Sing a New Song

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg is another delightful read by one of my favorite authors. Flagg’s work always gives me a lift!

When divorced Chicago native Oswald Campbell discovers his rapidly approaching death, his elderly doctor hands him a faded brochure for a hotel in Alabama. The physician recommends it as a fitting place to live out the remainder of Oswald’s days. After discovering the hotel burned down years prior, a local offers to allow Oswald room and board in her home. Without a moment of hesitation, Oswald packs his meager possessions and boards a train for Alabama.

He arrives in a very small town populated with a cast of typical Flagg charactersdown home, quirky folks with welcoming ways. He quickly settles in, discovers a new passion for bird watching as there’s not much else to do, and waits for his impending death.

His newfound friends and lifestyle lead to amazing transformations; changing Oswald’s life for the better.

I recommend this novel. It will warm your heart!

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Wine, Women and War

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough is the first novel in a series of books based on Ancient Rome. I gratefully acknowledge fellow blogger Martie for her recommendation!

This is an amazing historical fiction book which brought Rome and its inhabitants alive. Based on extensive research, these stories captivated my imagination.

The only difficulty I had was with the characters lengthy names. This is based on the audio version I acquired and my short memory! There are graphic depictions of sex and violence which made me squirm at times, but the quality of storytelling was so superior I didn’t turn away from the novel.

There are more books in the series which I may read at a later date. For now, I recommend the one I read with great enthusiasm.

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From My Purr-spective

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa is a recently published novel which has been translated from Japanese. The novel is written in the first-person. What makes it unique is that a cat named Nana is the narrator.

Satoru is the man who befriended Nana, a stray male cat who regularly rested on the hood of Satoru’s van. Satoru is dying and this sad story is about his attempt to locate a loving home for his beloved pet.

I had no inkling this was going to be a novel about life and death. I love cats and decided to read the novel based solely on that. I was surprised and almost stopped reading the book when I realized where it was headed. In the end however, I found merit in the story and appreciated its clever perspective. It made me wonder what story my cats would tell about my life! It is sad, but I recommend it.

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Bless the Beasts

Animal Magnetism: My Life With Creatures Great and Small by Rita Mae Brown is an October library book sale find. Ms. Brown has written many books, however, this is the first of hers I have read. She is most definitely an animal lover! She lives on a farm surrounded by many pets.

As a cat owner and former dog owner, I was able to relate to much of the sentiment in this memoir. I was unable to relate to fox hunting which is spoken of at great length, but clearly, the author has a passion for the sport. I wonder how a fox feels about being chased for “sport”?

Some folks are able to connect with animals on a deeper level than most and I believe Ms. Brown is one of those special people. The book is humorous and informative. Many types of animals have populated the author’s life and she writes about many of them. I found this touching. The stories are varied, but the overall theme is about taking care of animals. There are a number of political asides which have to do with government and politics which I could have done without, but Brown was writing from her heart so I understand why she included her opinions on those topics.

If you are an animal owner or love animals, I think you will enjoy this memoir. It made appreciate my own even more!

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Star-Crossed Lovers

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff increased my knowledge of Egypt and its well-known ruler who lived and died very near the time when Christ was born. I was very surprised to learn Cleopatra was in Rome when Julius Caesar, her lover and father of her son, was assassinated. Not only was she there, she was pregnant with a second child. Cleopatra did not witness the murder, but it prompted her to make a hasty exit back to Alexandria and the safety of the homeland she ruled.

King Herod is a recognizable biblical figure in this biography. He is portrayed as a two-faced tyrant. Mark Antony, Cleopatra’s second Roman lover with whom she had three additional children occupies the final chapter of her life.

Outside of all the romantic drama, the author’s research reveals Cleopatra as a temptress, but also a highly educated, adept leader of Egypt.

For me, the most difficult part of this history was reading about the violent nature of people during this time who thought nothing of murdering anyone who got in their way. Children of conquered leaders were paraded in chains in the streets. Ultimately, many were murdered. Heartbreaking!

Caesar and Mark Antony were married men with families, but extramarital affairs and illegitimate offspring from those dalliances were accepted practice.

This book fascinated me because I have always been drawn to Egyptology. I highly recommend this novel in conjunction with SPQR which I read and reviewed some time ago. They compliment each other. Knowing Roman history is valuable when reading about this segment in history because they are deeply connected.

Cleopatra’s tomb has never been found, but this link offers hope that it may be in the near future:

http://remezcla.com/features/culture/dominican-archaeologist-dramatic-quest-cleopatra-tomb/

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The Tempest

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson is chock-full of literary references, as one might expect of a novel about a bookshop. This author’s debut centers on a 27-year-old girl named Miranda who teaches history. News of the death of her Uncle Billy leads her home to California and the bookshop she inherits.

Uncle Billy may be deceased, but one-by-one, Miranda is led on a literary treasure hunt orchestrated by Billy prior to his death. Ultimately, a surprising secret is revealed which alters the course of Miranda’s life.

I enjoyed much of this clever story. The book trail of clues was admirable. The end of the story however, disappointed me. In a way it was too predictable to me and I suppose I would have preferred something unexpected after following cryptic clues throughout the novel. Still in all, this novel held my interest up until the end which leads me to recommend it to my book-loving followers.

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Burnt Sugar

The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller
is a recent novel about a forty-two year-old divorced woman who runs the family diner founded by her late parents in New England. Nora has a younger sister named Kit who, unlike Nora, is a carefree spirit.

When a former neighbor passes away and leaves the sisters her home and surrounding acreage, Kit wants the money the sale of the property which will provide for the film she plans to produce. Nora, the responsible one, thinks of how the sale to a large box store might adversely affect the small town and its inhabitants. There’s also the dead neighbor’s missing dog woven in and out of the story. It served no purpose as far as I was concerned.

I read the author’s previous novel and enjoyed it. This is similar in that food plays a part in the story. The main character is going through difficult times, meets a love interest, and has obstacles to overcome. The end of this novel is warm and fuzzy, but overall, I didn’t feel connected with the characters. It seemed to me that this novel didn’t have as much substance as the previous one. If you’re looking for a light read, I imagine you will enjoy this book. I wish I had enjoyed it more.

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