THE FOUR WINDS by Kristin Hannah: A Review

A story of The Great Depression and the Dustbowl, set in Texas in 1921, The Four Winds was recommended by my friend Teddy at the Tuesday Readers Book Club at my local library. We all enjoyed reading it. Winds tells the story of Elsa Wolcott and Rae Martinelli, two crazy kids who have a night of passion and Elsa, pregnant, is turned out of her home, taking refuge with Rafe’s parents. Experiencing “marriage to a man she barely knows,” Elsa finds she can earn the affection and acceptance from Rafe’s parents she never could find offered by her own family. By 1934, Elsa’s world has become topsy turvey.

Drought, dust storms and crop failure hit the farm and family Rafe has left earlier, and Elsa and her children set out for California and a better life. The novel becomes the depression version of the American Dream as seen through Elsa’s eyes. Perseverance, resiliency and determination, she never dreamed she had, leads Elsa on a quest as her character changes from a cringing, weak-spirited, unloved woman to a dynamic, activist who sacrifices everything for her passion.

This “rich, sweeping novel,” a typical Hanna read, is definitely a darned good read. I highly recommend it.



Challenge Update and a Review

Because I messed up, I have done the 2021 What’s in a Name challenge this year. Oh well….

I have one book left to complete the short, but interesting What’s In a Name Challenge. It needs to have some reference to speed in the title, like the quick_____ or the slow _______ or something like Racing in the Rain, which I’ve already read. Can you think of a good suggestion and help me out? Comment in the reply below.

Historical/Imaginary Fiction

In the meantime, I have completed a “book with a color in the title, The Pink Suit. Nicole Mary Kelby has written a beautiful, engrossing story which is sort of a historical novel and sort of an alternative history novel. In it, JFK orders this suit from Chez Ninon, a NY boutique. Kelby imagines the Irish immigrant seamstress who created the pink suit. It is a knock-off from a Chanel design, which was something Chez Ninon did often for Jackie Kennedy, whom they refer to as “The Wife.” Tidbits of historical fact permeate this novel from the fire in the neighborhood of Patrick’s (love interest) neighborhood to the fabrics and every stitch of the suit Jackie Kennedy wore on several occasions, finally on the day of his assassination.

The protagonist, Kate, is torn between the “excess and artistry” of Chez Ninon and the “traditional values of her insular neighborhood.” She loves Patrick, the butcher, but also loves her job, her opportunity to express her creativity and her skill. Critics has called this, “a novel about hope and heartbreak, and what became of the American Dream.”

At times I became impatient with Kate because Patrick was a really great guy, and he definitely loved her very much. However, I could understand her desire for a career in a creative industry as well. How Kate comes to make her choice and the compromise both young lovers make leads to a very satisfactory ending.

It is a darned good read.


A delightful book set in WWII, my favorite kind of historical fiction

Set in a bookshop, London during the blitz, a touch of romance, a touch of tears, plenty of light, good-natured humor, and more–what more could one ask for in a good “read”? Oh, yes, the audio version–that too. This was an exceptionally fulfilling reading experience for me. It was just the diversion I needed from the scheduling of doctor’s appointments and tests, a welcome respite from the tedium of “getting well.” The novel was published in 2021, and I first heard of it on Deb Nance’s Readerbuzz.

Martin has written a “timeless story of wartime loss, love, and the enduring power of literature.” It is modeled on one of the few bookshops left standing after the London Blitz.

Grace Bennett finds herself clerking at a bookshop under the proverbial curmudgeon owner, when she and her best friend leave their country life and head to London, just in time for the war to begin. Grace is not much of a reader herself, but is introduced to The Count of Monte Cristo by a handsome customer who joins the RAF shortly after he meets Grace. When Grace begins this classic, she is caught up in its pageantry and action and goes on to other classics under the benign approval of Primrose Hill Bookshop’s gruff owner. During the unfolding of the plot, Grace discovers the joys of reading, even reading to the community from the bookshop and during the long nights spent in the tunnels and shelters inhabited during the bombings. The two girls share many wartime adventures, sometimes being forced to share them through letters, and the book comes to the end of the war and a happy ending for all. This is a most satisfying read/listen. I enjoyed it immensely.

Grace’s conversion from being indifferent to books to becoming an avid reader might look something like this word cloud.
Thanks, Evin


A great read that I can’t wait to pass along to my friend, Lois

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford, published in 2016, is the perfect book club read. It is about the early days of the BBC, and the story is told from Masie Musgrave’s (protagonist’s)point of view. The novel is often funny, has excellent character development (something I always look for), and is a fast-paced read.

Masie begins her career at the BBC as a ” mousy, “fearful” individual, but she ends up an “assertive , independent powerhouse.”

Basically the plot entails a Nazi attempt to take over the BBC, a purely fictional theme. There are plenty of action scenes, a great plot, and several other “themes:” women’s “place” in the 20s and 30s London, a mystery, romance, and something for every reader.

Secondary characters, Hilda Matheson (author of Broadcasting, a seminal communications book) and Siepmann (one of Masie’s bosses) were real people. What they do and say is made up from the author’s imagination (and what an imagination!).

Everything about this historical novel makes it a “darned good read.” I rate it 5 stars out of a possible 5.

Something magical does happen when one reads RADIO GIRLS–a delightful reading experience.
Sign off provided by my blogging friend, Evan.


This past weekend, I finished up three books I was reading concurrently. I often read more than one book at a time with no confusion; however this time, one was historical fiction, very close to fact, set in WWII, so keeping the characters straight from the non-fiction characters in the diary made reading harder than usual.

This one begins with two women, prisoners in a German war camp,Greta and Mildred, who are charged with activities that aided the resistance fighters in Berlin under Hitler. They exchange a glance in the prison exercise yard. One woman is eventually executed, and the other is liberated from the prison by the Americans. The “meat” of the book tells both their stories, describing “the courage of ordinary people.”

The other WWII story deals with what happens to the women of Berlin during the Russian occupation. It is a true diary, published only after the anonymous author’s death, which describes April of 2945 through June of 1945. In the diaries, Anonymous, a 34-year-old journalist, casually tells how women who had not seen each other for a long time, greeted one another with, “How many times were you raped?” It is a story of rape and sexual collaboration for survival that is brutal to read and a horror to have lived through.

Finally, another horrific story, a memoir about the childhood of Mary Kaur,

was at times unbelievable, others down-right strange. Growing up with an alcoholic father and mentally ill , sometimes suicidal mother, Karr “speaks” in the “gritty, unforgettable voice of a seven-year-old. It is set early on in Texas, and later follows the mother and two daughters to a home in Colorado. The title comes from the b**sh**ting her father and his friends do at the local bar while seven-year-old Mary sits and listens. “Appalling” is the word that come to mind to describe the author’s earliest memories.

These three are not books one would read for pleasure, but ones that kindle our imaginations about the resilience of the human spirit.

PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee: A Review

This 2017 publication was described on the cover by one blurb-writer as, “a big beautiful book filled with characters I cared about and remembered after I’d read the final page.” My sentiments exactly! When I read, what I appreciate most is characterization, and Sunja, Isak, Joseb, and Kyunghee became very important, well-drawn people as I read the novel.

Pachinko is a gambling game played in pachinko parlors.

Coming from a poor, but proud Korean family, young Sunja meets Hansu, an older, very rich, mysterious man. He lives and does business in Japan, where Sunja and Isak, a Presbyterian minister who saved her from disgrace, end up as well. Throughout the novel, the author describes how the Japanese look down on the resident Koreans.

Lee is a gifted storyteller,who gracefully tells of the “harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty the main characters endure. Pachinko is a story of women’s friendship, the pursuit of joy, and the history of an ancient national conflict. It opens in the early 1900s and journeys through generations of Korean history.

This is in line for my “Best Read of 2021.”

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND BRAVE by Hazel Gaynor: A Review

I love historical novels set in WWII.

As the cover on the large print copy of this book advertised, it is “a story of courage and strength.” If anyone is courageous and strong, it is a Girl Scout, or Girl Guide as they were called in England. Their motto was “Be prepared,” which the teachers and students at the China Inland Mission School were not. Unprepared as they were for Japanese occupation after the attack on Pearl Harbor, both teachers and students made the best of a bad situation.

Alternating chapters from the point of view of Nancy, an eight year old student, and her teacher, Miss Elspeth, Gaynor describes the take-over of the school housing and teaching children of missionaries, ambassadors, and other workers in China, then their march to and confinement in an internment camp for six years. It is a story of the hardships the children and teachers faced and their relationships with their captors, some kindly like “Home Run,” and others vengeful and sadistic like” Trouble.” It is the story of the friendship between Nancy (“Plum”) and Joan (“Mouse”), as they become young women while under the watchful eyes of the Japanese soldiers. One of the girls’ many chores was to deliver and pick up books to readers who borrowed them from the “lending library” set up by Ms. Trevellyan, a woman of questionable reputation in the camp. The following highlights the girls’ love of books:

“We sometimes found corners of the pages turned down, and passages marked and underlined. Mrs. Trevellyan didn’t seem to mind, although I thought it spoiled the books.

‘I’d never write in a book,’ I said. ‘It makes the pages look messy.’

‘It does if you look at it one way,’ she clucked as she put some books on the shelves we couldn’t reach. ‘But it also makes them look loved. It means that someone stopped and thought about that sentence, or that paragraph. Books aren’t museum pieces to be admired from a distance. They’re meant to be lived in; messed up a little.’ “

This is a very well-written page-turner that should make us appreciate what we have today and the struggles our relatives went through during WWII. It’s a darned good read!

THE PASSION OF ARTEMISIA by Susan Vreeland(2002) : A Review

One of my bucket list reading goals is to read all seven novels Susan Vreeland wrote. She is a sublime author who has taught me so much fact in her fiction, ranging from the treatment of women in Italy in the 1500s to how to make stained glass windows and Tiffany lamps. Her detail is amazing, but never boring. Her sentences flow with a poetic vibe that strikes a chord in any sensitive reader.

I did not know there was a female painter in Italy in 1500 whose fame rivaled Michaelangelo, and indeed, her paintings were greatly influenced by him. Her name was Artemisia Gentileschi, and the multitude of things she achieved during her  lifetime in spite of a vindictive, jealous, uncaring father, whose friend raped her, arranged a marriage of convenience to an “adequate” painter in order to save his own reputation, and a daughter who disappointedly had no interest in painting. She embarks on a “lifelong search to reconcile family life, passion, and genius.” The book itself is a work of art. She is definitely a pioneering woman, ahead of her time and because of this suffered for her art. A sensitive story, including a search for meaning and peace on a spiritual level, Passion is one of Vreeland’s best novels.


First Line Fridays is hosted by Hoarding Books, and many of my blogging friends participate. Here is my Firstliner from Susan Vreeland (I am trying to read all seven of her novels about art.). Clara and Mr. Tiffany is in large print and was obtained from my local library (which is now closed).

“I opened the beveled-glass door under the sign announcing Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in ornate bronze. A new sign with a new name. Fine, I felt new too.”

Yes. Clara, newly a widow, got the job she applied for and her adventures in making glass decorations and windows began. I am now on p. 184 and learning about the making of glass objects, stained glass windows, and the submission of Tiffany windows at the World’s Fair of 1900. This novel is wonderfully researched in addition to being a darned good read.


Tuesday  is not officially over here for another two hours and eight minutes, so here is my Tuesday Teaser for December 3, 2019:

“April 21, 1911   Terrell Mott rode to the Alamo in a Buick touring car, creeping along behind a procession of horse-drawn victorias, and tallyhos. Like the carriages, the gasoline car had been covered with flowers, barely leaving space on the door panels for a sign signifying the white-whiskered relic who rode inside…”

Thus opens Stephen Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo, “an imagined novel about the siege and fall of the Alamo in 1836, an event that formed the consciousness of Texas and that resonates through American history.”

If you would like to share, copy a few lines of a book you’re currently reading in the Reply/Comments box below. Be sure to mention title and author but no spoilers, please. This opportunity was started by The Purple Booker and has the participation of several of my blogging friends.