Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan – #Audiobook Review – #TuesdayBookBlog

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

A Reading Ireland Month bookSt Patty's Day Hat

“Heavy is the head that wears a crown.” 

Book Blurb:

It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man, faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery that forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church. 

Already an international bestseller, Small Things Like These is a deeply affecting story of hope, quiet heroism, and empathy from one of our most critically lauded and iconic writers.

My Review:

Released just in time for Christmas last year, this beautiful tome should have been described as a novella—as you can see–even the audiobook is very short.

Small Things Like These by Claire KeeganIt is, upfront, an unapologetic tale of the Magdalene Laundries and the Catholic Church nuns who administer the enterprise, now having been exposed as a shameful part of Irish history.

Bill Furlong was the child of an unwed mother who was under the employ of a well-to-do widow. The child and his mother were allowed to stay and he grew up under the roof of the kind widow. Bill eventually marries and has five daughters of his own. He has become a successful entrepreneur providing coal to homes in his village for heating. One of his customers is the large monastery where delivering coal just before Christmas he discovers by accident a young girl who begs him to help her escape the nunnery. He cannot at that moment but is haunted by what he saw.

Oh, my… This emotional and poignant little narrative seems to be deeply character-driven while it craftily lays out a powerful indictment on one hand and the generous magnitude of a man with five daughters of his own on the other. The story carefully paints the beauty of the time of year, the level of humanity exhibited by the townspeople in the spirit of the season, and juxtaposed the horrific conditions of the girls in the nunnery. It’s a heart-wrenching vision that tears at the emotions.

It’s a story that has you wondering where it’s going while it quietly lays out the backstory sufficient to give you the moral code engrained in Furlong. So perhaps the conclusion doesn’t come as a big surprise as much as the abrupt end to the tale. I guess you don’t really need a picture—you can fill the rest in—and each reader will do so in their own way.

A sweet little piece that has you reeled in only to realize after it ended how special it is.

Book Details:

Genre: Holiday Fiction, Small Town & Rural Fiction, British and Irish Literary Fiction
Publisher: HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
ASIN: B09N42GCTT
Listening Length: 1 hr 57 mins
Narrator: Aidan Kelly
Publication Date: December 17, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Small Things Like These [Amazon]

 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

 

Claire Keegan - authorThe Author: CLAIRE KEEGAN was raised on a farm in Ireland. Her stories have won numerous awards and are translated into more than twenty languages. Antarctica won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and was chosen as a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year. Walk the Blue Fields won the Edge Hill Prize for the finest collection of stories published in the British Isles. Foster, after winning the Davy Byrnes Award—then the world’s richest prize for a story—was recently selected by The Times UK as one of the top 50 novels to be published in the 21st century. Her stories have been published in the New YorkerThe Paris ReviewGranta, and Best American Stories. Keegan is now holding the Briena Staunton Fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge. [Amazon]

[Goodreads: Claire Keegan was born in Wexford in 1968. A member of Aosdána, she lives in Co. Wexford. Photo attribute]

© V Williams V Williams

Reading Ireland Month 2021

The Art of the Decoy (A Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery) by Trish Esden – #BookReview – #TuesdayBookBlog

“Open by chance or appointment.”

Book Blurb:

After her mother is sent to prison for art forgery, Edie Brown returns to Northern Vermont to rebuild her family’s fine art and antiques business. She’s certain she can do it now that her mother is gone. After all, butting heads with her mom over bad business practices was what drove Edie away three years ago, including a screwup that landed Edie on probation for selling stolen property.

The Art of the Decoy by Trish EsdenWhen Edie scores a job appraising a waterfowl decoy collection at a hoarder’s farmhouse, she’s determined to take advantage of the situation to rebuild the business’s tarnished reputation and dwindling coffers. In lieu of payment, Edie intends to cherry-pick an exceptional decoy carved by the client’s renowned Quebecoise folk artist ancestors. Only the tables turn when the collection vanishes.

Accused of the theft, Edie’s terrified that the fallout will destroy the business and land her in prison next to her mom. Desperate, she digs into the underbelly of the local antiques and art world. When Edie uncovers a possible link between the decoy theft and a deadly robbery at a Quebec museum, she longs to ask her ex-probation officer, and ex-lover, for help. But she suspects his recent interest in rekindling their romance may hide a darker motive.

With the help of her eccentric uncle Tuck and Kala, their enigmatic new employee, Edie must risk all she holds dear to expose the thieves and recover the decoys before the FBI’s Art Crime Team or the ruthless thieves themselves catch up with her.

My Review:

Protagonist Edie Brown has grown up in the family’s fine art and antiques business. Unfortunately, her mother landed in the slammer for art forgery, implicating Edie in the process for which Edie paid with probation for selling said property.

Now she is back in Northern Vermont to take over the business with a little help from uncle Tuck. In the meantime, Tuck has hired an employee, Kala, a computer whiz and otherwise smart dynamo—perfect addition to the faltering business.  When she is approached with a waterfowl decoy that may be the tip of an iceberg, Edie sees a huge possibility in scoring a collection from a hoarder’s farmhouse with hopes of securing lucrative auctioning rights.

“For me, researching folk art was like setting a beagle free in a park full of squirrels.”

The Art of the Decoy by Trish EsdenBut Edie may get a taste of the business that she had failed to perceive when her mother got into trouble. The art and antiquing community holds those who would turn a multi-million dollar find into underworld funds without interest in the beauty or history of the exquisite folk art carving.

Edie definitely gets in over her head as she fails to ignore warnings, including one from an ex-lover (who she’d love to make a current lover). While I had a few problems getting into Edie’s head, I appreciated several other main characters including Kala and Shane. There is more than one antagonist, a murder off page, the craft of antiquing, and descriptions of the area and proximity to Canada.

For a debut novel and the first in the series, the author appears to have set up quite the storyline as well as several remarkable characters. Definitely a good start and an interesting introduction to the world of buying, trading, pricing and selling of antiques. The well-plotted narrative, however, tends to sag a bit and do a repeat of motives, slowing the pace. It might have kept a heightened interest by fewer repeats and a bit more fleshing of Edie. Also, going forward, I’ll be interested to see where the relationship with Shane goes, as well as additional background into Kala’s character.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts. Currently on pre-order.

Rosepoint Rating: Four Stars 4 stars

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Book Details:

Genre: Small Town & Rural Fiction, Traditional Detective Mysteries, Amateur Sleuth Mysteries
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
ASIN: B098PXZNDF
Print Length: 336 pages
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley 

Title Link(s):
Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

 

Trish Esden - authorThe Author: Trish Esden loves museums, gardens, wilderness, dogs and birds, in various order depending on the day. She lives in Northern Vermont where she deals antiques with her husband, a profession she’s been involved with since her teens. Don’t ask what her favorite type of antique is. She loves hunting down old bottles and rusty barn junk as much as she enjoys fine art and furnishings. Trish is the author of the Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery series.

©2022 V Williams V Williams

Sockeye by Michael F Tevlin – A #BookReview #readingirelandmonth20

A Review by associate CE.

March!

Book Blurb:

Sockeye by Michael F TevlinJoe Wallace returns to this remote Oregon valley from self-imposed exile to bury the father who abandoned him a decade ago. Sad, alone and drinking, Joe has nearly given up on life and love.

Things change when Joe meets Ana, whose Nez Perce ancestors once called this valley home. Joe joins Ana’s cause to restore a lost sockeye salmon run to the lake where he grew up. As their relationship deepens, their peril grows. Somebody wants them gone – or dead.

The escalating threats rekindle a fire Joe thought was dead or buried in him. When his jealous brother tries to develop the family’s land, Joe must make a stand.

In the end, Joe discovers a life worth living, with a woman he was meant to love, in the place he was meant to live. And he realizes the redemption possible in a deep connection to the land.

His Review:

Do sons need to atone for the failings of their fathers? This author explores this issue in this sad and revealing story set in one of Oregon’s most beautiful settings. Joe Wallace left under the pressure of an alcoholic father and a murdered fiancée. He thought Alaska and a life of fishing could keep him insulated from the loneliness and heartbreak of lost love.

Sockeye by Michael F TevlinBut life does not offer solitude as forgiveness for forgotten memories. Joe comes back for the funeral of his father only to confront the devils of his past. Do-gooders are attempting to restore the salmon runs in outback Oregon. They see the controlled waterways and dams as a total rape of the natural environment.

Of course, there is sibling rivalry between Joe and his older brother. The family homestead of 160 acres is a prime opportunity for developers to change this ranch forever. His older brother has been counting the value of the land for years. All that is needed is to have Joe and his sister McKenzie agree to sell the property to developers. Neither of them wants to sell the property and lose their childhood home and memories.

A young Nez Perce Indian lady is part of a consortium to blow up the dam and revert the land and river to its’ natural flow. Most of the small town is against the plan because the dam provides life-giving water to the ranches and farms in this semi-arid region. No matter which way they turn, the Wallace family is going to make enemies.

Alcoholism is a cruel taskmaster. No matter where you go it will always seek you out. Old man Wallace had places where bottles were hidden all around the ranch property. Like father like son, Joe knew all of the secret hiding places and followed in his fathers’ shadow. He felt he would never be able to live up to the example set by his dad and the bottle was a convenient crutch.

The young lady, Ana, falls in love with Joe. The old adage that two people influenced by alcohol will always seek each other holds true in the story. Disaster is always a bottle away. These well-developed characters fight through this problem and it almost destroys them. A son is born to them and Ana struggles to keep Joe centered on his new family.

CE WilliamsThis narrative is well developed and engaging. Anyone coming from a broken home destroyed by alcohol will recognize much of this storyline. I found the story compelling. 4/5 stars CE Williams

Book Details:

Genre: Native American Literature, Family Life Fiction, Small Town and Rural Fiction
Publisher: Black Rose Writing

  • ISBN-10:1684334659
  • ISBN-13:978-1684334650
  • ASIN: B084Q83GS5

Print Length: 304 pages
Publication Date: March 12, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Sockeye (Amazon link)

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4-stars

Michael F Tevlin - authorThe Author: Michael F. Tevlin was born not far from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York, and grew up on Staten Island. He is the second of five children. His father was a New York cop, and both his parents were the children of Irish immigrants. He has a bachelor’s from the State University of New York at Oneonta and a master’s in journalism from the University of Oregon. He and his wife, Diane, moved to Oregon when they were 25 and put down roots. He worked briefly as a reporter before moving on to a corporate and freelance writing career. His first novel, “Sockeye,” will be published by Black Rose Writing in March 2020. He plays guitar and sings, loves the outdoors, surfs occasionally when visiting his older son in California and fly-fishes whenever he can with his younger son. He and Diane have two grandkids and live in Portland.

©2020 CE Williams – V Williams V Williams

Christmas on the Home Front (Land Girls #3) by Roland Moore – a #BookReview #historicalfiction

Another that my associate reviewer and I enjoyed, particularly as we binged on the Netflix series.

The Land Girls - Netflix

Book Blurb:

It’s the last Christmas of the war but will things ever be the same again?

Christmas 1944

Despite the food rationing and the bitterly cold weather, the land girls of Pasture Farm, Connie Carter, Joyce Fisher and Esther Reeves, are determined to celebrate this Christmas in style.  The fighting might still be raging, but they all hope this could be the last Christmas of this dreaded war.

But as the day approaches, word spreads in sleepy Helmstead that two German Airmen are on the run.  With everyone on high alert, the mood is tense and the women take no chances.  Until the German airmen find them…

Trapped at Pasture Farm with the enemy, the women are determined to find a way to freedom and overpower the airmen.  But it means risking everything…including their lives.

My Review

In checking out this book as my next possible read, I discovered that the storyline was actually a successful BBC series, The Land Girls. We were able to view on Netflix and were hooked. The novel doesn’t disappoint, and happily, though the series and author were new to me, #3 read just fine as a standalone. And, BONUS, it was fun to put a face (that of the actors in the series) to the characters in the book, Joyce, Connie, Esther, Iris, and Finch.

The Land Girls by Roland MooreWhile the main character is Joyce Fisher, there are a number of well-developed support characters that comprise the Woman’s Land Army stationed at Pasture Farm. It doesn’t take long before you get to know each, their strengths and weaknesses, and the particular position they hold at the farm. The Land Girls have been created to supplement the loss of farm support and help provide food supplies. They have learned to manage with shortages and been creative in continuing the work necessary to aid in the war effort.

This entry to the series has the reader looking at Christmas 1944 and the witness of a German plane shot down not far from the farm. Too close, in fact. Joyce and Esther have been left at the farm during the Christmas countdown, the others scattered, and find themselves face-to-face with two desperate German airmen. The tension ramps up quickly as the men try to connect with sympathizers to collect and get them back home.

The farm is near Lady Hoxley’s Estate, where she is housing an American Army unit and an interim hospital in a branch of her mansion. I believe the farm is on her land, with perhaps Finch providing management, but not completely clear if he doesn’t own the farm. Still, Lady Hoxley keeps tab on the girls and lends support where she can.

The story jumps timelines, backtracking to an appropriately revealing scene with that point of view and then skips back, perhaps with a different character and replaying the scene to bring the two back to the same point in time. It can be just a bit confusing at first but serves to provide a full picture.

I was given this digital download by the publisher through NetGalley and was totally thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review. I thoroughly enjoyed the book (as well as the TV series) and heartily recommend to all who enjoy historical fiction. Whether it’s fiction or not, there is still so much to be learned from the “greatest generation.”

His Review

Christmas on the Home Front by Roland MooreThe scene is World War II and Britain is in its’ darkest hours. Everyone in the country pitches in for the war effort. City girls retreat to the farms to replace young men and boys sent off to war and assist in planting and harvesting.

Mr. Moore develops the characters as delightful, energetic and hard-working farm hands. Add to that the always present small-town gossips and busy-bodies and you have a very entertaining mix. Enemy aviators downed in the English countryside add danger and flavor to this tale.

Collaborators during WW II were present in France as the French underground. English helping the Germans were quite unusual and unexpected. Add foreign troops assisting the British from many different countries and you have a complete montage of love, heartbreak, intrigue and despair wrapped up in a daily struggle.

The young women are very naïve and vulnerable. Mix in lonesome foreign troops and escaping foreign airmen and you have a very volatile mix. Moore continually weaves humanity into his story. One almost had sympathy for the downed enemy airmen. However, their duty to escape and get back to their units made them less than sympathetic characters. Associate Reviewer - C E Williams

These books have been made into a TV series and I enjoyed them. But reading the book gives one a much broader appreciation for the trials suffered by all those involved in the WWII conflict. Set aside time, you will not want to put the book down. 5/5 CE Williams

Book Details:

Genre: 20th Century Historical Romance, Small Town & Rural Fiction, War Fiction, TV Movie & Game Tie-In Fiction, Family Saga
Publisher: One More Chapter

  • ISBN-10:0008204454
  • ISBN-13:978-0008204457

ASIN: B07S47KQNV
Print Length: 273 pages
Publication Date: November 14, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Christmas on the Home Front
+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4.5-stars

The Author: Roland Moore is an award-winning series creator and scriptwriter working in a wide range of genres for film and television in the UK, America, and China.

He created the BBC1 returning period drama series, LAND GIRLS and he was recently the Head Writer on HUMANS for Endemol Shine China and Croton Media. HUMANS is the first sci-fi drama for Chinese television. Roland storylined the series (based on the AMC/C4 series), wrote six episodes and managed a team of UK writers through various drafts.

His children’s feature film 2:HRS recently received its theatrical premiere in the UK. He has also been commissioned to write a wartime spy drama for Jack Huston and his dystopian police series, THE LAST COP, has been optioned by Black Box Media.

He has written extensively for Big Finish writing original audio dramas for their DOCTOR WHO and SURVIVORS ranges. Other credits include SUMMER CAN WAIT (feature), RASTAMOUSE, SMACK THE PONY, DOCTORS, MAN STROKE WOMAN and PETER RABBIT. Find Roland Moore at the following links:

Twitter: @RolandMooreTV
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/landgirlstvbook
http://www.rolandmoore.tv

©2019 V Williams V Williams

The Land Girls photo attribute: Netflix

The Memories We Hide: Can you trust your memories? by Jodi Gibson

Can we indeed trust our memories, especially in the view of a tragic event?

The Memories We Hide by Jodi GibsonBook Blurb:

Laura Murphy thought she could, that was until she returned home.

When Laura returns home ten years after the death of her childhood sweetheart Ryan Taylor, her past begins to unravel and memories she’d long pushed aside begin to resurface.


Having trouble reconciling truth and memory, Laura reconnects with childhood friend Tom, to try and find closure, but Tom has issues of his own. Not only is he faced with the threat of losing his farm, but he is also hiding a secret that could change everything for them both.


Will Laura and Tom find the answers they need to move forward, or will they discover that memories can’t always be trusted?

 My Review:

Having fled her small town in her teen years following a tragic accident, Laura Murphy returns after ten years to be with her terminal mother. Returning, however, has begun to push powerful emotions stemming from the accident so long ago that ended the life of her boyfriend in the last week of their twelfth year.

The Memories We Hide by Jodi GibsonThe mind is forced sometimes to take heroic measures to shield the person of an event too horrendous to accept. And though Laura had spent those years steadfastly refusing to revisit the event, attempting to shove it out of her life has only resulted in confusion, her heart unsettled and unable to quell the feeling that the terrible memory is just beyond her reach and inability to resolve.

The debut of this author’s contemporary women’s fiction explores the problem of understanding and coming to peace with the past. Until those issues have been determined and resolution implemented, there can be no peaceful future.

The narrative tackles some major family matters, depression, friendships, young love and relationships that shape life as well as the crush of betrayal. There is a lot to sort through and the mystery of what happened is gradually revealed as Laura attempts to sift through the snatches of her memory to attain the truth–perhaps too difficult to bear.

It’s a heavy subject and the novel worked to create a small-town vibe, collective secrets slowly revealed. Inherent in the anguish, however, is the repetitive nature in the storytelling. There were times either the protagonist or support characters spilled into wringing emotional scenes. Laura is not as well-developed as she might be, and scenes flipped to reliving the moment during the school years sharing obscure details and YA angst.

Ryan Taylor, the lost love, is a character well-fleshed by Laura’s memories as well as a personal journal. Tom, a close childhood friend is most engaging and sympathetic but also possessed of closely held secrets.

The author waxed prose at times, with an interesting turn of phrase or description (“The rain formed a diagonal drizzle that slid slowly down the windowpane“), but I missed some investing into the small-town feel of the people. The sense of hopelessness and frustration in the depressed young interwove a powerful statement.

The climax came with a ring of disclosures almost shocking and one more far-reaching than you’d have guessed.

I received this digital download from the publisher through NetGalley and appreciated the opportunity to read and review. The conclusion is satisfying but the book would benefit from one more pass through an editor.  Recommended for those more inclined to emotional family struggles and women’s fiction.

Book Details:

Genre: Australian & Oceanian Literature, Small Town & Rural Fiction, Women’s Friendship Fiction

  • ISBN-10:0648551202
  • ISBN-13:978-0648551201
  • ASIN: B07VBCHJ53

Print Length: 260 pages
Publication Date: August 20, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: The Memories We Hide

+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint Publishing: 3.5 of Five Stars 3.5-stars

Jodi Gibson - authorThe Author: Jodi Gibson is an Australian author of women’s contemporary fiction. She writes in two genres – character-driven contemporary drama, and light-hearted rom-com.

Her contemporary dramas revolve around the lives of seemingly ordinary people and usually involve secrecy, lies, and a touch of mystery.

Her lighter style rom-coms are the perfect escape from the mundaneness of everyday life with characters who will make you laugh, cringe, and whom you’ll love spending time with.

When she’s not writing you’ll find Jodi managing our family bathroom renovation business, kid-wrangling, and tending to the many animals on her mini-farm in regional Australia. You’ll also often find her with my nose in a good book, or in the kitchen baking and dreaming of her next traveling adventure.

2019 V Williams V Williams

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