[Review] Beany Malone, Book 2 in the Beany Malone series by Lenora Mattingly Weber

Publisher and Publication Date: Image Cascade Publishing,1999. First published in 1948.
Genre: Young adult fiction. The series was written for young girls.
Pages: 260.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: Self purchase.
Audience: Readers with an interest in mid 1940s America. Readers who enjoy a family story.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon.

To read a biography of Lenora Mattingly Weber: Image Cascade.

And at Goodreads, another biography plus a list of her books: Goodreads.

Summary:

In the first book in this series (total of 14 books), Catherine Cecilia Malone or Beany is the youngest sister and a secondary character, but in this book, she is the principal character.

In the first book, Meet the Malones, I learn their mother died, their father is a journalist, there are two older sisters, followed by one brother, and Beany is the youngest.

The second book continues the Malone story:

The year is 1945 and the war is over. It is the fall of the year. The place is Denver, Colorado.

Elizabeth is the eldest sister; she has a young son and she’s waiting for her husband to return home. He was overseas during World War II, and he has a serious injury.

Mary Fred is the second eldest sister. She is a college freshman but is held up taking one final course in high school to be a full college freshman, that course is Chemistry. She wants to be in a sorority. Her friend is Lila.

Johnny is a senior in high school. He is a writer, and he’s working on a nonfiction history story about an early settler in Denver.

Beany is 16. She’s a sophomore in high school with a heart-felt crush on a boy who is not nice. He actually hates the family. Beany’s dad shares information with her that will impact the whole family. He tells her first which is interesting because she is the youngest. In reading between the lines, I believe the father feels she is trustworthy and mature.

My Thoughts:

I am a member of a Facebook group for those who love Lenora Mattingly Weber’s books. Several in the group have remarked they love the early books in the series rather than the later books. The main reason for the later books is they dislike the male personalities and how they treat people. So, it will be interesting for me to read the further books. I feel a big reason for their feelings is the culture and society differences of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. People in history did not live like we do in 2022.

What I love about this book:

1. I love reading old sayings. For example: fiddle-faddle, fling, big shots.
2. I love the substory of Elizabeth and her husband. Towards the end of the story, they have serious struggles to overcome. This story gave me a lesson in what couples went through after World War II.
3. I love the internal and external struggle between Beany and Norbert. Despite how she feels about him, and his hurtful words, she does not change who she is to seek revenge and retaliation. I believe this shows the depth of her character.
4. Weber’s writing is excellent at setting the mood and tone of the various situations in the story.
5. I love the maturity of Elizabeth. She takes time from the serious stuff in her own life to share wise words to her family.
6. I love the hidden gems of wisdom and grace and love in the family.
7. The story weaves in a moral lesson in honesty. An adult who should be mature and honest is not. Instead, a young person marvels the family with honesty.
8. In the first book there is a theme about socio-economic levels of people. Those in the higher income versus those who are working class families who struggle to make ends meet. This book shares a bit of the same. Add to this sororities and popular kids at school and the struggle for those who try and become one of them.
9. Beany is a young girl who wants to take care of people-save-fix-make peace. She finds out not all people need or want her help and interference. She is actually remarkable in certain areas of maturity but as all people who have ever been a young person there are things to learn.

Themes: coming of age, family honor, romance, suffering, judgment, wisdom, trust, gratitude, charity, hope, dreams, acceptance, kindness, compassion, bravery, and honesty.

[Review] Lucina’s Letters by Barbara Francesca Murphy

Publisher and Publication Date: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd. March 31, 2022.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 222.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from Mindbuck Media Book Publicity. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of family saga.
Rating: Okay.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Summary:

“They did not mean to hurt the boy, much less kill him. They only wanted to teach him a lesson.”

Decades ago, three young girls caused a fatal accident which claimed the life of their young cousin. They swore to never speak of it again, but now, the family matriarch’s passing may lead to that deadly secret finally being revealed in Lucina’s Letters.

Family has always been of the utmost importance to Lucina, and when she learns the truth about the tragedy that ripped her family apart, she struggles to mend those all-important bonds before her own demise. One well-timed letter allows her to pull the strings to bring the family together one last time to her beloved home in Italy, even from beyond the grave—and drag not just one secret, but many, into the light. 

Can the now-grown girls come to terms with their actions that fateful day, their secrets, and subsequently their own struggles in life? Will these revelations bring the family closer together, or tear them farther apart?

Author Info:

Barbara Francesca Murphy was born in Austria in the 1970s. She started writing at an early age, mostly short stories for her family and friends to read. As a child and teenager, she travelled extensively, getting a taste for foreign cultures and countries, fueling her imagination. She graduated from high school in America and went on to study in Austria, then settling in Ireland, where she has been living ever since. Murphy’s first book, Second Chances, was published with Austin Macauley Publishers in 2019. This is Murphy’s second book.

My Thoughts:

I love the idea of the story.

I love the settings of the story: Italy and Ireland.

I did not enjoy reading the story because of several reasons. I have not listed every reason why I dislike this book, nor every reason why I like this book. These are a few.

What I dislike about the story:

  1. Lucina’s Letters is as busy as a beehive because of the number of characters and narrators. The narrators are numerable. I heard their conversations and thoughts. These things made it difficult to become absorbed in the story, and to understand what was going on. I became lost several times. I wondered what is going on. Where is this story going? Who are all these people? What do they have to do with the story? Why am I getting the minutia details of these characters? Which character am I to focus on?
  2. The title of the book, Lucina’s Letters, is one letter addressed to several family members. It is not several letters. It is not a short letter. The letter will be revealed later in the story.
  3. Lucina is not a prominent character. I thought by reading the summary of the book that Lucina would be the number one-center stage-character. She is not.
  4. There is a big switch or shift from the start. The little girls who are the perpetrators -to- the young adult/adult women. There is not a fluid link between the two parts.
  5. I did not have a solid knowledge about the dates (years) in the story. This too caused me to be lost.
  6. The story is told multiple ways: 1st person and 3rd person.

What I like about the story:

  1. I see the process of grieving through the mother of Ewan.
  2. Through the three girls who are the perpetrators, I see how guilt and bitterness impacts.
  3. There is some closure by the end.

Final Thoughts:

After reading Lucina’s Letters, I believe it could easily be a murder mystery, detective story, or horror story. Shifting to these genres might have made the overall story richer and enticing.

~After writing the above review, I remembered something important. Not only can it be considered a trigger, but it will probably cause anger to any animal lover. There is a graphic scene of a dog being murdered! This is so rare to read this kind of scene in a book. It may be a first for me. I just want to give you a warning if you plan to read the book.
Thank you.

[Review] Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper Muse. October 19, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 320.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction with references to Christ Jesus, and with a big emphasis on C. S. Lewis.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book @ Harper Muse.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Website for Patti Callahan. Pinterest/ Facebook/ Instagram/ Twitter/ Goodreads author page.

Summary:

England. 1950.

Megs Devonshire is a physics student at Somerville College, Oxford University. She has one sibling, George Henry Devonshire. George is 8. He has a heart condition. Most of the time he is in his bed resting. His devoted parents tenderly care for him. Megs comes home on the weekends to spend time with George. George has been reading a book titled, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.
George asks Megs where Narnia came from. Is it real? He asks her if she has seen, C. S Lewis, the man who wrote the book. Megs begins to investigate his questions by asking Mr. Lewis himself. She takes notes on their talks. When she visits George, she reveals Mr. Lewis’s story.

Once Upon a Wardrobe is a heart-warming and tender story about love. It is not a romantic love, but the love, devotion, compassion, commitment for a family member. It is love displayed in action.

Once Upon a Wardrobe is also a historical fiction/bio of C. S. Lewis’s life.

My Thoughts:

First, this is the last book I will review in 2021. I plan to take a break for the holidays and my upcoming knee surgery on the 28th. I will return sometime in January with more reviews!

I adore, Once Upon a Wardrobe! I didn’t cry while reading it, but my heart certainly melted under the tenderness and compassion and commitment Megs has for George. I love this story!

Reasons why I love this story:

1. The vivid descriptions, tone, and dialogue, which is often warm and intimate, drew me into the story and created a vivid story.

2. I love the memorable and quotable words.
For example:
“There is a difference between imagination and reason.” Page 28.
“…companionable silence….” Page 63.
“‘Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills.'” Page 51. “Maybe…maybe Narnia also began when Mr. Lewis sat quietly and paid attention to his heart’s voice. Maybe we are each and every one of us born with our own stories, and we must decide how to tell those stories with our own life, or in a book.” Pages 259-260.

3. I love books written by C. S. Lewis. He is one of my favorite writers. I’ve read 4 of his books this year. Even in a historical fiction book that has C. S. Lewis as a character, I love it! I didn’t know until a closing chapter; his stepson wrote a closing chapter in the book. It is rare for a family member to endorse and include a chapter in a historical fiction book about their relative.

4. I’ve expressed in reviews recently how I’d love to read books with other types of love. This book is the answer. Romantic love is fine, but not always lasting. The love Megs has for her brother is lasting. It is real. It is memorable.

5. Once Upon a Wardrobe is a kind and uncomplicated story. It is a story ripe for this era of annoying viruses, inflation, busyness, and other pesky annoyances.

6. I’ve known, and know, other young children who have serious illnesses. They are often mature beyond their years. They pick up on things and have time to ponder those things those healthier children do not.
George is a perfect example and real character. The story centers on him. If he were not a part of the story it would fall flat. It would not be as memorable. George to me is like an angel. He is an important figure. He seems meek, slight, pale, translucent, yet there is power in his words. He has a message to bring. Lessons are learned through him. He is unforgettable.

7. A reference is made in the last part of the book and from C. S. Lewis about Jesus Christ. This book is not a Christian book perse, but it certainly has the behavior of one.

8. There is a romantic theme in the book, but it develops later. It is not a theme that takes over the primary focus.

Themes in the story: love, family, compassion, kindness, charity, honor, loyalty, wisdom, beauty, dreams, grief, hope, gratitude, and circle of life.

Once Upon a Wardrobe is a perfect book to read during the holidays and winter. It is literally an escape from this world.

Merry Christmas to all my readers and a most Happy and Gracious New Year!

[Review] The London House by Katherine Reay

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper Muse. November 2, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 368.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of World War II.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Harper Muse.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Link @ Book Depository.

Katherine Reay’s website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram/ Pinterest.

An excerpt audio.

Summary:

Chapter One begins in America with the modern time period.

Caroline is contacted by an old college friend who is writing a story about her family. Caroline and Mat meet to discuss his intentions about writing a story about her great aunt’s betrayal to family and country during World War II. Mat had already met with Caroline’s dad. Her dad is furious about the expose. Caroline decides to go to London and stay with her mother to discover for herself the real story of Aunt Caro.

Caroline is the modern time period’s heroine. She is named after her aunt Caroline, but Aunt Caroline is known through most of the book as Caro. Caro, a British citizen, had lived in Paris and worked in a couture dress shop in the late 1930s to 1941.

The story’s main time period is the modern time period and will reflect back to the 1930s and 1940s-especially during the readings of letters and journals.

My Thoughts:

I have several thoughts!

After I read a book, I read a few reviews over at Goodreads. I did not know Katherine Reay has written Christian fiction stories. The London House is the first book I’ve read by her. So, I have no other work of hers to compare to this one. I am not a fan of Christian fiction. I’ve read a few Christian fiction books over the years but do not consider myself knowledgeable about that genre.

It’s interesting that The London House and another book I’d finished the day before are both polar in writing style. The other book is a quick read type story. There is little building to events-just a jump right into the scene’s story. There are some detailed descriptions. The story has a bite as far as the over-all dark theme…review on that book will be later!

The London House is a thinking story-a mature story. It is mature in that the characters (all of them) have moments of clarity, recognition, conviction, forgiveness, reconciliation, and a peaceful resolution. Now, there is nothing in the book that is considered Christianese words, but those themes I listed are Christian in nature. I dislike a story that pastes Christianese words so that the book will be labeled as a Christian fiction book. I want to yawn while typing that comment. I want to yawn because it does not help a story by pasting words without development of action or behavior in the characters. And the behavior of characters will be remembered longer than pretty words.

Caroline knows there is something in her family’s past they are not talking about. This is a prime example of not communicating and thus the intimacy and bond with the family members is disconnected and frayed. This has happened in my family. This has happened in many families-the inability to communicate about what is wrong. Communication is hard work. For many of the people I know, they don’t know where to begin. The words will not even come to them in their brain so that they can speak audibly. This can be true in all types of families. I dislike a label that this only happens in families that are not Christian. Pooh.

Caroline is a remarkable person. Despite the disconnect in the family, she perseveres to find a point of connection with her parents. She does not give up. She is responsible, protective, kind, hardworking, educated, independent, and patient. I love her transformation that progresses in the story!

Caroline’s parents struggle. They share a bitter traumatic memory. My heart grieves for them as well as for Caroline. In addition, Caroline’s father carries an unresolved generational trauma that impacted him as a child and is still evident. And it has impacted the generation of Caroline. On multiple points the family needs help. Katherine Reay did a splendid job of perfectly describing the family’s awkwardness and yet trying to find a place to connect.

Caro is a character who I know through her letters and her sister’s memories. Caro is so much more than what her family has pegged her. Isn’t this often the case? People make a preconceived judgement (without all the facts) about a person and then build on that until the person is whittled down to a matchstick of what they really are. It is terribly sad. Caro’s story is the important background story that sets The London House in motion. Caro represents all those courageous people who through action defied the enemy.

I love the story’s relocation to London. I love the places they visit. For example, cafes and tourist stops. Towards the end of the story there is Paris.

The London House is a story that builds. It is not a quick paced story. It is a visceral story. It is a story with a strong focus-mystery to solve-a need to find the truth and reveal it.

The London House shows me some of the characters thoughts and feelings. The primary characters are heavy developed in their thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.

The London House shows me that the truth comes out eventually. But during the journey, there will be other important discoveries.

The London House does not sweep up everything tidy and put a bow on it to show this is a perfect family because there are no perfect families, but it is real and endearing.

Themes in the story: loyalty, perseverance, courage, bravery, redemption, acceptance, compassion, patience, circle of life, sacrifice, romance, suffering, judgment, war, survival, wisdom, grief, hope, justice, and love.

(Review) The Anglophile’s Notebook by Sunday Taylor

Publisher and Publication Date: Spuyten Duyvil. 2020.
Genre: Fiction. Travel. Romance. Family saga. Contemporary fiction.
Pages: 356.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from Sunday Taylor. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Contemporary fiction/romance readers.
Rating: Good.

For more information about the book @ Spuyten Duyvil.

Amazon
The Kindle Unlimited e-book is free.

Author Info:

Sunday Taylor grew up in Pennsylvania and Connecticut and attended Bates College in Maine. A graduate of the Master of Arts program in English Literature at UCLA, she spent the last four decades in California and currently lives in Los Angeles. Taylor is married with two grown daughters and two granddaughters. She journeys to England every year, reads Jane Eyre every autumn and identifies as an Anglophile. This is her first book.

Website

Summary:

The Anglophile’s Notebook is a literary mystery set in England. Claire Easton travels from Los Angeles to London to research a book on her favorite author, Charlotte Brontë. While seeking Brontë’s secrets, she discovers her own. The Anglophile’s Notebook will whisk the reader away to literary London and the beautifully wild countryside of Yorkshire, home to the Brontë sisters. Brimming with writerly ghosts, enchanting bookstores, cozy pubs, English country gardens, and memorable characters, this novel is for anyone who has found their imagination in the gardens of rural England or a two-hundred-year-old bookstore in London and felt utterly alive.

My Thoughts:

There are things I like about the book and a few things I do not like about the book.

What I like:
1. Claire Easton is a character who is down to earth and easy for me to identify with. She is a regular gal. She is someone I could be friends with. She is a believable character who has positive and negative human traits. Claire is a reader, bibliophile, writer, blogger, book reviewer, and gardener. These interests are the same as mine. Her background and environment might have created a celebrity status type person. Instead, she is a person who is kindhearted, unselfish, long-suffering; and, she’s also a little innocent and vulnerable. I am glad Claire is a mature woman of 42. She has lived long enough to understand a bit about life and how to make wise decisions. Lastly, Claire is a character who has a transformation. This is always a positive experience for me to read a character who has a remarkable change.
2. Charlotte Brontë is the pleasant fixation for Claire. Claire plans to write a book about Charlotte Brontë . The story centers around Claire’s research of the Brontë books, manuscripts, letters, and the town they lived in. Charlotte is the main emphasis, but the other Brontë family members are apart of The Anglophile’s Notebook.
3. The Anglophile’s Notebook is a travel book. For most of the book Claire is in England. She travels back to California a couple of times. While in England she visits museums, bookshops, art and book collections, estates, and the scenery of the Yorkshire Moors. I enjoyed her descriptions and experiences.
4. Claire is close to her only sibling, a sister named, Jane. Their mother died. There is unanswered questions about their mother. There is not a reconciling of the relationship. One of the reasons I continued to read this book is I wanted to know what happened? Claire dreams of her mother. The memories and feelings about her mother are always present for Claire. Claire is still experiencing grief. Grieving takes as long as it takes. There is no time limit. And, because there are unanswered questions, there remains a mystery about their mother. These issues helped to keep me reading.
5. Jane is a praying person. She acknowledges when a prayer is positively answered. However, it is never specifically stated who Jane prays to.
6. I love the secondary characters in the book. It is a lengthy list. It is a diverse list.
7. The conflicts in the story are internal.
8. The main plot is simple.
9. The story is told in chronological or linear form.

What I do not like about the story:
1. The story has a long list of high functioning words and local dialect sayings. I don’t mind a couple of words that I need to look up in a dictionary, but the list grew and grew. The average reader is not going to like this. When a reader has to pause too much to look up a word in the dictionary it breaks the flow of reading. For example, farcical and raconteur.
2. Ben is Claire’s husband. If he were cut completely from the story would it matter? No. He is actually a weight in the story that is not needed because the story is busy with other things going on. When a story is too busy, well it is just too busy, and the reader (me) is worn-out by the heavy traffic.
3. At this time in my life (or in my reading life), I have become bored with much of the romance that is weaved in a story. I don’t have the data that will back up how other readers feel about this topic. I know how I feel. If Claire had focused all her attention on the Brontë research, the traveling, and the mystery surrounding her mother, this book would be remarkable enough. But, Claire’s personal life became a weight and additional plots for the story. Bottom line for me is there are too many things going on in this one book. Just a few would be wonderful.

Themes:
Death and dying, loyalty, self-worth, honesty, redemption, acceptance, kindness, romance, innocence, guilt, wisdom, hope, grief, temptation, empowerment, dreams, and trust.