Review: Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth

15810860 At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London’s East End slums. The colorful characters she meets while delivering babies all over London-from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with whom she lives to the woman with twenty-four children who can’t speak English to the prostitutes and dockers of the city’s seedier side-illuminate a fascinating time in history. Beautifully written and utterly moving, The Midwife will touch the hearts of anyone who is, and everyone who has, a mother.


Review_ (1)I’m a longtime fan of the TV version of Call the Midwife and I’ve always wanted to get my hands on a copy of the book. The latest season was just added to Netflix and I decided that I wouldn’t watch it until I got to read the book first, and I’m soooooo glad I did!

If you’ve watched the show, you know that Call the Midwife is about much more than birthing babies. It offers episodic glimpses into humanity that just happen to be delivered through expecting mothers, their families, the midwives helping her, or a combination of all three. I was a little nervous when I picked up the book that some of that heart-warming humanity would be lost in the written form, but I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. If anything, it was better.

The book follows the same format as the show in the sense that each chapter (or sometimes two or three) was dedicated to a specific case or specific medical issue, but unlike the show the chapters weren’t arranged chronologically. A lot of the cases Worth wrote about were the cases used in the first season of the show but I never felt like it was redundant. The book, as is usually the case, had much more detail and didn’t sugar coat cases as much as the show does to keep it family friendly. One of my favorite stories from the show and the book was Mary the young Irish girl, and her tale had a much different ending in real life.

Aside from the individual cases, the peek into East End life itself was a treasure. I loved reading about the East Ender’s way of life and their persistence in the face of abominable conditions. They had so much to contend with and yet they were altogether a jolly bunch of people intent on living as well as they could with what they had. Then there were the medical practices of the 1950’s, which Worth compared to modern techniques whenever applicable.

There were so many things to soak up in this book! I loved it and can’t wait to read the next, which looks like it’s about the workhouses. Worth briefly describes the workhouse setup in this book and it was one of the things that fascinated me the most. 5 Stars

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Review: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

 28186The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan’s amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a “half blood” whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan’s series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. 
In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book’s drama and setting the stage for

 

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First of all, I was SO glad to see that the chapter titles in The Sea of Monsters were just as amusing as the chapter titles in The Lightning Thief! The book could have been crap and I still would have skim read just to get to see all the chapter titles play out.

The same sentiment goes for pretty much everything else in the book. It’s not often that a sequel handles things better than the first book – especially when both books have the same premise: world’s in danger > magical object could save everything > quest to retrieve magical object – but that was totally the case here. When I read the description for this book I expected to feel some redundancy or, at the very least, a sense of deja vu while I read. It may have been the same general plot but Sea of Monsters put a completely different spin on it and made it fresh.

The plot is super well done but, just like the first book, the characters were hands down my favorite part. Familiar characters, especially Clarisse, became even more rounded and fleshed out in this book. It wasn’t quiteeeeee enough for me to like her but it was nice to learn more. Tyson, a new character introduced in The Sea of Monsters, was one of the highlights of the book and I hope there’s more of him to come.

It’s pretty hard to beat Greek mythology + hilarious dialogue + amazing characters. I hope the next book is as solid as the first two!

5 Stars

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Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

28187 Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse – Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena – Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.


Review_ (1)I know I’m ridiculously late to this party, but O.M.G.

There’s not a whole lot more you could want from a non-Harry Potter book series. Riordan creates an intensely likable cast of characters, builds a realistic world, and then makes you want to be a part of it. He integrated Greek mythology into the normal world so seamlessly that it was hard not to believe that the underworld was in Los Angeles. Anytime I had a question about how something would work in this half Greek God half modern American world, Riordan answered it. Antiquated practices like sacrificing your best piece of food to the Gods before you ate balanced out with the modernity of Poseidon appearing in a fisherman’s outfit. It all just made sense.

The only thing that I didn’t care for was the ages of the characters. I know, it’s a weird thing to have a problem with, but hear me out. Percy, Annabeth, and Grover are all supposed to be in the 12-ish range, but they don’t act like it AT ALL. The fact that they were so young went over my head until a reference to their ages was made at the end of the book and left me going huh? I had to go back to the beginning to figure out what was going on. I went the whole book thinking they were at least 15, and I think it would have made it that much more believable if Riordan would have made them older.

I can’t wait to see where the next four books take me. Percy Jackson is on par with all of the literary titans (see what I did there?) of the YA genre.

5 Stars

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P.S. I think we can all agree that the movie could have been muchhhhhhh better.

 

Review: Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

CarolineIn this novel authorized by the Little House estate, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.

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I was raised on Little House on the Prairie. The book series was my very first boxed set and the TV show was ALWAYS on at my house (and let’s be real, it still is). When I read the books for the first time I wasn’t too much older than Laura was and it was easy to relate to her sense of adventure and excitement over all the changes in her life. As I got older I found myself wondering more and more about pioneer life from the adult perspective. Enter Caroline: Little House, Revisited.

I was so excited when this book popped up on my Amazon recommended page, and it didn’t disappoint! Sarah Miller expertly blends fact with the fiction Laura created – like beloved character Mr. Edwards – to give readers a glimpse into what a trip to the prairie would have been like for an expectant mother who already had two young children. While I was reading it felt like I had tapped directly in to Caroline’s thoughts and emotions. Her outward stoicism and inward reflection perfectly captured the ideal Victorian woman of the time. I scrolled through a few reviews on goodreads and there were quite a few people who didn’t appreciate the internal struggles as much as I did, but I found them to be completely authentic. It did make the story a little slower, but that just gives you more time to savor the prose-like writing.

I think the thing I appreciated the most about Caroline: Little House, Revisited is that it is very clearly geared towards an adult audience. Chamber pots and outhouses are addressed, Caroline’s fear of the Native Americans is front and center, and the nature of childbirth on the plains is clearly laid out. Can you imagine traveling hundreds of miles without knowing if there would be someone to help you give birth at the end of your journey? And then, even if there was someone to help, it would be a complete stranger.

It was so refreshing to revisit these familiar stories from an adult perspective. It was such a nostalgic experience, it felt like getting a hug from Caroline herself.

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