Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review | The Hummingbird by Stephen Kiernan

The Hummingbird by Stephen Kiernan 
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks

Publish Date: September 8, 2015

Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 


Deborah Birch is a seasoned hospice nurse whose daily work requires courage and compassion. But her skills and experience are tested in new and dramatic ways when her easygoing husband, Michael, returns from his third deployment to Iraq haunted by nightmares, anxiety, and rage. She is determined to help him heal, and to restore the tender, loving marriage they once had.

At the same time, Deborah's primary patient is Barclay Reed, a retired history professor and expert in the Pacific Theater of World War II whose career ended in academic scandal. Alone in the world, the embittered professor is dying. As Barclay begrudgingly comes to trust Deborah, he tells her stories from that long-ago war, which help her find a way to help her husband battle his demons. 

Told with piercing empathy and heartbreaking realism, The Hummingbird is a masterful story of loving commitment, service to country, and absolution through wisdom and forgiveness.
  (excerpt from Goodreads) 

The Hummingbird by Stephen Kiernan

My ThoughtsDeborah Birch is a hospice nurse charged with caring for an elderly man with cancer. Barclay Reed is the 78-year-old man with kidney and liver cancer in Deb's care; he has no family or friends and is also an expert on WWII. Michael Birch is Deb's husband; he has been back in the US for six months after his third deployment in Iraq. He is now suffering from severe PTSD.

I was initially attracted to this book because I am a nurse by trade and also because I love history so much. I thought there could certainly be something nice within these pages to keep me entertained. But what I was not expecting was to connect with this story on so many levels: as a nurse, as a family member who has watched people that I love finish their lives with the assistance of the hospice program, as a daughter currently dealing with a parent making end-of-life decisions just like Barclay Reed had to, and as someone riveted by unknown pieces of history. I also was able to connect because I live in a military community and there is an awareness here that our military sometimes comes home profoundly affected after serving time in active duty. I truly devoured this book, but I think that if I could go back and read it again for the first time, I would read it more slowly. Perhaps on my reread, I will do just that. 

Deb is a wonderful nurse. In many ways, she defines herself by her love for caretaking and by doing it well -- and not only the way she takes care of her patients. Deb also is proud of the way that she takes care of her husband and her marriage. So...after her husband comes back damaged after his latest deployment, she barely knows what to do with herself. It isn't within her power to "fix" anything for Michael at this point in his life. Nothing she says or does can make anything better for him, and their marriage and relationship sadly reflects this. Instead, she does what she does best, throwing herself into the care of the lonely Barclay Reed. In doing so, she finds that Mr. Reed may hold the keys to helping her figure out how she can help her husband.

It is a slow reveal but it is worth it.

Mr. Reed is a little bit tough to begin with, but I quickly grew to enjoy him. AND to feel deeply for him. I understood why he was such a tough guy! With mere days left and no one at his side but his hospice staff, there is so much revealed about this character. He does much to teach us about the strength and the fragility of life, I think. And Michael Birch-I also really liked his character, even more than I thought I would. Sometimes it is tough for me to get inside the head of the tough military types (just because they are so different from me), but it was quite easy in this case. This man is tortured by his time served in active duty and the things that he witnessed. Again, this character teaches us much about the strength and fragility of life.


I think that one of the best things about this book is the way that the author writes these male characters - their dialogue and conversation, the little details about their appearance and actions. I just felt like they jumped off of the pages and were so nearly tangible to me, and the entire point of them being in this book was so well known to me. For me, loving characterization so much: Barclay Reed and Michael Birch were tops. That isn't to say that Deb Birch is not - I loved her too. A strong woman, she is. I just connected so deeply to these three and how well they worked together, with Deb being the connecting piece. The characterization really makes me wonder about the author's previous book, which I have not had the pleasure of reading yet. And makes me curious for more. 

Sidenote: I would love, love, love to listen to this book as an audiobook! I suspect that listening would have an even greater impact emotionally, as I often react more and greater to audio reading. 



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The Hummingbird will appeal to fans of:

Historical Fiction and Contemporary Fiction
Romance: No triangle. The characters are married but the romance isn't really the focus of this book. 
Setting: Oregon, US
Character driven plot
Issues: PTSD

The Hummingbird by Stephen Kiernan
is currently available for purchase.

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Books by Stephen Kiernan: 



Friday, July 1, 2016

Review | The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear

The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear
Series: The Butternut Lake Series #4
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks

Publish Date: June 14, 2016

Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 


Two sisters couldn’t be more different. Win organized and responsible; Poppy impulsive and undependable. Win treads cautiously and plans her life with care; Poppy bounces from job to job and apartment to apartment, leaving others to pick up the pieces. But despite their differences, they share memories of the idyllic childhood summers they spent together on the shores of Butternut Lake. Now, 13 years later, Win, recovering from a personal tragedy, has returned to Butternut Lake, settling into a predictable and quiet life. 

Then, one night, Poppy unexpectedly shows up on Win’s doorstep with all her worldly possessions and a mysterious man in tow. And although Win loves her beautiful sister, she wasn’t expecting her to move in for the summer. Still, at first, they relive the joys of Butternut Lake. But their blissful nostalgia soon gives way to conflict, and painful memories and buried secrets threaten to tear the sisters apart. 

As the waning days of summer get shorter, past secrets are revealed, new love is found, and the ties between the sisters are tested like never before…all on the serene shores of Butternut Lake.
  (excerpt from Goodreads) 

The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear

My Thoughts: I've been devouring this series lately. This is the third book in the Butternut Lake Series that I've read in the past few weeks, and so far they've all been like the very best of sweet summertime/comfort reads. The Space Between Sisters is the fourth book in the series, and while it comes after several others it can easily be read as a standalone. 

Win and Poppy are sisters. Win is the super-organized one (to a fault, really) and Poppy is the fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants one. The sisters used to spend every summer together at their grandparents cabin at Butternut Lake, and they have the very best of memories there. Now the cabin belongs to Win. As the book begins, Poppy shows up at the cabin, where Win is staying for the summer - she's a teacher, out on summer break - with all of her belongings, having just quit her latest job. Poppy is hoping that surprising Win will make her want to spend the summer together, just like old times, and that the two can find a way to reconnect. Win doesn't really care for surprises, but of course, she invites Poppy to stay. 

Right away, I could see a little bit of myself in both Win and Poppy. I could also see a little bit of my relationship with my own sisters in their fictional relationship. I have fallen quite hard for the way that Mary McNear writes her character relationships in this Butternut Lake Series, so it was not surprise to me that I would love this one as well. 

Reconnecting would be much easier if the sisters were each healthy and well, for lack of better words. However, Win is having some trouble moving on from the death of her young husband only a few years into their marriage - cancer. And Poppy has a big secret of her own that is eating away at her. Before the two can connect in a purely healthy and productive way with themselves and with other people, they must confront these issues in the face. This is tricky, sure, but this is one of the things that Ms. McNear writes so, so well: dealing with the past in order to move on, and then getting another chance at life. This is actually something that I've noticed as a theme in her books and I love it, because doesn't this happen so often in life, that we need to deal with junk so we can brush it off and move on? YES. And really, even though this story has some depth to it, it is so easy to read and the characters are fun. This really is a great summer read. 

Over the course of this series, I've grown to love Butternut Lake and the town of Butternut, and the people that live there. I've noticed that so many are reading Ms. McNear's work for the first time with this book and it makes me so happy! I genuinely hope everyone goes back to the beginning of this series and starts at the beginning. I absolutely adore her character-driven stories and the way she really has a knack for penning people in a well-rounded and developed way, so it feels like I know them when I'm reading them. 

So, yes, this book is a winner to me! As a sister with an "opposite-of-me" sister, I loved this story about two "opposite" sisters - and I loved that they are able to come together and reconnect and work through their own internal stuff...and end up better off individually and together, as family. I recommend The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear to readers that enjoy contemporary fiction and books with sibling relationships. I also recommend this book to readers that enjoy (companion) series with a great small-town setting and like interests. 

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The Space Between Sisters will appeal to fans of:

Contemporary Fiction/Women's Fiction
Romance: Slowly Developing.
Setting: Minnesota, US
Small town series
Character driven plot
Sibling relationships

The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear
is currently available for purchase.

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The Butternut Lake Series: 



I'm LOVING these books right now! 

Currently working my way through this series;
I have one more book to go before I'm caught up! 



 
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