Wednesday, December 26, 2012

STONES FOR MY FATHER (TRILBY KENT)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
Tundra|March 22, 2011|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-77049-252-3 
 
Corlie Roux’s farm life in South Africa is not easy.  The Transvaal is beautiful, but it is also a harsh place where the heat can be so intense that the very raindrops sizzle.  When her beloved father dies,she is left with a mother who is as devoted to her sons as she is cruel to her daughter.  Despite this, Corlie finds solace in her friend,Sipho, and in Africa itself and in the stories she conjures for her brothers.
 
But Corlie’s world is about to vanish; the British are invading and driving Boer families like hers from their farms.  Some escape into the bush to fight the enemy.  The unlucky ones are rounded up and sent to internment camps.
 
Will Corlie’s resilience and devotion to her country sustain her through the suffering and squalor that she finds in the camp at Kroonstad?  That may depend on a soldier from faraway Canada and on inner resources Corlie never dreamed she had.
 
My Review: 
 
I felt so terribly sorry for Corlie in this story.  Her mother treated her like garbage and hated her as deeply as she loved her sons.  In her mother’s eyes, Corlie could do nothing right, she didn’t even have to do anything wrong, her mother just seemed to have this perpetual hatred toward her.  In part of the story while they were staying in an internment camp, I cried for Corlie for what her mother did to her.  However, a secret is revealed that may shed some light on why Corlie’s mother treated her the way she did. 
 
Corlie, her mother, and brothers are forced to flee their farm when the British are coming to invade but don’t make it very far before they are captured and sent to a camp in Kroonstad.  The conditions there are horrible.  Little food, starvation, lack of water, lice, children dying of disease or wasting away, just deplorable conditions all round. 
 
The decade long “Scramble for Africa, the Anglo-Boer War (October 1899 – May 1902) was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics: the South African Republic (Transvaal) and the Orange Free State.  It was the longest and bloodiest British war fought between 1815 and 1914.  Roughly 8,600 Canadians volunteered to fight in the war, making this the first time that large contingents of lives, as well as the lives of between 6,000 and 7,000 Boer fighters, the conflict came to represent the end of the era of “great” imperial wars.” 
 
The Boer War was fought in what is now known as South Africa between the Afrikaners who were of Dutch descent and the British. It really is a very tragic tale that will stir your emotions more than you think.  Trilby Kent has done a marvelous job of describing exactly what occurred.  You can picture in your mind the woman fleeing with their children, their homes being burnt down, the smell of the internment camp and the death that is rampant there.  For anyone interested in history and war this most entertaining story will be right up your alley.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and will look for more of Kent’s work.
 
 


Thursday, December 20, 2012

PARIS: A LOVE STORY (KATI MARTON)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
Simon & Schuster|August 14, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4516-9154-2 
 
This is a memoir for anyone who has ever fallen in love in Paris, or with Paris.  PARIS: A LOVE STORY is for anyone who has ever had their heart broken or their life upended.
 
In this remarkably honest and candid memoir, award-winning and distinguished author Kati Marton narrates an impassioned and romantic story of love, loss, and life after loss.  Paris is at the heart of this deeply moving account.  At every stage of her life, Marton finds beauty and excitement in Paris, and now, after the sudden death of her husband, Richard Holbrooke, the city offers a chance for a fresh beginning.  With intimate and nuanced portraits of Peter Jennings, the man to whom she was married for fifteen years and with whom she had two children, and Holbrooke, with whom she found enduring love, Marton paints a vivid account of an adventuresome life in the stream of history.  Inspirational and deeply human, Paris: A Love Story will touch every generation.
 
My Review: 
 
Paris: A Love Story is an unbelievably candid, open, honest memoir with no holds barred.  Kati Marton and her husband, Richard Holbrooke were deeply in love.  Kati had previously been married to news anchor Peter Jennings for fifteen years with whom she had two children – Lizzie and Chris. 
 
Richard died from a dissected aorta but following twenty-one hours of surgery his life could not be saved.  Kati was totally grief stricken in every sense of the word.  Her friends, including Bill and Hillary Clinton and her children from her previous marriage to Peter Jennings rallied around her.  Richard also had two children from a previous relationship – David and Anthony. 
 
Paris was their home, their life, and their love.  Paris represented to them everything in life that one holds dear. 
 
However, the book had more of an “all about me” ring to it and “who I know that is famous”.  I felt at times as though Marton had flipped through her datebook looking for things to write.  Although I did enjoy the book very much, and it truly was a love story as far as Kati and Richard went, a more appropriate title might have been:  Paris: A Story About Me & Who I Know.
 



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

THE DAUGHTER'S WALK (JANE KIRKPATRICK)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
Doubelday|April 5, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4000-7429-7
 
A mother’s tragedy, a daughter’s desire and the 3,500 mile journey that changed their lives.
 
In 1896 a Norwegian-American, Helga Estby, accepted a wager from the fashion industry to walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City within seven months in an effort to earn $10,000.  Bringing along her nineteen-year-old daughter, Clara, the two made their way on the 3,500-mile trek by following the railroad tracks and motivated by the money they needed to save the family farm.  After returning home to the Estby farm more than a year later, Clara chose to walk on alone by leaving the family and changing her name.  Her decision initiated a more than 20-year separation from the only life she had known. 
 
Historical fiction writer, Jane Kirkpatrick, picks up where the fact of the Estby’s walk leaves off to explore Clara’s continued journey.  What motivated Clara to take such a risk in an era when many women struggled with the issues of rights and independence?  And what personal revelations brought Clara to the end of her lonely road?  The Daughter’s Walk weaves personal history and fiction together to invite readers to consider their own journeys and family separations, to help determine what exile and forgiveness are truly about. 
 
“Kirkpatrick has done impeccable homework and what she recreates and what she imagines are wonderfully seamless.  Readers see the times, the motives, the relationships that produce a chain of decisions and actions, all rendered with understatement.  Kirkpatrick is a master at using fiction to illuminate history’s truths.  This beautiful and compelling work of historical fiction deserves the widest possible audience.” (Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review) 
 
My Review: 
 
In 1896, Clara Estby, nineteen, is forced by her mother, Helga, on a 3,500-mile walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City.  The women of this era wore long dresses and skirts that covered their ankles and most of their shoes.  The dresses would be caked with mud or soaking wet at the hemline from inclement weather.  Even in good weather, the long dresses accumulated a lot of dust and debris. Now the fashion icons are searching for women to promote their new, shorter dresses and Helga needs the $10,000 prize money for completing the walk on time in order to save their family farm from foreclosure. 
 
This is actually a true story with fictionalized story lines interweaved into the narrative to fill in the blanks where research was not available or complete enough.  Helga Estby was real – a Norwegian-American immigrant most noted for her walk across the United States in 1896.  Helga arrived in Manistee, Michigan in 1871 and in 1876 she married Ole Estby who was an immigrant from Grue, Norway where his daughter, Clara would one day visit later on in the book. 
 
The farm Helga was trying to save from foreclosure was located in Mica Creek, Spokane County, Washington.  Ole, Helga’s husband had had an accident and couldn’t work so they couldn’t pay the taxes or the mortgage. 
 
Clara did not want to go on this walk with her mother but she wasn’t given any choice.  The only thing that Clara could see in the shorter skirts and absence of corsets: “…was that we could run faster from people chasing us for being foolish enough to embark on such a trek across the country, two women alone.” Helga had wanted Clara to join her on the walk to also prevent her from getting involved with men.
 
Ole was furious that his wife, Helga was taking on this walk and made his disgust and anger well-known.  It would also mean that Helga would be away from her other 7 children – Lillian, Johnny, Billy, Arthur, Bertha, Ida, and Olaf – leaving the childcare to Ida and Olaf for a year! 
 
During Helga and Clara’s walk, many family secrets were divulged and one in particular would change the course of young Clara’s life forever and cause her to change her name and initiate a twenty-year separation from her family, even her mother, Helga. 
 
The first half of the book is dedicated entirely to the historically factual walk and the second half is dedicated to Clara after she leaves the family and becomes a businesswoman bent on creating her own family and becoming financially self-supporting. 
 
It is glaringly obvious that Jane Kirkpatrick has done an amazing amount of research before writing this book.  I was so enamoured with the story that once I was done, I did some research of my own and found her facts to be historically right on.
 
The Daughter’s Walk is a book that everyone should read and I’ll be recommending it to anyone and everyone.  It was well-written and seamless.  Kudos to Ms. Kirkpatrick.  I think this is my “4th” favourite book I’ve read this year out of the 192 books I’ve read so far.  This will definitely be part of my permanent collection.  Excellent!!
 


Saturday, December 15, 2012

INTO THE ABYSS (CAROL SHABEN)

 
 
Story Description:
 
Random House|October, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-36022-9
 

On an icy night in October 1984, a Piper Navajo commuter plane carrying 9 passengers crashed in the remote wilderness of northern Alberta, killing 6 people.  Four survived: the rookie pilot, a prominent politician, a cop, and the criminal he was escorting to face charges.  Despite the poor weather, Erik Vogel, the 24-year-old pilot, was under intense pressure to fly – a situation not uncommon to pilots working for small airlines. Overworked and exhausted, he feared losing his job if he refused to fly.  Larry Shaben, the author’s father and Canada’s first Muslim Cabinet Minister, was commuting home after a busy week at the Alberta Legislature.  After Paul Archambault, a drifter wanted on an outstanding warrant, boarded the plane, rookie Constable Scott Deschamps decided, against RCMP regulations, to remove his handcuffs – a decision that profoundly impacted the men’s survival. As they fought through the night to stay alive, the dividing lines of power, wealth and status were erased and each man was forced to confront the precious and limited nature of his existence.  The survivors forged unlikely friendships and through them found strength and courage to rebuild their lives.  Into the Abyss is a powerful narrative that combines in-depth reporting with sympathy and grace to explore how a single, tragic event can upset our assumptions and become a catalyst for transformation. 
 
My Review: 
 
Into the Abyss is the true account of a plane crash that occurred on October 19th, 1984 piloted by then twenty-four-year-old, Erik Vogel.  Erik worked for Wapiti Airlines, a small outfit that flew daily flights around the Alberta area, over Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife and often had the same passengers each week. 
 
Erik was severely overworked, lacked sleep, and was pushed to his limits fearing he’d lose his job if he didn’t take all flights given to him.  That fateful night was snowy and stormy with nine passengers on board and including Erik, made ten. 
 
A relatively new and young RCMP officer was on board that night escorting a criminal, Paul Archambault on an outstanding warrant.  It is against RCMP regulations to remove a prisoner’s handcuffs during a flight but for whatever reason, RCMP Officer Scott Deschamps decided to remove those cuffs for the flight.  After the plane crashed, not only did removing those cuffs most likely prevent Paul from having his hands amputated at the wrists, but turned his prisoner into a hero.  
 
The author of the book, Carol Shaben’s father, Larry was on that flight that night.  He was a prominent Cabinet Minister with the Canadian government and one of only four survivors. 
 
Ms. Shaben’s writing is clear, concise and so powerfully written that you won’t be able to put the book down.  Even at 311pages, I read it in one sitting with only tea breaks in between!  Into the Abyss is a story I will be recommending to my friends and keeping as part of my permanent collection.
 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

THE PROPHET (A Bishop Files Novel - First in a New Series - Kay Hooper)

 
 
STORY DESCRIPTION: 
 
Jove|November 27, 2012|Mass Market Paperbound|ISBN: 978-0-515-15288-3 
 
Within the FBI, there exists a team of psychics whose powers cannot be denied.  But these agents are feared-by a cabal of conspirators with only one weapon: to blind the psychics to the evils all around them.
 
Months ago, Sarah Gallagher woke from a coma with psychic abilities she couldn’t control.  They changed her life and cost her the man she loved.  And now, someone is playing games with Sarah’s mind. 
 
It begins with Sarah’s home being destroyed by fire – an act of arson that draws novelist Tucker Mackenzie into Sarah’s confidence.  But he has other reasons for pursuing the woman who can see what others can’t.  So does a mysterious enemy intent on eliminating Sarah, and everyone she cares about.  Because it’s only a matter of time before her visions lead her and Tucker to a secret many will kill to hide.  Only then will they begin to discover the scope of a terrifying conspiracy so deep and complex they can trust almost no one. 
 
MY REVIEW: 
 
I must begin by saying that I was a tad confused and a tad miffed at the way in which Ms. Hooper chose to approach this novel.  There appeared to be ‘endless set-up’ for the story but very little of the story itself.  It didn’t really have the “feel” of a true Bishop novel.  I also didn’t like the way in which the book began  - the Prologue.  I personally believe that a first time reader of this particular Bishop novel may find themselves not wanting to continue on with the upcoming second novel in this “new” Bishop series.  I was just taken aback and it just didn’t seem like the good ol’ Kay we’ve all come to know and love.  I’ve been a huge, huge fan of the Bishop SCU series forever but this newest series just didn’t cut it for me. 
 
However, once passed all the set-up and getting more into the substance of the actual story, I finally began to settle down and was able to complete the book.  A bit disappointing to say the least.
 


Friday, December 7, 2012

CHARLIE'S KEY (ROB MILLS)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
Orca Book Publishers|October 1, 2011|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-55469-872-1 
 
When Charlie Sykes wakes up in hospital in St. John’s, he learns that he and his father have been in a car accident and that his father is dying.  Charlie inherits little more than the brass key that his father pressed into his hand before he passed away.  As far as Charlie knows, he has no family in Newfoundland.  But then Uncle Nick shows up and is keen to meet this nephew – not because of who Charlie is, but rather because of what Charlie has: the key.   That key will unlock a treasure Uncle Nick began searching for more than thirty years earlier.  And he would have found it all those years ago if he hadn’t been arrested and sent away for murder.  But Charlie isn’t convinced he should give up the key.  He leads Uncle Nick on a wild chase through old St. John’s, across Signal Hill and out to the coast.  There, high above the rugged Atlantic, Charlie finally comes face-to-face with Uncle Nick, the treasure, and a family history that will leave him with a new understanding of where he comes from and where he’s going. 
 
My Review: 
 
Charlie Sykes and his father, Michael had been in a bad car crash.  Charlie doesn’t remember anything after the moose hitting them and then waking up in the hospital.  The cops are there and ask if he wants to see his Dad and Charlie says “yes”, although he knows it’s going to hurt like hell.  The nurses put Charlie into wheelchair, takes him up two floors to the intensive care unit.  Charlie thought his Dad would be in a quiet room where it was dark since he was hurt so bad but this room was full of light, noise and machines. 
 
They tell Charlie that his Dad is in a coma and he barely recognized him with his head shaved, his face all fat and puffy, but they said he may be able to hear Charlie talk to him and encourage him to do so.  They keep telling him he is very sick.  Charlie sits on the bed, bends over and says: “Dad, it’s me. Charlie.”  He doesn’t say anything.  Charlie sees his Dad’s hands twitch again and again so he puts both of his hands around his Dads.  Then, just a tiny bit his hand opens, then a bit more and Charlie feels something drop.  It’s small, hard, hot in his palm.  It’s a key.  Charlie keeps his hand closed not wanting the doctors, nurses, or cops to know he has it.  He doesn’t know what it’s for or what it opens.  Suddenly a buzzer goes off, Charlie is pushed back into his wheelchair and the nurse pushes him out of the room, but he already knows his Dad was gone and that he was now alone without a mother or father.  He knew as soon as that key hit his hand.  Back in the quiet of his own room, Charlie examines the key.  It’s a type of key he’s never seen before.  “It’s long and thin and brass, and it’s got a number stamped at the top: 158.  Maybe it’s for a locker?”  Charlie doesn’t know.  He needs to hide the key so asks the nurse for a Bible and hides the key inside and keeps the Bible close to his side. 
 
A social worker comes to see Charlie and asks him where he lives and Charlie tells her he is 13-years-old and lives at: “Apartment 6B, 2719 West Third Street, Fort McMurray, Alberta…”  Now Charlie is in Newfoundland and the social worker wants to know why – were he and his Dad on a vacation?  Charlie lied when asked if his Dad was there to meet with a friend or a relative.  She asked: “Have you ever been here before?”  “Nope”, Charlie replies realizing the second lie was easier.  “The truth is my Dad got a phone call just before we started our trip.  Late at night but he could only hear his Dad say “Okay” and “When?” and “Where?”  Charlie could have told them about how he cracked his bedroom door and saw his Dad shaking and all white but as soon as he saw Charlie there he said: “(expletive) Charlie.  We gotta go.  We gotta start tomorrow.  He’s getting out…” 
 
Charlie eventually meets “who is out” and that is his Uncle Nick who has been in prison for murder for the past 15 years.  Uncle Nick is after the key he knows Charlie must have since his brother, Michael has now passed away and Uncle Nick wants it, badly.  However, Charlie doesn’t think he should give the key up so quickly and sets about a wild chase throughout old St. John’s, across Signal Hill and out to the coast.  Once there and trapped high on the rugged terrain Charlie and Nick are both confronted by an unexpected visitor who also know they have a key and what they are after and the intruder wants the key too.  What happens next will leave you quaking in your boots. 
 
Well written story that people of all ages will enjoy.
 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

THE HOUSEMAID'S DAUGHTER (BARBARA MUTCH)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
Headline|October 23, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7553-9210-0 
 
A South African THE HELP, THE HOUSEMAID’S DAUGHTER is a startling and thought-provoking debut novel which intricately portrays the drama, dynamics and heartbreak of two women against the backdrop of a beautiful yet divided land. 
 
Duty and love collide on the arid plains of central South Africa.  Previously released as “Karoo Plainsong” this is a fully revised debut novel. 
 
Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa to marry the fiancĂ© she has not seen for five years.  Isolated and estranged in a harsh landscape, she finds solace in her diary and the friendship with the housemaid’s daughter, Ada.  Cathleen recognizes in her someone she can love and responds to in a way that she cannot with her own husband and daughter.  Under Cathleen’s tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist, and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide. 
 
When Ada is compromised and finds she is expecting a mixed-race child, she flees her home, determined to spare Cathleen knowledge of her betrayal, and the disgrace that would descend upon the family.  Scorned within her own community, Ada is forced to carve a life for herself, her child, and her music.  But Cathleen still believes in Ada, and risks the constraints of apartheid to search for her and persuade her to return with her daughter.  Beyond the cruelty, there is love, hope – and redemption. 
 
My Review: 
 
Ada Mabuse was born in 1930 in Cradock House, located in a remote town on the very edge of the Karoo which is a desert area in South Africa.  Her mother, Miriam does the housekeeping, polishing, laundry, and cooking for Cathleen Harrington and her rather stalwart husband, Edward. 
 
Cathleen immigrated to South Africa from Ireland in 1919 to marry Edward after a five year separation.  She wondered on the ship if Edward had changed in that amount of time especially when she met a man on board who caught her fancy.  Years later she would wonder again about the seemingly lovely man she met on board during her immigration. 
 
Ada only lived with her mother, Miriam at Cradock House and didn’t know who her father was.  Despite the questions to her mother, Miriam, this was a subject not up for discussion.  Miriam felt that some things were just better left unsaid. 
 
Cathleen Harrington and her husband, Edward had two children:  Miss Rose and Master Phil.  Cathleen teaches music at the white school but Ada is banned from attending there due to her skin colour.  Miss Rose had no interest whatsoever in learning how to play the piano so Cathleen instead teaches young Ada who becomes an accomplished pianist.  Miss Rose was a surly, sour, and bossy young woman who was a huge disappointment to Cathleen as a daughter.  She only had eyes for her father, Edward and bossed Ada around like she was her primary maid and servant.  Ada always fulfilled the tasks asked of her by Miss Rose as she didn’t want to cause any problems for her mother, Miriam.  Cathleen Harrington was very liberal minded and she and Miriam had a friendship that was certainly considered unusual/taboo for this period of time.  Cathleen also taught a young Ada English which would serve her well throughout her life. 
 
Ada and Master Phil who was also liberal minded like his mother, Cathleen had a friendly relationship.  They played together from a very young age and Ada just absolutely idiolized Master Phil.  As far as Cathleen and Phil are concerned, Ada is “part of” the “family” whereas she is treated only as a servant by Rose and her father, Edward. 
 
As the years pass, Ada’s beloved mother, Miriam passes away.  Ada is devastated at her loss and Cathleen hugs her much to Edward and Miss Rose’s utter disgust.  The second time, Ada felt this “disgust” was the day Master Phil left home to fight in the war.  At the train station, in plain view of his family and neighbours, Master Phil hugged Ada.  She then realized there was a stark difference in the way black people and white people are perceived by others. 
 
Once Miriam is gone, Ada takes over the complete household duties her mother once did.  She cooked and ironed and polished the wood until it gleamed!  At the end of each day, Ada would play the piano for Cathleen and Edward for hours.  Music was what bonded Cathleen and Ada so tightly together. 
 
Ada was pressured into an illegal sexual relationship which ends with the birth of her daughter, Dawn who has far, far lighter skin than Ada’s.  Ada has no choice but to leave the Harrington home and the family she has come to love so dearly.  She makes her way across the river trying to make money by taking in laundry and hauling it to the river each day to wash and dry by hanging the items from the tree branches and shrubs.  She at first lives with her Auntie who is a very unkind and unsympathetic woman.  Ada paid her to live in her small, cramped mud hut but her Aunt eventually tosses her out with the baby in tow.  She makes a friend in Lindiwe who takes her in in exchange for learning to read English.  Lindiwe’s mud hut is even smaller and more cramped than her Auntie’s was but they make do. 
 
One day, Ada learns that a school close-by has a piano but no music lessons are offered there.  Ada summons her courage, straps Dawn to her back and walks into the school to confront the principal, Mr. Dumise about a job playing the piano and teaching music to the students.  Mr. Dumise had another teacher in his office at the time and he was totally disgusted with Ada due to the colour of Dawn’s skin – he knew she had sinned.  Ada was getting used to losing friends and neighbours once they saw the colour of Dawn’s skin.  Although upset, she wasn’t surprised.  Mr. Dumise took a chance on Ada after listening to her play the piano.  He was, in fact, totally taken aback at Ada’s talent and hired her.  Ada’s new job completely changes her life. 
 
Barbara Mutch has written an irresistible book that is extremely difficult to put down.  There was so much more I wanted to say in my review but that would have had to include spoilers and I couldn’t do that to you.  You simply have to read this breathtaking novel. 
 
Although the book is fiction, the Karoo does exist and apart from recognized historical figures, the characters are a product of the author’s imagination.  However, the places they inhabit are very real. 
 
The story is educational, helps us understand apartheid, showed the liberal thinking of some of the people of this time period, it is thought-provoking, an epic journey of an uncertain love and an enduring friendship. 
 
I loved so many of the characters in this novel, especially Cathleen, Dawn, Phil, Lindiwe, Miriam, and of course, sweet Ada. 
 
This is my fourth “favourite novel” I’ve read this year out of the 182 books I’ve read so far.  When word gets out, Barbara Mutch’s novel The Housemaid’s Daughter is going to be a huge hit.  Very, very well-done!!
 


Monday, November 26, 2012

A SEASON FOR TENDING (Amish Vines & Orchards - Book #1) CINDY WOODSMALL

 
 
Story Description: 
 
WaterBrook Press|September 18, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-307-73002-2 
 
In a community where conformity flourishes, seeds of Rhoda’s odd behaviour were planted long ago.  Can she cultivate her relationships with the same care and tenderness that she gives her beloved garden?  Old Order Amish Rhoda Byler’s unusual gift and her remarkable abilities to grow herbs and berries have caused many to think her odd.  As rumors mount that Rhoda’s “gift” is a detriment to the community, she chooses isolation, spending her time in her fruit garden and on her thriving canning business.
 
Miles away in Harvest Mills, Samuel King struggles to keep his family’s apple orchard profitable.  As the eldest son, Samuel farms with his brothers, the irrepressible Jacob and brash Eli, while his longtime girlfriend, Catherine remains hopeful that Samuel will marry her when he feels financially stable. 
 
Meanwhile, Samuel’s younger sister Leah is testing all the boundaries during her rumschpringe, and finds herself far from home in Rhoda’s garden after a night of partying gone badly.  But Leah’s poor choices serve as a bridge between Rhoda and the King family when a tragic mistake in the orchard leaves Samuel searching for solutions.  Rhoda’s expertise in canning could be the answer, but she struggles with the guilt over the tragic death of her sister and doesn’t trust herself outside her garden walls.  As the lines between business, love, and family begin to blur, can Rhoda finally open up to a new life?  And what effect will this odd, amazing woman have on the entire King family? 
 
My Review: 
 
Rhoda Byler is a gardener who grows herbs and flowers.  She uses the herbs to help people suffering from various ills and ailments.  However, not everyone in her Amish community believe in her practice of healing.  One Rueben Glick is a constant thorn in her side who is quickly turning people away from her. 
 
Rhoda also possesses a special “gift” of having “premonitions”.  She sees and feels things before they happen and this fuels Rueben’s vendetta against Rhoda all the more and he tells people she is practicing witchcraft.  This leaves her at odds with her entire community as well as some family members. 
 
Rhoda is also living with immense guilt over the death of her beloved sister.  She is having a very difficult time moving past this part of her life in order to live her own life to the fullest. 
 
Then she meets the King family and things begin to change for Rhoda.  When the King brothers run into difficulty with their apple orchard, they approach Rhoda with a deal that they feel will benefit themselves and Rhoda. 
 
Will Rhoda strike up a deal with this family?  Is it possible she might even find a love interest too?
 
You won’t be able to put this one down.  I was so upset when the book ended and now have to wait until the Spring of 2013 for Book #2.
 


Friday, November 23, 2012

THE CHRISTMAS PONY (MELODY CARLSON)

 
 
Story Description: 
 
Baker Publishing Group|September 1, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-8007-1927-2 
 
Eight-year-old Lucy Turnbull knew better than to wish for a pony that Christmas in 1937.  Her mother had assured her in no uncertain terms that asking for a pony was the same as asking for the moon.  Besides, the only extra mouths they needed at their boarding house were the paying kind.  But when an interesting pair of strangers comes to town, Lucy starts to believe her Christmas wishes might just come true after all. 
 
The queen of the Christmas novel, Melody Carlson pens another magical tale of expectation and excitement as one little girl dreams big and the impossible becomes possible. 
 
My Review: 
 
It is December 1937 and eight-year-old, Lucy Turnbull knew better than to wish for a pony for Christmas.  Gramma told her only rich people could afford such luxuries as that.  A neighbour, Mr. Greenberg was selling or trading a pony named, Smoky who Lucy had admired for years and had run home to tell her Mom and Gramma.  But disappointingly, Mama told her she could barely keep food on the table for themselves.  Lucy knew Mama felt bad because she had two creases in her forehead which Lucy knew she was responsible for putting there.  Mama ran a boarding house and suggested Lucy pray for “paying boarders” instead of a pony. 
 
Lucy’s Daddy had passed away when she was five-years-old so Mama knit socks which the local store traded for groceries.  Mama always stayed up late at night and could knit a whole sock in one night. 
 
While in town doing some grocery shopping for Mama, Lucy ran into two strangers whose car had broken down and were looking for someplace to stay for a few days as the garage needed to order parts.  Immediately Lucy told them about her house and how Mama had 3 rooms to rent and convinced them to come home with her.  She knew Mama would be happy to have paying boarders.  With paying boarders Lucy was still holding out hope that she would get the pony but sometimes we don’t always get what we wish for and sometimes we do. 
 
Will Lucy get her pony?  Will the boarders stay at Mama’s or will they consider it too far out of town? 
 
This was a lovely and very cute Christmas story that I read in about an hour or so.  At only 169 pages it was a quick read for an afternoon with a hot cup of tea.  Melody Carlson always pens the nicest stories and this one was no different.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
 
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group."