Major Pettigrew's Last Stand – Helen Simonson

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Source: Goodreads

Major Ernest Pettigrew, Royal Sussex, Retired. So our unlikely hero introduces himself. The Major is one of the last of England’s distinguished gentlemen, living in the family cottage on the rim of the sleepy village of Edgecombe St. Mary near England’s southern shores. Until now he has fiercely protected his quiet and peaceful life, avoiding involvement in town committees and other people’s personal business in general. The death of his younger brother, however, jolts the Major back to reality and he is forced to acknowledge that he is lonely and aging.

Mrs. Jasmina Ali inherited ownership of the village shop in Edgecombe St. Mary when her beloved husband passed away, but she has never felt quite at home in the small town. When she comes upon Major Pettigrew in his time of need, something sparks between them, and the ensuing challenges shape their lives and the livelihood of the village they call home.

Simonson writes small town life in Edgecombe St. Mary so well that I could almost smell the cold morning frost, see the chalky cliffsides, and feel the sea breeze as it gusted over the green. She creates characters that are complex and realistic. There are no special snowflakes in this story, as even the best of characters have flaws they don’t always recognize. A narrative on racial, religious, and generation gaps, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand breathes fresh life into a grey world focused on stereotypes and hierarchies.

Although the first chapter or two felt a little slow, I became used to pacing that felt as though it ran at the rate of Pettigrew’s thoughts. The reader often knows things as the Major does, which was refreshing in a world of books where teasing asides often allude to plot direction before characters are aware of what’s happening.

The narratives on generation, religious and racial differences are accompanied by themes of etiquette and ethics, as well as the growing threat of progressive foreigners seeking to line their own pockets. Still, the many facets of the plot fit together like a 3D puzzle, each snugly sitting next to each other until everything becomes intertwined and dependent on one another. A fascinating read, and one I enjoyed immensely.

Recommended if you enjoy diverse books, light romance, small town politics, or anything about Britain.

HHC Rating: 4.5 stars

The Name of The Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) – Patrick Rothfuss

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Source: Goodreads

Kote runs the Waystone Inn in the tiny, isolated town of Newarre. One day, a man called The Chronicler appears claiming to know Kote’s true identity and begs to be allowed to write the memoir of the King Killer. Kote agrees and gives the man three days. The Name of the Wind constitutes the first. Kvothe, Kote’s real name, was born Edema Ruh, one the most talented groups of actors and musicians in all the Four Corners of Civilization. When he is suddenly orphaned at a young age, he sets out to attend the University, where a talented student can learn the likes of Math, Chemistry, Medicine, Rhetoric, and even Magic.

Let me begin by saying that this book is massive, as is its sequel. This one clocks in at 662 pages of dense content. It is not something I picked up lightly, and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up at all if my 11-year-old self hadn’t had a huge crush on this guy who, once we entered the age of Facebook, quoted this series constantly. It piqued my interest, it was fantasy, which I loved, and he kept posting about it, so I decided I had to give it a try. Still, it was very big, and I didn’t end up reading it until about 2014, by which time I was determined to find out why this book was supposedly amazing.

I checked it out of the library about five times because I kept getting lost or interested in other books, but I finally locked myself in my room and finished the second half in two or three days. It was actually pretty good once I got into it, but I had to force myself to stop thinking about why people liked it before I could enjoy it. The narrative flies all over the place and Kvothe experiences a lot of different situations and feelings, so I feel that there’s something to appeal to everyone here if you don’t mind getting through whatever parts you don’t like.

Overall, it was quite good. I found the beginning very confusing, but then unless you’ve read reviews you don’t know that you’re in the present and SO MUCH has happened that you aren’t aware of yet. The story is mostly a narrative within the story, Kvothe dictating for The Chronicler his early life, but there are bits and pieces that take place in present day, and these the reader is not given an explanation for.

If you love big books that move at a sedated pace, this is the series for you. But if you like short, quick reads, definitely steer clear. I personally enjoyed it and will probably reread it at least once before the third book comes out, but the date for that has been TBA since 2011. Rothfuss has two young children so this could take a while. Maybe also avoid this series if you only read series that have ended.

HHC Rating: 3.75 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – The Wise Man’s Fear

Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy – Emily Ley

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Source: Goodreads

Grace, Not Perfection, is Emily Ley’s debut book. Part inspirational, part self-help, all kindness, Ley’s words flow easily off the page and stick in your mind. A mother of three children under the age of five and a small business owner, Emily shares how she learned to embrace the circus and enjoy each season her life brings her.

This cover caught my eye while I was Christmas shopping in November, and I just had to pick it up from my local Target. I forced myself to savor it, to only read one chapter each day, and to really think out each lesson that was shared. Every word was kind and beautiful, her personal anecdotes and stories completely relatable even for a young, unmarried, full-time nanny like me. Parts of it did, of course, read like they were specifically for moms, but others seemed written for young women, such as myself, or those farther along in their lives. Emily has somehow created something that is all encompassing, from young to old, single to married, poor to rich, I believe her words will resonate strongly regardless of which characteristics define her readers.

I found myself looking forward, each day, to the time when I got to sit down and open this book. The end of chapter eight really hit home when she suggested unfollowing on social media anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable, inadequate, or negative in any way. I went through a social media detox at the beginning of last year and made my Facebook almost completely private, and I now consistently have less than 150 friends. Most of them are family because my family is huge, and the rest are close friends and former colleagues that I enjoy keeping up with. The key word being ‘enjoy’. My Twitter and Instagram follow under 1000 people because I purge them regularly. If I don’t remember why I followed someone or I stop enjoying their content, I unfollow. And I refuse to feel bad about it. Having someone else validate that point added sprinkles to my cupcake of happiness.

This one of those books that I could read over and over again, which almost never happens. In fact, I spent so much time talking about this book from the minute I opened it that my mom and my sister decided to buy me one of Emily Ley’s Simplified Planners for Christmas. I wish I could force every woman I know to read this book, but I guess I’ll have to settle for continuously talking about it and gifting it every chance I get.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Stone Heart – Luanne Rice

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Source: Goodreads

Maria Dark is returning to Connecticut for the first time in 15 years, ready to start over surrounded by her family at their little house between Bell Stream and the big old brick women’s prison. Not everything is as wonderful as she dreams, however, and soon everyone’s secrets begin to make life in the sleepy seaside town of Hatauquitit complicated, and even downright dangerous.

I picked this book up in August 2016 while I was babysitting in Boston. I was running out of things to read because I hadn’t anticipated just how much a 4-month-old can sleep when I came upon this book in one of those Little Free Libraries. I was intrigued by the title, cover, and location of the story, and brought it home with me. It didn’t hurt that Maria is a “nomad archaeologist” and I just thought that sounded extra cool.

The story starts off innocently enough, but about a third of the way in, it starts hinting at a darker core. I’m not usually one for dark or scary stories, but I was in too deep to back out of this one by that point. The inconsistencies in characters stories fascinated me even as it brought Maria closer to the truth. With some care questioning and superb intuition, Maria unravels the secrets being kept and finds a way to keep a calm and collected head on her shoulders as they all deal with the aftermath.

Honestly, this book kind of blew my mind. I finished it at one o’clock in the morning and immediately pulled out my phone to message one of my communications professors who also teaches women’s studies and like dark stories among other cool things, and told her she needed to read it immediately. It has so many twists and turns! It’s rare for me to be unable to guess the plot of a story or where it’s going/will end up, but this stumped me again and again until the very, very last second. Amazing. I’m only taking a half-star off, and that’s because it tricked me into reading something much darker than I usually like.

HHC Rating:  4.5 Stars

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay (Fantastic Beasts, #1) – J.K. Rowling

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-j-k-rowlingSource: Goodreads

Newt Scamander loves magical creatures and is determined to teach the wizarding world how to live in harmony with them. When he arrives in New York City in the winter of 1926, it is meant to be for a brief visit on his way to Arizona. Unfortunately for Newt, evil is afoot, and it will take all of his skills and the skills of his new American friends to defeat it before it destroys the city and exposes wizarding kind to the world.

For once, I had no expectations. This wasn’t anything like Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. J.K. Rowling wrote the entire screenplay herself. She helped produce it, and all of the directors and producers and talented filmmakers from the original Harry Potter movies were on board. I had no worries about whether or not it would be any good. I had faith. But I am not an expert on the 1920’s, and I am especially not an expert on the wizarding world in the 1920’s. So it was that I went in to see the film with no expectations except that there would be magic.

I saw the film twice before I read the screenplay, though because I pre-ordered it, the book arrived the same day that the movie came out. Because of this, I could see everyone clearly in my head as I read. I tried to be objective, however, impossible as that was.

There was a lot of scene setting included in the screenplay, despite the lack of details that were clearly added during the actual filming. I loved the descriptions of how people were standing, or what the characters might be thinking as they contemplated something. The script was full of tidbits that would help the actors get into character, and it made me love each of them more for it. My favorite part of all was that the script confirmed my thoughts on the fates of some of the characters that I had been continually worrying about since I had watched the film. Knowing from the bits of notes and descriptions what was going to happen to them between films has been an enormous blessing.

To make this book/screenplay even better, it’s short enough that you can read it in one sitting if you like, and therefore you can read it multiple times a day if you should so choose. I really hope she prints the rest of the screenplays as the films come out. I think it would be a very nice collection to have, and I love how descriptive and thoughtful the scenes are.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other Reviews in This Series:
Book #1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Book #3 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Book #4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Book #6 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book #7 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Book #8 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child