Tag: fiction

Bookish Illumination: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (2015) by Rachel Joyce

Bookish Illumination: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (2015) by Rachel JoyceThe Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 384

From the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry comes an exquisite love story about Queenie Hennessy, the remarkable friend who inspired Harold's cross-country journey. A runaway international bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry followed its unassuming hero on an incredible journey as he traveled the length of England on foot--a journey spurred by a simple letter from his old friend Queenie Hennessy, writing from a hospice to say goodbye. Harold believed that as long as he kept walking, Queenie would live. What he didn't know was that his decision to walk had caused her both alarm and fear. How could she wait? What would she say? Forced to confront the past, Queenie realizes she must write again.   In this poignant parallel story to Harold's saga, acclaimed author Rachel Joyce brings Queenie Hennessy's voice into sharp focus. Setting pen to paper, Queenie makes a journey of her own, a journey that is even bigger than Harold's; one word after another, she promises to confess long-buried truths--about her modest childhood, her studies at Oxford, the heartbreak that brought her to Kingsbridge and to loving Harold, her friendship with his son, the solace she has found in a garden by the sea. And, finally, the devastating secret she has kept from Harold for all these years.   A wise, tender, layered novel that gathers tremendous emotional force, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy underscores the resilience of the human spirit, beautifully illuminating the small yet pivotal moments that can change a person's life.

Illuminations of Spirituality:

Was I ever delighted to discover that Rachel Joyce was writing a companion novel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye! If you read my review of that one, you know that I read this book last fall for the first time. I picked up a copy in London and fell in love with the story and with its characters. A man who decides to walk the length of England to visit a dying friend? At first it may not sound all that exciting, but it was such a beautiful and moving story, filled with ordinary encounters hiding the extraordinary.

Knowing I would be able to return to a world with Harold Frye and Queenie Hennessy, but this time with more of Queenie’s story made my world get just a little brighter! The story takes place at the SAME TIME as the other book. It just focuses on Queenie’s perspective instead of Harold’s.

I am starting again, I thought. Because that is what you do when you reach the last stop. You make a new beginning.

Like Harold Frye, this novel really highlights the importance of looking beyond appearances and recognizing that people are complex individuals who deserve respect and connection. We are all striving to connect with each other, and I think that both of Joyce’s books effectively depict characters who need that kind of connection. These characters become willing to reach out so these connections form with others.

Long ago Harold said to me:

“There are so many things we don’t see.”

What do you mean? I asked. My heart gave a flip.

“Things that are right in front of us,” you said.

There’s no sugar coating how difficult life can be in this story. Queenie is a flawed and broken woman, but she’s honest about that, and through flashbacks, the story illuminates different points in her life that give insight into the woman she has become.

The place was a part of me in the same way that the past was a part of me and you were a part of me and so were my bones.

Not only does the book illuminate matters of the heart in a way that speaks to me of the book’s spirituality, the story also highlights an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world. This is revealed through Queenie’s sea garden, and her memories of the garden represent a significant part of the book, for it gives further insight into who Queenie is. She’s experienced Beauty, but beauty can reach us in different ways.

Every once in awhile you have to stop in your tracks and admire the view, a small cloud and a tree outside your window. You have to see what you did not see before. And then you have to sleep.

The last thing I wanted to mention about this book’s spiritual aspects is the notion of forgiving yourself. Queenie has to come to terms with some events in her life, and one key question for her is whether she can forgive herself for something from her past. It is with the help of others and through her own writing that Queenie begins this journey towards forgiveness. In case you haven’t read the book, I won’t say anything more.

Who Should Read This Book:

If you enjoyed Harold Frye, you will appreciate this story. But, even if you didn’t read Joyce’s other book, I would still recommend this one to you if you’re in the mood for a moving and beautiful story about broken individuals striving for connection and love in the world.

I can honestly say that this book brought tears (like Harold Frye) but it was a good kind of tears. You will know this if you read Harold Frye, but Queenie does have cancer and is living with other people with terminal illnesses in the book. But it’s definitely not a depressing story–Trust me!

The Final Illumination:

I approached this book with some particular ideas about what Queenie would be revealing and who she had been in love with. I actually was quite surprised by what I discovered, and I appreciated that element of surprise. I may have even enjoyed this companion novel to Harold Frye even more, because we don’t get much of Queenie’s perspective in the other book. And that’s ok, because it is Harold’s book and his pilgrimage. This is another fabulous book club book, like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye.

“People think you have to walk to go on a journey. But you don’t, you see. You can lie in bed and make a journey too…”

I wish I had someone else to chat with about this book, so if you read it (or are reading it) do comment below or tweet me your thoughts!

I received an e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley and this in no way affected my review.

What Katie Read

Falling in Love With…Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill (Morgan from Gone with the Words)

Falling in love with books finalHappy Thursday! I’m so happy my Historical Fiction (among other genres!) loving friend from Twitter, Morgan (and fellow native Californian) is here for Day 7 of Falling in Love with Books. She blogs over at Gone with the Words and is sharing a book that is near and dear to her heart: Meant to Be! Enjoy!

I’ve always loved Valentines Day! As a kid, I would pick cards in January and then agonize over which card to give to which person in my class. And in college I’d bake cupcakes and cookies for friends, wear all the red and pink I owned, and watch a bunch of romantic comedies! It was never about having a boyfriend for me, though having my husband the past couple years has been nice 😉 Last year we sent Valentines cards with our wedding picture instead of Christmas cards! I just love festiveness and swoons and baked goods and love.

meant to be
One of my favorite genres to read is YA Contemporary and the book that started it all was Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill.

I had read a lot of adult “chick lit”, or what I like to call romantic comedies, but not much YA. I was under the impression that most YA contemporaries were serious or dramatic, not fun and fluffy. But luckily I found Christina @ Reader of Fiction’s 5 star review for Meant to Be right when I discovered blogs! I LOVED the cover, I thought the story sounded awesome, and Christina’s review totally sold me.

An awkward bookworm in London stuck with a guy she couldn’t stand… or could she?

side eye dalmationsYeah, that sounded like Morgan catnip and it SO was. I read it in a day, which was an enjoyable way to endure jury duty!

happy rachel and phoebsJulia, with all her rules and awkwardness, was easy to relate to, the London setting was vibrant, and Jason was completely adorable under that irritating layer 😉 I’d say my favorite thing in a romance is banter, especially between two people who “can’t stand each other.” It’s so Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy and totally amazing. I love watching it evolve into flirting and the realization that there are feelings beneath the supposed hostility. Eep!
one fine day
oh baby
lizzie and darcy smilingThe book was also very funny and had amazing pop culture references. And I know that teenagers shouldn’t drink (don’t do it kids!) but I adore drunk scenes in books and movies. They’re always so hilarious and lead to these amazing confessional and/or awkward moments.

pitch perfect drunkI loved this book so much that my review only says this: “5 billion stars. Will write a proper review tonight. I fell in love with this book!”

I never went back to the review but mainly because it would have been nonsensical and full of OMGGGGGS.
donna and tom

If you love witty banter, awesome, relatable characters, foreign settings, swoooons, and Shakespearean levels of comic misunderstanding, you’ll love Meant to Be.

It led me to Anna and the French Kiss which I absolutely loved. And from there, the door was open for me to find more YA romantic comedies to fall in love with 🙂 I’ll watch a movie millions of times if I love it and I wanted books like that too. I’m glad Meant to Be helped me find them 🙂

It’s a perfect read, or re-read, for Valentine’s Day!
rory and jessWitty banter? Awkward bookworm? London? I can’t believe I haven’t read this book, Morgan! My TBR is getting even higher than it was before, and I’ll be adding this book STAT. Thank you for sharing in this fabulous post with these superb gifs. 🙂

Ready for more books to fall in love with? Tomorrow Diana from Brilliantly Novel brings Glass Girl onto our radar!

What Katie Read

Falling in Love With…Beauty by Robin McKinley (Lory from The Emerald City Book Review)

Falling in love with books finalWelcome to Lory from The Emerald City Book Review! I have been following Lory’s blog for awhile now, and let me tell you, it is delightful every time I stop by. If you want to read rich, descriptive, and thoughtful reviews and discussions, then by all means, go check out Lory’s blog. I was so curious which book she would choose for this feature, and I have to say I’m intrigued!

A book I fell in love with:

Beauty by Robin McKinley (Harper and Row, 1978)

lorys postBeauty is not the first book by Robin McKinley that I ever read, but I find it her most. . . loveable. I mean, how can a bibliomaniac not adore a book that contains the following description of a library:

This single room of the library was as large as our whole house in the city had been, and I could see more book-filled rooms through open doors in all directions, including a balcony overhead, all built from floor to high ceiling with bookshelves. “Oh my,” I said. “How do you reach the top shelves?”

A miniature staircase, complete with a banister on one side, rolled up to me; I had the feeling that it would have cleared its throat respectfully if it had had a throat to clear. “You remind me of our butler in the city,” I said to it. “He stood at attention just the way you’re doing now. Do you clean silver as well as he did?” It moved in a half circle backward, and I thought it was probably eyeing me in confusion.

“Don’t distress it,” said the Beast mildly. “It will try to clean silver to please you, and it isn’t built for it.”

I laughed. “Pardon me, sir,” I said to the waiting staircase. “I do not wish you to clean silver.” It settled down on its wheels with the faintest sigh of condensing springs. . .

. . . The rows of books tugged unrepentantly at the edges of my sight. I walked like one bewitched to the nearest shelf. “I didn’t know there were so many books in the world,” I said caressingly, and the Beast’s answer was heard only in my ear and did not register in my brain. “Well, in fact, there aren’t.”

Clearly our heroine, Beauty, loves books, which is one thing that immediately endeared her to me. She also loves horses, roses, and her family. There are no wicked sisters or foolish fathers in this retelling of the story of “Beauty and the Beast,” only a warm and wonderful circle of people I’ve often wished I could slip into as a younger sibling or cousin. Rather than being greedy and grasping, vainly regretting their lost wealth, they bravely set out to create a new home together.

From my first encounter with them, I loved all of the details of their journey and of their world, with its vivid beauties, homely joys, and a touch of magic.

Things Beauty does not love include her name, either her rather stiff and proper real name, Honour, or her wildly inappropriate (as she thinks) nickname. And once she comes to the castle of the Beast, she does not love him at all, for he is a fearsome creature. But as they spend time together and she begins to understand something of what lies behind the beastly exterior, fear turns to trust, and repulsion to respect. Can it turn into something warmer? That depends on Beauty truly knowing herself, and owning the truth of both her names.

The journey of two lonely people toward one another is one of the loveliest things about this lovely book. And it takes place in a charmingly mysterious enchanted castle—what could be better? If you haven’t yet read Beauty, this is the perfect season to do so. I hope you will, and that you’ll find as much pleasure in its pages as I have.

Lory Widmer Hess

Lory blogs about her reading journey at The Emerald City Book Review (www.emeraldcitybookreview.com).

Thank you, Lory, for sharing your love of Beauty! I don’t have the privilege of having read this, and I need to remedy that. I love Beauty and the Beast tales, especially when that story relates to “the journey of two lonely people toward one another” as you put it.

I wonder if others have read Beauty or, like me, they still have yet to read this gem?

Get ready for a really fun post tomorrow by Morgan from Gone with the Words as she gushes about Meant to Be!

What Katie Read
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