Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Please Post

I just wanted to say something here. I am not writing a review of every book I read (although it may seem like it lol). If that were the case I would have about one review every other day. However, I would love to hear from you. Notice the motto of our blog is "Where those who have opinions share them", so feel free to post a review at any time, for any literary work, and as often as you please. You can write about every book or magazine you read or just the ones that you feel passionately about. You can write about authors, quotes, movies, plays, or children's books. Whatever you would like (as long as it's literature related). I know one of you has informed me that she is waiting until the end of the year to post a "best" and "worst" list of books she's read this year and I am looking forward to that. Often times I know that only three or four people will actually read my posts, but it just feels good to write them.

Book Review: Rebellious Heart

And she does it again! I gotta tell you, Jody Hedlund is fast becoming a favorite of mine. It seems like everything I read of hers is better than the last and Rebellious Heart is no exception. While it is fiction, many of the characters and events are historical. Some of the exploits of the main couple, Susanna Smith and Benjamin Ross, are inspired by the courtship of Abigail and John Adams.
Set on Massachusetts' stormy coast, the bad weather often mirrors the political state of the colonies. It is 1763 and tensions, not to mention tempers, are running high as England continues to abuse the colonists. Whispers of sedition, treason, and tyranny swirl through town while the sea shore is haunted by a murderer who tortures young women and leaves their broken bodies in the sand. It is a dark tale of love, trust, loyalty, and courage. Can Benjamin Ross, a poor country lawyer, keep himself out of trouble as he champions the cause of the less fortunate? Or will his secret "seditious" activities leave him dangling from an English rope? Will Susanna's wealth and status as a loyal supporter of the crown shield her from the abuses heaped on the poorer residents in town? And will she be safe from the lunatic roaming the sea shore targeting young women?
With enough levity and lighthearted moments to keep it a smooth read amidst much chaos, Rebellious Heart is a very good novel for those who love history and suspense. And a strong and likeable leading lady (that is very important to me).    

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy Anniversary: Abigail and John Adams


Yes, today is the wedding anniversary of one of the most famous couples in history - President John Adams and his First Lady and "Dearest Friend" Abigail. They were married 25 October 1764 and to celebrate author Jody Hedlund is hosting a book giveaway on her blog. She also has a great post about this remarkable couple (click here). I have read several books about them and I really admire who they were and appreciate all that they sacrificed for our great country.
To commemorate I recommend a few good reads:
John Adams by David McCullough
Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams by Lynne Withey
Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund (fiction)
First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis
My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams
Abigail Adams: A Life by Woody Holton

Monday, October 21, 2013

Learning From Fiction



There are only two purposes for a book: to entertain or to inform (and no, children sitting on them to reach the dinner table doesn't count as a legitimate purpose). Luckily for readers there are many books that combine both purposes. Perhaps that is why I love historical fiction so much - it marries these two elements beautifully. That feeling I get when I finish reading a book and just thirst for more knowledge of the places or characters or scenarios is one of my favorite feelings.
For example, I have never been very interested in cars. Other than James Bond's Aston Martin DB5, I haven't really cared about any automobiles, old or new. All that recently changed when I read the novel At Every Turn by Anne Mateer. The story revolves around 22-year-old Alyce (Ally) Benson who dreams of one day being a race car driver. Although she is independent, college educated, from a wealthy family, and knows how to handle a car better than most men, she has two major problems: it's 1916 and she's a woman. Ally has a big heart, but her good intentions often get her into trouble making for an amusing and enjoyable read (I also liked that the setting is a small town in Indiana).
The descriptions in this book made me curious about the many automobiles mentioned therein and I have found myself quite enjoying researching them over the past week. Now I'm looking up classic car shows this fall because I really hope to grab a glimpse of some of these gems. In my opinion, that is historical fiction done right. It captures your attention, peaks your interest, and teaches you to embrace new interests and ideas.
So for the fun of it, here's what I discovered:
Harry Benson's Mercer:

Mercer Automobile Company (named for Mercer County in New Jersey) manufactured cars from 1909-1925. This type of car held six passenger and was referred to as a 'touring car'.
Ally Benson's Packard:

The Packard Motor Car Company was founded in 1899 and produced cars up until 1958. They were known for high priced luxury vehicles that were originally produced in Detroit, MI. After merging with Studebaker, Packards were manufactured in South Bend, IN from 1957-1958. 
Lawrence Trotter's Grant:


Founded in Findlay, OH, Grant Motor Co produced cars from 1913-1922. Both Trotter's roadster (seats 2) and the touring car could be bought in 1916 for $795. To put that into perspective consider this: the average annual household income was $750, a gallon of milk was $.32, and a twelve day vacation on a cruise ship was $60.
Pastor Swan's Tin Lizzie:

"Tin Lizzie" is a nickname for the Ford Model T. It was manufactured from 1908-1927. Ford Motor Company is still manufacturing cars today.
Webster Little's race car:


These will give you an idea of what Webster's race car looked like. Notice there are two seats. At that time a mechanic rode alongside the driver during the races.
An additional car is mentioned - the "Runabout". I learned through my research that a runabout was a type of car body rather than a specific make or model, similar to sedan or van or SUV. In hind sight I believe the author was using the term runabout interchangeably with either Harry's Mercer or Ally's Packard. 


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book Opinion: Austenland



I was anxious to read Austenland because I had just read The Goose Girl (loved it!) and with the movie Austenland hitting theaters, I thought the timing was right.
I'll just get this out right now - I did not enjoy this novel. Shannon Hale is an exceptionally talented writer, there is no question of that. I did not like this book because I despise unlikeable and indecisive leading ladies and I found Jane Hayes to be in possession of both of these undesirable traits. The story seemed to drag as the reader is mercilessly drug through Jane's perplexing and tedious thoughts (not to mention every failed, pathetic relationship she has ever had). The only good thing I can say about her is that she paints well. She has obvious insecurities which force her to play the victim and pity herself throughout the book. She also has exceptionally poor taste in men.
I will take some of the blame here. While I am no tomboy and pride myself on being perfectly ladylike, I have never been a super "girly girl" (let's face it, all my best friends have been guys) so the many casual references to boobs and ovaries were weird to me. Finally, I do not use the word "yummy" to describe anything, let alone kissing a man. I like to think that my vocabulary is broad enough to provide for better, more mature descriptions than "he tasted yummy". In short, Jane Hayes is the type of girl that I would not be friends with because we would have absolutely nothing in common.
I know some of my sisters really enjoyed Austenland and I am very glad they did.

*Note - I do not refer to this as a proper "review" since it is an expression of how this book made me feel rather than an in-depth look at the writing and story quality.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Review: Unending Devotion

Shiloh and I had a conversation some years ago about how much she enjoyed historical fiction that incorporated actual events, places, and historical figures. If you fall into that category then you will love Unending Devotion. This is the first book of author Jody Hedlund that I have read and it is fantastic! Set in Harrison, MI during the height of the white pine logging industry, the story focuses on Lily Young, a stubborn and headstrong 19-year-old woman in search of her lost sister, Daisy. I found myself drawn into the story and the plight of the characters. There are many complex issues explored in this novel including family relationships and sustainable industry, but the central issue is that of "white slavery" (aka forced prostitution) that plagued much of the country in the late nineteenth century. Many of the characters - James Carr, Maggie, and Frankie Osbourne - are real individuals who lived in Michigan in 1883 and some - Stuart, Daisy Young - are merely based on real people.
While the leading lady tended to grate on my nerves a bit, the book is very enjoyable and I would recommend Unending Devotion to anyone who loves heart pounding adventure, dark villains, and (of course) romance.

*Note - Please do not go look up the people mentioned previously until you have a chance to read the book. It would spoil the story!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Want to Read With You!

I want you girls to know that I really miss reading books with you and discussing them.
 YES!!! I miss our book club. 
 Is there anyway we could do it again? Although I am grateful that I read ATLAS SHRUGGED, I wouldn't want to read a book of that magnitude again, but I would like to read some of these fun reads that you are reviewing.
*****
Now for my book review.
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

By Lucy Maud Montgomery

Loved this book! You should read it! 

****
ANNE OF THE ISLAND
ANNE OF AVONLEA
ANNE OF WINDY POPLARS
ANNE'S HOUSE OF DREAMS

I really enjoyed the next 3 books, I am on #5. The stories are still good but I get the feeling that Lucy Maud was having to work harder for story lines and sometimes, by book 5, things seemed a little "forced" as far as moving the story along, but I still enjoy it. I have not read ANNE OF INGLESIDE which is the last book that L.M. Montgomery published in this series. Two other books with some of the same characters were published later.

This poor review was brought to you by - Mom

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Literary Quote

The "Little House" Books are stories of long ago. Today our way of living and our schools are much different; so many things have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong. Great improvements in living have been made because every American has always been free to pursue his happiness, and so long as Americans are free they will continue to make our country ever more wonderful. - Laura Ingalls Wilder
 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Book Review: A Change of Fortune

I hate writing these types of reviews as I consider artists of any field worthy of admiration for it takes courage to put their creations out there for the world to both praise and critique. Unfortunately this review is the latter. I am glad that I read A Most Peculiar Circumstance first because if I had read A Change of Fortune first I probably would not have continued with the series. While the writing in A Most Peculiar Circumstance is acceptable, the writing in A Change of Fortune leaves much to be desired. The author overuses several words to create an uncomfortable redundancy throughout the book and it begins early on to distract from the story. The words "glare", "sputter", and "grin" are the biggest offenders and phrases like "nose in the air" and "began whistling under his/her breath" don't fair well either. I found this to be a complaint with both books, however, A Change of Fortune was the most egregious of the two.
My second complaint is the characters. They are, at best, annoying. They have no depth and no complexity. There was no chemistry apparent in the main couple and the author did not inspire any emotions from the reader. A well written story should make you feel something, typically you hate the villains and love the heroes. I experienced neither inclination. Every character is prone to outrageous emotional outbursts at any given time making the novel a rather exasperating read. The women (both good and bad) are described as "glaring", "shrieking", "hissing", "sobbing", and the heroine was even described as "making a noise like an angry cat" when she is offended by something trivial (that did not endear me to her and made me wonder why any man would find her attractive). The men were actually worse as they have a propensity for envy and possessiveness and quite often experience mood swings that would put any young PMSing woman to shame (is PMSing a word?). And both male and female characters have a habit of "turning purple with rage" more often than they should.
Finally, poor writing can be forgiven if the story is riveting. This one was not. I found myself rather bored about 90 pages in, but pushed myself through to the end on page 313. Every reader likes to see issues resolved, but there can come a point where circumstances are too predictable and problems resolved too neatly. This book was over the top with cookie cutter characters (sobbing ladies, brooding men, plotting mothers, etc.) and a less than interesting plot. Read it if you'd like but I recommend skipping it and just starting with A Most Peculiar Circumstance (click here for my review).

Final thought - The good news is that the second book was better than the first so I am actually anxious to read the third book to see if the trend continues. I sincerely hope it does.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Book Review: The Miner's Lady

Heavy. That's how I would describe Tracie Peterson's latest novel. That is not meant to be a criticism, but rather a description of the situations and emotions that set this book apart from others in the romance category.
The bulk of the story takes place in Ely, MN during the winter of 1890-1891. Ely is a mining community, comprised mostly of immigrants, that has grown so rapidly that it is in on the verge of becoming an incorporated town. The geographical setting is cold, dreary, and harsh which perfectly mirrors the situation that our characters find themselves in much of the time. Work in the mine is hard with numerous hazards that endanger the lives of men every day.  And life in the saloons is dangerous with alcoholism, gambling, or murder (or all three) bringing ruin to many a man, and family, in Ely. Yet it is in these dismal conditions that the reader finds the focus of the story: two Italian immigrant families that have been feuding for generations both in America and in their native Italy. Will the grudge end now that Isabella Panetta and Orlando Calarco have secretly courted and decided to marry? Or will this add fuel to a fire that is burning almost out of control?
The Miner's Lady is a well written and enjoyable romance that explores both the good and bad in human nature. The reader is shown how human nature can be soft, charitable, and innocent; how one can love so selflessly and turn to God for answers when none can be found on earth. However, others can be foolish, hard, and unrelenting, controlled by both revenge and vice.
The Miner's Lady is a fantastic read for anyone who loves unexpected romance and history.