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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Haunting Jasmine...Review

About the book:
DivorcĂ©e Jasmine Mistry is intent on restarting her life when she gets the chance to do just that. A call from the past brings her home to Shelter Island, a green dot in the middle of Puget Sound, to run her beloved aunt's bookstore. The familiarity is heartening – the rocky beaches, pewter skies, country boutiques, and above all, Auntie’s Bookstore, nestled in a quaint Queen Anne Victorian, and believed, not incidentally, to be haunted.

With that knowledge, Jasmine embarks on a mystical journey, urged along by her quirky family, guided by the highly emotional spirits of long-dead authors, and moved to heal her broken heart when she falls unexpectedly in love with an enigmatic young stranger. He knows about blurring the lines between truth and fantasy. In redefining the meaning of everlasting love, he urges Jasmine to reinvent herself in a place she calls home. All she has to do is close her eyes and say yes.

The cover is gorgeous and the premise sounded interesting and it was.  However, it took me awhile to get into it and it took me awhile to really like Jasmine.  At first she's a completely negative, angry, man-hating woman.  She's bitter after a messy divorce from her philandering husband.  I get that.  But, she was seriously unlikeable for the first half of the book.

Jasmine's also resentful of being forced to return to her hometown and run her aunt's eccentric bookstore where ghosts whisper and dead authors walk the halls.  Her sister is deliriously happy and planning a marriage that Jasmine can't be positive about and a mysterious stranger begins keeping her company.

The magical realism element actually worked here and added an interesting twist.  I love bookstores.  I think bookstores, especially quirky used bookstores, have their own personalities.  This really comes across in Haunting Jasmine and was the best part about the story.  I also found the East Indian/Hindu insights to be fascinating.  Some will want to know that there is non-graphic sex.  A light, but not fluffy read, I'm glad I got it from the library rather than purchasing it.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels...Review

About the book:
"That's when I saw him—the cowboy—across the smoky room."

I'll never forget that night. It was like a romance novel, an old Broadway musical, and a John Wayne western rolled into one. Out for a quick drink with friends, I wasn't looking to meet anyone, let alone a tall, rugged cowboy who lived on a cattle ranch miles away from my cultured, corporate hometown. But before I knew it, I'd been struck with a lightning bolt...and I was completely powerless to stop it.

Read along as I recount the rip-roaring details of my unlikely romance with a chaps-wearing cowboy, from the early days of our courtship (complete with cows, horses, prairie fire, and passion) all the way through the first year of our marriage, which would be filled with more challenge and strife—and manure—than I ever could have expected.

This isn't just my love story; it's a universal tale of passion, romance, and all-encompassing love that sweeps us off our feet.

It's the story of a cowboy.
And Wranglers.
And chaps.
And the girl who fell in love with them.

Like many people, I've followed Ree Drummond on her blog, The Pioneer Woman.  She's hysterically funny and I enjoy many of her anecdotes and recipes.  This story was originally published in installments on her blog and I read it then and found it entertaining.  As a book, however, it falls a little bit short.

Ree is head over heels in love with her husband and I love that she is honest about it.  It's incredibly refreshing in these days when so many place little value on marriage and fidelity.  She chronicles the story of how she and Marlboro Man met, courted and married and all the little ups and downs in between.  It's romantic and funny and surprisingly clean.

It's also heavy on the cheesy, Harlequin-esque heaving bosoms-type romance. At times it reads like a teenager's diary, rather than a story of a twenty-something woman.  We get a lot of weak knees, strong biceps and heavy sighs.  Marlboro Man is absolutely perfect with no flaws whatsoever and a bit too good to be true. 

I think it could have used some better editing and I expected it to have been a little more fleshed out.  I also think having both of their accounts, rather than just Ree's first-person perspective would make this a richer story.  But still, it's an honest, funny and forthright account of the love story of a well-known and well-loved blogger.  Fans of The Pioneer Woman will love it.  Others will find it a light, sweet escape.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Secret of Lost Things...Review

About the book:
Eighteen years old and alone, Rosemary leaves her native Australia and arrives in New York with little more than a few dollars, a love of books, and a desire to be a part of the city's magical life. The moment she steps into the Arcade bookstore, she feels she's finally found her niche. An odd and eccentric cast of characters punches the clock and calls the store home: the curmudgeonly owner, Mr. Pike; Pearl, the flamboyant transsexual cashier who dispenses advice; Oscar, who shares his knowledge and experience but refuses anything more intimate; and Arthur Pick, a devotee of homoerotic art books.

Behind the scenes, overseeing the shop's accounts, is store manager Walter Geist, a lonely, uncomfortable misfit -- even by the Arcade's liberal standards. It is Rosemary, working as his assistant, who first opens the letter seeking a buyer for a lost manuscript of Herman Melville. Mentioned in Melville's letters but never published, it's considered priceless, if it exists. The mere chance that it might sets off a civil war among the Arcade staff, each member determined to claim a piece of the bounty, with Rosemary in the middle of the battle.

A literary detective story and a wickedly funny portrait of life in a fabled bookstore, The Secret of Lost Things is an intriguing celebration of the bibliophile in all of us.

I loved the premise. I love books and I loved old, used bookstores.  The writing is lyrical.  Many of the descriptions and commentaries about books were fascinating.  Many I would love to quote.

However, the story was slow and plodding. The characters are simply caricatures rather than quirky and ultimately, I cared about none of them.  The whole Melville thing got old and was ultimately unresolved.  I suppose if one is a true Melville fan, it would have been a welcome storyline.  I ended up skimming some of those sections.

Billed as a coming of age novel, this was ultimately a disappointment. There is also unnecessary profanity and an awkward, embarrassing sex scene.

I kept reading, hoping it would redeem itself.  It didn't. 

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

*
1/5 Stars

Monday, March 28, 2011

Inconceivable...Review

About the book:
A medical mistake during an IVF procedure. An unthinkable situation...you’re pregnant with the wrong baby. You can terminate, but you can’t keep him. What choice would you make?

Carolyn and Sean Savage had been trying to expand their family for years. When they underwent an IVF transfer in February 2009, they knew it would be their last chance. If they became pregnant, they would celebrate the baby as an answer to their prayers. If not, they would be grateful for the family they had and leave their fertility struggles behind forever.

They never imagined a third option. The pregnancy test was positive, but the clinic had transferred the wrong embryos. Carolyn was pregnant with someone else’s baby.

The Savages faced a series of heartbreaking decisions: terminate the pregnancy, sue for custody, or hand over the infant to his genetic parents upon delivery. Knowing that Carolyn was carrying another couple’s hope for a baby, the Savages wanted to do what they prayed the other family would do for them if the situation was reversed. Sean and Carolyn Savage decided to give the ultimate gift, the gift of life, to a family they didn’t know, no strings attached.

Inconceivable provides an inside look at how modern medicine, which creates miracles daily, could allow such a tragic mistake, and the many legal ramifications that ensued with both the genetic family and the clinic. Chronicling their tumultuous pregnancy and its aftermath, which tested the Savage’s faith, their relationship to their church, and their marriage, Inconceivable is ultimately a testament to love. Carolyn and Sean loved this baby, making it impossible for them to imagine how they could give him life and then give him away.

In the end, Inconceivable is a story of what it is to be a parent, someone who nurtures a life, protects a soul, only to release that child into the world long before you’re ready to let him go.

After I read Shannon and Paul Morell's book, Misconception, I was really intrigued with the story of Carolyn and Sean Savage.  I jumped at the chance to review their book and I wasn't disappointed.  While they had no legal or biological claim to the child Carolyn carried, they had an intense emotional claim.  This child was one they had wanted and prayed for a loved even before he was conceived.  I can't imagine their grief when they found out he wasn't theirs.

Sean and Carolyn alternate telling their stories and the book is the richer for both perspectives. Their story is candid and honest and they do a fantastic job of sharing their feelings.  Pregnancy is an emotional roller coaster and a physically demanding roller coaster.  Holding that baby in your arms when it's over is what makes it worth it.  To go into a pregnancy with that hope and then to have it destroyed in this manner is unfathomable.  The mother in me could so relate to Carolyn's feelings and the absolute love she had for the child she carried, biological or not.

To say I was moved is an understatement.  I was touched beyond words.  I found their courage admirable.  What was so frustrating for me is how self-centered the biological mother was.  Even in her own book, she had very little concern for Carolyn and Sean's feelings.  Rather than just expecting the Savages to turn Logan over to them, I think the Morell's could have shown more empathy for them and gratitude for the fact that they did just that.

I have sympathy for the Morells but very little respect. I have the utmost respect for the Savages. 

Thanks to Trish at TLC for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Carolyn and Sean Savage here.  You can see other reviews here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond...Review

The football star made famous in the hit film The Blind Side reflects on how far he has come from the circumstances of his youth.

Michael Oher is the young man at the center of the true story depicted in The Blind Side movie (and book) that swept up awards and accolades. Though the odds were heavily stacked against him, Michael had a burning desire deep within his soul to break out of the Memphis inner-city ghetto and into a world of opportunity. While many people are now familiar with Oher's amazing journey, this is the first time he shares his account of his story in his own words, revealing his thoughts and feelings with details that only he knows, and offering his point of view on how anyone can achieve a better life.

Looking back on how he went from being a homeless child in Memphis to playing in the NFL, Michael talks about the goals he had for himself in order to break out of the cycle of poverty, addiction, and hopelessness that trapped his family for so long. He recounts poignant stories growing up in the projects and running from child services and foster care over and over again in search of some familiarity. Eventually he grasped onto football as his ticket out of the madness and worked hard to make his dream into a reality. But Oher also knew he would not be successful alone. With his adoptive family, the Tuohys, and other influential people in mind, he describes the absolute necessity of seeking out positive role models and good friends who share the same values to achieve one's dreams.

Sharing untold stories of heartache, determination, courage, and love, I Beat the Odds is an incredibly rousing tale of one young man's quest to achieve the American dream.

I saw The Blind Side and I read the Tuohy's book, In a Heartbeat.  I was thrilled when I saw that Michael was writing his own story.  I love that this is his story, in his words.  He shares his opinion about the film and clarifies some points that were inaccurate.   One thing that bugged him was how the film made him appear dumb, especially when it came to understanding football.  He'd studied and played football for years and knew the sport inside and out before he started playing at Briarcrest.

He talks about how he came to be a part of the Tuohy family, but that is not the reason for writing this book.  Michael's purpose, in addition to separating fact from fiction, is to shine a light on the plight and difficulties that face over 500,000 foster children in America.  He includes many resources at the end of the book for people who want to help foster children.

As Michael shares his experience growing up with a drug-addicted mother and being homeless or hungry, he is honest.  His love for his family is very strong. 

Michael feels strongly that he was on his way out of the ghetto, as he calls it.  He had goals and he was learning about the things that were important in helping him move forward.  He recognized at a very early age that those who worked hard and had goals and a work ethic were the ones who could leave poverty.  He realized at a young age that he had a talent for sports and that sports could be a ticket to college and a future.

He shares experiences and his gratitude for those people, including the Tuohy family, who were willing to help him and guide him, many of whom let him sleep on their sofas.  Michael's tone is very conversational and when he shares the experience about the first time the Tuohy's picked him up, you just want to laugh.  It was Sean driving and in the front seat next to him was a "very tiny, very loud lady". 

I thoroughly enjoyed Michael's story.  It's a fast, easy read and one I can wholeheartedly recommend, especially to those already familiar with his story.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake...Review

About the book:
The wondrous Aimee Bender conjures the lush and moving story of a girl whose magical gift is really a devastating curse.

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a luminous tale about the enormous difficulty of loving someone fully when you know too much about them. It is heartbreaking and funny, wise and sad, and confirms Aimee Bender’s place as “a writer who makes you grateful for the very existence of language”.

I tried.  I really tried.  I just couldn't get into it.  The premise is fascinating and the magical realism element of Rose being able to taste emotions is terrific.  Unfortunately there is no charm, there is no happiness, there is really no purpose to the story.  It's a true disappointment.

And, the whole, "no quotation marks" thing?  Annoying.  Not clever.  Not creative.  Annoying.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  If you're so inclined, you can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

*
1/5 Stars

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Then Came Heaven...Review

About the book:
Can love survive a shattering loss?

Browerville, Minnesota, 1950: Life is just about perfect for Eddie Olczak. A man of unshakable faith, he derives intense pleasure from the life he's built. He cherishes his wife, Krystyna, their daughters, Anne and Lucy, and his job as handyman for St. Joseph's, the Catholic church that is the cornerstone of Browerville life. But when a tragic accident cuts Krystyna's life short, Eddie is sure his heart is broken forever. The love she lavished on her family, the way she combed the girls' hair, the way she greeted Eddie at the end of the day-all the precious gifts she gave are gone.

The town rallies to provide support, but there is one member of the community who is unable to express what Krystyna's loss has meant to her. Sister Regina, the girls' teacher at St. Joseph's, has always felt a special affinity for the Olczaks. But her vows prevent her from becoming too close--even in their time of need.

Sister Regina has always tried to reaffirm her commitment when the strict rules of the sisterhood chafe at her. But with time, as she and Eddie grow to know each other better--and find a connection that goes beyond their shared love of Krystyna and the girls--she faces a difficult challenge. And both of them must summon the courage to look within their own hearts and make their own choices ...

Probably my favorite of all LaVyrle Spencer's books.  She has completely captured the 1950's small town America that is sheltered and nourished by the Catholic church.  The idyllic time, the safe community, the devotion to faith and family.

LaVyrle also captures the grief and the sorrow of losing a beloved spouse and mother.  The feelings evoked by her writing are real.  Eddie is too good to be true, but a wonderful character.  Sister Regina is fantastic and her metamorphosis from nun to woman is terrific.  Even as she questions her vocation and makes the decision of whether or not to leave it, never is the Catholic church negatively treated.  Instead, we see a real introspection of a woman who listens to the voice of God and pursues His path for her.

Truly a charming, delightful read.  One I like reading again and again.

Personal copy.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Last read 2/11

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Monday, March 21, 2011

Love Amid the Ashes...Review

About the book:
Readers often think of Job sitting on the ash heap, his life in shambles. But how did he get there? What was Job's life like before tragedy struck? What did he think as his world came crashing down around him? And what was life like after God restored his wealth, health, and family?

Through painstaking research and a writer's creative mind, Mesu Andrews weaves an emotional and stirring account of this well-known story told through the eyes of the women who loved him. Drawing together the account of Job with those of Esau's tribe and Jacob's daughter Dinah,
Love Amid the Ashes breathes life, romance, and passion into the classic biblical story of suffering and steadfast faith.

I wasn't sure what to think about a fictionalized version of the story of Job.  To then have Job linked to Dinah, daughter of Jacob was even more interesting.  But, it worked and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Job's story is told in a straight-forward manner.  Nothing is embellished or exaggerated, but his reactions to his trials, the love he has for his wife are real and anguished.  Dinah's story isn't a completely happy one and the account in the bible is minimal.  This fictionalized version which continues Dinah's story and adds explanations and experiences is fantastic. 

Mesu Andrews completely captured the time and essence of the biblical world.  Her descriptions are vivid and her characterizations were terrific.  She shares, very clearly, in her notes how she came to place Dinah in Job's life, even though there is no biblical proof of it.  Her references and research are extensive and well done.

Through Job's faithfulness and devotion to the teachings of God, Dinah finally learns about forgiveness. This is a beautiful story of learning to accept and understand God's love for each of us. 

Available March 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thanks to Donna Hausler from Baker Publishing for the opportunity  to review this book.  You can learn more about Mesu Andrews here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, March 18, 2011

Head in the Clouds...Review

About the book:
Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.

When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America's wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn't uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon--and intrigues him at the same time. But he can't afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.

When Isabella's uncle comes to claim the child--and her inheritance--Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man's evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?

A fun story.  I loved Adelaide.  She's spunky and charming and an avid reader.  The references to Jane Eyre and Jane Austen were terrific little additions to the story.  A die-hard romantic, Adelaide searches for her storybook hero.  She never expects to find him on a Texas sheep ranch.

Gideon is a transplanted British lord.  The third son, he must find his own way and prove his success to his parents.  When he becomes guardian to an orphaned girl, he knows he must find a governess.  Running from an embarrassing romantic fiasco, Adelaide sees the newspaper ad and applies for the job. 

Light, but not light-hearted, this is an engaging, delightful story.  The characters are fantastic and fairly well developed, the engaging story has light Christian elements and a bit of drama.

Perfect for an afternoon of escape.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

 * * * *
4/5 Stars

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Small Town Girl...Review

About the book:
Eighteen years ago, young Tess McPhail left her tiny hometown of Wintergreen, Missouri, population 1,713. She headed for Nashville--and never looked back. Now one of country music's brightest lights, "Mac" McPhail is a millionaire many times over. Her career is her life. At thirty-five, Mac has no time for marriage, children, or kinfolk--until her sisters insist she come home to help care for their widowed mother...Mac isn't thrilled about spending a month in Wintergreen. But her visit home turns out to be far from dull. After almost two decades of public adoration, she is suddenly a nonperson--insulted by her jealous older sister, enraged by her intractable mother, and ignored by Kenny Kroneck, the next-door neighbor she mercilessly taunted all through high school. Now a handsome divorce who dotes on his teenage daughter, Kenny is widely respected in the community--and refuses to give Mac the time of day. But once she discovers that Kenny's daughter is a promising country music talent, Mac assumes the role of mentor--and everything changes...


Gradually, the famous Mac McPhail becomes an integral part of life in Wintergreen. The priceless gifts of family and community open her heart to the sweet rewards of caring and commitment. And as the feigned indifference between Mac and Kenny turns to playful bickering, then passion, the complicated life of a superstar is forever changed--by the simple joys of love...

I liked this and it's one I've re-read.  However, it's also as if the author tried too hard to write a country-music themed story.  The main character of Tess is simply a veiled attempt at writing a character based on Reba McEntire.

That said, I ultimately liked the story and I do like Tess.  I like how she changes and grows throughout the book.  She's selfish and jaded at first.  Her stardom is important to her and she resents being called home to care for her elderly mother.  As the story progresses, a bit predictably perhaps, Tess learns that family is important and she can, indeed, have both.

The story is full of great characters and some laugh-out-loud funny parts.  Kenny and Tess' romance is subtle, but believable.  Faith is a little too good to be true, but Casey is hysterical.  Overall a feel-good book and an enjoyable, easy read.

Personal copy. You can purchase your own copy here.

Last read 2/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Journey of Honor...Giveaway (ends 3/23)

Thanks to Media Guests, I have an extra copy of Journey of Honor to give away.  (See my review here.)

It really bugs me when you have to jump through tons of hoops in order to enter giveaways, so a comment with your email address will suffice.

However, if you would like to become a follower that would garner you an additional entry. And, if you change your profile to have your email address visible, if it isn't already, you will gain an additional entry. I ask this because it's so annoying to have someone leave a comment you would like to respond to, but can't, because their email is hidden. This is especially annoying if a question is asked in said comment. Just tell me in your comment if you've done any of the extras. You don't need to leave separate comments for each thing (too annoying!).

U.S. addresses only. Sorry!

This giveaway ends March 23rd.

This giveaway is now closed.

Journey of Honor...Review

About the book:
Disowned, she came to America anyway. Attacked and left pregnant by a vicious mob, she still pressed on. Finally, in spite of being accused of theft by the vilest of her attackers, Giselle tries to remain as upbeat and uncomplaining as a prairie wildflower as she travels on to Zion.

Thoroughly disillusioned with the ugliness and cruelty of slavery in the South, Trace Grayson leaves his young medical career to go west, hoping to leave bigotry and hatred behind. He begins taking goods by teamster train to sell in the territories. However, this fourth time across, in July of 1848, he’s stuck in St. Joseph, Missouri, waiting for enough wagons to join the train so that they can leave.

Knowing that if they don’t start west soon, they’ll be caught by snow in the mountains, Trace is thrilled when the final wagon signs on. Then, when the beautiful, young Dutch girl traveling with the last wagon is falsely accused of stealing and is detained, the whole trip is jeopardized. Thrown together by circumstance, Trace and Giselle team up to begin to figure out just how to make this epic journey across a continent a success.

With a deep sense of honor and an equally strong sense of humor, together they learn to deal with everything except the one trial that neither of them can overcome.


A sweet romance with characters you care about. A marriage of convenience and a treacherous pioneer trek make this an enthralling story.  Trace and Giselle start with a marriage of convenience that will protect her, but soon realize they are falling in love.  Giselle is a Mormon, Trace is not.  The plan is for them to have the marriage annulled when they reach the Salt Lake valley and Trace will continue on his way to California.

There are discussions and explanations of LDS principles as Trace learns about the Mormon church from Giselle, but this isn't a preachy, Mormon novel.  Trace's questions and concerns are real and honest and his conversion isn't an easy, guaranteed one, which was refreshing.

I wished for more details and character development.  These are characters with so much potential, especially Mose.  And, much of Giselle's history, including her conversion and the shunning by her parents is mentioned but just in passing.  Additionally, her assault and how it came to happen, while not something I want to read about in detail, isn't really explained.  I think having some of the back history would make this a richer story.

Still, it's a sweet, enjoyable read and one I can easily recommend.

Thanks to Cheryl at Media Guests for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Jaclyn M. Hawkes here.  You can see other tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, March 14, 2011

Here Burns My Candle...Review

About the book:
A mother who cannot face her future.
A daughter who cannot escape her past.

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a keeper of secrets. A Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage, she honors the auld ways, even as doubts and fears stir deep within her.

Her husband, Lord Donald, has secrets of his own, well hidden from the household, yet whispered among the town gossips.

His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides gold beneath her floor and guilt inside her heart. Though her two abiding passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, Marjory’s many regrets, buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, continue to plague her.

One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface, even as bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745, intent on capturing the crown.

A timeless story of love and betrayal,loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope, the brightest of tapers, lights the way home.

Being of Scotch descent, I love stories about Scotland.  The history is so fascinating to me and I am amazed that 250 years later, the 1745 uprising is still intriguing to so many.  Liz Curtis Higgs paints a terrific picture of the history of the Scottish rebellion and the agonizing choice many felt as they chose sides.  Her portrayal of the ruthless persecution of those who supported Prince Charles is terrific.

The Kerr family has their place in society and their secrets which are buried deep. Lady Elisabeth is a Highlander and staunch Jacobite. She appears to be Christian but can't completely give up her mother's tradition of worshiping the moon.  Her husband is a lowlander and, at first, a supporter of King George.  His mother, Lady Marjory is more concerned with her money, her sons and her place in society than she is in the welfare of other people. 

As the rebellion grows, the family finds itself stretched and torn.  But, as faith is renewed and forgiveness offered, hope reigns, even in the midst of tragedy and loss.

I liked Elisabeth.  I tolerated Marjory.  I hated Janet, but I think I was supposed to.  I didn't like Donald and his lying, philandering ways.  I loved Gibson.  I can't wait to see what happens to him in the next book.

Some might call the story predictable. The pace is a bit slow, but the history is rich and the story is enthralling.  I look forward to the sequel, Mine is the Night.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Liz Curtis Higgs here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Linen Queen...Review

About the book:
Abandoned by her father and neglected by her self-centered, unstable mother, Sheila McGee cannot wait to escape the drudgery of her mill village life in Northern Ireland. Her classic Irish beauty helps her win the 1941 Linen Queen competition, and the prize money that goes with it finally gives her the opportunity she's been dreaming of. But Sheila does not count on the impact of the Belfast blitz which brings World War II to her doorstep. Now even her good looks are useless in the face of travel restrictions, and her earlier resolve is eroded by her ma's fear of being left alone.

When American troops set up base in her village, some see them as occupiers but Sheila sees them as saviors—one of them may be her ticket out. Despite objections from her childhood friend, Gavin O'Rourke, she sets her sights on an attractive Jewish-American army officer named Joel Solomon, but her plans are interrupted by the arrival of a street-wise young evacuee from Belfast.


Frustrated, Sheila fights to hold on to her dream but slowly her priorities change as the people of Northern Ireland put old divisions aside and bond together in a common purpose to fight the Germans. Sheila's affection for Joel grows as she and Gavin are driven farther apart. As the war moves steadily closer to those she has grown to love, Sheila confronts more abandonment and loss, and finds true strength, compassion, and a meaning for life outside of herself.


After reading The Yellow House, I had no desire to read any more from Patricia Falvey.  However, I'd already accepted the opportunity to review The Linen Queen and so I went ahead hoping for some improvement.  While I liked it better than The Yellow House,  I didn't like it very much. 

The political history of Northern Ireland is interesting, but sad.  It can be fascinating instead of depressing though.  The Linen Queen is depressing. The characters aren't likeable. Sheila is annoying, the other characters are caricatures and shallow.   Mildly compelling but ultimately disappointing.

Thanks to Sarah Reck of FaithWords for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Patricia Falvey here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 3/11

*
1/5 Stars

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Secret Lives of Dresses...Review

About the book:
Dora has always taken the path of least resistance. She went to the college that offered her a scholarship, is majoring in "vagueness studies," and wears whatever shows the least dirt. She falls into a job at the college coffee shop, and a crush on her flirty boss, Gary.

Just when she's about to test Gary's feelings, Mimi, the grandmother who raised her, suffers a stroke. Dora rushes back home to Forsyth, NC, and finds herself running her grandmother's vintage clothing store. The store has always been a fixture in Dora's life; though she grew up more of a jeans-and-sweatshirt kind of girl, before she even knew how to write, Mimi taught her that a vintage 1920s dress could lift a woman's spirit.

While working there, Dora befriends Mimi's adorable contractor, Conrad. Is he after Dora, or is working from a different blueprint? And why did Mimi start writing down--and giving away--stories of the dresses in her shop?

When Mimi dies, Dora can't get out of town fast enough and cedes control of the store to her money-hungry aunt who wants to turn it into a t-shirt shop for tourists. But ultimately, she returns to Forsyth, willing to battle whatever may stand in the way of her staying there. Dora can trade her boring clothes for vintage glamour, but can she trade her boring life for one she actually wants?

When Dora returns to her hometown to see her ill grandmother, she is at a crossroads and unsure of her future.  As she begins working in her grandmother's vintage clothing store she discovers friends and a completely unexpected life, complete with the handsome man and annoying relatives.

When Dora discovered the origins of the dresses' secret lives, I was pleased that it hadn't been completely predictable.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this story, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The characters are likeable.  The premise is interesting and the secret lives are fascinating.  I love the idea that a dress could have a history and an opinion of its owners and experiences being worn. What a terrific way to look at clothing.

My only complaint is the unnecessary profanity.  Even thought it was one character and meant to be part of her personality, it's still disappointing to see it in print.

An enjoyable story and one I can easily recommend.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can learn more about Erin McKean and the secret lives of other dresses here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

While We're Far Apart...Review

About the book:
In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary.

But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse. Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love...even when He is silent.

Three different lives come together in this historical novel.  Penny has always loved Eddie from afar and when he enlists in the army after his wife dies, she offers to care for his children while he is gone.  Thinking that he will fall in love with her, she is surprised to find that life doesn't happen as planned.  Subjugated and oppressed by her parents, Penny takes a job driving buses and not only learns to enjoy the freedom it gives her, but she begins to discover who she is.

Esther finds a friend who understands her when she gets to know Mr. Mendel better.  She is angry at God for her mother's death and he is angry at God for his wife's death. As the war rages and America waits for victory, these three people will discover that God does indeed know who they are and they will learn that He never leaves them alone.
 
I found the historical perspective of the Jews in Hungary to be fascinating.  So little of what actually happened to them was known until after the war was over.  The book is a bit slower paced, but didn't drag at all.  Lynn Austin does a terrific job of weaving all the stories together.  I loved seeing Penny's growth as she came out of her shell and discovered her her own talents and good qualities.

A terrific story and one that is easily recommended.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 2/11

* * * *
4/5 Stars