Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer

Publisher: B&H Books
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Category: Amish Fiction

Tricia Goyer brings her readers on a breathtaking Amish journey in “Beside Still Waters.” A family unlike the others, scarred by the past and afraid of the future. Marianna is 19 years-old and has everything planned out. She has every intention of being the perfect Amish daughter and making it up to her parents for her lost siblings. Marianna may be the oldest daughter, the one who takes care of the children and the home but she is also the daughter who survived. Two sisters died in a buggy accident the day Marianna decided it was time to enter the world. Every year her birthday was mixed with celebration and sadness. Now, her brother Levi has decided there is more to life than the Amish ways and he has left the community. Marianna must become the role model for her younger siblings. Marianna always knew that the one daughter who lived, was never able to replace the two that were lost. While she wore their clothes, played with their toys and slept in their room, Marianna yearned for a life of her own. A life where she didn’t feel overshadowed. Life was going just as Marianna expected, she was waiting for Aaron Carter to ask her on a date, she was going to enter the church, and she would soon settle down and become a wife and mother. However, her father decided that he must move the family to Montana. Marianna reluctantly agrees to travel with the family, hoping to return in six months to marry Aaron Carter. Montana brings about many life challenges. For the first time in her life Marianna is questioning her ways of life, and her love for God. Could there possibly be more to life than the Amish ways?

“Beside Still Waters” was a fresh perspective on Amish life. I’ve read quite a bit Amish fiction, and I really enjoyed this one. There is a lot of Amish fiction on the market, and many of them seem repetitive. This one is different, this one is great. Tricia Goyer is incredibly talented, and her character development is phenomenal. Her characters are written with love, and their emotions always realistic. This is not just about the “good” and the “bad” in this world, this is about the “grey” element. A wonderful read, and highly recommended.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: The Linen Queen by Patricia Falvey

Publisher: Center Street
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Category: Irish Fiction

Patricia Falvey’s follow up novel The Linen Queen is a story of relationships, aspirations and survival. Sheila McGee is young, self-centered and perverse. She dreams of the day she will sail away from Ireland, and head towards a grander lifestyle. Ireland feels like a prison, stuck with a belittling mother, dishonest friends, and a father who couldn’t or wouldn’t stay. Sheila McGee has been working at the mill since she was 14 years old, her capricious mother thought school was a waste of time and pulled her out to contribute to the household. However, according to her mother, it seems that every penny Sheila earned was meant for the household. Each day returning home is an adventure, life with her mother is unpredictable. Now, 18 years old Sheila is finally eligible to compete in the Linen Queen pageant, a substantial monetary prize could finance her escape. When Sheila is not chosen amongst the contestants she knows it has something to do with Mrs. McAteer, the mill owner’s sister. Sheila has a reputation as the town flirt, and Mrs. McAteer detests the girl. When it appears that Sheila is the best viable contestant Sheila is given a chance while Mrs. McAteer loudly disapproves. Sheila unsurprisingly wins the pageant. However, life becomes complicated quickly. The Belfast Blitz brings World War II to the doorstep of the Irish. Fear becomes real and war is no longer far away. Tension is rising in Ireland when support for the British is split amongst the people. Those who want to help with the war effort, and those who believe it is Britain’s war and want nothing to do with it. When American troops are stationed in Queensbrook Sheila frolics with the best of them and hopes to snag on. She hopes and prays that one will take her away. The town boys become frustrated and Sheila’s childhood best friend Gavin tries to warn her against the dangers of leaving Ireland behind. Sheila has much to learn about life, her loyalty is constantly tested and her convictions become questioned by herself. Sheila, the self-centered, presumptuous girl begins to mature and blossom into a grounded, responsible individual. Beauty will only get you so far...

Patricia Falvey’s debut novel The Yellow House blew me away. I kept my eyes glued to the pages until I was finished. The Linen Queen had many similar qualities. Patricia Falvey’s attention to details is astounding, her research is impeccable and her writing is concrete. I really cared about each character, so much so that I really rooted for all of them. I had no favorites, and the flawed characters developed immensely. I would like to point out that I felt the language of The Linen Queen was much simpler than The Yellow House. The dialect of the characters was heavily toned down, where in The Yellow House I felt that the dialect really helped to transport the reader into Ireland. All in all, I think The Linen Queen was a great read. However, if I had to choose between her two books, I would definitely choose The Yellow House. It’s hard to forget a book that you loved so intensely.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review: The Woefield Poultry Collective Susan Juby

Author: Susan Juby
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 336
Source: Arc from Publisher
Category: Canadian Fiction
Rating: 5/5


Prudence, is a “save the earth” kind of girl. She believes in wasting nothing. In her New York apartment, she practices composting, has installed solar panels-much to her landlords dismay and she uses chemical-free products. Her boyfriend can’t take it anymore and walks out of her life with worm soiled pants he trudges off and never looks back. Prudence is unsure of how she will make it in New York City alone, but she’s always the optimist. She’s a country girl at heart, and miraculously she inherits a farm from her uncle. Prudence is relived, excited, and exhilarated. In the eyes of Prudence, this is a dream come true. She packs up her belongings, and heads to Canada to live on Vancouver Island. When Prudence arrives at Woefield farm, she quickly realizes that this will not be an easy project. The farm has burned down, the house is covered in tarps, and the one lonely, depressed sheep is half-sheared. It quickly becomes clear that her uncle may have owned the farm, but he was far from a farmer. The bank has more surprises for Prudence, and it seems that Earl comes with the territory. Earl, hardly a handyman but a Woefield resident for 35 years. Prudence really wants to make a go of this farm, and she is determined to make it work. Within a few hours, Prudence acquires a new resident. Seth is a blogger, alcoholic, and social recluse. His mother has moved in her boyfriend, and Seth must go. He walks across the street, and asks Prudence for a place to stay. Prudence promises to give him a room, as long as he earns his stay. Seth and Prudence has different ideas on what this must be. When a strawberry mixer goes wrong, one thing positive turns up. Sarah, an 11 years old girl must move her chickens and her parents inquire if Prudence can keep the chickens at Woefield. A chicken coop is erected, a home-depot errand goes horribly wrong, and the bank must be stalled. Prudence’s optimism is put to the test and each character must depend on each other.

Overall Impression:

I loved “Woefield Poultry Collective!” Susan Juby has created a piece of literature like nothing I have ever read. Home to Woefield is original, and highly expressive. The story is told from four very diverse personalities. Each character is written in a clear, distinct, and memorial voice. Each character is familiar, mysterious and well-guarded. The cast of characters really captured me. Under normal circumstances these characters would probably never come together, however, life tends to have many obstacles and they must each deal with one another. Earl, Seth, Prudence and Sarah have a very unusual friendship, and an unusual bond. “Home to Woefield” is quirky, fun and poignant. Honestly, this one far surpassed my expectations. I wasn’t sure that to think of the title or the synopsis. I’m very proud to mention that Susan Juby is a Canadian author. “Home to Woefield” is hardly a simply novel, it’s full of emotions and aspirations, one that you will not want to put down.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: In Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 432
Source: Personal EBook
Category: Fiction

A baby is found on an Amish farm, the authorities believe the baby may have been smothered. As the authorities begin to question those on the farm, Katie Fisher is discovered as the potential mother when she begins to bleed uncontrollably. The authorities call for a ambulance, and Katie is carted off kicking and screaming while the medical staff keep insisting that she has just given birth. Katie is denying everything. When Katie is charged with murdering her baby, her family has no intention of helping their daughter. They would let everything fall as it may, everything would be left to “God’s Will.” Katie’s aunt enlists the help of a dear friend named Ellie. Ellie’s role has lawyer becomes also caretaker, and guardian of Katie when the judge allows Katie to be released into her hands. Together, Katie and Ellie return to the Amish farm. Ellie is shocked when her technological life is turned upside down, she’s frustrated when Katie keeps insisting that she did not give birth to this child. How can Ellie defend her, when she won’t tell her anything? Ellie learns the ins and outs of Amish life, and wonders if she has made the correct decisions in taking on Katie’s case. Her own mother and father seem distant and unresponsive. Her brother has been “shunned” from the community and is not to return. Katie and her story slowly unravel to tell a story that is both shocking and intriguing.

I want to first mention that this was my first Jodi Picoult book, and ultimately I’m standing in the middle neither liking or disliking this book very much. My biggest issue with the book is that fact that I never felt attached to any of the characters. All characters are flawed, and realistic but the story never led me to truly care for them. I never rooted for any of the characters. Jodi Picoult flashes back in time to tell the story of Katie, and her iniquitous past. I thought this was well done and it kept me wondering about the ultimate ending. As a reader I felt left in the dark for a good portion of the book. Much of the book felt slow-moving and at times I felt irritated. The trail felt long and tedious. This was not my first Amish fiction book, while Jodi Picoult includes some key Amish components and I didn’t really feel like I was carried away into an Amish culture. At times I felt like it was more stereotypical, than realistic. I really wanted to read this one, but I had a hard time getting through it. I wouldn’t say that I loathed this book, but I felt extremely disappointed. I would like to give Jodi Picoult another change, and try another one of her books.

What are some of your favourite Jodi Picoult books?

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

I’m currently reading “The Linen Queen” by Patricia Flavey and I’m really enjoying it. “The Yellow House” was one of my first review books, and I immediately fell in love with it. It was one of those books that I couldn’t put down. Any minute I could get free, I was grabbing the book and reading a few lines. I will have my review of “The Linen Queen” up shortly. In the meantime, I wanted to share my review of “The Yellow House.”

Title: The Yellow House
Author: Patricia Falvey
Publisher: Hachette Books
Pages. 329
Source: Publisher

“The Yellow House” takes place during revolutionary Ireland during the early twentieth century. Eileen O’Neil’s family has been torn apart. Her youngest sister Lizzie has died from the fever, buried by the hospital and no one knows where her body lays. Her mother becomes distraught and decides to leave the family, taking her older son Frankie with her. She admits Frankie is not fathered by her husband Tom and gives Eileen the choice to stay or come along. Eileen is divided but decides to stay and take care of her father and newborn brother Paddy. Shortly after, her father is shot and killed during political unrest and Eileen is suddenly alone running away from the revolutionaries with Paddy. Through all of life's challenges and obstacles Eileen holds on to the dream of mending her broken family. She believes her mothers mental illness is only temporary, and soon she will be able to reunite them and have them all living together under the roof of the yellow house once again.

Throughout the novel Eileen’s patience and hopes are constantly tested. While working in a textile mill, she catches the eye of the Owen Sheridan. Owen’s parents are the mill owners and Quakers who believe in prohibition and non-violence. Owen is the prodigal son trying to find his way in the world. He enlists in the War much to his parents dismay and Eileen tries to determine how she feels about Owen. When he returns from war engaged, Eileen decides she must move on with her life. Eileen becomes actively involved in the fight for independence and marries a fellow activist James Conlon. James believes the cause comes before all else, and soon Eileen is on her own again to raise their daughter. The twists don’t end here...

The Yellow House is an extraordinary tale. I loved it!! It kept me guessing until the end, so many twists and unexpected turns. I don’t want to give away any spoilers! Falvey has written a great page turner with intelligently plotted characters. I will be on the look out for more of her books. She did not disappoint. I kept rooting for Eileen throughout the novel. So many secrets are uncovered. Honestly, it was amazing!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Review: Miss Hildreth Wore Brown Anecdotes of a Southern Belle by Olivia De Belle Byrd

Author: Olivia DeBelle Byrd
Publisher: Morgan James
Pages: 156
Source: Author
Category: Southern Fiction
Rating: 5/5

“Miss Hildreth Wore Brown: Anecdotes of a Southern Belle” is an absolutely hilarious read. We all have stories about our upbringing, the stereotypes, the new generation vs the old generation and the influences of others in our lives. We love recounting the hilarious stories about individuals in our towns. After telling her stories verbally over and over for years, Olivia finally puts pen to paper, and delivers a fascinating read. Olivia deBelle Byrd picks her readers up and drops her readers into a Southern world. A world filled with traditions, and laugh-out loud stories. Stories that will leave you thinking, and have you recollecting your own stories. Each chapter is a short fun filled chapter, one that will leave you laughing and learning from her lessons. A self-proclaimed “directionally challenged” individual, Olivia recounts driving her son to soccer practice, but ending up in the wrong state. Her husbands response when she asks why he never gave the correct directions, “I didn’t think you knew where west was.” Yes, Olivia’s husband is always ready with an answer. After her husband asks her to purchase blue or brown pants. OIivia responds with “Marine blue, navy blue, dark blue, chocolate brown, mocha brown, latte brown?” I wonder what my husband would say...Imagine her husbands shock when he learns Ice Cream is no longer 25 cents a scoop and Chanel No.5 is not cheap. Imagine his horror when she pretends the bottle spills to the ground...

This book is not written solely for the Southern reader, everyone can relate and enjoy this book. A Fun, fast-paced, hysterical read. This is one that you will pick up, and not want to end. It’s all of 150 pages, so you may want to ration the stories.