by ancient Oriental Culture and this book led me on a fascinating journey into a world I knew nothing about. This book was beautiful and sad and opened my eyes to the pain and subjugation that women suffered in China up to comparatively recent times. The barbaric ritual of foot binding on children just seven or eight years old was brought to life here in graphic description and I shuddered to think of what terrible pain these children must have gone through, not only as the bones in their feet were broken but also what complications they suffered all their lives because they were never able to walk properly. And all because men liked women to have feet 7cm long! Grotesque. And after all these sufferings, still their sorrows didn't end. Married out to men that they didn't know, they were forced to work constantly for their in-laws and then treated abominably if they gave birth to daughters and not sons. The story of Lily and Snow Flower is beautiful and poignant - meeting as children and becoming laotangs (old sames), they wrote to each other for years in a language that only women could understand and lthough in later years their position in society was totally reversed, their love for each other from childhood really never died. A book really and truly worth reading. I found it thoroughly engrossing, so much so that I have read it several times. 

Pretending to Dance, Diane Chamberlain

It's the summer of 1990 and fourteen-year-old Molly Arnette lives with her extended family on one hundred acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The summer seems idyllic at first. The mountains are Molly's playground and she's well loved by her father, a therapist famous for books he's written about a method called 'Pretend Therapy'; her adoptive mother, who has raised Molly as her own; and Amalia, her birth mother who also lives on the family land. The adults in Molly's life have created a safe and secure world for her to grow up in. But Molly's security begins to crumble as she becomes aware of a plan taking shape in her extended family - a plan she can't stop and that threatens to turn her idyllic summer into a nightmare.

Diane Chamberlain is one of the few authors whose books I will purchase without reading the reviews first. I have never not enjoyed the works of this author and this book is no exception. I was hooked right from the start and was willing Molly to have the ending she deserved. Molly and Aidan are starting the adoption process following the loss of a baby and subsequent hysterectomy of Molly. During this time we learn of the tragedy faced by a teenage Molly growing up on a sleepy family estate. There are lots of hidden secrets and as the book develops we learn more about them as Molly is forced to face her demons of the past. She has kept her secrets from her husband Aidan, but as we all know secrets never stay secret and Molly eventually has to face up to them. I cannot say more without spoiling the plot and I don't want to do that. This is a lovely book and I highly recommend it along with the other titles by Diane Chamberlain. 

A Memory of Violets, by Hazel Gaynor

Step into the world of Victorian London, where the wealth and poverty exist side by side. This is the story of two long-lost sisters, whose lives take different paths, and the young woman who will be transformed by their experiences. 

In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves the peace and beauty of her native Lake District for London, to become assistant housemother at Mr. Shaw s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls. For years, the home has cared for London s flower girls orphaned and crippled children living on the grimy streets and selling posies of violets and watercress to survive.

Soon after she arrives, Tilly discovers a diary written by an orphan named Florrie a young Irish flower girl who died of a broken heart after she and her sister, Rosie, were separated. Moved by Florrie s pain and all she endured in her brief life, Tilly sets out to discover what happened to Rosie. But the search will not be easy. Full of twists and surprises, it leads the caring and determined young woman into unexpected places, including the depths of her own heart.

This is one of those books that gets under your skin so much that you have to tell everyone you meet to read it. Not since M.L.Stedman's 'The Light between oceans' have I felt such empathy for the characters, such involvement with their story and that 'what would you do' sensation. Yes, the ending is very neat and tidy, but after such a sad, heartbreaking tale it felt right to leave them with a happy ending. You will be googling the story afterwards - and seeing the photos of the real Flower Girls certainly brings this period of history to life. I loved this book and didn't want it to end.

The Secret Daughter, by Kelly Rimmer  

As I saw my new-born baby’s face for the first time I tried desperately to capture her face in my mind—to stamp it onto my eyelids. As she was taken from me I knew I might never see my daughter again.

38 years later… ‘You were adopted’. Three short words and Sabina’s life fractures. There would forever be a "Before" those words, and an "After". Pregnant with her own child, Sabina can’t understand how a mother could abandon her daughter, or why her parents have kept the past a secret. Determined to find the woman who gave her away, what she discovers will change everything, not just for Sabina, but for the women who have loved her all these years.

The story flicks between past and present. In the past we get to meet Sabina’s real mum in the lead up to giving birth and what life was like in the home that she was sent to. In present day we see first hand what it is like for Sabina coming to terms with finding out she is adopted.

I had so much empathy for Sabina. Usually most people know they were adopted from a young age or usually around the time they get to their eighteenth birthday. Sabina is only a couple of years off her fortieth! Understandably it comes as a big shock. Sabina’s real mum’s story was so heart breaking to read. It was hard to imagine what life must have been like all the years she was apart from her daughter. It really makes for an emotional read.

The Secret Daughter is a heart breaking and emotional story. The author grabbed my attention right from the very first page and I was totally engrossed until the very last. Sabina and her real mother’s story will really move you and the author does it very sympathetically. Such a great read. 

And those are just ten of my favourite books I have read.  Having been a voracious reader  my whole life I could go on and on!  I find I don't get as many read in recent years as I used to do as it takes me a lot longer to read them. These days I basically only read in bed and I am tired by the time I get there and so am falling asleep after a few pages, or reading the same page over and over again. I like things to be quiet when I read as I find noise very distracting.  What are some of the favourite books that you have read and your own recommendations??  Perhaps you have read one of these and didn't like it??   

A thought to carry with you  . . . 

° * 。 • ˚ ˚ ˛ ˚ ˛ •
•。★★ 。* 。
° 。 ° ˛˚˛ * _Π_____*。*˚
˚ ˛ •˛•˚ */______/~\。˚ ˚ ˛
˚ ˛ •˛• ˚ | 田田 |門 ★

Growth is uncomfortable because

you have never been here before.
You've never been this version of yourself.
So give yourself a little grace and
breathe through it. 
~Unknown   •。★★ 。* 。 

Blood tests done and dusted.  Results should be in tomorrow they said. I will wait to hear or not hear from the Doctor now.  I am hoping I don't hear.  I was exhausted last night and in bed by 8:00 pm.  Slept right through until 6 this morning.  A record for me.

Hearty Tomato & Bean Soup 

In The English Kitchen today  . . .  Hearty Tomato & Bean Soup.  Quick, easy, delicious!  A great mid-week supper. 

Have a fabulous Thursday!  We had our Ministering brothers coming to cut down our fruit trees.  That makes me kind of sad, but they aren't producing and so  . . .   In any case don't forget! 

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And I do too!    


PS - I almost forgot to show you these.  I did get some painting done this week.  I had drawn these bears probably two years ago. 

It felt good to finally finish them! 


  1. Look at your talent! Keep those paintings coming!!
    Many of the same faves in books:)Good luck w/ the tests!!!!

    1. Thanks Monique! I am crossing everything! xoxo

  2. Oh, my, Marie, what a lovely long post. Sure hope you don't hear from the doctor tomorrow. No news is good news, as they say. I did go over to Chefknives and look at your recipes. I think I'll make the chicken and noodle one. Loved hearing about some of your favourite books, too. You would be the perfect person to lead a book club. One of my very favourite books of all time is "Winter Solstice" by Rosamunde Pilcher. All of her books were good but I have read Winter Solstice at least 6 or 8 times, usually around Christmas although it isn't really a Christmas story. Perhaps you've read it? Love your bear paintings, too. Glad you're back to painting. Take gentle care. Hugs, Elaine

    1. That's what they say Elaine, and I am hoping for no news! I will have to look up the Winter Solstice book! I am reading a really good one at the moment also. Everything I never Told You, by Celeste Ng. Just started it yesterday and was actually reading it in the daytime! Love and hugs, xoxo


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