Fancy or Plain? Which Would You Choose?

Happy New Year, friends and followers! Welcome back! Here’s to the first post of 2015. (#370 since I started this blogging gig!) May the new year be peaceful, blessed and prosperous for us all. (FYI, I’m keeping my ‘Christmas décor’ up here a little longer, just like I’m doing at home.)

Not sure where I wanted to start this year, but I did just finish a little gem of a book during the Christmas break from school. This sweet, switched-at-birth story by author Cynthia Keller touched me, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on it with all of you. (Disclaimer: I borrowed the book from my church’s library. In no way was I compensated for this write up.)

A+Plain+&+Fancy+Christmas

The title, A Plain and Fancy Christmas, was a bit of a misnomer. The story doesn’t revolve around Christmas at all, which makes it a perfect weekend read at any time of the year.

The title does, however, suggest the backgrounds and backstories of its lead characters, 30-year-olds Ellie Lawrence and Rachel King Yoder. (I’m always good for stories involving an Amish backdrop.)

Ellie holds an executive position in a high-profile, New York City public relations corporate firm. Despite underlying dissatisfaction with her job and and her sort-of romantic relationship with Jason, she has slipped into a content-enough routine with the family she believes to be hers and the overall trappings of her life. (If I had to choose a protagonist, I’m thinking she’s Ellie.)

Rachel was raised Amish. Widowed three years ago and unable to manage the farm she and her husband owned, she and her 10-year-old daughter are back in her parents’ home. Although she often finds herself feeling at odds with her mother, this is the only life Rachel has ever known.

Respect, and the rules and ways that go along with having chosen to be baptized into the Amish faith and culture, keep Rachel from delving too deeply into her emotions. She has always felt dissatisfaction too, especially after having lived among “the English” during rumspringa, the period of exploration and/or rebellion Amish teens are allowed. Rachel returned to her faith, mostly because she’d fallen in love with Jacob Yoder, and couldn’t imagine her life without him.  

Long story short, Ellie and Rachel each receive a letter explaining the circumstances that led to the switch. Rachel buries hers in a drawer, but Ellie sets into play a series of events that will impact both these ladies’ futures. (Of course, y’all knew that, or there would be no story and nothing for me to write about! 😉 )

This story is nicely written, told from the points-of-view of its leading ladies, with one exception: a chapter told from the perspective of the nurse who was involved in the switch. I was readily transported to Rachel’s Amish farm in Pennsylvania and related easily to the go-go-go associated with life in NYC. My only beef is how the author provides backstory, in several-page-long flashbacks (?) of exposition. Mrs. Keller did this more often at the beginning, which made getting into the story a bit of a challenge–for me, anyway. Liking the premise, the Amish part of the setting–and the characters early on—kept me reading.)

I  to easily to Ellie’s intrigue with a simpler way of life; it reminded me how much I love spending time at my cottage. I could easily adopt—and adapt to—the choices she made as the story and her character’s journey developed. What Rachel learned about herself describes me too, but I don’t want to give anything away.

Finally, the story explored the themes of family, nature, nurture and what might have been had the switch not occurred. I kept wondering what kind of a resolution could possibly be reached–particularly for Rachel–as the tale approached its close.

I now turn the blog-mike over to you! Any books you’ve recently read you’d like to share about? How did you spend New Year’s Eve? (We wound up at a neighbor’s big family get together—unexpected and just a few houses down the street, so no driving necessary on a night I much prefer to NOT be in a motorized vehicle.)

I’m not big on resolutions but have a few (besides the standard lose-ten-pounds): to read books on a regular basis (and simultaneously redevelop my attention span); to launch a speaker business based on several workshops I’ve developed these past few years. Once the latter is in play, I hope to get back into writing fiction, which has really gone the wayside because of other projects. Do you have any resolutions? Would you rather live a plain (Amish) or a fancy (English) life? Could you find a balance between the two?

Have a wonderful day and week,

Joanna

 

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Thoughts on THE HUSBAND’S SECRET

Hi all. Hope all is well and that all the holiday ‘stuff’ crowding our already busy lives is getting done. Hubby and I knocked out about 60% of our gift-buying at the Walgreen’s gift card wall, lol. It’s a beautiful thing and (almost) zero stress.

tree 2014 My serenity space–when it’s uncluttered and clean, anyway. 😉

Feel as though I have been looking for my attention span for the better part of these past couple of years. Since I kind of gave up looking for it, I decided maybe I could cultivate a new one, especially when it comes to reading.

I’m sure I loved books prior to being able to read, and reading has been a passion since I learned how. IDK what’s happened these past years, but I have such a hard time getting into that next book, or even wanting to pick one up sometimes.

Lucky for me I have a friend who feeds me good fodder. She loaned me a copy of Liane Moriarty’s THE HUSBAND’S SECRET. I liked it enough to write about it.

This is an account of a happily married wife and mother of three girls who comes across a letter written by her husband. The script on the envelope instructs Cecilia to open it only in the event of her husband’s death.

Of course, Cecilia eventually opens the letter. (She held out, though. She really did.) Now she has to deal with what she’s learned. She also has to decide if she’s keeping her husband’s secret, and the ramifications of doing so as the story events unfold.

Of course, THE HUSBAND’S SECRET entails much more than I shared in that short paragraph. The writing is quite good, and the author kept me smiling with frequent parenthetical asides. She did well tying together the external and internal character journeys of her three point-of-view characters. I also feel the ending did the story justice overall.

I did find the opening chapters—which introduced each of the lead characters—a tad hard to follow at first. As the story progressed though, a definite rhythm kind of took over. I found it hard to not keep turning the pages, especially once the pace picked up. I could feel the author carrying me faster and faster to the climax.

Two things I liked:

(1)  The story’s ‘circular’ feel; it reminded me of the movie LOVE ACTUALLY, in which the seemingly separate sets of characters were all interrelated somehow, and the story brings it all together at the end. Having stated that, I’m still not completely sure that Tess’s story connected completely to the other lead characters’ external plots, nor do I fully get the metaphor of the Berlin Wall. (I did, however, look up images and information on the BW as a result. I love when fiction prompts me to do that, and that I have an internet that puts history in my hands.)

(2) The author’s take on marriage (relative to Tess, who had to decide whether or not to salvage hers): “Falling in love is easy. Anyone could fall. It was holding on that was tricky.”

Last thought: I don’t think the Epilogue added much. Where the story proper ended seemed pretty appropriate and fitting.

Have you read THE HUSBAND’S SECRET? If so, what did you think about it? Have you read any other of this author’s work? What are you reading now? Do you have to force yourself to read sometimes?

Have a wonderful week, folks. Don’t worry. It will all get done.

Joanna

Indie Author Jennifer Jensen Joins Us Today!

Happy last week of August folks–uh…isn’t that an oxy-moron? And who coined the term oxy-moron anyway?

Welcome, indie author Jennifer Jensen!

Jennifer Jensen photo

Congrats to you on your latest release, THROUGH A SHIMMER OF TIME! What do you love best about writing?

When I speak in casual conversation, I mix words or syllables up rather frequently – I like to say I have dyslexia of the mouth. The advantage of writing is that I get to think about what I’m saying and re-write it until it’s exactly what I want. I love playing around with the way sentences flow.

Along with re-writing, I love the occasional times I get “in the zone” and lose track of time because the scene is flowing. I love the sense of accomplishment when I finish a scene/chapter/story and know it’s the best I can do. And I absolutely love when someone reads it and chuckles or gasps at just the right spots, or says they couldn’t stop thinking about the characters.

I love rewriting too, Jennifer. I love tilling groundwork that’s already been laid. And I totally get what you mean about a reader’s reaction when they ‘get it’ the way I intended. My favorite compliment is, “I was there!”

What do you like least?

Taking the full-blown scene in my head and somehow getting it down on paper so someone else sees what I see.  It’s gut-wrenching work for me and makes me wonder why I choose to do this, but it helps immensely to know that I’m not alone–countless writers out there go through the same thing. It’s a relief when my rough draft is done and I can start playing with it.

What got you started?

Besides the snake/cake/rake book of poems I wrote at age 6?  Mostly it was being a reader. I loved escaping into other worlds through the books I read.  Like binge-watching a TV series today, I would immerse myself in one time period or with one author.  I devoured every Walter Farley book about the Island Stallion, and remember spending a lot of time in a wagon train, living in colonial America, or watching Henry the Eighth’s wives try to survive.  he escapism is just as strong today, but I really don’t think you can be a writer without also being a reader.

Agreed.

I also answered one of those ads in magazines that said “We’re looking for people to write children’s books.”  Thank goodness the Institute of Children’s Literature wasn’t a scam!  I sold my first short story for Lesson #6. I wasn’t off and running, but I kept heading in the right direction.

Where do you get story and character ideas?

Most of my stories come from the great “What If.”  What if two sisters were jealous of each other?  What if the culprit in a crime was a horse?  And right now, what if a kid got zapped back in time and didn’t know how to get home?

My characters are usually created along with the plot.  I have a basic idea in my head- age, sex, and a bit of attitude. When I stick him/her in a situation, the personality and talents begin to grow to either fit or complicate the problem.  That adds plot possibilities, which further add to the character. It’s a nice spiral of building the two together.

Talk about current, past and future projects, upcoming releases, maybe your ‘dream novel’?

I’ve published a number of children’s magazine stories and done a chunk of journalism in the past. The big project right now is releasing my children’s novel, Through the Shimmer of Time.  My main characters are complete opposites:  Jim is a modern 12-year-old, bored out of his mind at a living history park. He goes in search of a haunted cabin he’s heard about.  What else would any adventurous, impetuous kid do, right?  But he ends up in 1838 and meets Hannah, an 11-year-old who is helpful, respectful and a bit timid–until she gets wrapped up in Jim’s problems.  There are mysterious thefts, angry townspeople, and a ghost who needs her name cleared, and the kids are the ones to put it all right again.  Read an excerpt here.

Final cover

Future projects?  Oh, the possibilities!  Something set in Ireland, where we lived for a few years.  Some horse-oriented stories, drawing on a lifetime of experience. More middle grade and some women’s fiction with mother/daughter/sister relationships. More time travel too! Hmm . . . what would happen if I put all of those into one book?

Try putting it all into one book and see. Keep me posted, too. I love time travel stories!

The next project is already started, though – Jim and Hannah have more adventures planned.  THROUGH THE SHIMMER OF TIME is the first of several, with #2 coming out in 2015.

Through the Shimmer of Time is available now in both print and e-book at Amazon.  Contact Jennifer directly for an autographed print copy.

Connect with Jennifer via one or all of the following:

Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing your author origins with me and the wonderful folks who make themselves regulars here. I wish you all the very best with your current release and upcoming projects! I have tremendous respect for all authors, but I find the indie-crowd to be particularly special,  taking on a world of behind-the-scenes work one might not realize until one ventures into that place–and making themselves available to each other to offer invaluable assistance whenever needed. You awesome folks rock!

To my awesome, very kind and faithful readers and followers, I thank you, and ask you to SHARE via one of the buttons below on behalf of Jennifer! Thanx again and have a wonderful day and week!

Happy Labor Day weekend too!

Joanna

 

Release Day: Christine Warner’s SECRET LOVE!

Happy Monday after the French Open final, folks!  Can you say it ten times fast? 😉  Hope all is well in all of your worlds!

Congrats to the record-setting NINE-time champion, Rafael Nadal! (Good thing the match didn’t go to a fifth and deciding set. The champ and his opponent, World  No. 2 and highly likable Novak Djokovic were morphing into the injured playing the ill, respectively.)

Tour-Banner-Secret-Love

I’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled blogging to share about online friend and author Christine Warner’s latest romantic release, SECRET LOVE. Congratulations, Christine! All the best to you in your latest endeavor!

Christine-Warner-Author-Pic

Bio: Christine Warner is living her dream in Michigan along with her husband, three children, one laptop and a much loved assortment of furry friends. Besides laughing and a good round of humor, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, reading, writing but no arithmetic.  A confessed people watcher, she finds inspiration for her stories in everyday activities. She loves to read and write about strong heroes and determined, sometimes sassy, heroines. A girl gone wild, at least where social media is concerned, she enjoys meeting other avid readers and writers on Facebook, Twitter and her website at christine-warner.com.

(Psst! Christine can be found at Goodreads, too!)

Secret-Love-Hi-Rez

* Genre: Sweet Nostalgic Novella

*   Length: 69 Pages

*   The Sweet Fifties Series {Book 1}

Please note: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Christine Warner’s Secret Love for review and promotional purposes.

Christine Warner’s sweet romantic novella immediately landed me in the mid-1940s and 50s. This highly nostalgic short story did not lack for character development. Perhaps the story moved along a tad quickly, but in all fairness to the author, Ms. Warner provided enough backstory to seamlessly cut into the novella’s present. The prose is concise and the text well-edited. Detail is appropriate to the period. Like the songs of old Ms. Warner mentions throughout the story, nostalgia flows effortlessly via lively descriptions and dialogue, readily giving present-day life to a time long past.

Thirteen-year-old Lizzie Tarleton is a bit of a spit-fire. I happened to very much like her soap-eating ‘younger version.’ Not that I disliked her 23-year-old self, when the story proper picks up ten years after the reader meets her.) I was particularly fond of Lizzie’s willingness to jump out of her comfort zone to speak her mind, during a time period when girls were not raised to be forthcoming with their thoughts, let alone their feelings toward a boy.

Seventeen-year-old Wayne Whitmore is Lizzie’s brother’s best bud. His compassion toward Lizzie immediately endeared him to this reader, how he cared enough to spare her feelings in that first scene.

Ms. Warner does a nice job bringing her characters together ten years later. Lizzie is now a teacher at the high school where Wayne is the principal. (I did have a bit of a hard time trying to accept him in that role so young.) I didn’t find the story’s conflict to be terribly powerful, but I had no problem buying into it as real or universal. Ms. Warner took what could be a situation in any couple’s world, and built it into an engaging tale of how they overcame it to embark on their happily ever after.

The Story:

Lizzie Tarleton has always done things her own way—including the time at the tender age of thirteen when she confessed to her brother’s best friend she loved him. But now she’s a new teacher at the local high school, and independent enough to know that you can’t force love. She’ll find love when the time is right—even though her parents are adamant the time is now. The only downfall to her idyllic life is the fact that her childhood crush—who broke her heart—is now her boss. If only she could stop daydreaming about him.

Wayne Whitmore grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and worked hard to get where he’s at in life. Even though he enjoys being principal at the small town high school, he dreams of coaching baseball. When his best friend asks him to watch over his little sister at her new job at Wayne’s school, he agrees. What he doesn’t count on is how she’s grown from the pig tailed kid who told him she loved him, to the woman who breaks his concentration with her beauty and smile. Unable to get over his fascination, and afraid he’ll ruin his friend’s trust, Wayne applies for his dream job—one that will take him far away.

One night while decorating the school gymnasium for an upcoming sock hop, Lizzie and Wayne find themselves alone. They share a kiss and Lizzie realizes her childhood crush for Wayne has never died. Wayne decides he doesn’t want to let Lizzie get away.

Can they come to terms with their secret love and then overcome the other secrets they are hiding in order to get what they each want? Or is their timing for love still off?

An Excerpt:

She blinked away the heat of tears forming at the back of her eyes. Their conversation had grown too serious. She needed to lighten things up a bit. “Remember when we used to play ‘What if?’”

He laughed. “What if Lizzie wore a dress?”

“Either she was going to church, or her mom was having a ladies’ social.” Lizzie giggled. “Ricky hated that game.”

“He’d get so mad when you’d start it.” He made the final cut on a small snowflake and added it to the pile before him.

“What if Wayne couldn’t throw his famous curve ball?”

“The school trophy case would be one trophy short. What if Lizzie wasn’t teaching here?”

She pouted. “She’d be sad. I have no idea what I’d be doing if I hadn’t found a job here. What does Lizzie have to do to show Wayne she thanks him?” She winked, enjoying their fun.

He cleared his throat. “What if Wayne said Lizzie owed him a kiss?”

Her belly trembled. What if?

“What if he stole one?” His voice lowered and he leaned in.

“Why don’t you find out?” she whispered.

Buy SECRET LOVE here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Christine’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Happy Release Day, Christine! And thanks to all of you who took the time to read through this marathon of a post! If you like what you read, would you kindly share and help Christine pass on the word!

Here’s to a wonderful week to all,

Joanna

 

 

Keeping Things Hot in the Cold (With Nutella and Potato Soup!)

What????

Happy Tuesday to all. Hanging in there and hope each of you is doing the same or better!

Okay, I happened by a Nutella recipe that I’m sure I will try at some point, assuming I remember I have it saved in a Word doc, lol. BTW, it’s for a bread-spread. I’m thinking Nutella-potato soup might be a bit strange even for me 🙂

We’ve been dealing with some serious cold snaps here on the east coast, and everybody knows frigid temps bring out the soup-maker in everyone, right? (Huh? Nobody else got that gene?)

So  I’d been wanting to try my hand at creamy potato soup for the longest time. Finally got myself in gear a few weeks ago and looked up recipes online. Came across Ree Drummond,The Pioneer Woman This blogger has a really fun way of delivering the how-to. Actually, pretty sure I stumbled on it a few weeks prior while searching for a quick sweet-n-sour chicken recipe—uh that one is pretty awesome too (but not Ree’s). Uh, now that my brain went back into a cohesive mode, I found a great chicken tenders recipe at PW’s website. Yep, I get a little confused. Too many websites, so little time…

Yes, Joanna is working very hard to stay focused.

I linked you to PW’s potato soup recipe, but you might want to make note of a few easy changes: I skipped the bacon, used 1% lowfat milk and about ¼-cup light cream. I also went very easy on the cheese (sharp cheddar), tossing in a handful or so. Chicken broth I made myself. Liked the milder flavor the soup had using mine. Second time I made this I didn’t have homemade broth, only bouillon cubes. Still tasty, but a tad salty. (BTW, the second time, I tossed all the foods in the processor vs. julienne, chop and all that tedious prep-by-hand that so annoys me during cooking. Worked jes’ fine, folks.)

potato soup

Let me tell you, this was GOOD–nah, it was excellent.  As with any soup, it was that much yummier the next day, after all the flavors got a chance to come together. And yes, it’s starchy, but far creamier tasting than the nominal amount of fat in it.  (The actual fat content has to be pretty low.)

Oh, and here’s the link to the Nutella recipe.

So who’s trying what? I’d love to know how you make out!

For tennis fans, here’s a link to Aussie Open Women’s 2014 Champion Li Na’s speech after being presented the trophy. Take a few minutes, and laugh at this lady’s hysterical way of putting it out there. When she retires her racquet, she might want to consider stand-up.

And congrats to “Iron Stan” Wawrinka, who took the title on the men’s side–all the best to the ATP World Tour’s new #3! 

Joanna

Books, Books, Books!

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Yes, I am FINISHED with my parenting-related series. (I linked to the first one. Feel free to take it from there, if you’re new or just interested.) Since then, I got inspired to do something a little more fun (or so I hope!).

Recently read a blog post by author, NYTBSA and indie publisher Bob Mayer. (His background is far more extensive and impressive than the little I listed here, lol. He ties all his experience in when giving one of his lively and informative workshops, which I was fortunate enough to participate in just last weekend.) When my comment to his post started going over the two-paragraph mark, I realized I’d been inspired to write one of my own.

In his post, Bob asked a lot of questions regarding reading, but these two spoke to me the most:

(1) What turned me on to reading, and (2) which is the first book that excited me?

Can’t remember what turned me on to reading: maybe my interest in almost anything or inner restlessness? (That would include reading bottles of cleaner in the bathroom, etc.)

I probably read EVERYTHING that passed my hands after the skill was established thru the Dick and Jane readers. Not that I claim those as the first to make my heart go pitter-patter. That questionable honor goes to the book that got me in trouble, to which I refer below.) The Little House Books are my all time favorites.

Little House on the Prairie cover

Aside: My kids and husband are S.I.C.K. of Laura Ingalls references to life then v. now, lol.

We had a great main library a few miles from home. My dad was really proud of my reading and brought me almost any time I asked. I’d check out the max amount of books every time.

Another aside: I rarely  brought everything back on time. Once, my mom forked over $21 or so in fines on one trip. That’s a lot of $$ for that time—and I was sworn to secrecy. She was afraid my dad would flip. Being Daddy’s li’l girl and how much he supported my passion, I’m sure he would have gotten over it soon enough.

The Poseidon Adventure was the first novel I read AFTER seeing the movie. That taught me to watch first, read later—the written version ALWAYS beats a screenplay, with no disappointment either way. That tenet held true for John Jakes North and South. (Of course I read the second part before the second ABC miniseries and was seriously disappointed. Not even Patrick Swayze and/or James Read made up for the differences from novel to the small screen.)

Recommending the first explicit romance novel I picked up got me in trouble with my older cousin and confirmation sponsor about the “literature” I was reading. (Talk about a heart going pitter-patter, lol, especially since I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading in some of those scenes. What did I know? I thought it was great and recommended it. The librarian had no business checking that stuff out to a 13 y/o, lol.)

Loves Avenging Heart cover(Wow. This many years later I recognized this cover immediately, lol.)

As a young adult, I came across Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Ashes in the Wind. That probably sparked my love of romance, and got me started on ALL of that author’s books (and maybe a deeply buried desire to emulate her sweeping love stories). BTW, that’s where the Aislinn in my nome-de-plume originated, from The Wolf and the Dove. Never had a daughter—nor would that lovely name have paired with what would have been her Italian surname. BUT: my debut novel was my baby and my dream. Since Aislinn is Gaelic (?) for vision or dream it seemed fitting.

Ashes in the Wind   wolf and dove

If I HAD to pick ONE book as a favorite: maybe I’d have to go with a tie between Lynn Austin’s Hidden Places and Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon. (I’ve only read the latter three times. Last round, I bawled. Not sure I could do it again.)

Hidden Places  Flowers for Algernon

So, let’s open this up. How would you answer Bob Mayer’s questions and how has (or does) your reading influence you in little (or big) ways?

Have a great day and week all,

Joanna

More Than a Weekend Read–The Distant Hours

Happy first Friday of 2013, friends. Special thanks to Carrie Rubin for all the love that came this way after she linked blogs with me earlier this week, and to all those who’ve come by since! So nice to have company!

Warning: this post runs a bit longer than normal but I hope you stick it out. Couldn’t figure out the best way to break it down.

Moving on:

I’m a reader. Surprise, right? Maybe not as dedicated or ardent as some, but I love a good story.  And I’ve read many books.

I recently posted my take on author Carrie Rubin’s debut, The Seneca Scourge. Before that, I’m pretty sure the last books I talked about were Karen Kingsbury’s One Tuesday Morning and its sequel, Beyond Tuesday Morning. The former changed me, in a way. Resonates with me still.

I wrote this, however, on the heels of having finished Aussie author Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours, the first and only of hers I’ve read so far. (Disclaimer: I share these thoughts because I choose to, not because I was paid to do so in any way. As with so many others, this book found me. My friend thought I’d enjoy it.) 

My friend was oh-so-right.

Honestly, I’ve never felt so humbled by the scope and magnitude of a wordsmith’s work, doubt I’ll ever equal this one’s ability to develop and then tell a story of such quality. Maybe I haven’t read enough, but I’ve never before experienced a tale so intricately and profoundly layered. Every thread, every detail accounted for before expertly woven and seamlessly sewn together; a multitude of puzzle pieces gathered into a final story portrait of near perfection.

The Distant Hours

I say ‘near’ for these reasons:

The story starts slowly. We meet Edie Burchill, whose mother, Meredith, receives a letter that should have been delivered fifty years earlier. Her enigmatic ways and decision not to share details of the letter pique Edie’s curiosity. Driven by a force she can’t explain, Edie finds herself literally stepping into her mother’s past, meeting face-to-face the spinster sisters who took in thirteen year-old Meredith as an evacuee from London during WWII.  Edie also winds up learning a whole lot more about the book that inspired her as a child, its author, his family and the story events that led to the creation of a renowned and revered best seller. (FYI, Ms. Morton starts you off at a leisurely pace, but she picks up momentum steadily and takes you full-throttle into a climax laden with twists that surprised me with their brilliance and not a loose thread left hanging.)

The protagonist’s viewpoint (and main story mood) waxed a bit boggy, at times slowing the pace when I liked the way the story was gaining speed. This, however, tied into the framing of the account; important to the protagonist unraveling the mystery, but a little frustrating when jump-cutting between Edie’s contemporary present (set in London, England) and the WWII background against which the mystery played out (set in London and a fictional castle along the English countryside). At times, the jump-cuts in time made it a bit difficult to pick up where I’d left off at that part of the story. The breaks, however, resulted in a place to take a well-needed breather, and to digest all that had transpired in that section.

Perhaps one or two story details felt a hair contrived—and possibly the ending to some degree, but the author used each in a way that revealed character and/or motivation, or to bring full circle key elements used throughout the story. Abundant use of detail also had me looking back on many occasions; to be sure I hadn’t missed anything, or that I fully understood how every minute facet related to any particular part of the story at any given point.

Having shared all that, let me tell you what I liked!

The author’s voice worked effortlessly into tangible descriptions of abstract concepts to develop each character, regardless of the point of view (POV).  A simple action: a haircut, knitted and crafted to deliver deep insight to character—brilliant! (p. 257-258). Some examples:

“Other people, Daddy’s pompous friends…, just seemed to take up more air than they should.” (p. 303)

“Her skin felt tighter than usual.” (p. 310)

“She was less of a girl, taller, stretched, anxiously filling her extra inches.” (p. 411)

Ms. Morton’s fresh use of metaphor resulted in vivid mind pictures and associations as I read:

“Juniper was rather catlike, after all: the wide-apart set eyes with their fixed gaze, the lightness of foot, the resistance to attention she hadn’t sought.” (p. 123)

“…the autumn of discarded papers on the floor.” (p. 122)

The author’s way of showing tangled, honest emotion(s):

“Mum and Dad were snobs. I felt embarrassed for them and embarrassed for me, and then, confusingly, angry with Rita for saying it and ashamed of myself for encouraging her to do so.” (p. 192)

And back to Kate Morton’s voice, probably the strongest—yet equally gentle—I’ve read in a long time. I’m thinking her view of the world is unexpectedly embedded in each of the characters she brings to life.

“John Keats said that nothing became real until it is experienced.” (p. 295)

“He would be a different person by then, inexorably altered, …as damaged as the city around him…. He would know that while John Keats was correct, that experience was indeed truth, there were some things it was well not to know firsthand.” (p. 303)

“Happiness in life is not a given. It must be seized.” (p. 352)

 I could go on.

I won’t.

Guess what I’m saying is this: if you want an awesome read and are willing to go the circa 600-page marathon, The Distant Hours may be just your cup of tea. Make sure to grab a scone or two before you cuddle up.

Have a great weekend,

Joanna