(Review) To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf


Publisher and Publication Date: Harcourt. 2005.
Genre: Fiction. Women and literature. Classic literature.
Pages: 312.
Source: Library eBook copy.
Audience: Readers who are willing to try a Virginia Woolf story. Readers of women and literature.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link

Biography at Britannica/This includes a video discussion about her writings. 
Not a person just randomly speaking at a podium. I found it to be beneficial and interesting.


Adeline Virginia Woolf. 1882-1941

Have you read books written by Virginia Woolf? This is the first book I’ve read.
In the past, I read a person has to be of a certain age (maturity) to appreciate her stories. It’s possible I’m now that certain age and maturity.

In the first chapter, the general editor of the book, Mark Hussey, wrote a short biography about Virginia Woolf. I’ve seen the film, The Hours. So, I am a little knowledgeable about Woolf’s bio. She had hard stuff happen. Death and loss. Abuse and loss. She had a mental health disorder during a time when prescriptions were not available like now. She lived during a time when mental health disorders carried a heavy burden, as far as how people viewed the person who had the condition and treatments for the patient. This is a huge story in itself: Virginia Woolf’s life story.
To the Lighthouse explores men and women’s relationships. For example, wives and husbands. Other relationships are explored like parent and child, neighbors, and friends.
The main group of characters are the Ramsay family. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay have several children. Another character is Lily Briscoe. She’s younger than Mrs. Ramsay and is unmarried. She’s an artist. The two women are close friends.
The setting is the Isle of Skye.
The time period is just before World War I and after the war.

My Thoughts:
To the Lighthouse is a story that the reader has the ability to know what the characters are thinking and feeling (as far as Woolf allows the reader.) It is strong in this element. The reader doesn’t have to guess. The reader knows the movements of the characters, their words, the thoughts behind their words, and their feelings. On one hand this is beneficial. I don’t have to guess. On the other hand it is exhausting.
Mr. Ramsay is unlikable. He can go live in the lighthouse by himself if it were up to me.
Mrs. Ramsay is a dear wife and mother. Her life is her family. She places her family first. She devotes her time and energy for them. She is a dear friend to Lily. Mrs. Ramsay is a person who wants to do the right thing.
Mr. Ramsay finds it intolerable to try and understand his family. He finds them irrational and a chore.
So, the married couple is a conflict in the story. A conflict about how they respond to one another, how they view their family, other people, and life. The story augments people who have trouble articulating how they feel, and in the expression and outpouring of what is in their hearts.
The beauty in the story is in the choice of words used to piece a scene together. Woolf pairs words that compare nature and humanity. For example, a trait in a person’s character and a field, or spring and a virgin.
Overall I loved the story. I enjoyed Woolf’s writing style because it is unique. It is a thinking story. It is a story that tells me Woolf studied people.

(Review) A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Publisher and Publication Date: Knopf. 2014.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War I.
Pages: 214.
Source: eBook copy from the library.
Audience: Readers of American history, World War I, and post war years.
Rating: Very good.

I love the ability to borrow eBooks from the library. It’s one of the most convenient things in my life. The two apps for borrowing the eBooks are Libby (by OverDrive) and OverDrive. Libby is the more user-friendly of the two.

Link from the National Archives on this history.

The Gold Star Mother’s Association lobbied during the 1920s for a pilgrimage trip to the grave sites of fallen Veterans during World War I. Widows and mothers were able to visit the grave site of their loved one. The cost of the trip was paid for the United States government.
Cora Blake’s only child died in France a month before the Armistice. Cora lives in Deer Isle, Maine. She takes care of her nieces and brother-in-law. She works at the library and fish cannery.

My Thoughts: 

What I liked about A Star for Mrs. Blake:
•I was drawn to the story because it’s history I’ve not heard about. I love women’s stories that tell me something I didn’t know, and in a way that gives clarity about the era in which they lived.
•The main character is Cora Blake. She is an exceptional woman. She is strong and resilient. She takes the initiative to be a friend to people outside her society and culture’s comfort zone. She has the confidence to step out and be a friend to a stranger in need. This is a quality I admire: people who are caring and they take the initiative to act.
•The story slowly reveals a mystery surrounding Cora’s circumstances.
•Other female characters have secondary stories. These women are from different areas of America and France. They are from different economic backgrounds. They have different Christian denominational beliefs or no belief at all. They have different personalities. They are reflective of women living during the 1920s. This gave me a wide lens view of women in this era.
•A Star for Mrs. Blake showed me something I just realized after turning 50. There are different types of love and different levels of love. Now, I’m going to be more descriptive. Men and women really can be friends with no sex. Men and women can love each other with no sex. Of course if the two of them are sexually attracted to one another this makes things difficult. We hear stories about women who love their female friends, but what about men and women who are best friends? One of the greatest joys in my life is  friendship with men. In A Star for Mrs. Blake, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see this type of relationship and love!
•Grieving is a strong element in the story. No one person grieves the same, because we are all unique and individual people. This is such a bonus feature in the book. To see the differences in grieving and how it is displayed. Grieving is laborious. It’s intensive. There is no time limit. And, it is not like getting over the flu. We will always miss that loved one, but we come to a point when we must continue life without them.

What I disliked about A Star for Mrs. Blake:
•I didn’t like the ending. I feel Cora Blake settled. However, Cora’s choice may have been a response to continuing on in life.

Amazon link

(Review) Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

Miss Austen
Publisher and Publication Date: Flatiron Books. April 7, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Jane Austen spin-off.
Pages: 288.
Source: NetGalley ebook copy. I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of Jane Austen stories.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon. Kindle copy is currently $13.99

Gill Hornby has a Facebook author page but hasn’t posted since 2015. I’ve not found an author webpage.

For a preview of the book visit Austenprose.

Cassandra is the surviving sister of Jane Austen. The year is 1840. Cassandra travels to visit family with a mission to find Jane’s personal letters. Cassandra feels the need to protect Jane’s legacy in a positive way.
The time period is 1840, but will back up to the years when Jane Austen was living. Cassandra reflects on the memories of her sister, friend, and confidante.

My Thoughts:
First, I love the cover. I have strong opinions about covers. The front cover is simple, yet delicate and lovely.
I love the story! It’s easy for me to be drawn to a story that focuses on the love and loyalty between sisters. I have two older sisters and we are close. Also, this reminds me of the Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility. I love that story for the same reason: an emphasis on family and sisterhood.
Cassandra is a mature woman (older), and people see her differently. She hears comments made about her age and abilities. I love this perspective. An older woman dealing with physical limitations. An older woman dealing with people who are not always respectful and thoughtful. Her thoughts, feelings, and how she responds is apart of the story and I’m so glad.
Miss Austen reflects on the romantic relationships of Jane and Cassandra. It’s interesting to understand why they made certain decisions. It’s touching to read Cassandra’s grieving over past relationships. She is a quiet, stoic griever.
The older generation versus the younger generation is a strong element in the book. The differences in culture. The differences in how they view and relate to one another.
Miss Austen does not shine an only positive light on any of the Austen characters. They are shown with positive and negative words and behavior. This helps the story be believable, because it gave the characters imperfections.

(Review) The Bedside, Bathtub and Armchair Companion to Jane Austen by Carol Adams, Douglas Buchanan, and Kelly Gesch


Publisher and Publication Date: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. 2008.
Genre: Nonfiction. Jane Austen. Regency Period. Women and Literature. Biography.
Pages: 240.
Source: Library paperback copy.
Audience: Jane Austen readers. Biography and history readers.
Rating: Good.

Amazon link



If you are new to Jane Austen. If you haven’t read Jane Austen stories in a long time. This book is a good companion piece to become reacquainted with her works.

Examples of chapters:
“The Importance of a Good Carriage”
“The Clergy in Austen’s Fiction”
“On Reading Jane Austen”
“Jane Austen at the Movies”

All of Austen’s books have a chapter. The Watsons and Lady Susan share a chapter.

Illustrations are scattered throughout the book. They are all in black and white.

My Thoughts:
Don’t buy the book. If you can find it at the library do so. If you can find the book on discount as an ebook, this too is a great idea.
It’s a quick read.
It’s a book that can be used as a reference.
It’s not necessary to read it cover to cover.
The chapters are short.

What’s notable: An interesting essay on Willoughby (male character in Sense and Sensibility) as a sociopath.

(Review) War Torn by Richard Harper

Publisher and Publication Date: Austin Macauley Publishers. July 31, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II. Holocaust.
Pages: 156.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Holocaust.
Rating: Good.

Amazon link

January 27 was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of AUSCHWITZ.
Links for further information:
National Archives 
Huffington Post

About the author:
Richard Harper was born in 1967 in the state of Victoria, Australia. During his 20s, he spent his five years in UK. His interests include history, travel, and sports. He now resides in Brisbane with his wife, Karest, and their four puppies.

Many wondered, and not for the first time, at the end of WWII how ordinary people could carry out the most terrible acts of cruelty and brutality against their fellow men. This book tells the story of a German boy and a Jewish girl forbidden to be together by the Nazi regime and how they fight to survive. It tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of the perpetrators and gives the reader an insight into the mental turmoil suffered by young men asked to carry out terrible acts. Can young love possibly survive such times?

My Thoughts:
I wonder what the percentage is of Jewish women who married a German Nazi? I’d imagine it is a low percentage. The risk was too great. The ostracism of their people groups would have made the match difficult. Plus, for a Jew to marry a German Nazi during the Holocaust was unthinkable, unconscionable. Yet, this is a plot and conflict in War Torn.
The book is interesting, because it showed me a German Nazi soldier’s perspective. His name is Gunther Wrenger. He became a Waffen-SS. The story begins with his family and life before the war. The relationship he has with Magda is secret. Their youth and naivety is apparent. I wondered how it will endure?
Wrenger is ordered to take part in events or actions that are hard to read. It is difficult for me to have empathy for him. A fine line, very fine.
I wanted to read more from Magda-to hear her voice. The focus of the story is on Gunther.
The book continues to the end of the war. I saw the destruction of Berlin and the aftermath of the war.
In the summary, the book remarks about the German peoples and how they took part in actions against the Jews. I think this book addresses this question adequately.
The pacing, characters, writing style are all fine.
I believe it is the topic of the book that is hard for me to grasp and love.