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Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Master Quilter...Review

About the book:
The Master Quilter opens with the sound of wedding bells ringing in the ears of the Elm Creek Quilters. The close-knit group can hardly believe that their own Sylvia Compson planned her holiday wedding to sweetheart Andrew in complete secrecy, without the help of even one of her friends. Eager to honor the newlyweds, the Elm Creek Quilters hasten to stitch a bridal quilt for their favorite Master Quilter. Until the time comes to unveil the surprise gift, they reason, Sylvia will be the one in the dark.

Such little white lies seem harmless enough, especially in the service of future happiness. Yet Elm Creek Manor, and the quilting retreat established there by the Elm Creek Quilters, thrives on the strength of women sharing their creativity, their challenges, and their dreams. Somehow, in the race to commemorate in Sylvia's bridal quilt all that they hold dear about her wisdom, skill, and devotion, they forget to give honesty its pride of place.

As the quilt blocks accumulate, the Elm Creek Quilters celebrate the joy of new beginnings and the ongoing success of their business until forces conspire to threaten their happiness and prosperity. Two among them falter in their personal relationships, yet they are too proud to share their pain. The financial problems of another leave the quilt project vulnerable to a malicious act that may prevent its completion. And as two others weigh the comfort of the present against dreams of a future far from Elm Creek Manor, closely guarded secrets strain the bonds of friendship with those who may be left behind.


Like the other Elm Quilt books, this one is heartwarming and easy to read. The same characters entertain you in this book, just as they do in the previous ones. At the end of the book, two quilters will go their separate ways, but their leaving is a natural progression to the ongoing saga and the personalities of the women.

The story is the same throughout the book, but each chapter is the same basic story told from the viewpoint of different people. At the end, it all comes together well, as you'd expect. Jennifer Chiaverini has a fantastic ability to capture the true essence of relationships, especially those of mother/daughter and friends. Predictable, but heartwarming all the same.

Read 12/07

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Time to Dance...Review

About the book:
Life seems like it can't get any better for Alex and Jane Keane--a temple marriage, two adorable children and another one on the way, a promising career, and a beautiful home.

Then, within a few short days, their safe and happy lives are turned upside down when they learn that their young son, Barrett, has a life-threatening illness. And as if that were not enough, the revelation that Alex has a half-brother threatens to tear lives and families apart.

As Jane's faith falters, an opportunity to dance with Alex in a stake floorshow becomes the catalyst for a renewal of their relationship and a gentle nudge back to her faith in God.

Typical Stansfield. She always tries to take real life situations, e.g., family dysfunction and drama (adultery, abuse, illegitimacy, consequences, etc.) and set it in an eternal Mormon (emphasis on eternal) setting, to show that Mormons have the same issues as everyone else. Well, Mormons do have these issues, but in these books there is always a perfect person of perfect faith who is allied with a person whose faith wavers because of trauma or drama. The faithful person (whose faith is perfect because they've overcome their own issues) counsels the wavering person about faith and God and Jesus Christ and the Atonement, and always sticks by them. Gospel discussions and counseling always reassure the reader that the necessary epiphany will come to the person of wavering faith and all will be well in the end.

In this case, if you have lost a family member to cancer, lost a parent, or spent time with your child in a NICU, don't read it. I've experienced all three. Because of that, I have a hard time reading about sick children and someone losing their father. I cried most of the way through the stupid thing, because I'd experienced some of these situations. Stansfield does have a great way of playing with your emotions and tugging at the heartstrings. She's a master at making you connect with at least one character and, therefore, you want to know what happens, so you continue reading the series. And, so I do.

I really enjoyed her Hamilton/Gables of Legacy series and actually have all of them and have reread them. Most of her other books I have simply borrowed or bought them, read them and sold them on half.com.

This one was ok. I'll probably read the next two, just so I can see what happens.

Read 12/07

Daughter of Venice...Review

About the book:
In 1592, Donata is a noble girl living in a palazzo on the Grand Canal. Girls of her class receive no education and rarely leave the palazzo. In a noble family, only one daughter and one son will be allowed to marry; Donata, like all younger daughters, will be sent to a convent.

It was ok. It's definitely a teen book, but I was more fascinated by the history. The author made a great attempt at historical accuracy, and it was interesting to see Venice through the eyes of a 14 year old girl in 1592, especially the class differences. Nobles vs. citizens and the poor: girls weren't educated, only one girl in a family normally married, only one son in a family married, the father's absolute ability to decide the fate of his children. I'm glad the heroine was defiant enough to try and do what she wanted and become educated.

I absolutely loved visiting Venice and Murano and Burano some years ago, so it was fun to read about how they might have been in the 16th century. Entertaining.

Read 12/07

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Quilter's Legacy...Review

About the book:
Readers of Jennifer Chiaverini's popular and engaging Elm Creek Quilts series are treated in each successive volume to storytelling that expertly weaves the joys and intricacies of history, quilting, and family ties. In The Quilter's Legacy, a daughter's search for her mother's treasured heirlooms illuminates life in Manhattan and rural Pennsylvania at the turn of the last century.

When precious heirloom quilts hand-stitched by her mother turn up missing from the attic of Elm Creek Manor, Sylvia Bergstrom Compson resolves to find them. From scant resources -- journal entries, receipts, and her own fading memories -- she pieces together clues, then queries quilting friends from around the world. When dozens of leads arrive via the Internet, Sylvia and her fiancé, Andrew, embark on a nationwide investigation of antiques shops and quilt museums.

Sylvia's quest leads her to unexpected places, where offers of assistance are not always what they seem. As the search continues, revelations surface about her mother, Eleanor Lockwood, who died in 1930, when Sylvia was only a child. Burdened with poor health and distant parents, Eleanor Lockwood defied her family by marrying for love. Far from her Manhattan home, she embraced her new life among the Bergstroms -- but although warmth and affection surrounded Eleanor at last, the Bergstroms could not escape the tragedies of their times.

As Sylvia recovers some of the missing quilts and accepts others as lost forever, she reflects on the woman her mother was and mourns the woman she never knew. For every daughter who has yearned to know the untold story of her mother's life, and for every mother who has longed to be heard, The Quilter's Legacy will resonate with heartfelt honesty as it reveals what tenuous connections bind the generations and celebrates the love that sustains them.

I liked it. The book continues the story of Sylvia, this time as she tries to locate her mother's quilts. As the quilts were sold off by her sister, this involves internet research and travel.

Her mother's story is interspersed with Sylvia's quest, which is nice, but the reader learns Eleanor's story, Sylvia doesn't. I wish the author had worked it so that Sylvia learned her mother's history, because that knowledge is something she craves.

Overall, I enjoyed it: not quite as much as the others, but it was still good.

Read 12/07

Monday, December 24, 2007

2007 Winter Reading Challenge

Karlene is hosting the 2007 Winter Reading Challenge on her blog. Marcia told me about it and I figured I'd play along! You can check out Karlene's blog for the details.

The books I'm going to read are listed on the sidebar. My Goodreads file is always current and up to date as well. Those lists are also on the sidebar.

Each book I read will then be reviewed here. It's what I would do anyway, but a challenge is always fun, especially if there are prizes involved. But, this is also a chance to meet new people and find other good books to read. Who's going to join me?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Runaway Quilt...Review

About the book:
In her first novel, The Quilter's Apprentice, Jennifer Chiaverini wove quilting lore with tales from the World War II home front. Now, following Round Robin and The Cross-Country Quilters, Chiaverini revisits the legends of Elm Creek Manor, as Sylvia Compson discovers evidence of her ancestors' courageous involvement in the Underground Railroad.

Alerted to the possibility that her family had ties to the slaveholding South, Sylvia scours her attic and finds three quilts and a memoir written by Gerda, the spinster sister of clan patriarch Hans Bergstrom. The memoir describes the founding of Elm Creek Manor and how, using quilts as markers, Hans, his wife, Anneke, and Gerda came to beckon fugitive slaves to safety within its walls. When a runaway named Joanna arrives from a South Carolina plantation pregnant with her master's child, the Bergstroms shelter her through a long, dangerous winter — imagining neither the impact of her presence nor the betrayal that awaits them.

The memoir raises new questions for every one it answers, leading Sylvia ever deeper into the tangle of the Bergstrom legacy. Aided by the Elm Creek Quilters, as well as by descendants of others named in Gerda's tale, Sylvia dares to face the demons of her family's past and at the same time reaffirm her own moral center. A spellbinding fugue on the mysteries of heritage,
The Runaway Quilt unfolds with all the drama and suspense of a classic in the making.

Like all the other Elm Quilt books, I enjoyed this one too. I didn't like it as much as the others I've read though. It was a bit of a slower read, but the history of how quilts were used during the Underground Railroad is fascinating. I have read other books that talk about the use of quilts during the Underground Railroad, and while there is a lot of discussion as to whether or not this is true, the author is very clear that this book is her interpretation of how quilts could have been used to assist runaway slaves. It's very believable.

I liked the aspect of how Sylvia reads her ancestor's journal to find out what happened in her family. The way the journal is intercut with Sylvia's daily life is interesting. A good read.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow!

Read 12/07

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Twilight...Review

About the book:
Isabella Swan's move to Forks, a small, perpetually rainy town in Washington, could have been the most boring move she ever made. But once she meets the mysterious and alluring Edward Cullen, Isabella's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. Up until now, Edward has managed to keep his vampire identity a secret in the small community he lives in, but now nobody is safe, especially Isabella, the person Edward holds most dear. The lovers find themselves balanced precariously on the point of a knife -- between desire and danger.

Deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite.

Well, I read it. I needed a break from all the quilting novels that seemed to come my way, and I love a good vampire story. The reviews called it "gripping" and "suspenseful." I'd call it over-rated. I liked it, although I didn't LOVE it and I'm not jumping on the I-love-Edward-bandwagon any time soon. (My favorite vampire is, and always will be, Angel. I have all 5 seasons on DVD, most of the books, and a life-size cardboard cutout of David Boreanaz as Angel, in my home office. It used to be in my professional office, but I couldn't get rid of him when I quit working, so my husband humors me. But, I digress...)

I thought this book was a slow starter. The first 150 pages were awkward. It was as if Meyer was trying too hard: the dialogue was awkward and clunky at first. The editor of this book really needs to go back to school. It's as if they looked at the draft and said, "Oh look. Sexy vampire. Leave it as it is!" It needs a really good edit. I read this book over a couple of days, rather than in one sitting, and honestly, I almost didn't finish it. I was well into it before it finally captured my attention. Her character development improved greatly by the end of the book.

I really have a hard time seeing what Edward would see in someone like Bella, who is stupid instead of being strong. How someone like Edward could even look twice at her is beyond me. Well, we know why he looked twice: he couldn't read her, so he was fascinated. But there is no substance to her at all. It's all "poor me, I love a vampire and he won't make me be like him, sob, sob. I can't go on without him, sob, sob." She's annoying and I can't find any reason to like her, let alone have any sympathy for her. And the whole, "I can't be intimate with you because I'll hurt you thing" has the potential to get old really fast.

Meyer's take on the vampire genre and mythology was interesting. I liked the "family" aspect and how most of them accepted Edward's love for Bella and tried to protect her. I'll read the rest of the series when it comes in at the library, I probably wouldn't purchase them on my own. Although, I will admit that the potential is there for this series to grow on me. We'll see what happens. I'm hoping that like The Devil Wears Prada, the movie adaptation is better than the book!

I think that this book would have been better if it weren't written in first person. Bella is so shallow that you don't get the character development from the other characters. In this story, especially, there would have been so much more depth if it was told in third person, where we actually get Edward's reaction to Bella, rather than simply Bella's confusion.

Updated: Summer has a great post on her blog about the Edward/Bella story. She says it better than I can. There are spoilers for the other books.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 12/07

* *
2/5 Stars

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Cross-Country Quilters...Review

About the book:
Julia, Megan, Donna, Grace, and Vinnie are cross-country friends who are about to begin work on a challenge quilt. A piece of fabric is divided among the women, with the understanding that the following year they will all meet at the Elm Creek Quilt Camp to sew the sections together into a single quilt. But the friends have set themselves a special challenge: no one can start working on her block until she has taken steps to solve her problems and achieve her personal goals.

Although they share a common creative objective, the Cross-Country Quilters find their friendship tested by the demands of everyday life. Yet despite differences in age, race, and background, the women's love of quilting and affection for one another unite them. The quilt they create becomes a symbol of the threads that hold their lives together-a glorious patchwork of caring and loyalty that brings home an enduring truth: Friends may be separated by great distance, but the strength of their bond can transcend any obstacle.

I liked it. It's the third in the Elm Creek Quilt series. This one was about 5 different women, instead of the original Elm Creek Quilters, but it's still originates and ends at quilt camp. These 5 women agree to complete a challenge quilt together, but before they can start their own patches, they need to resolve the personal issues that plague them.

Entertaining and heartwarming. An easy read.

Chiaverini is a great storyteller and completely captures the essence of relationships. A definite must-read.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 12/07

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Family Nobody Wanted...Review

About the book:
The remarkable and inspiring true story of a couple who adopted twelve children, ten of them considered "unadoptable" because of mixed racial parentage.

I loved it. It was heartwarming, funny and inspirational. Helen and Carl Doss are truly wonderful people who adopt 12 children, most of whom are of mixed race, and they do this in the 40s and 50s when it was unheard of for white people to adopt children of different races.

Helen writes about how they came to adopt each child and shares funny anecdotes about the children that are simply delightful. The love that this couple has for these children who truly do become their own is beautiful. The love that these children had for each other is even more heartwarming.

I hadn't seen this book before and it is a definite winner. This version has a new epilogue from the author that shares what happened to each child later in life.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 12/07

Friday, December 14, 2007

Round Robin...Review

About the book:
The sequel to her acclaimed debut novel, Jennifer Chiaverini's Round Robin is a poignant tale of friendship and loyalty.

The Elm Creek Quilters have begun a Round Robin quilt, created by sewing concentric patchwork borders to a central block, as a gift for their beloved fellow quilter Sylvia Compson. But even as the quilt is passed from friend to friend, its eloquent beauty increasing with every stitch, the threads of their happiness begin to unravel. As each woman confronts a personal crisis, a painful truth, or a life-changing choice, the quilt serves as a symbol of the complex and enduring bonds between mothers and daughters, sisters and friends.

This is the second in the Elm Creek Quilters series and it was delightful. I love how the author has pieced these women's lives together the same way a quilt is pieced and created. This particular book explores the relationships between mothers and daughters in a very real, very thought-provoking way. It is as engaging and intricate as the quilt patterns it imitates.

I've been on a quilting kick lately, I suppose! And, I've reserved the remaining books in this series at the library. I can't wait to read them all.

Highly recommended.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 12/07

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Gazebo...Review

About the book:
Smalltown reporter Abby Reston is hungry for a good story when elderly, but still hale and handsome, Martin Rayfiel walks into her office. Martin tells the young newspaperwoman of his lifelong romance with Claire Swift, and how they have faithfully reunited once every year at the gazebo in the town square. When Abby goes to the gazebo to witness the annual meeting, she finds a briefcase filled with photographs, letters, tape recordings, and mementos. It is a poignant and haunting chronicle of love and devotion that will profoundly affect the life of Abby Reston and touch the heart of everyone who experiences it.

I liked it. It was a sweet, yet predictable novel. I'm a sucker for a love story and this one was sweet. It's not a stand-out novel and its storyline is familiar, but it was entertaining and a light, easy read.

The story spans 50 years and America, Italy Paris, and England.

Any story that includes Michelangelo's David is always interesting to me!

Read 12/07

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Quilter's Apprentice...Review

About the book:
"Tangled, anxious thoughts relaxed when she felt the fabric beneath her fingers and remembered that she was creating something beautiful enough to delight the eyes as well as the heart, something strong enough to defeat the cold of a Pennsylvania winter night. She could do these things. She, Sarah, had the power to do these things."

From debut novelist Jennifer Chiaverini comes
The Quilter's Apprentice, a delightful, timeless story of loyalty and friendship.

When Sarah McClure and her husband, Matt, move to the small town of Waterford, Pennsylvania, to get a fresh start, Sarah struggles to find a fulfilling job. Disheartened by failed interviews, she reluctantly accepts a temporary position at Elm Creek Manor helping seventy-five-year-old Sylvia Compson prepare her family estate for sale after the recent death of Sylvia's estranged sister. As part of her compensation, Sarah is taught how to quilt by this reclusive, cantankerous master quilter.

During their lessons, Mrs. Compson slowly opens up to Sarah, sharing powerful, devastating stories of her life as a young woman on the World War II home front. Hearing tales of how Mrs. Compson's family was torn apart by tragedy, jealousy, and betrayal, Sarah is forced to confront uncomfortable truths about her own family — truths that she has denied for far too long. As the friendship between the two women deepens, Mrs. Compson confides that although she would love to remain at her beloved family estate, Elm Creek Manor exists as a constant, unbearable reminder of her role in her family's misfortune. For Sarah, there can be no greater reward than teaching Mrs. Compson to forgive herself for her past mistakes,restoring life and joy to her cherished home.


Heartfelt and inspiring,
The Quilter's Apprentice teaches deep lessons about family, friendship, and sisterhood — and about creating a life as you would a quilt: with time, love, and patience, piecing the miscellaneous and mismatched scraps into a harmonious, beautiful whole.

I loved this book. It was an easy read: only a couple of hours. I loved the quilting aspect and how the lives of these two women became so intertwined.

The author is a terrific storyteller and she shares a delightful tale of friendship, family life and secrets and forgiveness.

The women in this story weave their lives together, much as a quilt is brought together in pieces. It's a terrific book.

Thanks to my library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 12/07

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Alice's Tulips...Review

About the book:
Alice Bullock is a young newlywed whose husband, Charlie, has just joined the Union Army, leaving her on his Iowa farm with only his formidable mother for company. Alice writes lively letters to her sister filled with accounts of local quilting bees, the rigors of farm life, and the customs of small-town America. But no town is too small for intrigue and treachery, and when Alice finds herself accused of murder, she discovers her own hidden strengths. Rich in details of quilting, Civil War-era America, and the realities of a woman's life in the nineteenth century, Alice's Tulips is Sandra Dallas at her best.

I enjoyed it. Sandra Dallas does a great job of capturing the feeling of family relationships. It's written in the form of letters from one sister to another, during the Civil War.

The insights into the lives of those left behind when soldiers went to war was fascinating. But, what I loved most was the details about quilting and the history of some quilt patterns. A good, easy read.

Read 12/07

Saturday, December 8, 2007

When the Emperor was Divine...Review

About the book:
Julie Otsuka’s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination—both physical and emotional—of a generation of Japanese Americans. In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity—she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion. Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times. It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist.

I really enjoyed this. It's an easy book to read. The story is about a Japanese/American family sent to an internment camp in Utah during World War II. Each chapter is written from a different viewpoint: the mother, as she prepares to leave; the daughter; the son; and the father after he returns.

The author's style is very soft, very simple, but yet, very deceptive as she describes a difficult time in beautiful, almost artistic prose. A good, thought-provoking novel.

Read 12/07

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Water for Elephants...Review

About the book:
"Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell." Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

I loved it. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was a wonderful book. I read it in an evening, mostly because I could not put it down.

The author truly is a storyteller. You can smell and feel the atmosphere of the circus; you sympathize with the characters and cheer when things go right and shed a tear when they go wrong. This is one of those books you want to read again and again.

A compelling and beautifully written novel.

Thanks to my library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 12/07

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Monday, December 3, 2007

Girl with a Pearl Earring...Review

About the book:
History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius ... even as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil.

A terrific novel. The detail is fine and the reader is drawn into the story so completely as to be absorbed as paint is on a canvas. I found the novel every bit as captivating as the painting itself.

I knew nothing about the time or the place of Delft, and the author explains the social order, the religious conflict and the relationships between master and servant beautifully. Poignantly.

It's beautifully written.

Read 12/07

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter...Review

About the book:
"On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down's Syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this story that unfolds over a quarter of a century - in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that long-ago winter night. Norah henry, who knows only that her daughter died at birth, remains inconsolable; her grief weighs heavily on their marriage. And Paul, their son, raises himself as best he can, in a house grown cold with mourning. Meanwhile, Phoebe, the lost daughter, grows from a sunny child to a vibrant young woman whose mother loves her as fiercely as if she were her own." The Memory Keeper's Daughter articulates a silent fear close to the heart of every mother: What would happen if you lost your child, and she grew up without you?

An incredibly compelling novel. I couldn't put it down. There is a ring of truth to the story: it reads as almost as a memoir, rather than a fictional novel.

It's a story of the far-reaching consequences of one spontaneous decision, made in a traumatic moment of bittersweet joy. A decision, while originally made with the pure intentions of protecting someone, nearly destroys a family. The author's understanding of family intimacies is incredible. It's an incredibly well-written novel, and one I heartily recommend.

Read 12/07

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mr. Darcy's Diary...Review

About the book:
Torn between his sense of duty to his family name and his growing passion for Elizabeth Bennet, all he can do is struggle not to fall in love.
Mr. Darcy's Diary presents the story of the unlikely courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Darcy's point of view. This graceful imagining and sequel to Price and Prejudice explains Darcy's moodiness and the difficulties of his reluctant relationship as he struggles to avoid falling in love with Miss Bennet. Though seemingly stiff and stubborn at times, Darcy's words prove him also to be quite devoted and endearing - qualities that eventually win over Miss Bennet's heart. This continuation of a classic romantic novel is charming and elegant, much like Darcy himself.

I liked it. And, I'm quite surprised that I liked it. It is an entertaining, creative interpretation of Mr. Darcy.

I found the author's take on Darcy interesting, as it is basically the back story of Pride and Prejudice told from Darcy's viewpoint as he records experiences in his diary. I thought that the author did a credible job of exploring Darcy's thoughts and explaining the reasoning behind many of his decisions and interactions.

I'm a purist and I don't think that sequels to Pride and Prejudice need be attempted. I have yet to find one that is truly worth my time, but this was a light, entertaining diversion.

Read 11/07

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kathy Little Bird...Review

About the book:
From her Cree mother, Kathy Little Bird has heard stories of her grandmother, Mrs. Mike. She has also learned to sing in the Cree tradition. It is a talent that will serve her well-and soothe her shattered soul-when she becomes a famous country music singer in the 1970s.

The third sequel to Mrs. Mike. It was good. It wasn't as good as The Search for Joyful. It's one of those books that you can't quite put your finger on. Is it good? Is it not good?

It follows the story of Kathy, the granddaughter of Oh Be Joyful who was Mrs. Mike's best friend in the novel, Mrs. Mike. Kathy Little Bird has heard stories of her grandmother, Mrs. Mike from her mother, Kathy Fourquet, who was raised by Mrs. Mike. She has also learned to sing in the Cree tradition. It is a talent that will serve her well-and soothe her shattered soul-when she becomes a famous country music singer in the 1970s. It is not a happy book. It's a thought-provoking novel that leaves you thinking.

Read 5/07

The Search for Joyful...Review

About the book:
When her dear friend O Be Joyful died in a flu epidemic, Mrs. Mike Flannigan opened her home--and her heart--to her orphaned child, Kathy Forquet. But as the terrors of World War II drew closer, Kathy decided to leave this familiar home to do her part and become a nurse. Out in the world, her life fills with drama and excitement as she meets two very different men. And as she learns about herself and the world beyond her hometown, she searches for the elusive prize she has sought for so long: the meaning of true joy...

I liked it. I absolutely loved the novel Mrs. Mike, which I first read as a young girl. When I discovered that there was a sequel, I was delighted. I didn't love this book as much as I loved Mrs. Mike, but it was a moving portrayal of a difficult time in the world, and a young woman's experiences made even more difficult because of her Indian ancestry. If you're familiar with Mrs. Mike, I think you'll enjoy this as well.

Read 5/07

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Austenland...Review

About the book:
Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

I loved it! Absolutely a delightful, easy read. I needed something light, because the last three books I read were on the heavy side! So, I read this book in an evening.

The premise is fun: a thirty-something single woman with an obsession with Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy. (Well, I'm a 40-something married woman who loves Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy!) Jane receives an vacation to an English estate modeled after Austen's world. The guests all take on personas similar to her characters and live their lives as if in 1816 England. It's a cute idea.

The author doesn't make any attempt to write like Jane Austen. Neither does she make pretenses for this being a sequel. I have yet to find any attempted Pride and Prejudice sequel that is worth my time.

Austenland is a delightful book, and definitely worth the couple of hours it took to read.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 11/07

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gilead...Review

About the book:
In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, a kind of last testament to his remarkable forebears. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father - an ardent pacifist - and his grandfather who came west to Kansas to fight for abolition and 'preached men into the Civil War'. And he tells the story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friends wayward son. This is also the tale of a remarkable vision of life as a wonderously strange creation. It tells how wisdom was forged in Ames's soul during his solitary life and how history lives through generations.

I really enjoyed it. I was surprised that I did, because I hated her novel, Housekeeping. The story in Gilead was far more interesting to me. It is a narration of a man's life, given from his perspective: John Ames is an elderly parent of a young child, as well as a preacher ,who writes out his life's story for his young son. His conversational tone is pleasant and easy to read. His insights are simple, yet profound and his natural use of scripture to further a point or add to a passage is a bonus.

Robinson's novels are not fast reads, but require time and patience. I find that frustrating, as I tend to read quickly. But, her prose is beautiful, and I definitely recommend Gilead.

Read 11/07

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Year of Wonders...Review

About the book:
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated mountain village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes, we follow the story of the plague year, 1666, as her fellow villagers make an extraordinary choice. Convinced by a visionary young minister, they elect to quarantine themselves within the village boundaries to arrest the spread of the disease. But as death reaches into every household, faith frays. When villagers turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna must confront the deaths of family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit love. As she struggles to survive, a year of plague becomes, instead, annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders." Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged mountain spine of England. Year of Wonders is a detailed evocation of a singular moment in history.

Terrific. I couldn't put it down. It's a fictionalized story based on a true experience of a small town in England that was decimated by the plague in 1666. Rather than spread the disease, most of the townspeople decided to stay and quarantine themselves.

Riveting and engrossing. I loved the narrator, Anna. I loved how she learned about herbs and natural healing to try and stem the tide of disease. In many ways it was ignorance that killed so many people: they didn't understand the need to wash their hands or bedding and clothes and even burn things that could be contaminated. When they finally do these things, the crisis abates.

A wonderful exploration of the time and the people.

Thanks to my library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 11/07

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Housekeeping...Review

About the book:
A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere." Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

I am in the minority. It's a well crafted story with beautiful prose. She writes very descriptively.

I just didn't like the story itself and couldn't wait for it to be finished. I kept wondering what the point of the story even was. Yes, I know it's about family and life and coming of age, loss and survival and the dangerous pull of transience. It just didn't interest me.

I didn't like it, but I'm sure many others have and will.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 11/07

*
1/5 Stars

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Frankenstein...Review

About the book:
The epic battle between man and monster reaches its greatest pitch in the famous story of Frankenstein. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor himself to the very brink. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship …and horror.

Honestly, I found more empathy for the "creature" than for Victor Frankenstein. Yes, he's truly terrifying, but was he created that way or did he become that way because of his circumstance and situation? Did Frankenstein simply fear him and was that why he regretted creating him? Or did he regret creating him at all?Frankenstein abandons the creature as soon as he's brought to life. As the creature wanders, he teaches himself to read and to speak and learns all about life and it's complexities. He understands that people abhor him, but he wants to be loved and to be able to show love. He tracks down Dr. Frankenstein and asks for a companion. Frankenstein complies at first and then destroys the new creature.

It's an incredibly complex book, but a great psychological study in addition to a novel. It explores the feeling and consequences of abandonment very well. Not for children, but certainly an interesting novel for adults.

I read my personal copy.

Read 11/07

* * *
3/5 Stars

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Monk Upstairs...Review

About the book:
When Rebecca Martin finds the love of her life, it's finally time to cross off one giant task from life's to-do list. But not so fast. The wedding is a minor disaster, the honeymoon doesn't get much better, and then the biggest shock of all—living together as monk and wife.

Rebecca couldn't help falling in love with a monk, but that doesn't make it any easier. Mike is up before the sun, meditates every morning in bed, hates socializing (not to mention all varieties of small talk), and last but not least has a rich inner life with which she can't compete. When God is essentially the other women, all bets are off. What has she gotten herself into?

Returning with the same cast of characters that made The Monk Downstairs a New York Times Notable Book and a two-time BookSense top-ten pick, The Monk Upstairs is a page-turning love story that pulls back the curtain on fairy-tale romance to reveal what really happens when two people from very different walks of life fall in love, get married, and live under the same roof.

A story about a monk who leaves the order and gets married. It was ok. A quick read. I had it finished in about an hour and a half. Not bad, not great. Some insights into the catholic world of monks. It's a sequel to The Monk Downstairs which I haven't read, but don't plan to.

Can't say I recommend it.

Thanks to my library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 11/07

*
1/5 Stars

Heartbreak Town: A Novel...Review

About the book:
Lucy Hatch is a homegrown, red-dirt, East Texas girl, not at all suited for the fast life her husband was living in Nashville. Now she’s back in the small town of Mooney, working at Faye’s Flower Shop, and raising her young son with help from family and friends. Her life has finally stopped resembling a Hank Williams song . . . until she wakes up one morning to find a shiny white pickup parked in her yard. The worn-out cowboy boots sticking out the window tell her that the man sleeping inside is her husband: Ash Farrell’s back in town.

Now Mooney’s favorite son is making promises, vowing to change, and wreaking havoc on the peace Lucy’s worked so hard to find. She wants to believe that her handsome husband is serious about straightening up, but can a charmer like Ash really change?

Marsha Moyer brings colorful storytelling, a wonderful sense of humor, and an undeniable Southern flavor to Heartbreak Town, a novel of small-town life, big-time success, and a once-in-a-lifetime love worth fighting for after all.

A novel of small-town life, big-time success, and a once-in-a-lifetime love worth fighting for after all.

It was ok. Not bad, not great. An entertaining read. Classic small town situations and thinking. I don't not recommend it!

Thanks to my library for having a copy I could borrow.

Read 11/07

* *
2/5 Stars

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Quiet Heart...Review

About the book:
"Of all the needs of the human heart, surely none is greater than the need for peace."

So writes Patricia Holland in
A Quiet Heart, and her words resonate with all who find themselves in turmoil. The truth is, no one escapes this life without plenty of trials; even in times of prosperity and happiness, we can get mired in the busy-ness of living and lose track of the soul-centering principles of the gospel.

A Quiet Heart can help us find our way back. Its gentle, faith-filled tone immediately soothes the troubled mind and invites the reader to seek solutions and comfort from their one true Source. As Sister Holland assures us, "God will not fail nor forsake us."

I love this book. I love this book so much that I keep it with my scriptures. The Hollands were BYU presidents when I was at school and I have so much respect for both of them. Sister Holland was always so gracious and refined.

Her book is a wonderful, easy read. Thought-provoking. Her insights to us as women, and her encouragement of sincere prayer, and establishing a strong relationship with the Lord are incredible.

Every woman should read this book.

Personal copy last read 8/07

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

The Devil Wears Prada...Review

About the book:
A delightfully dishy novel about the all-time most impossible boss in the history of impossible bosses.

Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job “a million girls would die for.” Hired as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-profile, fabulously successful editor of Runway magazine, Andrea finds herself in an office that shouts Prada! Armani! Versace! at every turn, a world populated by impossibly thin, heart-wrenchingly stylish women and beautiful men clad in fine-ribbed turtlenecks and tight leather pants that show off their lifelong dedication to the gym. With breathtaking ease, Miranda can turn each and every one of these hip sophisticates into a scared, whimpering child.

The Devil Wears Prada gives a rich and hilarious new meaning to complaints about “The Boss from Hell.” Narrated in Andrea’s smart, refreshingly disarming voice, it traces a deep, dark, devilish view of life at the top only hinted at in gossip columns and over Cosmopolitans at the trendiest cocktail parties. From sending the latest, not-yet-in-stores Harry Potter to Miranda’s children in Paris by private jet, to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, to serving lattes to Miranda at precisely the piping hot temperature she prefers, Andrea is sorely tested each and every day—and often late into the night with orders barked over the phone. She puts up with it all by keeping her eyes on the prize: a recommendation from Miranda that will get Andrea a top job at any magazine of her choosing. As things escalate from the merely unacceptable to the downright outrageous,however, Andrea begins to realize that the job a million girls would die for may just kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.

I laughed out loud in so many places. This is not the most well-written book. It's rather choppy and there are places where I wish the author had gone back and tied up loose ends. However, you cheer for Andrea and you hate Miranda which is exactly what you are supposed to do.

I could have done without the foul language.  I hate profanity and here, it seemed out of character for Andrea.

I read The Devil Wears Prada before the film came out, but I think this is one case where the film adaptation is actually better than the book.  I don't often say that, but the film did a better job of capturing Andy and Miranda than the book was able to portray.

Personal copy last read 6/06

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, October 29, 2007

Coming Home...Review

About the book:
Against the backdrop of an elegant Cornwall mansion before World War II and a vast continent-spanning canvas during the turbulent war years, this involving story tells of an extraordinary young woman's coming of age, coming to grips with love and sadness, and in every sense of the term, coming home...

In 1935, Judith Dunbar is left behind at a British boarding school when her mother and baby sister go off to join her father in Singapore. At Saint Ursula's, her friendship with Loveday Carey-Lewis sweeps her into the privileged, madcap world of the British aristocracy, teaching her about values, friendship, and wealth. But it will be the drama of war, as it wrenches Judith from those she cares about most, that will teach her about courage...and about love.

Teeming with marvelous, memorable characters in a novel that is a true masterpiece, Coming Home is a book to be savored, reread, and cherished forever.

I think this is my favorite of Rosamunde Pilcher's novels. Most people rave about The Shell Seekers, and yes, it's a great book. But, I love the character of Judith in Coming Home. She's independent and feisty, yet she yearns for love and a family.  When her father must go to Singapore for work, her mother and sister accompany him and Judith is left on her own.  She befriends the spunky, rich Loveday and finds herself immersed in a new and privileged world and the Carey-Lewises accept her as one of their own.  With them she finds a family, love and even heartbreak.

As World War 2 begins, Judith also discovers her own strengths as she faces a new and unknown future. 
 
Coming Home is set in England, mostly in Cornwall, during World War 2. Pilcher's characterizations and visuals are incredibly accurate and beautifully descriptive.  She writes from experience and the book is all the richer for it. 

This is a book I read over and over again. It's like a good friend. Well worth your time.

Personal copy last read 2011

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Being The Mom...Review

About the book:
Nothing you can read could ever prepare you for the feelings, the challenges, and the excitements of having children. But the strategies presented in the delightful book can help you cope when you're up to your eyeballs in peanut butter and science projects and mismatched socks.

In Being the Mom, you'll learn some practical strategies for building a strong family that can be comfortable in a variety of situations. Beyond that, you'll figure out how to keep a healthy perspective and your sanity. Strategy 3, for example, "Be discerning: sometimes a one-mile effort is enough," gives mom's license to save their best efforts for the times when they really matter. "Be grateful for the things you have to do" is a gentle reminder that commitment is not such a bad thing. And in "Remember that the years fly by, even though some of the days are mighty long," you'll learn to treasure the wonderful blessing that come with each stage of mothering.

From is often hilarious and always helpful perspective from a real, live mom you'll find that with a lot of love, and a good sense of humor, "being the Mom" can be done lots of ways. Your way may just be better than you thought! Most of all, this with lighten mothers' hearts and make them glad they chose the life they did.

Absolutely delightful. Emily Watts is hysterical and every woman can relate to her. When I first read this book, I was a working full-time outside the home. Emily is an editor at Deseret Book and also a working mom. I could so totally relate to her, it wasn't even funny.

I love how she talks about not feeling guilty and saying no. I learned so much about saying no if saying yes was only going to stress me.

Run, don't walk and pick up this little gem.

Personal copy last read 2005

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Chili Queen...Review

About the book: 
Life may have been hard on Addie French, but when she meets friendless Emma Roby on a train, all her protective instincts emerge. Emma's brother is seeing her off to Nalgitas to marry a man she has never met. And Emma seems like a lost soul to Addie-someone who needs Addie's savvy and wary eye. It isn't often that Addie is drawn to anyone as a friend, but Emma seems different somehow. 

When Emma's prospective fails to show up at the train depot, Addie breaks all her principles to shelter the girl at her brothel, The Chili Queen. But once Emma enters Addie's life, the secrets that unfold and schemes that are hatched cause both women to question everything they thought they knew. With Sandra Dallas's trademark humor, charm, and pathos, The Chili Queen will satisfy anyone who has ever longed for happiness.

Another one from Sandra Dallas. I enjoyed it. It is a well-written and entertaining western set in New Mexico. Everyone is trying to cheat everyone else and you don't find out until the end who really wins! There was one section that had some disturbing images of assault that, although relevant to the storyline, were a little strong for me.

Overall, a good book. I will be on the lookout for more Sandra Dallas books.

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

Read 10/07

* * *
3/5 Stars

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mr. Darcy's Daughters...Review

About the book:
It is the year 1818, twenty-one years after the stirring events of Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth have gone to Constantinople, while their five daughters descend on the dangerous and dashing world of Regency London. The world is changing, but opportunities for women are limited, as intelligent, independent-minded Camilla soon discovers - and Society is unforgiving of those who transgress its rules. The sisters are assailed on all sides by the temptations of London, with its parties and balls, gossip and scandals, intrigues and schemes, not to mention the inevitable heartbreaks arising from proximity to so many eligible - and ineligible - men. In Mr. Darcy's Daughters, Elizabeth Aston presents a new variation on a Jane Austen theme, introducing a wonderful array of memorable and amusing nineteenth-century characters in a witty, lively and perceptive tale of Regency life.

This one was better than Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife. Darcy and Elizabeth have 5 daughters and have left them in the care of Colonel Fitzwilliam and his wife while they go on a diplomatic mission. Predictably, it's about the adventures of said daughters and not about Darcy and Elizabeth. The daughter's personalities are predictable yet again, and similar to the Bennet sisters of Longbourne.

While not a suitable sequel to Pride and Prejudice, this one is entertaining. I bought it, and then sold it on half.com, so it wasn't worthy of remaining on my bookshelf, but it is certainly worthy of checking out of the library if you want to be entertained for a couple of hours.

Personal copy read 2004

* *
2/5 Stars

Friday, October 26, 2007

Peculiar: in a Good Way...Review

About the book:
"Being peculiar is not about horns," begins bestselling author Mary Ellen Edmunds. In this humorous but thought-provoking book, she explores what really makes "a peculiar people" and what sets us apart as a distinct and different from the rest of the world. "Others surely do notice things about us" she states, "so what would it be like if we could be depended upon to live what we believe every inch an minute of our lives?" Using scriptures and personal experiences to help explain our uniqueness, Mary Ellen presents a positive and upbeat approach to making little changes that will help us strive to become better when we're already pretty good.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I love Mary Ellen Edmunds and this little book is no different. It's short and easy to read. I read it with a yellow high-lighter and found so many little gems of inspiration.

Her main premise is that as Latter-day Saints, we are often regarded as peculiar, but that being peculiar isn't necessarily a bad thing.

She uses scriptures and personal experiences to explain the uniqueness of Latter-day Saints. Each chapter ends with reading recommendations, which I found incredibly useful.

Personal copy last read 10/07

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Inside My Heart...Review

About the book:
"I believe we were put on this earth to enjoy lives of joy and abundance, and that is what I want for you and for me. It's not my intention to give people advice on how to solve their problems (I leave that to my husband). But I've had my share of struggles over the years, and I know a thing or two about what has worked for me. I have chosen to be an active participant in my life rather than a spectator, and in so doing I have chosen how to be a woman, how to be a wife, and how to be a mother in ways that are uniquely my own. I offer the stories of these choices as evidence of the power of sheer determination, will, and faith in God."

You've seen her on television with her husband, Dr. Phil. But now it's time for a heart-to-heart conversation with Robin McGraw. In
Inside My Heart, Robin speaks woman to woman, inspiring you to embrace and celebrate the many roles you play and encouraging you to make deliberate choices that lead to a richer, happier, and more meaningful life.

She shares with you the life-changing moments of her childhood years, dating and marrying Dr. Phil McGraw, raising two sons, and asserting herself as a woman in a man's world to show you that you have the power to make choices in your life. In fact, she's convinced that you must choose to go after the life you want.


With a deep and abiding faith in God, Robin McGraw shares her story so you too can make choices that reflect your own heart's truest priorities and highest goals.

I don't always agree with Dr. Phil, in fact I don't ever watch his show, but I enjoyed his wife's book. She shares experiences from her life and how we can make deliberate choices that will enrich our lives. She shares experiences of her life with Phillip and there's is a true partnership and love story.

She has faith and speaks of God, but I felt that much of it was superficial. I would have enjoyed a longer book that openly explored and spoke of a relationship with God. It was good though, and it was inspiring.

Personal copy read 10/06

* * *
3/5 Stars

Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner...Review

About the book:
"Like every other well-brought-up young woman, I was raised to believe that life was a crescendo: Do everything right - eat your cereal, curl your hair, study, exercise, be sweet, and follow The Plan (although I was never too clear exactly what the plan was)."

Not only was life less simple than Jaroldeen had grown up expecting, it turned out to be a series of complex challenges and hard work. But with each experience she learned to relish her life's riches - especially the deep satisfactions of marriage, raising children, and of loving and being loved. In the 1970s, when bright young women were supposed to be pursuing careers, not carpooling kids and sorting socks, Jaroldeen opened a window onto her own heart and discovered she loved raising her sprawling family. At the same time, she kept up her writing - and maintained her sense of humor. Now she shares her insights and reflections gleaned over the years - what she calls "windows of light" - on children, husbands, friends...and creating that subtle miracle called a home. A meal of abundant courses, Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner is for women at every stage of living. It is a tribute to women's inherent wisdom and strength. From her own ordinary yet remarkable life, Jaroldeen Edwards has crafted a wonderful contribution to the priceless heart-to-heart talks of women everywhere. Here is a book written by a woman for women, that truly exults in the glorious complexity of life.

Jaroldeen Edwards is entertaining and has some great ideas and examples of life. She raised 12 children. My favorite essay, and the reason I bought the book, is the one entitled, "Things I wish I'd known sooner." It's full of practical ideas and the things that she wishes she'd learned earlier in life.

My favorite: to only use white linens and white towels. You never have to worry about matching sheets or making sure the blue towels don't get washed with the yellow ones!

My next favorite is to make your home a place of beauty, no matter your financial situation.

Personal copy read 8/06

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Taking Care of the Me in Mommy...Review

About the book:
Moms get so busy with the doing and the giving for their families that they never seem to have enough time to rest and receive. So many moms have bought into the world-view that they can have it all and then believe the self-talk that if I don't do it, it won't get done! Isn't it ironic that so many mothers are running on empty? Lisa Whelchel delivers a book full of practical tips and advice for mothers on how to find lost time in their day to nourish body, soul, and spirit.

I enjoyed this book. I was actually able to review part of it before it was published and my review is part of the reviews in the front of the book. Lisa Whelchel understands mothers. She has tapped into the heart of every wife and mother. She gives us the permission needed, and more importantly, the gentle reminder, to take care of ourselves, as well as our families.

The ideas are easy and practical, but more importantly, it's nice to read a book and know that the author truly does understand your heart and has been where you are. It gets a little preachy and I find it interesting the interpretations that mainstream Christians put on the gospel. At one point she says, "I understand that as New Testament Christians living under grace, we are no longer required to keep the Sabbath." Hello? Since when was a commandment no longer required? She goes on to clarify that she feels the Sabbath is important, but I found it an interesting idea. It's a good book, filled with practical suggestions for enriching your spirit and taking care of you.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy!

Personal copy last read 7/06

* * * *
4/5 Stars

The Ultimate Career: The Art of Homemaking for Today...Review

About the book:
Since the 1960s Daryl Hoole has taught, in print and through lectures, the skills and rewards of effective home management. Once again, now with her daughters, she offers a treasure trove of good and practical updated how-to advice to homemakers of all ages and situations. But this is much more than a book about housekeeping. The heart of her message is that the specifics and techniques of "keeping house" are only the means to a more important end. Unlike other books you may read on home management, this one is built on eternal principles which, if applied, will help establish your home as a "house of glory and a house of God." 

Although Daryl is a virtuoso in the art of homemaking, to whom these ideas apparently flow with ease, almost any woman will find encouragement and suggestions to help her in her own quest to establish an eternal home. Even those who seem to find themselves "congenitally challenged" in the home management arena will find helpful tips on moving forward, one step at a time.

As an added dimension of value, this book also addresses some of the pressing challenges facing today's family. The book, a celebration of the divine role of motherhood and the eternal significance of the family, is a message of hope and good cheer from the heart of an author who has always celebrated and cheered for women who are devoting the best of their lives and efforts to the ultimate career.

I enjoyed this book so much. Daryl Hoole is a natural at home management and her book is full of great ideas for raising a family and keeping house. It's even better though, when you read it from the viewpoint that motherhood is a divine calling and that the family is eternal. Our roles as wives and mothers are so important: more important than just cleaning house. I love the practicality of the book and the ideas shared, but more importantly, I loved the thoughts and scriptures shared, and the fact that Daryl wrote it with her daughters and daughters-in-law.

One of my new favorite quotes comes from the first page, "Out of the dreariness, into its cheeriness, come we in weariness, Home." (Stephen Chalmers)

This is one book I will go back to again, and again. I have learned so much and have implemented some great organizational ideas from reading this.  You can learn more about Daryl Hoole here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Personal copy read 8/07.  You can purchase your own copy here.

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

You Can Never Get Enough of What You Don't Need: The Quest for Contentment...Review

About the book:
Why does it seem we are always looking for more? In her wonderfully unique style, author Mary Ellen Edmunds suggests that
You Can Never Get Enough of What You Don't Need because what you don't need never satisfies. "I can have a house filled with stuff and things, but if it's not what I need, it will never satisfy me, no matter how much I have," she observes. Have you noticed that the happiness we equate with abundance often eludes both those who get what they want in life and those who don't? This eye-opening treasure hunt of a book will help you find the secret to living with contentment.

Also includes activity suggestions to help families distinguish between needs and wants, be more aware of the influences around us that encourage materialism, and be more grateful and content with what we have.

I love Mary Ellen Edmunds. I love her sense of humor and her faith. I watch her each time I find one of her Women's Conference talks on BYU TV!

This was a delightful little book. Her point is that we're always looking for more, but that what we don't realize is that more abundance isn't what is going to make us happy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what makes us happy.

This was fun to read, easy to read, inspirational and thought-provoking.

Personal copy read 8/07

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Persian Pickle Club...Review

About the book:
It is the 1930s, and hard times have hit Harveyville, Kansas, where the crops are burning up and there's not a job to be found. For Queenie Bean, a young farm wife, a highlight of each week is the gathering of the Persian Pickle Club, a group of local ladies dedicated to improving their minds, exchanging gossip, and putting their quilting skills to good use. When a new member of the club stirs up a dark secret, the women must band together to support and protect one another. In her magical, memorable novel, Sandra Dallas explores the ties that unite women through good times and bad.

Absolutely delightful. Full of memorable characters and endearing voices. You don't want it to end. It's got that quirky small-town thing down pat. There is a tone of reality, where you know that the author understands small towns. You come to love the people and you can relate to the Pickles. The camaraderie that comes when you sit around a quilting frame is unrivaled. Queenie is delightful. You want her for your best friend and Rita is a hoot. You can just picture the upheaval that she brings to small town life.

It's the first time I've read Sandra Dallas and I love her.

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

Read 10/07

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bless Your Heart, Tramp...Review

About the book:
Step into the wacky world of womanless wedding fund-raisers, in which Bubbas wear boas. Meet two sisters who fight rural boredom by washing Budweiser cans and cutting them to pieces to make clothing. Learn why the word snow sends any right-thinking Southerner careening to the Food Lion for extra loaves of bread and little else. Humor columnist and slightly crazed belle-by-birth Celia Rivenbark tackles these and other lard-laden subjects in Bless Your Heart, Tramp, a no-holds-barred look at all things sassy, sensational, and southern.

Just like the Skank book. This one is laugh out loud funny. There is a sprinkling of swear words, but it's absolutely hysterical. You'll even laugh out loud at the stuff you think you shouldn't.

She completely captures the essence of southern people. I want to visit the south just to see if it's as real as these books are!

Personal copy read 9/07

* * *
3/5 Stars

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year Old Like A Skank...Review

About the book:
Celia Rivenbark's essays about life in today's South are like caramel popcorn---sweet, salty, and utterly irresistible. Celia Rivenbark is a master at summing up the South in all its glorious excesses and contradictions. In this collection of screamingly funny essays. You'll discover: How to get your kid into a character breakfast at Disneyworld (or run the risk of eating chicken out of a bucket with Sneezy), secrets of celebrity moms (don't hate them because they're beautiful when there are so many other reasons to hate them), and eBay addiction and why. It ain't worth having if it ain't on eBay (Whoa! Is that Willie Nelson's face in your grits?) Why today's children's clothes make six-year-olds look like Vegas showgirls with an abundance of anger issues. And so much more! Rivenbark is an intrepid explorer and acid commentator on the land south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Laugh out loud funny. Some questionable humor and a sprinkling of swear words, but absolutely hysterical. You'll even laugh out loud at the stuff you think you shouldn't.

She completely captures the essence of southern people.

I LOVE the skank chapter. It's so totally true!

Personal copy read 9/07

* * *
3/5 Stars

Winter Solstice...Review

About the book:
In Winter Solstice Rosamunde Pilcher brings her readers into the lives of five very different people....

Elfrida Phipps, once of London's stage, moved to the English village of Dibton in hopes of making a new life for herself. Gradually she settled into the comfortable familiarity of village life — shopkeepers knowing her tastes, neighbors calling her by name — still she finds herself lonely.

Oscar Blundell gave up his life as a musician in order to marry Gloria. They have a beautiful daughter, Francesca, and it is only because of their little girl that Oscar views his sacrificed career as worthwhile.

Carrie returns from Australia at the end of an ill-fated affair with a married man to find her mother and aunt sharing a home and squabbling endlessly. With Christmas approaching, Carrie agrees to look after her aunt's awkward and quiet teenage daughter, Lucy, so that her mother might enjoy a romantic fling in America.

Sam Howard is trying to pull his life back together after his wife has left him for another. He is without home and without roots, all he has is his job. Business takes him to northern Scotland, where he falls in love with the lush, craggy landscape and set his sights on a house.

It is the strange rippling effects of a tragedy that will bring these five characters together in a large, neglected estate house near the Scottish fishing town of Creagan.

It is in this house, on the shortest day of the year, that the lives of five people will come together and be forever changed. Rosamunde Pilcher's long-awaited return to the page will warm the hearts of readers both old and new. Winter Solstice is a novel oflove, loyalty and rebirth.

I love Rosamunde Pilcher. I love everything she's written. Most people rave about The Shell Seekers, and while I love that book as well, it's not my most favorite.

Winter Solstice is delightful and thought-provoking. Pilcher's narratives are pure prose. You find yourself immersed in the world of Scottish tweeds and cottages and hospitality. She captures the intense feelings of grief, and the hope that comes when you learn to love again.

This is a book that, like Coming Home, I reread over and over again.

Read It. Everything she writes is terrific.

Personal copy last read 7/07

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Persuasion...Review

About the book:
After the man whose proposal she had rejected returns from his long military tour at sea, Anne Elliot is forced to face the decision she had made eight years before, along with the man she has never stopped loving, in Jane Austen's final novel.

Anne Elliot is one of my favorite Austen heroines, and Captain Wentworth is just divine. It's not easy reading, but it's a good novel.

Anne is the spinster sister, the solid one on whom everyone depends. She is intelligent and witty, thoughtful and compassionate. She follows the advice of others and is persuaded to not marry the man she loves. Her life then, does not take the turn she thought it would and she remains unmarried.

Her family is nuts. They are truly horrific in their treatment of not only her, but all others. They are self-centered and egotistical. Anne, alone, remains a truly graceful, refined woman. She has resigned herself to spinsterhood, but when she is reunited with Captain Wentworth 10 years after they parted, their romance is rekindled.

The film with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds is an excellent adaptation. Their characterizations are dead on.

Personal copy last read 9/07

* * * *
4/5 Stars