Belinda’s Book Nook Review: Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall

Hello, my bookworm buddies! I have been rather naughty and have left you in the dark of all the great books I have been reading lately. I am just coming out of a little reading slump and realized I haven’t written and posted any reviews for quite a while. So here are my thoughts on one the books I read last month.

I can’t remember where I heard about this book but I remember thinking I needed to buy it. I ordered it used from and this spring seemed like the perfect time to read it. I took a photo of the cover next to my flowers.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Carol Wall, a white woman living in a lily-white neighborhood in Middle America, was at a crossroads in her life. Her children were grown; she had successfully overcome illness; her beloved parents were getting older. One day she notices a dark-skinned African man tending her neighbor’s yard. His name is Giles Owita. He bags groceries at the supermarket. He comes from Kenya. And he’s very good at gardening.

Before long Giles is transforming not only Carol’s yard but her life. Though they are seemingly quite different, a caring bond grows between them. But they both hold long-buried secrets that, when revealed, will cement their friendship forever.

My thoughts:

I found this book very easy to get into. I liked hearing Carol’s story and think she did a fantastic job capturing her developing relationship with Mr. Owita. Carol opened up about so much with regard to her cancer and how she viewed herself before and after her diagnosis. Of course, being a gardener myself, I enjoyed the sprinkling of gardening talk throughout the book. She had a great way of tying the plants and gardening to her story.

I don’t typically read reviews about books until I have read and written my own. However, when I was searching to get the synopsis of the book, I stumbled across a very critical review that said that Carol was whiny and I was taken aback. I can’t comprehend what someone going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment is experiencing. Therefore, I would not use the word whiny to refer to their response to a terminal illness.  In fact, I found the book to be quite the opposite. I liked how she and Giles’ relationship developed over a slow process into an amazing friendship. I always believe that things happen for a reason and I believe they were meant to meet. I would recommend this book because it is a good way to glimpse into the experience if it is not yours and to find appreciation for your own life. So I will give this book 3 1/2 butterflies.

Title: Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart
Author: Carol Wall
Copyright: March 14, 2014
Genre: non-fiction, memoir
Format: book Pages: 294

Belinda’s Book Nook Review: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins

Title: A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate
Author: Susanna Calkins
Copyright: April 23, 2013
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, romance
Format: book Pages: 352

Why did I pick this book up in the first place? I enjoy historical fictions. I especially enjoy historical fiction series with female sleuths. I like using Amazon’s features especially when it comes to books. If you search for a book that you like, they will recommend similar authors.  I saw Susanna Calkins’ name and clicked on it to see what books she has written. I found this series and this searched for the first book and it sounded like a book I would enjoy. And let’s not kid ourselves, the cover was stunning.  So I switched to where you can find deep discounted on used books and I ordered a few of them, taking the leap of faith that I would enjoy them.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

For Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate, life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone close to Lucy falls under suspicion. Lucy can’t believe it, but in a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren’t permitted to defend their clients, and—if the plague doesn’t kill the suspect first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never find out what really happened. Unless, that is, she can uncover the truth herself.

My Thoughts:

 I read a bit about the author and it said that she has become fascinated with 17th-century England and she uses that in her stories. This story is about Lucy Campion who is the 17th-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate. I won’t lie a little bit of me thought of Downton Abbey when I read the this so it also prompted me to give it a try. It says the book is a historical fiction mystery with romance. I would say if you enjoy historical romance this one only had a touch of romance. A bit of a slow burn romance and very G-rated. The beginning of the story gives you a sense of Lucy and the people she works for as well as the people she works with to maintain the house. Not too far in the book, the murder takes place and so begins the mystery to figure out what happened.

The author does a good job of giving a sense of what was going on during this time period in England in terms of social relations, social stations, and the political atmosphere. Religious fears at the time were also included in this book, particularly of the Quakers. The story also gives you a real sense of what it was like during the period of the plague in London. So while you’re experiencing the main story, she created an environment that allowed you to see what people did during that time and how people reacted and responded to the plague. I was curious about both irrational and rational responses to the fears of becoming sick and dying during a plague. This is where I find historical fiction’s lovely because it gives you an opportunity to learn a bit about different time periods and often inspires further research.

I think the author did a good job of the character development in the story I really was rooting for Lucy and I was very curious about the members of the household. Lucy was a strong heroine and sometimes got herself into situations that were definitely moments of nail-biting to read. I would find myself saying, “Oh no. No no no no.”

Being that this was Susanna Calkin’s debut novel might explain why I felt in the middle of the book the pacing really slowed down a bit much. Not to the point of discouragement but it picked up and the last I would say 100 pages the pacing picked up and I could not put the book down. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. I also looking to the evolution of this author’s writing. I am glad I bought a few books in the series. I would definitely recommend this book for the reasons mentioned and if you enjoy historical fiction. I would give it 3 1/2 butterflies.

Happy reading!!


Belinda’s Book Nook Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce


Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Author: Rachel Joyce
Copyright: March 15, 2012
Genre: fiction
Format: book  Pages: 320

This was a book club selection for August. I checked it out of the library since all of the digital copies were out.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old friend in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.

Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie–who is 600 miles away–because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die.

So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories–flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband.

Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband’s sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?

My Thoughts:

I thought this book started out fine and then slowed for me a little bit then about half way through it picked up a bit and then I began to enjoy the story. I liked reading about the small English village in which Harold lived. But the mystery of Harold’s relationship with Queenie piqued my interest throughout the book.

Reading about the people that Harold meets along the way, was also moved the story along. Something that seemed so crazy like walking such a distance began to unfold into much more. The solitary walks gave Harold time to work through his life issues and to really connect with nature. They helped him to explore the relationship between Harold and his wife, Harold and Queenie and Harold with the people he meets on his journey.

I would not ordinarily pick up this book to read but that is the beauty of a book club. They can take you out of your comfort zone. That said, I would like to give this book 3 butterflies.

Happy Reading!



Belinda’s Book Nook Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Copyright: February 3, 2015
Genre: historical fiction
Format: audio book and book  Narrator: Polly Stone Pages: 438

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

My thoughts:

I heard about this book on booktube and had decided I had to buy it. It was one of my books I received from my birthday book haul. I have been meaning to share my haul with you so stay tuned for that. I did something very different with this book. I began reading the physical book and then I downloaded the audio book version on to my iPhone. Some background here, I took Spanish in high school and Japanese in college so to say my French is lacking is quite an understatement. Sadly, I don’t even know where to begin with pronunciation of French words. So after reading a bit, I tried out the audio version and instead of just listening, I followed along in the book.  It was the best thing ever. I was able to hear the correct pronunciation for all the characters and locations in the book. So when I did read without the audio, I sounded pretty darn good in my head!

This book focused on two sisters, Vianne and her sister, Isabelle who lived in a small village called Carriveau beginning in 1939.  The book also jumps to present day in America where one of the sister is speaking of her life today and reflecting on the past and her experience during war time. The death of the girls’ mother puts them both in a predicament with their grieving father and he sends them away.

 In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are. 

What a way to start this book. I think at some point or other we all think about what it would like to be in war and wonder how we respond. We never truly know until we are thrust into the thick of it. Because so many factors are hard to imagine.

The book explores many things but one thing that sets the two sister’s apart in their journey moving forward is their perception of the relationship they have with their father. Vianne tended to be more forgiving and looks for love and finds it with her husband and little girl. Isabelle’s perception leaves her to constantly run back to her father to seek his love and  his “rejection” eventually develops a strong will in Isabelle that leads her to join forces with the French resistance when Hitler’s regime pushes past the Maginot Line to occupy France. The Maginot Line was miles and miles of concrete walls and obstacle sand weapons that had been constructed along the German border after the Great War to protect France.

One thing I really loved about this book is that is shows the strength both sisters have despite the different paths they choose. They both are very strong women in a very difficult time. I really liked that. I liked that the author didn’t make you feel one was better for the choices they made. They both were amazing women and now that I think about it, all of the women in this book were resilient from Vianne’s Jewish neighbor and best friend, Rachel, to the Mother Marie-Therese at the orphanage, to one of the lead contacts for the Resistance, Micheline. None of these women were simple victims. They made difficult decisions and followed their hearts.

As I write this review, I realize I like this book even more. The detail the author provides, pulls you right in like you are standing there next to the characters. The denial they all felt when Hitler’s regime began invading felt so real. Because when crisis strikes, we always feel a sense of disbelief that it can happen to us. The lack of necessities when the German soldiers invaded and confiscated food and fine goods was written in such a way that it allowed the reader to see the transformation from life before to after the invasion.

Favorite Quote:

“It’s hard to forget,” she said quietly. “And I’ll never forgive.” “But love has to be stronger than hate or there is no future for us.”
– Vianne to Sophie

This quote is Vianne talking to her daughter Sophie about a choice she had to make for their safety. It’s a very raw and heartbreaking part of the book but it helped to keep perspective of the dark realities of the times.

This book is so worth the read, for it isn’t just a book about the war, it’s about people and love, and loss, and redemption and so much more. Just read it already!

I rarely give a 5 butterfly rating but I think that this book did everything it meant to do and more. This was my first Kristin Hannah book that I have read but it was a great first read.

5ratingHappy Reading!



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