A Year of Marvellous Ways. Sarah Winman

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A Year of Marvellous Ways
Sarah Winman
Published: Tinder Press
Date: 23rd June 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 312
Genre: Fiction
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
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Cornwall, 1947. Marvellous Ways is eighty-nine years old and has lived alone in a remote Cornish creek for nearly all her life. Lately she’s taken to spending her days sitting by the river with a telescope. She’s waiting for something – she’s not sure what, but she’ll know it when she sees it.

Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the Second World War.  When his promise to fulfil a dying man’s last wish sees him wash up on Marvellous’ creek, broken in body and spirit, the old woman comes to his aid.

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A Year of Marvellous Ways is the story of Marvellous – her life and loves and Drake who arrives at her caravan by the sea in Cornwall, England.  It is an unusual book and it took me awhile to acclimatise to it.  I am used to speeding through a book! It takes a little while to get into the rhythm of reading it, I found it has to be read slowly – no skipping or I just might miss something. 
The language is poetical, sometimes evocative of the beauty of nature and at others of the stark ordinary workings of the human body. Here and there is a play on words – sometimes I chuckled and reread as I enjoyed the little surprises tucked away in various corners. Even the title of the book surprises! Before I had read the synopsis of this book I had no idea Marvellous Ways was the name of a person. 
Marvellous is old, wise, and knows how to be herself and not bend to others rumours and opinions or actions.  She is a healer, a caring person and a kind of doctor of the soul and spirit   She has had three loves in her life, all important with the last being the longest.  She doesn’t worry what the neighbours think and sometimes her actions were shocking although I think that was part of being herself rather than setting out to be shocking. I liked her very much.
Drake a soldier scarred by war and what he has witnessed of the hard realities of men’s despicable actions,  has loved and lost, and when he arrives on Marvellous’ doorstep is very broken.  He never knew his father and lost his mother early in life.  As time goes by he heals with good companionship, story telling and decent helpings of sloe gin.  
There is horror and heartbreak, life and death, love and loss, war and peace, the healing of sharing and telling your story, the importance of the sea and nature, and the importance of being needed in this novel.  Marvellous is coming to the end of her life, Drake must learn to go on and be at peace. The ordinary mingles with the magical, often in dreams and sometimes in the daily living.

The novel speaks of integration for both Marvellous and Drake as they share with each other their lives and are heard. They are a blessing and gift for each other, and while the final surprise was no surprise it was still satisfying.

I love the cover of this book, the teal blue is perfect, the orange firefly look, I believe ties in with the orange starfish often mentioned in the novel and it has a beautiful feel. Makes having a paper book in your hand a sensory experience. Covers matter!
4 stars

The Little Paris Bookshop. Nina George

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The Little Paris Bookshop
Nina George
Translated: Simon Pare
Published: Abacus
Date: 14th April 2015
Format: ARC Paperback
Pages: 317
Genre: General Fiction
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
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On a barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop, or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possess a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe his customers’ troubled souls.

The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. For twenty-one years he has nursed a broken heart – and never dared open the letter his love left behind. But the arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.

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I thoroughly enjoyed The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George.  When a book lover sees book or bookstore in a title we’re drawn to it.  Sometimes it is worth the read, sometimes not so much.  For me The Little Paris Bookshop was a joy from beginning to end. I was hooked by the dedication – do you always read the dedication – I always do!
I followed the journey of Jean Perdu with interest. While able to read the souls and emotions of others, he is so closed up himself.  There is a room in his apartment that has been closed for a very long time.  Why?  A mystery.  Jean himself is closed, he doesn’t like touch, he avoids things. This is his journey, how he again opens up to life and to living and loving.  
He has a great affinity for books, he owns a barge, Lulu, and that is his bookshop.  People come and buy books from him, and he sells them what they might need.  A couple of cats make their home there too.  
He meets Max Jordan, an author who has writer’s block.  He has written one book that has sold very well, now he hides out, afraid to be sort out, because he can’t replicate his first success. He is cynical about all kinds of love.  I love how Max and Jean relate and journey together.
Along the journey there are many quirky and wonderfully human characters to be met and experienced.
This is a book that if I was marooned somewhere I would love to have with me.  I could open it at any page and visualise and smell and feel.  I could ponder on the many bits of wisdom it contains.  I could hold it up to my own life and ponder some more.  There are so many pieces to be reread and savoured.  As I read there were so many places that I marked.
“There was now an edge to Monsieur Perdu’s voice too. ‘What is wrong with old? Age isn’t a disease. We all grow old, even books. But are you, is anyone, worth less, or less important, because they’ve been around for longer?’  Page 10.
George, Nina.  The Little Paris Bookshop  For those who love books, want to live life fully and appreciate friends and family.
Side effects: 
  • Will make you look again at your own life and have you pondering.
  • Falling in love with France
  • Wanting to cook the recipes mentioned
  • You will believe even more deeply in the magic of books
5 stars

Jubilee’s Journey Bette Lee Davis

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Jubilee’s Journey
Bette Lee Crosby
Published: Bent Pine Publishing
Date: October 2013
Format: Kindle ebook
Pages: 300
Genre: Fiction
Source: from the author.
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When tragedy strikes a West Virginia coal mining family, two children start out on a trek that they hope will lead them to a new life. Before a day passes, the children are separated and the boy is caught up in a robbery not of his making. If his sister can find him, she may be able to save him. The problem is she’s only seven years old, and who’s going to believe a kid?

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Jubilee’s Journey is the second book in the Wyattsville series by Bette Lee Davis.  When I had finished Spare Change (#1) I thought that I had seen the last of Olivia and Ethan Allen and that outstanding Detective Jack Mahoney.  Not so, while this book is not totally about them, it does include them and that in itself immediately hooked me in.
This story really belongs to Jubilee and her big brother Paul.  They come from a small mining town where they have lost both parents.  Paul is like a mother and father and whole family to Jubilee, no one has had a better bigger brother. They arrive in Wyattsville seeking their Aunt – Anita their mother’s sister.  Before they can begin their search Jubilee and Paul are separated and Paul finds himself in the clutches of the police.  He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and with nobody to vouch for him.
Fortunately for Jubilee she is found by Ethan Allen and eventually lands home with him and Olivia.  Ethan soon takes over the role of big brother much to his grandma Olivia’s delight. Olivia drags Jack Mahoney into the whole mess and there is no one better.  If there was ever a true, caring go beyond duty cop it’s Jack.  However his efforts are thwarted by the policeman on the case – Detective Gomez who isn’t all that scrupulous.  However Jack Mahoney uses psychology when needed and manages to negotiate his way through.
There is a whole cast of characters who have their hearts in the right place.  Olivia’s friends in the apartment complex Clara and Seth and others rally to the cause.  Aunt Anita shows up and perhaps she is the one to take Jubilee and Paul in although Olivia has already fallen in love with them and is thinking maybe she could keep them.  As well there is Sidney Klaussner and his wife Carmella, happily married for thirty years and now faced with a life and death situation that sends Carmella off onto a judgemental path of creating havoc.  I was a bit annoyed with her until I owned my own occasional judgmental rants often totally lacking back up facts!
This story – told from a variety of viewpoints, celebrates people with large hearts, family, kindness and love.  It celebrates the truth and all that is good in people.  It celebrates the courage of the human spirit and the fight for what is right.  In short – a beautiful story.
4 stars