Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

 

 

 

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Outlander is first and foremost a time-travel story. Claire Randall, a young married combat nurse in 1945, is whisked away,back in time to the Highlands of 1740’s Scotland. She and her husband were visiting Inverness for their delayed honeymoon. The war had interrupted their new marriage and prior to this they had barely seen each other in five full years. The honeymoon was planned as a relaxing vacation and time away for Claire and her husband Frank to reconnect, but it became a place of almost complete disconnection instead, in ways that neither of them could ever have imagined.

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During an outing alone, Claire is thrown into a time before cars and planes, before tanks and machine guns, before antibiotics. If women had little voice in the 1940’s they had none in the 1740’s! Within moments of arriving, breathless and confused, she faces imminent danger and she is whisked away from her arrival point, not knowing if she can or will ever find it again. We follow her life as she is forced to adapt to her new surroundings, and meet new people, making the best of her situation but making enemies as well as friends along the way; as she is a ‘Sassenach’ – an outsider with an English accent, who may never truly ‘fit in’ or be fully trusted by the born Scots.

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When she meets James Fraser, an unlikely friendship begins, and the most unlikely (yet somehow believable) romance follows. The book synopsis states that: ‘James Fraser shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire- and two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives’ I have to agree and couldn’t put it better myself!

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Will Claire ever get home again? Will she still want to? These questions and more followed my path through the pages and kept me spellbound until the end. I thank goodness that it took me so long to discover this series, as I don’t think I could cope with not knowing how the story would progress in future installments. Imagine reading the first book and having to wait a year before you could find out what happened next?

 

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It took me several attempts to get into ‘Outlander’ I have to confess, but I’ve learned since then that quite a few readers also suffered teething problems with this first book. However, once I was ‘in’ I couldn’t pull myself away from it, so I’m so pleased that I persevered. My problem was that these books demand your full attention. I couldn’t read them whilst the T.V was competing in the background, or when people were distracting me. Usually this never bothers me and I can tune out background distractions easily, but with these books, I found that I needed total peace in order to fully immerse myself into them. Once I had, the rewards were great.

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Gabaldon’s writing is very detailed. She can take pages and pages to describe a scene that would be only short moments in ‘real time’. Yet her talent lies in those details. In my opinion, her ability to describe every aspect of a scene is nothing short of alchemy itself. Perhaps that is why I needed total silence and zero distractions while reading her books. I needed to focus on the words completely and needed to be fully relaxed in order to sink into the story and permit myself to be fully captivated by it.

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Be warned, these books are not for snacking on. Starting at 627 pages long, (Outlander Hardback) they are a full meal; in fact they are a veritable banquet. Outlander is packed full of meaty conflicts between clans, brawls between the British and the Scots, and the tenderest morsels of romance too. There is never a dull moment.

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True, some critics complain that there is an overindulgence in sexual violence, and at times I think it can shock; as details are brandished about in all their Technicolor glory, (or perhaps that is my own imagination working overtime?) and we are never in any doubt about ‘what exactly happened’; but then others have argued that this is only Gabaldon painting a very clear picture of those brutish times – and Gabaldon is nothing if not authentic in her details.

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I felt the heartburn acutely by the last page. In fact I’d say that I suffered indigestion for the full two days that it took for Amazon to whip out the desert to me: Dragonfly in Amber- hardback at 743 pages.

In that day before delivery I was suffering from a severe book hangover, and I found myself manically scouring my bookshelves for something light and fluffy to cleanse my palette between courses. A quick sip of silly later, I was fortified once more and couldn’t wait to crack open the next installment of this huge Scottish saga.

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And so when I open the first page of Dragonfly in Ember and discover that I am back in Inverness, I gasp. When I note that it is now 1968, I am now shaking. What? When? How?…. Claire?

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To find out, I strongly suggest you pick up this series soon.

Lots of love, Sally xxx

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Welcome to Week 5 of Soak Sunday.

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Goodness what a busy weekend I’ve had!

 

Some back story: late last year we thought we’d found our dream house. It meant moving several hundred miles away, but we were willing to make a fresh start. It was an old Victorian painted lady and I had great plans for it. Anyway someone beat us to it and we decided to stay where we were, after all, we loved our home and hadn’t actually intended to move prior to falling in love with the Victoria when the details landed in my in-box..

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But you know how that goes- once you decide to move you suddenly can’t stop looking for properties. So we spent Saturday viewing model homes in this area. We found some great contenders and that put us in the right frame of mind to clear out the clutter in our lives ready for when we find the perfect place.

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So Sunday was spent with us facing all our clutter and taking a trip to the garbage tip. Not fun but necessary! It was hard work and every muscle ached by the end of the day, but boy, what a satisfying feeling!

So to get to my point, I really needed a long soak to ease those exhausted muscles. I also needed an injection of energy too since it was only afternoon when we’d finished. So I chose a lovely bath cocktail with citrus notes, to both relax and invigorate me.

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I began with pouring some ‘Olive branch shower gel on the base of the bath, to start up the bubble process. Then I chose the ‘Refresher‘ shower jelly which I’d already prepared into cubes, and I mixed that with the ‘Ex Factor’ bath bomb (that little one with a stick figure in it) that I bought from the Lush Kitchen in the U.K (they ship to the U.S.A)…

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Then I  added two other bathbomb’s for maximum impact – I chose ‘Fizzbanger‘  as seen above. This lovely fizzing bath bomb looks like lemon but is fun of the scent of cinnamon and apples. The colors are spectacular and I did not expect them! They were stunning.

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Finally I added  ‘Yoga Bomb‘ which looks orange but has sandalwood, olibanum and ho wood oils encased inside.

 

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This was even prettier! I wish I could share the scent with you. They were so delicious.

 

 

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I set myself up with a lovely candle from ‘The melting Library’ (I think they are no longer in business sadly) and relaxed into the most delicious citrus scented bubble bath and settled down to read more of my new Diana Gabaldon book ‘Dragonfly in Amber’. It was the perfect end to a busy day. I think I was in there until the water went cold!

 

 

Finally I just want to remind you that Tuesday 28th Feb (tomorrow from this post) is the final day to enter my Beauty and the beast giveaway. You will find full details on my instagram feed. Remember you will earn two extra entries if you leave a comment on this blog (be sure to leave your instagram name here too) I will announce the winner by the weekend and will be giving details about my new Alice in Wonderland themed giveaway which is starting just a couple in just a couple of weeks! Kindly scroll back on here to see the prizes in glorious full detail too.

Have a great day. I’ll be back tomorrow with my ‘Outlander’ book review.

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Lots of love, Sally xxx

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Beauty & The Beast Instagram Give Away!

beauty-rose-clocheWelcome back, and I am so stoked to announce my first giveaway of 2017. I decided to theme this one ‘Beauty & the Beast’ since the live action movie will be out next month. I really cannot wait, can you? Oh yes the giveaway is INTERNATIONAL too. I always set aside the shipping money before I list.

So this movie is very special to me and my husband. You can read this little story on my latest instagram post, if you are interested.

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Anyway, lets get right onto the giveaway details shall we?…

First, lets see what you will be winning….

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I only took the funk’s out of the box for the photos!

Be warned, it keeps growing!

So first we have the gorgeous Beauty & the Beast coloring book. I can’t tell you just how stunning this book is. The pages are so beautiful.I can’t even…

img_2083 The inside is even more beautiful. It has scenes from the movie and also lots of patterns to doodle along with.

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This one is my favorite.

I’m sure Emma Watson will make the perfect Belle, don”t you?

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So along with the coloring book we have two Funko pops, one each of Belle and the Beast.You can see thee in the main picture. Then I added some cute fairy lights because I love them so much and will take any excuse to use fairy lights. My library is like a grotto! Then I ordered these precious magnetic book marks to add to the parcel as an extra.

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Lets, see, what else?… Oh yes, how about the story itself.  I bought this book.

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And then yesterday I happened to visit the book store and bought a ton of new things for me, and decided that wouldn’t it be cute to add this book and mini mystery funko pack too…

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I really wanted to make this giveaway something special. I have added a cute keyring, an adorable pillow cover and mug from Society 6 designed by Evie Bookish. Not show ing is a sampler candle from In the wick of time called ‘Be our Guest’. I’m so excited. And by the way, nobody is sponsoring me on this giveaway, I have purchased everything myself, trying to pick out super cute items that I hope you will love.

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Now you can be totally set up for all future Instagram and blog posts.  I have one more item to add and thats the faux rose- I mean it wouldn’t be right to not include the magic rose. I hope you love it.

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Now the details of how to enter.

 

beauty-rose-clocheSo all you have to do is:

* LIKE THE  Instagram giveaway post here *

*FOLLOW ME on instagram* – yes I do check.

*TAG TWO FRIENDS WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED*

*REPOST THE GIVEAWAY PIC WITH THE TAG #bookscupsandcandles7k *

(yes you do need to repost, I do check and it’s a small price to pay for a chance to win all these goodies)

*FOR 2 EXTRA ENTRIES FOLLOW ME ON HERE (and you’ll be first to hear about the next two giveaways too)

Easy! Now the last date to enter is FEB 28th 2017. The winner will be announced a few days later.

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Okay, now the boring bit: The giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram or any of the brands that I am listing. Your feed MUST be public, and post must stay up until I announce that your names have all been inputted into the random name generator.

So remember, LIKe, FOLLOW, TAG, REPOST – DONE!

 

Good Luck everybody.

NEXT  TWO GIVEAWAYs will be in March (Alice in Wonderland) and April (Harry Potter)

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Lots of love, Sally xxxf3

Happy Valentine’s Day!

valentine-all-1Happy Valentine’s day fellow Bookstagrammers and Book bloggers! I hope you’re having a wonderful day.Whether you are married, dating or single, today is the day to show everyone some lurvvvvvv.

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I love any chance to use pink in my posts, so please forgive me for overgramming today. Some of my favorite pink books are these gorgeous pink Penguins which were released to honor cancer survivors in Australia and New Zealand. I wish they’d been available here. I had to special order mine and could only buy these ones. Just a small sample of what was available. But they’re so lovely. I’d love to buy more if you know where I can get some in the U.S.

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My hubby spoiled me this year with a heart shaped balloon, heart shaped chocolates, a heart shaped ornament, a dozen red roses and a gorgeous card too. He really surprised me. Such a sweetie! =)

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I couldn’t resist posting some stunning pink bookish merch too. I love this gorgeous cushion design and the lovely mug that I ordered from Red Bubble by one of my favorite artists Nyxsullivan

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And talking of gorgeousness. Have you discovered these amazing bookish candles from

Amanda at North Ave Candles

She sells the most amazing candles that not only smell delicious, but look so cute and what I just love is that Amanda ships quicker than any other candle store I’ve used. One of my pet peeves is that every other bookish candle store that Ive bought from take four to six weeks to deliver the goods. I mean my money is paid to them instantly, so Why don’t they have stock? Amanda ships right out to you FAST! and her candles smell as delicious as they look. This one is based on the book ‘The Secret Garden’ and is is beautiful!

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I love the old fashioned library card labels. And Amanda has just started making badges/buttons and bookmarks to match. Kindly keep checking back and I’ll post some pictures this week on my Instagram account

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Finally, how do you like poetry? I recently picked up some contemporary poetry when I purchased this darling book : ‘The Universe of us’ by Lang Leav  The only poetry I’d read previously had been quiet limited, with my absolute favorite being ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. I used to have that on my fridge door when I first emigrated here and was incredibly homesick for my family and friends back in Britain.

img_1827I hope you’ve had a wonderful Valentine’s day, whatever you’re doing.

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Lost of love, Sally xxx

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Book Review: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

 

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Yes you read that correctly, I am reviewing a book that was written by the King way back in 1975.

Why now?

Because I’ve just finished a reread of it and I was blown away by the huge difference in Stephen King’s writing style of back in the day. ‘Salem’s Lot’ is so phenomenally well written, I had a huge new appreciation for the book. There are pages of prose entwined with detailed descriptions, enough characters to fill a classroom; yet each have their own individual personalities, their own mannerisms and their own agendas.

 

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I was first introduced to King’s work in my early teens. I inhaled his books and even watched some of the old ‘B’ movie translations of them (lets face it, it took years before any film maker could handle a Stephen King book with the respect it deserved. These stories need BIG budgets) I collected the paperbacks, and after I had devoured them, they stood proudly on my shelf for quite a few years. Then I finally realized I had to donate them. One of the problems with keeping paperbacks on display for a long time is the discoloration they suffer. So I reluctantly handed  them over.I like to keep my books pristine.

For a while I read other genres, slipping into each of his new releases as I found them, but using the library as my main source. Then last week I was in Books-a-Million when I stumbled across a new cover design for ‘Salem’s Lot’.

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I am a sucker, a marketers dream. I fell head over heels in love with it. I picked it up and popped it in my cart (yes I shop with a cart, I believe the store managers invested in them especially for me) My intention was to rebuild my collection with these spiffy new cover designs but not to actually reread them because goodness knows I have more books waiting to be read than I have room to house them.

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However, as I stepped into my waiting car (read that as my husband picking me up) I began rifling through my new haul, and the book lingered in my hands for just a moment too long. At this point I have to tell you that I had ‘Outlander’ waiting for me at home. It had taken me three attempts to get into the ‘Outlander’ book and I had finally read past the first fifty pages. I was finally ‘in’. But I made the mistake of opening the pages of ‘Salem’s Lot’and reading the first line:

 

“Almost everyone thought the man and the boy were father and son.”

HOOKED.

I read on, for a page or two, (or so I intended) and before I knew it we were home and twenty minutes had passed and I knew then beyond all reasonable doubt that I was reading this book right now and ‘Outlander’ would just have to wait patiently for me yet again.

You see there was ‘something’ about King’s writing in this book. Something precious and rare. Something that I missed the first time around.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love King’s signature style of character driven novels with fast paced action, witty repartee between characters and things you would never believe, being, well…believable. But here in ‘Salem’s Lot’ we have all this and more!

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Salem’s Lot was Stephen King’s second book, right after ‘Carrie’. Can you imagine how hard it would be for a new author to tackle a book about Vampires and make the reader be able to suspend reality? No pressure right? So my theory is that he put everything into this book…and it worked.

Its only a few months ago that I finally read Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ for the first time. This is hard for me to confess, especially since I was born and bred in a small town not far from Whitby, where much of the book is based. Shame on me. Its one of my favorite towns to visit when I go back to England too.

Stoker’s writing is spectacular. It is timeless. It is absorbing and intriguing even after being written almost one hundred and fifty years ago.It was an amazing read. And I really believe now that Stephen King wanted to pay true homage to Stoker with ‘Salem’s Lot’. He does not copy Stoker’s style at all- that’s not what I am saying- but I feel like King tries his very best in this book. It’s like all his other books are a (very tasty) quick bake and Salem’s Lot is fine cuisine. It sounds paradoxical to say that his effort on this work shows, yet it appears effortless too.

Please pick it up if you get a chance. I’d even recommend this book to someone who doesn’t particularly choose Horror as an enjoyable genre, Just for the phenomenal writing.It really is too good to miss.

Needless to say, I have since purchased two more of his books to reread: ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Stand’ (I may be a while with a review of ‘The Stand’) These covers are so stunning!

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If you are interested in the covers that got me hooked, they are the Anchor paperback edition, part of Random house. And if you want to watch the ‘B’ movie version (as I did afterwards) you can buy it cheaply from HERE Enjoy!

 

Lots of love,

Sally xxx

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Soak Sunday week 4

Welcome to week four of my #soaksunday.

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This week I decided to go for an energizing bath. I’d spent my Sunday trying to organize our garage (which is full of my husbands work tools amongst other surprises ) We try to face it a couple of times per year, but always dread it, especially in the Florida heat. I always admire the way the Americans can beep open their garage door and glide their car into it. I’m from England, where garages are really a fancy name for an extra storage room. We fill our garages with boxes and Christmas stuff, bikes and anything-that-hasn’t-been-used-in-ages-but-may-one-day-come-in-handy! So by the end of the day I was as ready for my #soaksunday as a desert cactus is for rain.

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Anyway…. So I was in need of extra therapy. I picked out ‘The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh to read. I really enjoyed the first book in the duology The Wrath and the Dawn and I immersed myself into a world of deserts and war, love and destiny. Pure escapism for an hour or so.

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Initially I chose The Olive branch shower gel to start with. I then chose to use  a limited edition Lush bath bomb today. This first one is from the Lush Kitchen ‘ex factor’  I added the shower Jelly Whoosh to make a cocktail, and finally threw in an extra bath bomb (because I’m worth it)

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I loved the vivid blue color that the water changed into. It felt so cleansing, and the aroma from the bath bombs were just so refreshing. The air felt totally charged. I’d like to say it gave me instant energy, but I was totally beat, although I felt much better after a good soak. Next time I plan to tidy my garage in 80 degree heat, I’ll take one of these baths beforehand. img_1697

But for me there is nothing better than a long hot bubble bath, with a cup of tea and a good book. It is pure heaven for me. Total luxury.

On a week night I usually prop my laptop on a chair next to the bath and watch Netflix or an Amazon movie while I soak. It’s become such a ritual for me, I think I spend more time preparing for my bath as I do soaking in it. What do you guys do to recharge after a long day at work or school? Any tips. I’d love to hear them.

Psssst Have you seen my Instagram giveaway post yet? Kindly pop across and check it out. I’m doing one giveaway per month for three months! This first one is Beauty and the Beast themed. Go look! I’d love you to enter. It’s international too.

Lots of love

Sally xxx

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Book Review: Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

 

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Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar. buy it HERE

I discovered this book whilst doing a search for contemporary YA reads on Amazon. Marketed for grades 4-8 I was nevertheless drawn to this book after reading the synopsis, which reads:

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What does it mean to be fully alive? Magic blends with reality in a stunning coming-of-age novel about a girl, a grandfather, wanderlust, and reclaiming your roots.

 

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them . . . .

 

‘While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.’

 

 So Carol’s summer is going to be a tough one: Meeting a Grandfather she barely remembers, being in the middle of nowhere for the full summer, and doing everything she can to keep Grandpa calm at all costs.bee1

 

So in the midst of it all, as the desert homestead land is dying in one of the worst droughts in decades. Grandpa says that when the Bees come back they will bring water. Carol thinks this is grandpa’s dementia talking; surely water will bring the Bees, not the other way around? So when Carol begins seeing Bees hanging around her, she daren’t mention it to Grandpa, so as not to upset him. But she can see Bees in a desert!

 

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Obviously the book was an easy read, being aimed at twelve year olds, so I flew through it in one sitting. However, what I wasn’t counting on was that after reading this book it would linger with me afterwards.

 

Eagar’s writing style is beautiful and lyrical and flows effortlessly. Dementia is a subject that requires addressing delicately, and Eagar manages to achieve this by giving Grandpa a quiet dignity and intelligence despite his mind-crippling illness.

 

One of the reasons I think this book resonated with me so strongly was that at a similar age I met my step-grandmother for the first time and under similar circumstances.

 

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She moved into our home after being unable to cope any longer due to her age (eighty-three) and later, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. I only knew her for little under two years; yet, in such a short space of time she became my closest friend.

 

Now I was a chatty kid and had plenty of friends my own age, but something about ‘Aunt Jane’ (as I was instructed to call her) just ‘clicked’ with me and I found myself wanting to spend more and more time with her.

 

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Reading ‘Hour of the Bees’ brought back so many childhood memories for me. I felt myself tearing up over some little description or other, and feeling that this author must have experienced this situation for herself. The special relationship between Carol and her Grandpa touched me deeply. It is so unexpected and unlikely, yet their love transcended across the decades and they bonded deeply. The depth surprised Carol, and she began to question her priorities in life and reassessed the importance of the things she had previously held dear.

 

Grandpa has never left his homestead, yet has lived a life that many of us could only dream of. He has known true love, great health and the friendships of many. He now has to leave the only home that he has every known, and of course the prospect terrifies him.

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Added to this his son, Carol’s father has little patience with him due to old wounds that we learn about later in the story, and he just wants the homestead cleaned up and put on the market so he can continue on with his own life.

 

With an interesting mix of characters, and the confined space of a small farmhouse there is, of course, no shortage of conflict. And here Eagar is masterful in her ability to show everybody’s point of view fairly.

 

I read a couple of books each week and this one is one that shines. It has now been added to my short list of ‘favorite books’ and easily gets a five star rating from me.

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Please, whatever your age, pick up this book from this amazing debut author. I’m certain we will be hearing much more from her in the future. If I had a crystal ball, I would predict that this book would win many awards- it certainly merits it.

 

lots of love,

Sally xxx

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