Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Lilly's Wedding Quilt

Lilly's Wedding Quilt (A Patch of Heaven Novel)

About the Book:
Handsome, headstrong Jacob offers Lilly his hand in marriage, but his heart belongs to someone else.

While Lilly Lapp has loved Jacob for years, she wouldn't compete with Sarah King, the woman Jacob was determined to marry. But when Sarah marries another, Jacob spontaneously agrees to wed Lilly.

Lilly divides her time between teaching the local Amish children and caring for her widowed mother who suffers from depression. Lilly's faith comforts her, but her heart still longs to be the sole object of Jacob's affection.

As the days slip by, Lilly decides that hoping is too risky and vows to protect her heart. But God is subtly as work, and as winter turns to spring, their hearts awaken.

The furthest thing from Lilly's mind is her Amish wedding quilt, a traditional gift for new brides. And the person she'd least suspect is the one making it. Like stray pieces of fabric quilted into a new design, Jacob and Lilly's marriage begins to bind them together in ways neither expected.

My Thoughts:
This sequel to Sarah's Garden (my review) is a heartwarming romance between two people who aren't sure they are worthy of being loved.  Much of the book is a dance--they grow closer and then something happens to push them apart; yet, in the end...  I liked the way Long made Lilly afraid of horses, and Jacob afraid of reading; each needed the other to teach him/her.  

I enjoyed reading some of the descriptions of Amish culture--how they celebrate Christmas, wedding customs, and how they take care of the needy in their midst.  The characters in this book aren't perfect, as Jacob tells a young neighbor.  

In some ways the characters have universal appeal.  Jacob never learned to read, and so became the class clown.  Able has brain damage, and almost seems autistic.  Katy wants to marry in the worst way; Annie is past her prime and doesn't see herself as attractive.  Sarah enjoys knowing a spurned suitor still wants her, even though she is happily married.

The book is a quick easy read that should appeal to fans of Amish fiction.  Grade:  B.

I'd like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to write any review, much less a positive one.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Monday Memes

Mailbox Monday is hosted this month by I'm Booking It.  Stop by to see what other book bloggers got in the mail (or email as the case may be) this week.  My snail mail box was empty this week.  However, my email box (actually my Kindle) got plenty of new friends:
Free Kindle Downloads

Triumph of Grace15 Expert Lessons for Retirement Planning (Collection)The Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His DreamsLeota's Garden

Via NetGalley:

The Wedding of the Century & Other Stories: The Wedding of the Century\Jesse's Wife\Seduced by StarlightThe Wedding of the Century & Other Stories: The Wedding of the Century\Jesse's Wife\Seduced by Starlight
The Wedding of the Century by MARY JO PUTNEY
Stunningly beautiful and extraordinarily wealthy, Sarah Vangelder had always wanted more for herself than to be sold into marriage for the price of a dukedom. But marriage to Justin Aubrey might be the adventure she’s always dreamed of…

Jesse’s Wife by KRISTIN JAMES
When a late-night walk on her father’s ranch inadvertently destroys her reputation, Amy McCallister finds herself married off to Jesse, a sinfully handsome farmhand. But can he convince her to give him her heart, despite their rocky beginning?

Seduced by Starlight by CHARLOTTE FEATHERSTONE
Jase Markham, London’s most dashing—and notorious—rake, has loved his brother’s fiancĂ©e for as long as he can remember. When his brother casts Blossom aside, Jase is determined to finally make her his—if she’s willing to overlook his scandalous reputation!

In the aftermath of her Orthodox Jewish father’s death, 26-year-old Gray Lachmann finds herself binge-eating compulsively. In an act of desperation, she abandons her life and her long-term boyfriend in New York City for Camp Carolina—a Southern weight-loss camp of dubious accreditation. Surrounded by a compelling cast of characters—her devious co-counselor Sheena, the self-aggrandizing camp director Lewis, the attractive assistant director Bennett, and a throng of combative campers—Gray finds herself in a maelstrom of bold personalities, warring egos, dark personal struggles, and a captivating mystery: her teenage half-sister Eden, a camper at Camp Carolina, whom Gray never knew existed. In trying to understand her father’s lies, Gray must confront her own self-deceptions, her demons, and her most devastating secret.

Visceral, poignant, and often wickedly funny, Diana Spechler’s masterfully wrought second novel illuminates a young woman’s struggle to make sense of the inextricable link between love and hunger, and to make peace with her body and with herself.
What could be more satisfying than presenting friends and family with a perfectly crafted homemade dessert, fresh out of the oven? Yet for many, the idea of baking is intimidating; rolling out pie dough or making a cake from scratch is akin to climbing Mount Everest. THE FEARLESS BAKER is a beginner's baking guide written to empower home cooks with spot-on advice and a cache of go-to recipes. Renowned pastry chef Emily Luchetti guides novice bakers through her amazing recipes to troubleshoot their most common pitfalls. Charming color illustrations and photographs of real-life beginning bakers in action complete the instruction, turning even the most tentative baker into a fearless one.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila over at BookJourney.  She asks bloggers what they read or blogged about last week and what they plan to read this week.

This week I read and reviewed:
The Goodbye Quilt A definite winner.  My review.
The Lightkeeper's Ball (A Mercy Falls Novel) Christian romantic suspense.  Love the cover.  My review

.Mine Is the Night: A Novel Set in 18th Century Scotland.  A re-telling of the Book of Ruth.  My review.

Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn't Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift A couple undergoes IVF and gets the wrong embryo.  My Review.

Read earlier, reviewed this week:
The Mountains Bow Down (A Raleigh Harmon Novel) Wonderful writing.  Christian romantic suspense.  My Review.

Up Next:
Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail Lilly's Wedding Quilt (A Patch of Heaven Novel)

The Goodbye Quilt: My Review

The Goodbye Quilt

About the Book:
Linda Davis's local fabric shop is a place where women gather to share their creations: quilts commemorating important events in their lives. Wedding quilts, baby quilts, memorial quilts—each is bound tight with dreams, hopes and yearnings.

Now, as her only child readies for college, Linda is torn between excitement for Molly and heartache for herself. Who will she be when she is no longer needed in her role as mom? What will become of her days? Of her marriage?

Mother and daughter decide to share one last adventure together—a cross-country road trip to move Molly into her dorm. As they wend their way through the heart of the country, Linda stitches together the scraps that make up Molly's young life. And in the quilting of each bit of fabric—the hem of a christening gown, a snippet from a Halloween costume—Linda discovers that the memories of a shared journey can come together in a way that will keep them both warm in the years to come….

My Thoughts:
Sometimes I will say about a book "It was exactly what I expected when I picked it up" and when I picked up this Susan Wiggs novel, I pretty much figured that even if I didn't say that in this review, I would be able to.     I was wrong.  Instead of a book that was a sweet pleasant afternoon diversion I got a book that touched my heart.  Maybe it is because like Linda, I have a child on the cusp of adulthood (though unlike her, I have a six year old, and many more years of motherhood to go).  

I loved everything about the book.  It is a love story--but the love is the love of a mother for her daughter.  There is romance--the romance between the daughter headed for a selective university across the country and the sweet hometown boy who will never be anything but a hometown boy and the romance between Mom and Dad, a love that Linda cherishes and is a little afraid of losing now that parenting is done.  As Linda stitches on the memory quilt (a quilt made of fabric from clothes significant to certain times and events of Molly's childhood) she shares the stories with Molly, who can't remember most of them.  

The story is told in the first person by Linda and I loved hearing her tell her story.  She's a woman who had dreams of going to college but her family didn't support those dreams and when Mr. Wonderful asked her to marry him, college soon fell by the wayside.  She's spent the last eighteen years caring for her family, and is now wondering what the future will hold.  She muses about her past and her future and over the course of their cross country trip learns to accept that her daughter is now an adult and does not need (or want) her to fix things that go wrong.

The Goodbye Quilt is a beautifully written book I'd highly recommend to any woman facing an empty nest.  Grade: A 

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to write any review, much less a positive one.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: The Lightkeeper's Ball

The Lightkeeper's Ball (A Mercy Falls Novel)

About the Book:
Olivia Stewart's family is one of the Four Hundred—the highest echelon of society in 1910. When her sister dies under mysterious circumstances, Olivia leaves their New York City home for Mercy Falls, California, to determine what befell Eleanor. She suspects Harrison Bennett, the man Eleanor planned to marry. But the more Olivia gets to know him, the more she doubts his guilt—and the more she is drawn to him herself.

When several attempts are made on her life, Olivia turns to Harrison for help. He takes her on a ride in his aeroplane, but then crashes, and they’re forced to spend two days alone together. With her reputation hanging by a thread, Harrison offers to marry her to make the situation right. As a charity ball to rebuild the Mercy Falls lighthouse draws near, she realizes she wants more than a sham engagement—she wants Harrison in her life forever. But her enemy plans to shatter the happiness she is ready to grasp. If Olivia dares to drop her masquerade, she just might see the path to true happiness.

My Comments:
I enjoyed this murder mystery/romance though I found the ending a little unsatisfying--but to explain more would be a spoiler.  It is Christian fiction, but for most of the book you'd never know it.  There are a couple of scattered references to God, prayer or church but I never got the impression that Olivia was a particularly religious woman.  At the end one of the characters explains how Jesus helped him turn his life around and not to hate but that almost comes off as a commercial more than a vital part of the plot.

I enjoyed the references to the lifestyle of the turn of the century--the cars, bloomers, aeroplanes, and suffragette movement.  Seeing Olivia bloom with Harrison was fun.  As for who dunnit--well, you'll have to read the book to find out.  Grade B-  

I'd like thank Thomas Nelson publishers for providing a complimentary review copy via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to write any review, much less a positive one.  

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

I'd like to welcome everyone to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival.  We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other.  To particpate, go to your blog and create an entry titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival.  In it, highlight one or more of your posts from the past week that you believe would be of interest to Catholic bloggers---whether they are posts reflecting on spiritual matters or posts about antics of Catholic kids, or anything in between.  Come back here and enter the URL of that post into Mr. Linky.  Finally, go visit other participants, and leave comments!  If you want a weekly reminder to post, join our yahoogroup.

I have several book reviews to share with you this week.  Mine is the Night is a re-telling of the Book of Ruth, set in 18th century Scotland.  In Name Only is a Catholic novel.  Inconceivable is the memoir of a couple who had the wrong embryos implanted when they underwent IVF.  I gave the book a less than positive review and the author gave my review a less than positive review.  Such is life.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mine Is the Night: My Review

Mine Is the Night: A Novel

Evocative of the Book of Ruth, Mine Is the Night: A Novel is set in Scotland in 1746, shortly after the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland.  Marjory had moved to her husband's Highland home, and while there her two sons married local women.  After her husband and sons were killed in the rebellion, she returns to her hometown, not as the proud lady of the manner she was when she left, but rather as a poor widow needing the charity of a relative, a relative with whom she did not associate in her wealthier days.  While one of her daughters-in-law returned to her family, the other, Bess, remained with her.  

Shortly after their arrival, Bess obtains work at the local manner as a seamstress.  She and the Lord of the manner become acquainted and eventually....(read the Book of Ruth in the Bible if you need to know how it ends)  There are far more parallels with the Book of Ruth than are described here.   

I enjoyed the story and thought the characters, while  too good to be true, were well developed.  I cheered as each couple found each other and enjoyed the historical detail.  As Christian fiction goes, this is on the religious end of the spectrum.  Bess is always trying to think of what God wants. We go to church with the characters and hear them pray.  Jack, the lord of the manner, insists on having the servants eat with him in the dining room once a month,as guests.  He pays extremely well.  As I said, too good to be true.  

I have not read the other books in the series, and unlike many series books, I did not feel like I was missing anything by not having the back story.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy.  You can check back April 27 to read the first chapter.  Grade:  B.

Review: Inconceivable

About the Book:
After a mistake at her infertility clinic, Carolyn Savage learned she was carrying another couple’s baby. In this memoir that belongs at the top of any truth-is-stranger-than-fiction list, she and her husband tell the tale of why they decided to go through with the pregnancy and deliver a healthy boy to the biological parents. (Basically, it’s because of their religious beliefs.) The book, which shifts between Carolyn’s and Sean’s perspectives, would have been better had biological parents Shannon and Paul Morell contributed, too. From the beginning, Carolyn seems to resent Shannon for not being sufficiently appreciative, and even after she says she is giving up baby Logan with no strings attached, she is peeved that Shannon sends her the same birth announcement “in the same way that she had announced him to her extended family and distant friends.” Ultimately, the Morells bring Logan to meet the Savages, but it’s unclear how often they will see each other.

My Comments:
I'm having difficulty with this review.  How much do I write about the book and its merits as literature and how much do I write about the authors?  

I debated about accepting this book for review, since as a Catholic I believe in-vitro fertilization is immoral. I figured that the authors espoused a religion that did not so believe and that I'd be able to see their point of view, even if I didn't agree with it.  Unfortunately, I was wrong on both counts.  However, I'll be the first to admit that my beliefs about IVF may color my opinion about this book.

Some memoirs manage to tell the story without seeming self-absorbed; this one does not.  All the way through what we hear is that Carolyn and Sean wanted, and what they went through to get it.  Despite having two lovely boys, they wanted another child so they decided the Catholic church (for whom Carolyn worked as a school principal) was wrong in its teaching about in-vitro fertilization.  They chose IVF and had a beautiful daughter.  They didn't want to leave the spare embryos frozen (and they wanted another baby) so they underwent yet another IVF procedure and that's where the mix-up occurred.  During the pregnancy they hired a surrogate to carry the embryo the doctors didn't implant in her--thereby putting another woman through at least part of what she herself was experiencing.  

I'm sure Carolyn and Sean are nice people and they have a beautiful family.  I'm really sorry for what they had to go through, and from what they wrote, I don't think the biological parents of the baby treated them well--but how does one treat a gestational surrogate?  The book itself is mildly compelling and definite reminder of all the things that can go wrong with procedures like IVF--things that range from the destruction of "unneeded" embryos to mix-ups like this one--and that doesn't being to address the issue of surrogate parenthood.

In the end, even though I should have been crying buckets for the wonderfully selfless thing Carolyn and Sean did in giving up the baby without a fight, I just didn't care.  I'm sure it is hard to write a memoir--a book about yourself -- without seeming self-absorbed or self-congratulatory, and this book is the  perfect illustration of that.  Grade:  C

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