Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow

It's taken me a few days to finally get here, but I wanted to write about one of the books that I've recently finished reading: The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin.  I'm not really sure what this is categorized under, but I'm not sure if it really is Christian fiction... but either way, it was a good book.

The story is mostly about two sisters, one who has dedicated her life to taking care of her 600 pound sister.  Griselda doesn't mind taking care of her sister, Agnes, and has been doing so since her parents died.  It was not clear (or I can't remember) how long since their parents have died, but both women are in their 40's and neither married.

The town is convinced that Agnes has been touched by God and is doing His work through prayer.  According to the town, she has been able to heal cancer, stomach ulcers, help temperamental children calm down, to finding lost items - all through prayer.  She even keeps a notebook with her with all of her notes so she knows what to pray for.

Of course, a story like this would be just a little too boring, so here comes a stranger to the town, Hezekiah, who had heard about Agnes and her miracles.  Agnes prays for Hezekiah, like she does for anyone else in the town who asks for it, but the prayers go unanswered.  Months go by with nothing and the town starts to doubt Agnes' ability to perform miracles. 

The overall story was pretty good but some plots were not written as smooth as they could have.  Of course, I have no idea how they could have been fixed, but it seems like some of these different sub-stories could have used a little more help.  They felt like they were fixed or finished just a little too quickly.  This made parts of the book a little choppy to me.  It didn't stop me from enjoying the rest of the book though.

It's funny because my favorite character in this book was one of the main characters - the poor, long suffering Griselda.  She almost seems too good to be true, but the author still wrote some humanity in her.  Griselda loved being a librarian and found a type of peace when she was surrounded by books.  She didn't mind taking care of her sister, which made it impossible for her to date, get married or have children.  Even when she tried to go on her first date since high school, Griselda and her date get called away because Agnes was having a bad asthma attack.

It is shortly after this that Griselda starts questioning if giving up her life for her sister was worth it.  It seems like she can't really do much because Agnes does not like being left at home by herself at night, and if she does go out to church or town meetings, she has to return right away.  She starts to dream a little more about getting out of that small town to see what else there is beyond the mountains that she can see from her bedroom window... until Agnes calls her back to reality and downstairs so she can help her walk to the bathroom.

Despite all of the growing resentment that Griselda has for her sister, she still stands up for her and defends her to the town.  When the town wanted to put up a sign with Anges' name on it, Griselda was the first to try to get that idea shot down - knowing that it was not what her sister wanted.  When the town started to question Agnes' power in her prayers, Griselda is the only one that stands up and asks the town if anyone has been praying for Agnes while she's dedicated her life to praying for them.

If you can get past some of the bumpy parts in the writing, it is overall a good book.  It hardly took any time at all to read it, even though I think it was twice as long as the last book.  The characters are really neat to read about and some of the stories are really cute - re: Jesus pie (yes, you'll have to read the book to find this precious story).  :-)  :-)  :-)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

This Fine Life: A Novel

I just finished reading yet another book - what a surprise - called This Fine Life: A Novel by Eva Marie Everson.  I was really impressed with the book and author's way of pulling you into the story.  I've read other books that started out this way but didn't have the  same pull as this one did.

The story starts off in 1964 with a young woman in the early stages of labor.  She gets her purse, gloves and is ready to go wherever she thinks she needs to go.  At this point I gather that her husband's name is Thayne and that at one point she and her husband were living in her old room at her parent's home.  So, the questions start up in my head... where is he?  Why is she living with her parents but her husband isn't?  What was he doing studying the bible at one point?  Where is she going now?  To the hospital?

So all of these questions make me curious as to what the story is for Mariette and totally drew me into the story.  I don't know what it was - maybe the curiosity of her being pregnant and in early labor?  What is it about women and their labor stories - I remember sitting at work gatherings (when most of the men found their ways back to their desks) when the mom's of the group starting comparing their stories of labor and childbirth.  Not being a mom at that point, I remember being horrified at those stories and making a mental note that I didn't want to go there anytime soon.  Now that I'm a mom, there must be something about being drawn into a book that starts off with a woman about to have a baby... maybe it's just a mom thing or me - or maybe this is exactly that the author intended or she was able to weave some magic spell into her words... well, whatever it was, I was mesmerized and had to find out what happened.  :-)  :-)

I really liked this book.  The story was really cute, with some parts that were filled with pain - well, okay, there was a lot of parts that I found a bit sad and had me crying, but it was all written so well!  :-)  :-)  :-)  But more than anything, this story, even though it's a romance, seemed so much more realistic to me than so many of the other romance stories that I've read in the past.  There are few writers that can do that.  Sure, I love reading those "happily ever after" books every once in a while, but even the most avid romance novel fan can get tired of these kind of fairy tale type of stories.   This one had so many of the typical challenges that as a married person, I can totally relate to and have experienced some of the same in my own marriage.  It was nice to read about a newlywed couple having a few problems - just like so many of us that were married fairly young had to face.

I remember when hubby and I were first married and our first little apartment and the money problems that we had.  I remember how frustrated I felt when so many of the people that I considered family were so convinced that our marriage was not going to survive.  I also remember how good it felt to have our little victories when we succeeded at something - graduating from college, getting our first "real" job with real pay, getting our first home... I think there is something that we can all relate to in this book which was more like reading a true life dairy than a fictional novel.

I'm sure that the writer had intended all of this but wanted to make the more important part of her story about the main characters relationship with God.  Sure, it's a Christian fiction book so it's to be expected... but to tell you the truth, I really didn't pay much attention to this part.  Sure, you'll have your fairy tale ending where Mariette find God and becomes the person she is intended to be, but I found more appealing how her husband had always accepted her and her little quirks... and the people in the town they lived in had also accepted that part of her eight years later - even though they really gave her a hard time about it when they first moved there. 

To me, it makes no difference that this is considered a "Christian" or religious genre novel.  It was written well and I had a fun time reading it.  The whole religion part of stories like this will not change my personal way of thinking, nor will it all of the sudden make me want to take bible study classes or anything like that.  To me, this was an impressive book and I look forward to getting more books by this author to add to my list of books to read.  :-)  :-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal

Okay, so this was a book that was recommended to me a little while ago for a good mystery - The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal by Lilian Jackson Braun.  Apparently, this is only 1 book of a whole series of mystery novels that start with "The Cat Who....".  I downloaded the audio book and finished listening to it this afternoon.

This book was really cute.  I didn't care for the reader very much, but that is just personal preference for me... I find it more soothing to have an audio book read by a female than have a male reader.  I know, I know... I'm being silly about it, but I just think there are some female readers who do guy voices better than male readers that do female voices.  It's just me, I know... nothing against the reader, he did a fine job, but I think I would have preferred a female reader.  :-)

The story itself was really cute.  Of course my favorite characters were the spoiled rotten cats that ate better in one week than I have in my whole lifetime!  Can you imagine getting lobster tail as dinner on a regular basis?  I've only had lobster tail once!!!  But these cats were really cute and way smart - I'd almost want to say a little too smart, but I've know some crazy cats that almost can predict the future or read people so well that I had learned to trust the cats instincts over my own.  :-)  :-)

I can't wait to read a few more books of this series.  Since the library only had one audio book (and since I wasn't too crazy over listening to it anyway), I know that I'll have to put the other books on hold.  :-)

It's been a long time since I've really read mysteries.  But I think this was a good re-introduction to the genre with it's fun story and characters.  I love how the cats owner, Qwilleran, had the nervous habit of stroking his moustache while he was thinking.  :-)  I've seen my own husband do that a few times and loved how that little quirk was written into the character.  :-)  :-)

The overall skeleton of the story was just like a typical mystery - someone dies and the characters try to figure out what happened, and I was able to pretty much guess the ending about half way through the book.  I know that it bothers some people to be able to guess the ending too easily (well, it was obvious to me, but that's just me), but I found it to be a lot of fun to see if I was right.  :-)  :-)  But guessing the story was not the point of this book for me.  I fell in love with those crazy cats so much that I just wanted to see what other antics they were up to.  I have a feeling that it may be the case for any other book that I read in this series as well - I just love those cats!  :-)

So, thanks to my friend, who I call Kitty Kat, that suggested this series for me.  She knows that I love cats just as much as she does and I can see her attraction to this series - because I have a feeling that I loved this book for the same reason - those spoiled rotten cats.  :-)  :-)

Saying Goodbye to the Sun

I just finished reading Saying Goodbye to the Sun by David McAfee.  It was one of your typical vampire books with some guy getting turned from human to vampire by a girl that he really liked.

I had a hard time reading this book - not because it was written bad or the story was bad, but it was just a little slow for me.  I found out this morning in the "About the Author" part of the book that this is David McAfee's first book.  He also admitted that he's not really a writer either.  If this was his first attempt, then I'm pretty impressed.  The story had a nice flow to it - something that I usually haven't seen from other first time writers.  This is one of my pet peeves while reading... sometimes the story jumps around without any explanation or a half attempt to patch up that break in the story.  I'm used to seeing this from first time authors in certain romance novels which is why I stay away from that whole Harlequin-type of romance book line.

So, there is good and bad about this book.  You have a decent story and impressive writing, but I can't really pin point what exactly give me a hard time in picking up this book and finishing it in a couple days like I usually do.  Maybe I'm just getting tired of vampire stories?  That can be the case because I haven't been downloading any more vampire or paranormal type of free books from Amazon for a few weeks now.  But if you're into vampire stories, this may be one that you'd like.  :-)

The e-book also has a good size portion of his next book.  I didn't read it and probably won't.  I think i need to give myself a break on the paranormal stuff for a while and just read what my brain feels like reading right now.

I really wish I could have been in a better mood while reading this book.  I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't write better stuff about it.  I'm saving the author's name so I can look up his books at a later date - if his first book was this well written, his next books should be much better with practice.  This is definitely a writer to keep an eye out for.  :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

I finished reading Left Neglected by Lisa Genova this morning.  Wow... that is pretty much all I can say about this book!  Wow! Wow!  Wow!  I've been left speechless believe it or not.  That's how good this book was.  :-)

Okay, let me try to sound a little more intelligent here... why did I like this book?  To start with, the subject matter was absolutely amazing!  The main character of this book, Sarah, suffers a brain injury where her brain does not register the left side of anything... her brain doesn't even acknowledge that she has a left side of her body either!  The story starts with Sarah's crazy schedule... getting up before the sun to check email, feed her kids, get them ready for school, then trading chores with her husband so that they could get them all out of the house, to school and daycare, then off to work on time.  Reading those first few chapters left me feeling tired!  :-)  :-)  Then the day comes where Sarah has a car accident on her way to work.  She wakes up in the hospital a few days later with half her head shaved and staples in her scalp.

The main chunk of the story is about Sarah's rehabilitation in the hospitals and at home.  The details about what Sarah goes through is amazing.  It's hard to imagine what exactly she is going through, but the author did an excellent job at opening that door to let us peek into Sarah's mind.  While reading this book, I suffered with Sarah and felt her frustration as well as her stress.  Even though she was supposed to be concentrating on getting better, all Sarah could think about is getting back to work and the craziness that she was accustomed to for so many years.  She was convinced that she would be back to work in a month - talk about major denial!

There were other parts of the book that was also interesting to read.  The subplot with Sarah's mother.  With the few Christian fiction books that I've been reading lately, this could have been the perfect opportunity for the writer to throw in the whole "finding God" subplot at this point, but instead she brought in Sarah's estranged mother.  Sarah finally learns to accept that she needs the help and the only person that can truly take care of her and her kids is her mother.  She finally forgives her mom for mentally abandoning her so many years before when she was a child and is eventually grateful for building that relationship now.  This worked out so much better for me than the whole religion angle.

One of the things that Sarah learns from her mother is how to slow down a bit... the rest she figures out on her own.  But that crazy rat-race life that she once loved and craved no longer seemed like a good option for her current state of mind.  At this point she is still not completely recovered from the left neglect and is still slow at reading and even typing.  So even when she is given the opportunity to go back to work for her former company, she's not sure if that is the kind of life that she really wants anymore.  Thanks to Sarah's mother, Sarah is also building better relationships with her own kids as well - and she finally figures out that they are more important that any six figures a year job where working 70 to 80 hours a week is normal and the kids only got the left over 1 or 2 hours a day of her attention.

Even at the end of the book Sarah is still not completely recovered, but her life is better - even with the challenges that she still has to deal with due to the left neglect.  The whole journey that the author takes us in Sarah's head is just amazing.  I remember back when my job and career were more important to me than anything else.  I didn't care how many hours it took but I was going to get what needed to get done done and done well.  And now I'm a stay at home mom and have been since Caeden was 2 months old.  We don't live like we used to and I have to admit that we are broke more often that I'd like to be.  But Caeden has me to take him to the bus stop in the morning, to greet him off the bus in the afternoon, to help him with homework and any project for school.  He has me to play board games or Lego's with and to take him to play dates.  Sure, I don't dress as well as I used to and I only own about 3 pairs of shoes now, but like Sarah, I've learned to slow down and am really enjoying it and do not regret giving up the rat-race at all.  :-)

Wow, so much for being speechless!  Ha! ha!  :-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Plain Wisdom

The book that I just finished listening to in audio book is called Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women by Cindy Woodsmall and Miriam Flaud.  I didn't realize what kind of book this was when I downloaded it because this was just not my type of book at all... yet I am still interested in checking out the book at the library just so I can copy some of the recipes in it.  :-)  :-)  :-)  So, there was still something positive in this whole experience.  :-)

The reason that I said that this was not my kind of book is because this takes the experiences and stories of two women, in this case Cindy and Miriam, and their outlook on life and their faith in God with their traditions and backgrounds.  Cindy is a best selling author that has lived a typical American life with a husband, kids and a career.  Miriam is an Old Order Amish that was not very familiar with our "English" ways.  I admitted in my last discussion about Cindy Woodsmall's book that I am not very familiar with the Amish and their traditions.  Well, this book certain took care of that!  :-)  :-)  But there were certain times that I tended to zone out because it was just a little too much in the religious discussion for me - but this is exactly what this book is about.  It's about how even with completely different backgrounds, these two ladies found a common ground to base their friendship - their faith in God.

I keep saying time and again that I am not a religious person, but I do keep an open mind to some Christian fiction because some books are written well and sometimes the stories can be fun to read.  But when I feel that I'm hearing a sermon instead of listening to a book, then I tend to shut down.  That is just me - it's the way I've been since before I can remember.  I don't want to get into what my religious views are now, but they are no where near where either one of these ladies are.  So I guess I would not be a good friend if faith and God were what they started their friendship on.  But then, thinking of it, I've had some friendships that I thought were really good friendships that fizzled away when religion came into their lives.  Because they couldn't talk to me or talk me into converting, the friendship just went away.  It's too bad because I really miss some of those friends.  It was too bad that they let their religion dictate who they could be friends with instead of just letting the friendship continue with what we already had in common.

Now, now... I'm not saying that the whole book was like a sermon and the whole thing was about God and the bible... there were actual good parts that I really enjoyed.  The stories on early childhood friendships, the funny stories about their kids (the one about the kid that couldn't find his pants and forgot his hat was probably my favorite - yes, you'll need to read the book to find out) and my all time favorite... the food!!!  I totally know that I love food and have accepted that this is exactly why I'm overweight.  I hate being in the kitchen, but I love to eat.  So if that means that I need to figure out how to make a few good things to eat in the kitchen, then so be it.  I'll cook just so I can enjoy the outcome.  :-)  :-)  Now all of the recipes sounded interesting, but a couple have me so curious that they have become an absolute must to try out... the peanut butter spread and the sweet rolls that someones aunt used to make.  If I could find some kind of common ground with an Amish woman, this would be it.  I love food!  :-)

I have to make a side note here - my arm has been bothering me really bad for the past few days and the annoying pain has been taking over my brain.  So, if I am a little more scatterbrained than usual, it's because it is hard to concentrate and keep my mind focused.  Yes, believe it or not, I actually know how to focus!!!  :-)  :-)  :-)  I've been having more and more trouble remembering or just coming up with words; normal, everyday words to express what I'm trying to say.  Can you believe that I've been forgetting words like "I" and "the"??  Can't blog much without those now can I?  :-)  :-)

Okay, back to the book.  Other than the recipes that I want to try out, it was really interesting on learning how both families live.  I learned that the Old Order Amish do not live as simple as I originally thought... as if they were living 150 years ago.  They still use some modern conveniences, so in terms of what is used in their household, it's not all that different from us.  Sure, there are some people, my niece is a perfect example, that cannot live without their cell phones or computers.  Okay, I've never been one to be glued to my cell phone, but I used to live my life on my computer.  It's how I made a living.  But after this wonderful invention took away what I consider my 'normal' life with an injury, I now have to really limit my computer time... so the computer is not as important as it used to be.  Now I use it more for fun... like writing this blog is fun.  :-)  Because they do not use electricity for things like TV, they fill their evenings with stuff like reading.  Jeez, that's a strange concept... NOT!  I don't watch very much TV and read every chance I get - that's why I started blogging more often!  :-)  :-)  :-)

Okay, I just had another thought but it must have been lonely and ran away... so I can't write about it now.  But if you are the kind of person that likes to read religious stuff, then you'll probably love this book.  It was very well written - I've enjoyed all of Cindy Woodsmalls books - and at times it is really fun to read.  Maybe you'll even know what scriptures they're talking about - because there is a lot in this book, and know how they apply to each story.  :-)  :-)  That was something that was completely lost on me... but for me it's no biggie.  I'm not ashamed to admit my ignorance.  :-)

Take care,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Place of Peace

I didn't think I was going to finish this book today... but I just did.  It's called Place of Peace by Debra Diaz.

This book is a historical fiction book that starts 12 years after the end of the Civil War.  A good part of the book is in Memphis during the yellow fever outbreak that took place in 1878.

The book was well written and I was a bit surprised that it captured me so well I hardly took any time at all to read.  One of the characters, the main character to be exact, was just really annoying to me.  I didn't like her and I haven't disliked a character like this since I read Gone With the Wind so many years ago.  Genny was a spoiled brat that thought that her family didn't love her when she was encouraged, okay - wrong word - forced - to accept a marriage to someone that she didn't love.  So, she runs away.

She ends up being employed as a bookkeeper and assistant to a doctor who ends up finding out what her secret is.  His weak marriage proposal gave her the choice to get out of the marriage that her family had arranged for her, but it really didn't take her away from that loveless marriage that she was avoiding.  It was still a marriage of convenience... but ah, just like a typical romance, Genny and her doctor husband, Ethan, do end up falling in love after all.

Okay, here is where I'm totally bitter with the character Genny.  Just like I've said before... lack of communication!!!!  Oh, that just gets my ladies fruit of a loom in a twist!  Genny accidentally catches the last part of a visit from Ethan's former fiance who has found him out with hopes that he'll help her.  He agrees to help her to an extent but does not react to her advances.  He's married after all, and even though the marriage had only taken place a couple days before, he was convinced that he loved his wife and didn't want to do anything to hurt her.  So, instead of approaching her husband like any normal human being would do, little spoiled brat Genny is convinced that Ethan has been using his former love as a mistress and that he really didn't love her after all.  She moves out of their bedroom and becomes very cold and nasty with him.  Ethan tries to be patient with her and tries to give her time, especially since he thinks that it may have something to do with the fact that she had been attacked shortly before she ran away.  But then, he's just a stupid and doesn't try to reason with her or try to figure out what is bothering her without causing a fight.  Oh, come on!!!  If I ever tried any of that kind of bull my husband, in his very caring way, would make sure that I knew that I could trust him and keep trying to get whatever it was that was bothering me.  But then, I would have approached him that same night instead of trying to build whatever sorry excuse of a 'brick wall' that Genny tried to build around her feelings.

Okay, so Genny finally finds out the truth - only 9 months later and a missing husband to find... but she does end up finding him and follows him to Memphis where there was a bad outbreak of yellow fever.  Even with all of the sickness and death around them, they find each other and fall in love again...

Okay, I'm sounding like I totally hated the book, but I really didn't.  This was a fun book to read... I found myself almost yelling at Genny for being so stupid.  You know, have you ever yelled at the TV during a movie or a game as if the people on the other end can hear you?  Well, that's what I experienced with this book.  As cheesy and predictable the plot was, it was still very well written and I really did have fun reading the book.  Now I have a craving to re-read about another spoiled brat southern gal that I just love to hate.  :-)  :-)  :-)

The Hope of Refuge (Ada's House Series, Book 1)

This is the first book of a series by Cindy Woodsmall called The Hope of Refuge (Ada's House Series, Book 1).  I downloaded this from the library as an audio book read by Cassandra Campbell.

I thought the author's name sounded familiar, which is why I downloaded the book.  I had read one of her series, Sisters of the Quilt, a couple years ago and really enjoyed it.

I'm not usually a fan of Amish religion based novels, but I was glad that I gave Cindy Woodsmall a chance.  Her writing is superb and very impressive.  Since I don't know all that much about the Amish, I really can't say much about her research, though I'm sure that just like any other writer, she did her best to make sure everything seemed as authentic as possible.  :-)

I wrote about how there are some authors that can write about the anguish and pain that one of the characters is going through with such detail and feeling... sometimes I'm in the mood for one of these kind of books and even if I wasn't, this writer has that talent and draws you in and keeps you there even when you try to stop. 

Our main character of the story, Cara, is the daughter of a shunned Amish woman that fell in love with an outsider.  Cara and her daughter are being stalked by some crazy man that she had met when growing up in foster.  The last time she ran away from that man, she ended up going to an Amish community that she remembered visiting when she was a young girl.  She thought her mother had friends there and was trying to find out who they were - and possibly hope that she'd be able to find a job and place to stay in the mean time.

The pain that was going through Cara had me crying!  I'm not a religious person, but seeing how Cara's relationship with God changed through the book made this book amazingly good.  I'm sure that anyone who is a mom and has had to make sacrifices so that their own children/child could be more comfortable can relate to what Cara is going through.  There was a bit of romance going on through the story as well, but that was not important to me.  When Cara found out that these 'friends' that she thought her mother had were actually family and people that her mother had grown up with, the shock of the whole situation was more than enough to force her to take a fresh look on her life and situation.

Of course, even though I don't think it was necessary, Cara's love interest, Ephraim, tried as best he could to give her his support and prayers through the whole book, which eventually caused his own problems with the community.

Now, here is why I don't think the whole romance thing didn't really work in this book... I got the impression that this book is more of a woman's journey to find God and peace for herself and her daughter... and she was able to do this with the community that her mother loved and missed so much.  To have lived such a lonely life in foster care, then after the death of her husband, then to find everything she ever wanted and more... this is what made the story work.  As cheesy as I make it sound, the writer did an awesome job in getting this across.  The romance part was too typical... with the lack of communication... the "Oh, I love him/her but I can't say anything"...  Now, to a person that reads a whole lot of romance, that plot is getting old.  One thing that I've learned in 19 years of marriage is that you need communication to make anything work!!!  In a relationship between girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife, parent/child... that whole "I can't say anything" part of the plot just doesn't work for me anymore.  Now, if that subplot were written just a little more different.. but of course, I have no idea how, but let's just say "if" it were so that it didn't make me want to roll my eyes like a teenager, then I think this book would have been way better.  Not that it wasn't good, but it could have been spectacular.  :-)

Now, the next question is... will I continue reading (or rather, listening) to the series?  Well, I believe that the library does have the second book that I can download, but my interests may take me in another direction so I really can't say.  I can say that I was happy to have read this book though.  It doesn't change anything about my cynical views on religion, but seeing a relationship bloom, even if it is with God, is almost as good as a well written romance.  :-)  :-)  :-)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Harriet Tubman - The Moses of Her People

One of my most absolute favorite historical figures - Harriet Tubman!  This book, by Sarah H. Bradford, looks like it was originally published when Harriet Tubman was still alive!  Wow... this book was such an awesome read for me... I have no idea how I had never read this book before considering that Harriet Tubman has been one of my heroines since I was around 10 years old or so. 

The book , in my own humble opinion, was a bit too short and didn't get into some of the details that I had read in other books.  But it was still really cool because there were some parts that I never knew about.  After researching and reading just about anything I could get my hands on about Harriet, I still found myself learning more!  :-)  :-)

The read itself is a little dry, almost like reading a history book, so if you don't enjoy that kind of stuff, then you may not like this book.  But it is amazing if the subject matter interests you - like it did with me!  :-)  What I liked about this book as well was that the writer was actually able to confirm many of the stories that she got directly from Harriet herself, in letters - which is part of the final chapter of the book.  Wow... to read the letters from other historical figures like Frederick Douglass, William Seward, James Montgomery.... just take out your history books and you'll find at least a couple of these names in there.  And all of these letters are corroborating the same stories that Harriet shared with the writer.  This was really cool - it was better than a historical novel - this stuff was coming from the actual people that lived through it themselves.  :-)

When I saw this book being offered as a free book for my Kindle on, I jumped on it and made sure I didn't wait to download it.  :-)  Since I never know how quickly the prices change for some of these books, I wanted to make sure I didn't miss out.  I did find that the book was a bit too short for me - but then, like I mentioned before, I just love reading about Harriet!  :-)

Okay, before I start rehashing her whole life story from memory, I'll let you download the book and read it yourself (I believe it's still free as of tonight when I checked).  Don't expect a novel, this book is made up of a bunch of stories... a little out of order but so neat to read. 

A few weeks ago I was talking about heroines from the past couple centuries and could not believe that some of these people didn't know who Harriet Tubman was!  I just couldn't believe that... my husband said that maybe it's because she's not as big of a historical figure as Lincoln or Washington.  I know that I'm a bit nerdy here, but come on!  If you don't know who Harriet Tubman is either, shame on you!  You can start learning about her here:

Now get off the computer and go learn something!  :-)  :-)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back on Blosson Street

I just finished listening to Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber this morning.  :-)  I was actually really excited for two reasons... the obvious one was that I enjoyed the book and wanted to share my thoughts with you all.  :-)  The second reason was because I was actually able to knit while listening to the book!!!  Yes!!!  I was actually able to pick up my knitting needles again and knit a few rows pain free!  I has been a good weekend for me.  :-)

Okay, lets go back to the book.  I didn't realize that I had actually read this book already until I was well into the book... chapter 5 or 6 I think.  :-)  It's been a few months since I had read it, so I was a bit surprised that I didn't sound familiar until one of the plots started to bug me... then I realized what a nit wit I've become.  :-) 

I'm not the type of person that reads a book just once then puts it aside... I love reading books multiple times - especially my favorite ones.  This book has kind of fallen into that category because I can totally relate to one of the characters in this book - Alix.  In this book, Alix is in the process of planning her wedding to her sweetheart from the first book, Jordan.  I'm sure we can all relate to the pressures and stress of planning our own weddings, but this one especially hit me hard because I could relate to Alix in so many ways.  Almost 19 years ago when planning our own wedding, I went through similar problems with my mother-in-law.  Now, it was no where near to the same extent as Alix's future mother-in-law (thank goodness), but having someone completely ignore your wishes and just go ahead and do what she wanted... Okay, I'm going to tell you a bit about me and my experience 19 years ago.

I really didn't care about the details concerning my wedding.  I just wanted to marry my sweetheart and get on with our lives.  I would have been happy to have gone to Vegas or get married by a judge.  It didn't matter to me and I would have been happy either way.  My mother-in-law, who was planning most of the wedding because of the problems I was having with my own parents at the time, was able to talk me out of a judge and into having an actual wedding.  No big deal... there was a park that I fell in love with that was a beautiful alternative to Vegas.  :-)  :-)  But I told her that I wanted to have a small wedding and no alcohol.  The last thing I wanted was to have a bunch of people that I didn't know or didn't care to see around me on my wedding day - which is why I would not have minded that wedding in Vegas.  :-)  :-)  Well, I ended up insulting and hurting a lot of people from my side of the family because they didn't get invited to the wedding, but hey, I didn't care.  What bothered me was that my mother-in-law had invited so many people that I didn't know - and people that had never even met my honey because the last time they even saw my in-laws was on their wedding day!  Okay, that really annoyed the heck out of me.  To this day I still resent my mother-in-law for that, but I can look past that to a certain extent.  What really bothered me was when I saw my father-in-law and his own brother-in-law drunk as skunks at the reception.  Oh, that was the reason that I didn't invite so many of my own family - I HATE being around drunks!  But of course, my mother-in-laws excuse was that the reception was more for them and for us... but she didn't think that maybe it would have been a better idea to keep the booze out of the drunks hands until after we left!  She was also stupid enough to pour campaign in my glass for the toast.  I hate campaign!  Even to this day I can't stand the stuff.  So, I just didn't drink it - which meant that I didn't toast my own wedding... well, there is a reason that I don't drink very much now and this experience was part of it. 

My mother-in-law and I are not really close.  I love her and can forgive her inconsiderate thinking on our wedding day... but that was just the beginning.  I'm not going to go into any other stories, but I know that my life is much better now than I could have expected 19 years ago.  I love my life now, even though there have been a few unexpected changes.  Life in Arizona and becoming a stay at home mom has been one of the best changes we've made.  :-)  :-)

Okay, so now back to the book.  I had a hard time reading about the life changing experience that Lydia's sister and her niece experience after an attempted car jacking.  I think my own imagination helped me feel the anguish and pain that was going through Margaret and her husband, knowing that this was not the type of injury that could be easily treated in their daughter.  I've read other writers that can take a situation like this and really make it heart-wrenching and emotional.  I don't think Debbie Macomber did this very well, but in a way I'm kind of glad that she didn't.  I think I would have been a bit overwhelmed with emotion to be able to enjoy the rest of the book if that were the case. 

Macomber writing - it all works out at the end.  :-)  :-)

I almost feel like some of these books need to start with a "Once upon a time..." because the endings are almost all "happily ever after...".  I'm not complaining, it's good to read a book like this every once in a while.  Now, if I can only figure out what the next book int he series is, I may consider putting it on hold at the library...  :-)  :-)  :-)  Anyone want to help me?  :-)  :-)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lisa Kleypas: Capitol Theatre Series

I didn't realist how old these books were when I downloaded them to my ipod to listen to them from the library.  The first one of the series, Somewhere I'll find you, was published in 1996.  Now, it's really not that old of a book, but I've just gotten used to reading stuff from much newer authors or much newer books.  :-) 

I've read some of Lisa Kleypas' books before and found them a bit entertaining.  It's your usual basic plot with boy meeting girl and they fall in love at the end.  What I find entertaining is that you have the usual stuff going on where at least one of the characters has some kind of tragic history about them with the other being some kind of band-aid to their healing.  Also common in this series is the whole "oh, he doesn't love me but I won't tell him that I love him..." kind of bull.  Yeah, I find that kind of annoying, but the writers talent in writing this so well that it's not as annoying as it could be.  :-)

Because I listened to these books on audio book, it could have been more to do with the talent of the reader, Rosalyn Landor.  Her voice is really quiet and soothing.  Though almost all of her characters sound very familiar to each other, they are still different enough that they can be told apart.  It's either that of the fact that the book was written so well.  :-)

What I also liked about this series and this writer is that the books are not always so serious.  I think some of these romance writers that I choose to not blog about try too hard to make their stories too serious, hoping to make their readers swoon with the uber romance in the stories.  Bleh!  No, not for me.  I like the bit of humor that this writer puts into her stories - actually, I like that when any writer puts a bit of humor into their stories.  It makes the characters a little more realistic to me.  It gives them a bit of humanity that so many forget to weave into their characters.  Well, Lisa Kleypas does this well with the characters in this series.  It's not a comedy at all, but you may find yourself relating to the characters more than you think.  :-)

The fact that this series is considered a historical romance is not really the reason that I liked it.  It really didn't teach me about history or the "human" aspect of what life would have been like during the time of the story.  There is more story here than history, which sometimes is a disappointment, but if I wanted historical fiction, I'd go and look for titles in that section instead of romance.  :-)  :-)  ...and believe me, I've read my fair share of both.  :-)

I don't have much else to say about this series, which is kind of strange because unless I'm really putting a writer up on a pedestal or beating them down, I don't have much to say in between.  Meh... oh well, maybe I'm just feeling a little tired today.  :-)  :-)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Darklands Series

I just finished reading "Scent of Danger" by Autumn Dawn - one of a series called Darklands series.  I made the mistake of reading three romance books before finally opening this one.  Oh boy, I really do need to stay away from certain romance books... especially the cheesy ones.  Well, those are not worth mentioning other than as an annoyance, but I do have to say that by reading those over cliched, under edited books, it makes reading a book like this much more of a pleasure.  :-)  :-)

Scent of Danger is different in terms of being fantasy from a different world.  I kind of reminds me of Terry Brooks "Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold" series.  You can get to this world through some kind of portal right here on earth.  :-)  I've always liked that kind of twist in stories.

Also, this book was  written with taste.  Yeah, you have your romance stuff going on, but it's not like some of the Laurel K. Hamilton books where it's a lengthy version of the letters to Playboy or whatever x-rated magazine is called.  I'm just as guilty to reading Laurel K. Hamilton because of the stories, but all of the graphic love making scenes are just a little too much sometimes.  If you can take away all of that stuff and just have the story, then I'd be much more comfortable reading those books over again.  :-)  Well, maybe now that I know what to expect, those pages wouldn't be so bad, eh?  There is only one way to know... but I certain wouldn't recommend that series to anyone unless they like reading that kind of stuff!

Okay, back to Scent of Danger...  I love reading fantasy novels and this was pretty good.  It kept me entertained pretty well, but I'm not sure if I'll read any of the other books in the series.  If the other books are more in the realm of romance like this one, you'll just have the same basic story as this book - boy meets girl and they fall in love with some kind of adventure in between.  If the same basic thing happens in each book, then I'm not sure I'd want to read it again, but with different characters and a slightly different adventure, so soon after reading the first one.  I used to do that a couple years ago, but it became a little boring after a while.  Going back the the Laurel K. Hamilton books... yes, she is very descriptive in her love scenes, but each book has a different adventure that differs just enough from the last to keep my attention.  Plus, Hamilton's female characters can kick butt.  :-)  :-)  Yes, I am a closet Anita Blake fan and a trying to complete my collection of books so I can re-read the whole series as I please.  :-)  :-)

As for Scent of Danger, though I liked Andrea's spunk and loyalty to her only family left, her grandmother (as annoying as she was), the fact that she was kind of sickly didn't really impress me at first.  I don't like the damsel in distress kind of stories very much and this was not all that different.  But Mathin sounded sexy as heck, and hey, if it meant being sickly to have a man like him take care of me, then so be it.  :-)  :-)  Maybe because I was so impressed with Dawn's description of Mathin and had me drooling, but I don't remember seeing a description of his friend, Fallon.  Maybe he was overlooked because this is a series and he's to be better described in a later book?  I don't know, but it was kind of hard to imagine Fallon in his few appearances in the book.

Now, I know that it was just me... the writing and story telling is very well done and I applaud Autumn Dawn for her work in describing all of what is going on in that wonderful imagination of hers.  :-)  I may have to reconsider downloading another one of her books at a later date... maybe after reading a few more nasty written romance novels and I get a craving for better writing again.  :-)

I downloaded this book as a free Kindle book from and I am very grateful for talented writers like Autumn Dawn for sharing their books like this.  It is an opportunity to read the works of some talented (and sometimes not so talented) writers out there...

Now, I know that most of my friends from Facebook are almost all of the crafting kind, so I have to mention that there is a 'crochet sighting' in this book.  :-)  Andrea's grandmother is a crocheter and teaches Andrea and one other character how to crochet.  It's only a small thing mentioned, but it is mentioned nevertheless.  :-)  :-)  I just wish that Dawn wouldn't have described the grandmother strange addiction to bad decorating with her crafts, including yarn rug-hooked rugs and crocheted afghans in bad colors.  Not everything that is crafted by one's two hands is tacky or distasteful.  And, just because she is a grandmother does not mean that she has to have tacky taste.  Okay, off of my "protecting crafters of the world" soapbox.  :-)  :-)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

I had a hard time reading this book after the awesome experience I had with the last series I read - Promisis to Keep.  This book, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer is the first book of the Travers Brothers series by Rita Hestand.

The basic story was okay, it was entertaining enough to get me through the whole book, but even a non-writer like me could tell that the writing didn't carry very high standards.  I don't want to insult Rita Hestand's writing too much, because I'm sure she worked really hard on this book, but the transitions were choppy and she kept bouncing back and fourth on the characters.  It was hard to really like any of the characters because they were written so shallow-like.  Oh, that's not the right word - but how can I describe that the writer didn't really give me a good feeling on what the main characters were like.  It was almost like watching a movie instead of reading a book.  I prefer to read books because there is more depth or substance into what the characters are thinking.

Then, there was the problem where the writer was not very consistent.  First the main character, Emma, was very strong but mysterious, but later she's skittish and nervous.  Huh?  Well, what is she?  Did the love interest, Deke, really need to move slowly and be careful even though he had already kissed her?  Oh, I wish I had the skill to explain what it was that made me not like this book very much.  I think I'm intelligent enough to know what is good writing versus not so good.  I just do not have the skill myself to really be able to explain it.

One last thing on this book... the character names... No, it was just one character in particular.  Deke.  What can I say about that name?  It just reminds me to too much of an episode of Three's Company from the 80's... where Jack Tripper claimed that his cousin, Deke, was visiting.  It was a fun episode and I just couldn't stop thinking of John Ritter's awesome acting talent to pull off such a funny episode.  :-)  So, thank's to that show, it kind of ruined anyone with the same name (though I have to admit that I've never heard of the name again until now) and take the character seriously.  :-)  I just kept seeing John Ritter's and his toothy grin that he gave cousin Deke.  :-)  :-)

Okay, I'm off to try to save my arm a bit and read another book.  Hopefully it will be a little better.  :-)  :-)  :-)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Promises to Keep" series

Okay, it's been a while since my last post but it's not because I haven't been reading... I've just been reading one of the best book series that I've encountered in such a long time!!!!

I've never heard of the author, Shayne Parkinson, but I downloaded the first book of the series as a free book for my kindle on Amazon.  Well, I was hooked.  I had to download the next three books as I finished them.  Wow... these books have just about left me speechless!  But I have to try to find a way to tell you about them!

The first book, Sentence to Marriage, starts this legacy series (or is it epic? Oh, I don't know, you fill in the blanks as you please) with two best friends and cousins.  Amy and Lizzie.  Amy is 12 years old and Lizzie is 14.  The story starts as you would imagine it being like on a farm in the late 1800.  It really didn't make a difference to me at this point that the story just happens to take place in New Zealand.  There were just a few adjustments that I had to make in my reading on the meaning of certain words, but that wasn't difficult.  :-)  :-)

So, going back to Amy and Lizzy... these two girls with different types of homes.  Lizzie's home life is very typical with loving parents and three brothers.  Amy on the other hand was raised by her grandmother from the age of 3 when her mother passed away.  But at the point where the story beings, she had been taking care of her father and two brothers for 6 months after the passing of her grandmother.

I don't really want to rehash the whole story for you, but it was so much fun on getting to know the characters and living the stories through the eyes of these little girls.  Lizzie, who seems to be fairly bossy at home with her brothers, falls for a boy that is so shy and speaks so little that Lizzy almost takes over and plans out how she's going to get him to fall in love with her.  It was so cute to read the story about how Lizzie and Frank fall in love.  I can imagine Lizzie's constant talking... making up for everything that Frank didn't speak in the past plus anything that he wouldn't speak in the future.  But that's okay, he loves that part about her.  If it were not for her strength and ability to take over and make plans into action, there would have been no way that they wouldn't have achieved as much as they did.  The first book concentrates on their friendship and eventually their courtship and marriage.  I kind of imagine Frank having almost the personality like one of my favorite characters from Anne of Green Gables, Matthew.  Both being shy and not the type to talk much, but enchanted by these two girls that are very much the opposite of themselves to the 10th degree.  :-)  I suppose that both characters didn't say all that much because Anne and Lizzie had the ability to talk without having to breath (and somehow still stay alive) but also because I suppose they used all of that talking as white background noise to an extent to help them think.  :-)

Amy's story on the other hand was rather difficult for me to read.  No, it wasn't difficult to read because it was hard or to graphic or anything, but it made me keep crying so much that the tears kept me from reading until they went away!  The story line is very sad for Amy in this book after she had been terribly wronged.  First by her stepmother, then by the boy that she thought she was going to marry.  Susannah, Amy's stepmother, puts Cinderella's stepmother to shame in my opinion.  Not only is she all hoity-toity and thinks herself as so much better than Amy, her brothers and the rest of her family, but she's really nasty about it too.  She didn't like doing anything around the house and was always complaining about one thing or another as excuses to not do anything.  Amy, being the type of person that only wanted to try to please her stepmother for her father's sake, would bring her tea in the morning so she wouldn't have to get out of bed at the crack of dawn like everyone else. 

Susannah invites her brother to stay the summer when Amy was 15.  Jimmy, Susannah's brother, took notice of tiny little Amy and starts paying attention to her... and it goes a little too far.  Needless to really get much into what else happened, Amy ends up pregnant with an unwanted baby, no father or husband, because the jerky Jimmy ran away too far to chase him down for a shotgun wedding.  Susannah in her own cruel way of helping, arranges to have Amy go into the city to stay for the last part of her pregnancy and put the baby up for adoption after the baby was born.  I don't want to say too much because it will just get my crying all over again for her, but this part of the book is really emotional.  At this point I was so attached to Amy and her emotions that I almost felt everything that she did.  I can't say that I could imagine her pain because I've never given up a baby for adoption, but being a mom myself, I know that I would have never been able to do what Amy did, even if it was the best thing for the baby.

I'm not going to go into the other books quite yet because I want to talk about what I liked about this writer and the stories....

The two main plots, Lizzie's and Amy's, are not the only ones that the stories revolve around.  The writer lets you peek into some of the other family members heads as well.  For example, one of my all time favorite characters was Amy's brother John.  He was such a minor character but so lovable that I couldn't help myself.  Yeah, I tend to do that.  My favorite characters are usually the really minor ones... but going back to John and his wife Sophie.  Oh, they were really cute.  Sophie had an older sister that their mom was trying to get John to take notice of and it was almost assumed that when he asked their father, that he would ask for the older sister's hand.  But here is what made me love John so much, he actually asked to marry the younger sister, Sophie, because he found out who was doing most of the cooking all that time that he was invited for tea and lunch!  Now, I'm sure that the cooking was not the only reason that John fell in love with Sophie, because much like himself, Sophie was not the type of person to say all that much around people.  You have a match here of two similar personalities that actually worked and I really enjoyed reading about them.  You all know that I'm not much of a writer myself; actually, I know that my own writing is atrocious, but I can't really express without using my dreaded cliche phrases on how 'cute' and 'adorable' this couple's story line was to me.  :-)

Amy and Lizzie's stories go in such different directions in this series that they are like night and day.  But the constants that I really liked was that Amy and Lizzie stayed so close.  When Lizzie was forced to stay home because of her pregnancy (remember, late 1800's here - pregnant women that were showing were not allowed to go out in public) but she was worried about Amy, she would send Frank to go and check up on her.  This was a rather endearing twist in the story because apparently Frank was sent to check up on Amy so often that they become good friends.  Of course, Frank also appreciated that Amy worried so much over Lizzie as well... risking the wrath of her husband's anger in order to help take care of Lizzie and her family when Lizzie got really sick.  Frank and Lizzie saw first hand what Amy suffered when her husband got mad (you'll have to read the second book, Mud and Gold, to find out).  :-)  :-)

I like reading historical fiction, one of the first books of this genre that I picked up in jr. high was Gone with the Wind.  Of course, that was not a really good example of a good historical fiction story.  Later I discovered John Jakes and his North and South series and really fell in love with this type of story-telling.  It is interesting to me because you have some real life history going on in the back ground, but you get the human aspect in there as well.  I love history, but not the facts or the wars and statistics, I like the human element of history.  What was a typical life like?  How much education was given to children that worked on farms versus the city?  I think growing up watching Little House on the Prairie then reading the books peeked my curiosity about all of that.  I love to talk history with anyone willing to talk to me, but I can't give you dates or facts or how many soldiers died or who was the commanding officer.  But I can tell you what I typical day may have been like for a woman that lived on a pre-Civil War plantation in South Carolina or about a family that goes out into the frontier with hopes of a better life may have endured on their journey.  I enjoy the human aspect of history and novels like this, and thanks to the research that most author's work on to make their stories as accurate as possible, I can put names, faces and personalities to some of the people that may have lives in that time period.

There was another book that I finished reading, I think it was last month, but I'm not sure if I blogged about it.  It was the first book of  a series called the Refiner's Fire series by Lynn Austin.  The first book, Candle in the Darkness, was especially interesting to me because it was the first time that I read anything from the point of view of an abolitionist - especially one who's family still owned slaves.  I'm sure that historically speaking, that not everything in the books I choose to read is really historically accurate, but it's still fun to read.  Like I said, it brings humanity to history.  There are only so many pictures and dry history books with statistics that one can digest without getting bored.  It's like opening a peep hole into the past.  I know that certain movies try to do this, but you can only do so much with a camera and special effects.  You can't get into someones head as easily as you can with a book.

Okay, enough babble here, let me give you the names of the books in this series:

Promises to Keep series by Shayne Parkinson
-Sentence of Marriage
-Mud and Gold
-Settling the Account
-A Second Chance

I believe that you can only get these books for Kindle on, but I'm sure that there are still ways to get the actual book if you like.  I found a site for her too.  I hope I did the link correct.... though I'm not sure exactly how it will work.  Click on the title of the blog?  Oh, I don't know... here, I'll just have to take it off speech recognition and type it in for you:

Please feel free to email me if you've read this series!  I'm dying to talk to someone about it!  :-)  :-)