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


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."

Monday, November 19, 2012


Story Description: 
St. Martin’s Press|December 21, 2010|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-312-67444-1 
In the final days of a falling Saigon, The Lotus Eaters unfolds the story of three remarkable photographers brought together under the impossible umbrella of war: Helen Adams, a once-naïve ingénue whose ambition conflicts with her desire over the course of the fighting: Linh, the mysterious Vietnamese man who loves her, but is torn between conflicting loyalties to his homeland and his heart; and Sam Darrow, a man addicted to the narcotic of violence, to his intoxicating affair with Helen and to the ever-increasing danger of his job.  All three become transformed by the conflict they have risked everything to record. 
In this much-heralded debut, Tatjana Soli creates a searing portrait of three souls trapped by their impossible passions, contrasting wrenching horror of combat and the treachery of obsession with the redemptive power of love. 
My Review: 
Just my luck to get a second book in a row that I did not enjoy at all.  I found The Lotus Eaters to be not only boring, flat, lacking character, uninteresting plot-line, and the most unenjoyable writing I’ve ever perused. 
Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean that you won’t, so go ahead and give it a try and I sincerely hope you enjoy it more than I did. 
I can’t even write a proper review as I disliked the book that much and didn’t think it would be fair to do that. 
Good luck!

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Story Description: 
HarperCollins|June 14, 2001|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-093442-2 
In poised and elegant prose, Kathryn Harrison weaves a stunning story of women, travel, and flight; of love, revenge, and fear; of the search for home and the need to escape it.  Set in alluring Shanghai at the turn of the century, The Binding Chair intertwines the destinies of a Chinese woman determined to forget her past and a Western girl focused on the promises of the future. 
My Review: 
After having read Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, I was familiar with the age old torture of foot binding performed on young girls in early China.  A year long process that I couldn’t imagine having had to endure.  Poor May had to endure foot binding in this story as done by her grandmother as her own mother just didn’t have the heart to do it herself.  Gramma however, was relentless and forced May to make the long walk from the binding chair to her mother’s room where she laid on the bed wrapped in her mother’s arms sobbing.  May’s mother cried as hard as she did. 
Overall, the story itself wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be which annoyed me as I’d waited eight months for this book to come out of “temporarily out of stock!”  I found the characters boring and flat, there was no warmth or “real” personality to the characters.  Developing the personalities a lot more would have taken this story much further.  I found myself becoming more and more bored and less enamoured with the story as I read deeper into the book. 
The narrative went back and forth in time and place as it stuttered to what I’d call a ‘dying end.’  NOT a book I would recommend to family and friends.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Story Description: 
Knopf Canada|October 2, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-307-39966-3 
Mary Anne Schwalbe was a renowned educator who filled such august positions as Director of Admissions at Harvard and Director of College Counselling at New York’s prestigious Dalton School.  She also felt it incumbent upon herself to educate the less fortunate and spent the last 10 years of her life building libraries in Afghanistan.  But her story here begins with a mocha, dispensed from a machine in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  Over coffee, Will casually asks his mom what she’s been reading.  The conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they mutually agree to read the same books and share them together as Mary Anne waits for her chemotherapy treatments.  The book they read, chosen by both, range from the classic to the popular: from The Painted Veil to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; from My Father’s Tears to the Christian spiritual classic Daily Strength for Daily Needs.  Their discussions reveal how books become increasingly important to the connection between a remarkable woman whose life is coming to a close, and a young man becoming closer to his mom than ever before. 
My Review: 
By late fall of 2007, Will and his mom, seventy-three-year-old, Mary Ann were frequent flyers in the department where people with cancer waited to see their doctors to be hooked up to a drip for doses of the life-prolonging poison that is one of the wonders of the modern medical world. 
Will and Mary Ann’s book club got its formal start with a cup of mocha and one of the most casual questions two people can ask each other: “What are you reading?”  One day in November, Will asked this mother that very question and she responded: “Crossing to Safety” by Wallace Stegner; which was first published in 1987.  Will decided to read it as well and discovered it was about the lifelong friendship of two couples: Sid and Charity, and Larry and Sally.  At the beginning of the novel, Charity is dying of cancer.  Once Will had read the book it was natural that he wanted to discuss it with his mom.  The book gave them “a way to discuss some of the things she was facing and some of the things” that Will was facing. 
Although Will and Mary Ann had always talked books because it provided them with a way to introduce and explore topics that concerned them but made them uneasy, and it also gave them a way to talk about something when they were stressed or anxious.  Over the ensuing months since Mary Ann’s diagnoses of pancreatic cancer that had already spread, they realized they had created, without even knowing it, a very unusual book club.  Their conversations were sometimes about the characters in the novel and their life, but at the same time discussed their own situations.  Will wanted to learn more about his Mom’s life and the choices she made so he often directed the conversation that way. 
Will said: “…the book club became our life, but it would be more accurate to say that our life became the book club.”  They talked about books and their lives. 
Will maintained that one of the things he learned from his mother was: “Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.  I will never be able to read of my mother’s books without thinking of her – and when I pass them on and recommend them, I’ll know that some of what made her goes with them; that some of my mother will live on in those readers, readers who may be inspired to love the way she loved and do their own version of what she did in the world.” 
Mary Ann and Will reminded themselves that no matter where they were on Mary Ann’s cancer journey, and on their individual journeys, reading the books they wouldn’t be the sick person and the well person; they would simply be a mother and son entering new worlds together.  The books also provided much-needed ballast – something they both craved, amid the chaos and upheaval of Mary Ann’s illness. 
Will realized that for him and his family, part of the process of their mother dying was mourning not just her death but also the death of their dreams of things to come.  You don’t really lose the person who has been; you have all those memories of the past but thoughts of what you won’t be able to do in the future with that person. 
Will Schwalbe has done a remarkable job with this novel, touching on the real feelings and issues surrounding the process of a close family member dying.  They way in which this mother and son chose to deal with the heartbreak was truly amazing and worked well.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will be recommending it to all my family and friends.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Story Description: 
HarperCollins|September 3, 2010|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-55468-391-8 
Dr. Brian Goldman is both an emergency room physician at Mount Sinai and a prominent medical journalist.  Never one to shy away from controversy, Goldman specializes in kicking open the doors to the medical establishment revealing what really goes on behind the scenes – and in the minds of doctors and nurses. 
In The Night Shift, Goldman shares his experiences in the witching hours at Mount Sinai Hospital in downtown Toronto.  We meet the kinds of patients who walk into an ER after midnight: late night revellers injured on their way home after last call, teens assaulted in the streets by other teens and a woman who punches another woman out of jealousy over a man.  But Goldman also reveals the emotional, heartbreaking side of everyday ER visits: adult children forced to make life and death decisions about critically ill parents, victims of sexual assault, and mentally ill and homeless patients looking for understanding and a quick fix in the twenty-four hour waiting room.  Written with Goldman’s trademark honesty and with surprising humour, The Night Shift is also a frank look at many issues facing the medical profession today, and offers a highly compelling inside view into an often shrouded world. 
My Review: 
This was an absolutely phenomenal book!  Dr. Goldman blows the lid off what really goes on inside the Emergency Room for those inquiring minds who want to know.  Goldman is frank, honest and doesn’t mince words about both the good and bad sides of his profession. 
The decisions, quick thinking and the speed at which these doctors and nurses often have to work is staggering.  When you’re in the position of trying to save someone’s life you don’t have time to stand around and take a lot of time to think of your best options.  At times, you just have to go with the flow so to speak. 
I feel terribly sorry for the mentally ill who are often misunderstood and don’t always get a sympathetic or understanding ear at the emergency department and Goldman admits that.  Some just don’t have the patience to administer to the needs and requirements of these people in society which is sad.  It must be very frustrating for the patient. 
The Night Shift was a riveting read and kept me glued from the first page to the last page and quite frankly, I didn’t want it to end.  I wanted more stories.  I’ll definitely be recommending this to friends and family. 


Story Description: 
Gallery Books|September 25, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4391-6486-6 
I’m always hearing about how my brain doesn’t work right…But it doesn’t feel broken to me.  Olivia Donatelli’s dream of a “normal” life shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. Understanding the world from his perspective felt bewildering, nearly impossible.  He hated to be touched.  He almost never made eye contact.  And just as Olivia was starting to realize that happiness and autism could coexist, Anthony died. 
Now she’s alone in a cottage on Nantucket, separated from her husband, desperate to understand the meaning of her son’s short life, when a chance encounter with another woman facing her own loss brings Anthony alive for Olivia in a most unexpected way. 
Beth Ellis’s entire life changed with a simple note: “I’m sleeping with Jimmy.”  Fourteen years of marriage and three beautiful daughters, yet even before her husband’s affair, she had never felt so alone.  Heartbroken, she finds the pieces of the vivacious, creative person she used to be packed away in a box in her attic.  For the first time in years, she uncaps her pen, takes a deep breath, and begins to write.  The young but exuberant voice that emerges onto the page is a balm to the turmoil within her, a new beginning, and an astonishing bridge back to herself. 
In a piercing story about motherhood, autism, and love, New York Times bestselling author Lisa Genova offers us two unforgettable women on the verge of change and the irrepressible young boy whose unique wisdom helps them both find the courage to move on. 
My Review: 
I think I enjoyed this novel much better than Lisa’s “Still Alice”.  Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it as well but something about “Love Anthony” just resonated with me.  I think it was due to the fact it was about children, autism, love, relationships, marriage and friendships.  There is so much packed into this wonderful story.  The way in which Beth and Olivia’s friendship materialized was enchanting and the story Beth writes is really Anthony’s story, unbeknownst to her of course.  Talk about something being ‘coincidental’.  It was almost as if Beth had lived through Olivia’s life, truly amazing that someone could create a story from within their mind that turns out to be the true story of someone’s life and mirrored it so, so closely. 
Anyone who picks up this novel is going to enjoy it.   I know I sure did and will be passing the message onto friends and family.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Story Description: 
Tyndale House Publishers|August 17, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4143-6842-9 
He’s a gambler at best.  A con artist at worst,” her aunt had said of the handlebar-mustached man who snatched Ella Wallace away from her dreams of studying art in France.  Eighteen years later, that man has disappeared, leaving Ella alone and struggling to support her three sons.  While the world is embroiled in World War I, Ella fights her own personal battle to keep the mystical Florida land that has been in her family for generations from the hands of an unscrupulous banker.  When a mysterious man arrives at Ella’s door in an unconventional way, he convinces her he can help her avoid foreclosure, and a tenuous trust begins.  But as the fight for Ella’s land intensifies, it becomes evident that things are not as they appear.  Hypocrisy and murder soon shake the coastal town of Apalachicola and jeopardize Ella’s family. 
My Review: 
Vivid descriptions, southern realism, and great story telling had me drawn in from the first page.  Michael Morris knows how to weave a tale that will keep you turning page after page after page. 
Thirty-five-year-old, Ella Wallace owned and operated a store in Dead Lakes, Florida.  She was on the verge of financial and emotional collapse.  At age 17, Ella had married Harlan Wallace much against her Aunt’s wishes.  Her Aunt had tried to warn Ella that Harlan was a gambler and a con-artist.  Harlan was taking Ella away from her dreams of studying art in France.  Now, eighteen years later, Ella’s dreams have been dashed and she has 3 sons to care for and a store to save from foreclosure. 
Ella held two letters in her hand; one from the Blue Moon Clock Company and the other from Gillespie Savings and Loan.  She could either scrape together enough money to make a partial payment on the second mortgage Harlan had taken out on their property, or she could gamble on paying freight charges for a clock Harlan must have ordered before he disappeared.  She thought at least with the clock she stood a chance of selling it and making a profit and the letter said the clock was paid for in full.  If she got the clock, sold it at a profit then she could make a higher payment on the past-due loan.  For the past three months, the bank loan had been paid in portions that never equaled the total amount due.  Clive Gillespie had been pushing Ella to sell him the property but that was the last thing she wanted to do. 
Harlan had left Ella in a lot of debt when he disappeared and the land that he had taken over as his own was the last possession of her father’s that she had left.  Everything else had been sold, one by one, to cover Harlan’s debts.  The property had been in her family for two generations and her father, upon his deathbed had given Ella strict instructions to use the land but never sell it as it was her birthright.  Ella never knew that Harlan had taken out a second mortgage on the place until told by Clive Gillespie.  She tried to tell him that she never signed for a second mortgage and that Harlan had forged her signature, but he didn’t believe her. 
Ella has 3 children:  Macon, age 6; Keaton, age 13; and Samuel, age 16. Macon was suffering with a virus that swelled his throat and caused blisters the size of quarters to cover his lips.  The boy was very clearly suffering and to compound things the boy also had asthma.  Nothing that Ella or the doctor did alleviated his symptoms which caused another worry for poor Ella.    
Two of the boys hitched their mule to the wagon so they could head into town to collect her delivery from the Blue Moon Clock Company.  Being a grandfather clock she’d be able to sell it for a lot more money than if it was a mantle clock.  Constant worry about the payments to Gillespie Saving and Loan were draining Ella to the point she was almost physically ill.  However, little does Ella know that the contents of this box is going to change her life forever. 
Suddenly a mysterious man appears at her property claiming to be a relative of Harlan’s.  He told Ella “Harlan’s daddy was my mama’s first cousin”.  Ella told the man, who said his name was Lanier Stillis that she didn’t want any trouble and asked him to leave.  After much discussion she agreed to let him stay one night in the barn but the following day she expected him to be gone.  Lanier finally convinced Ella that he could help her and he stays.  Their relationship was strained and Ella didn’t fully trust this mysterious man. 
One afternoon, Deputy Ronnie Eubanks stepped into Ella’s store, handed her a letter and said “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Ella.”  Ella knew before she even opened the letter what it contained and she was right.  It was foreclosure papers on her property from Clive Gillespie.  Ella sat outside on the stoop and thought until an idea came to her.  She approached Lanier and asked him if he could cut timber and he said “yes”.  Ella figured if she cut timber down on her property and sold it, she might just make enough money to stop the foreclosure but she had only 45 days to complete the job – both cut and sold.  Can they do it? 
There is a great line-up of characters in this novel who have been well-developed and their voices are authentic.  The sense and feeling of community shines through and you’ll discover many lessons to be learned.  Michael Morris has created a story with back-bone, but yet you’ll find and feel a sense of innocence in some of the characters.  The secondary characters are also what makes this story work so well.  You want to keep track of them all and not miss a single word or sentence about them.  It’s the unknown that also keeps you reading, there is so much emotion packed into this novel, so much wanting and desire for Ella to succeed that you can’t seem to read fast enough to get to the next part.  In parts I was sweating and biting my nails, in other parts I was laughing and chuckling, and other parts I was just mesmerized by the sheer poetry of the words.
I’ll say for certain my two most favourite characters were Ella, who is an immensely strong woman, and Lanier who is the type of person you just can’t help but like.  The most despised character for me was Clive Gillespie.  All the characters are quirky and literally leap off the page, you’re almost equally as interested in one as you are the other.  Of course, being a small town, there is the realism of nosiness and gossip of neighbours, The amount of emotion the story made me feel is the sign of a great writer and Michael Morris certainly fits that mould well.  I’ll tell you though, at times, that Clive Gillespie had me spitting nails! 
Man in the Blue Moon was a treasure to read.  The complexity and depth is amazing.  I’ll definitely be referring my friends to this masterpiece.  Well done, Mr. Morris!