Tuesday, August 14, 2018

SEND DOWN THE RAIN by Charles Martin

 Send Down The Rain

To what lengths will a child go to protect his brother?  How long will the pain of a father's abandonment live on into adulthood?  Can love survive when a person is continually surrounded by violence and evil?  Can it push aside a past darkened with betrayal, hatred, and self-loathing?  Charles Martin, the masterful story teller, perhaps best known for his novel THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US tackles these questions and more in his newest novel SEND DOWN THE RAIN.  Sixty-something Joseph has been keeping a low profile -- hiding from his past, enduring the night terrors and sweats, with only his stray dog and a voice on the radio to comfort him.  Then two events happen almost simultaneously that rip open his heart and pull him back into a life he believed had long ago been taken from him.

As in his other novels, Martin provides new plot twists and unexpected side stories at almost every juncture.  While each may add something to the book, as a whole I think in this novel they were overwhelming, forcing me to read ahead, expecting to be surprised by another "turn" rather than slowing down and sinking into the actual message of the story.  At some point, it began to feel like one of those campfire stories we tell with our kids and grandkids - with each person at some point taking over the story and taking it on a new path.  Of course, Martin does a much better job of keeping everything unified, but still I felt a bit overwhelmed by the action at times. 

Still SEND DOWN THE RAIN should appeal to a wide array of readers.  Joseph's Vietnam past and its traumatizing after effects should draw in male readers. Of course, the love story that survives decades of pain and loneliness will bring in romance readers.  Clearly, Joseph's sacrificial life has religious overtones.  Personally  I was drawn in by the young immigrant mother and her children who are rescued early in the book.  I received an e-copy of this title from Netgalley and all opinions are mine.  I was not required to write a review. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Summer reads continue

Everyone I know is saying that this summer has raced by at a record speed, and I definitely concur as check the calendar.  What?  August is into its second week already?  Then I stop and think about all we have done this summer and realize that we have been as busy as possible and I don't think we have wasted any days.  Despite all the activities - gardening, camping, cabin trips, visiting relatives, traveling to North Dakota, and even a bit of quilting, I have found time to read. What hasn't happened is regular blogging.  So today I am going to catch up with summaries of 4 recent reads.

 The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER (Karen Dionne), a suspenseful thriller set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was our book club's July pick.  Those of us Wisconsin residents who love the up north consider the UP just an extension of our own wonderful northwoods. Dionne has placed within that idyllic setting a creepy tale of an abduction of a young teen by a deranged survivalist/loner.  As the book opens, the abductor has long been caught and sent to prison,  but then escapes by murdering a guard.  As the state police plan a wide search, a young mother knows she is the only one who can find the murderer.  As she heads into the unpopulated marsh and woods of the UP, she reveals that the escaped man is her father.  Born to the abducted teen and her captor, for years, Helena only knew the marsh and her father.    As we learn about her upbringing and her "normal," the eeriness, tension, and danger build.  I liked the book, especially how the author built Helena's story. I did have some personal conflicted feelings about the setting.  Through the book, she names several places we've visited and consider some of our most peaceful vacation memories.  Now they are forever locked together with this creepy tale!!


THIS I KNOW by Eldona Edwards  was one of the titles on a recent list for the Farmgirl online bookclub (Mary Jane magazine) and like every book on their lists that I've read so far, it was a unique tale.  As the book opens, Grace Carter is 11 years old and trying to navigate life within her preacher father's view of how everyone should act.  Complicating this endeavor is the fact that Grace has special gifts -- she sometimes feels the future and when troubled she seeks out and speaks to her twin brother who died at birth.  Neither behavior is acceptable to her father who believes his truth is THE TRUTH.  When yet another baby girl is born, Grace's mother slips into a debilitating depression that changes everything for this 1960's family.

The Fashion Designer  -     By: Nancy Moser
  THE FASHION DESIGNER by Nancy Moser is a continuation of the story of immigrant/dreamer Annie Culver first shared in THE PATTERN ARTIST.  Set in the early years of the twentieth century, readers get a realistic look at social class differences and changes amidst the growing women's rights movement.  Interesting to me, someone who has sewed clothes from childhood on, is the place that the fashion industry, sewing machines, and clothing patterns played in those twentieth century changes. Moser also makes clear that wealth, even titles did little to make a woman more independent than the servants and immigrants grappling with the desire to have a better life.  I enjoyed reading this second novel and I highly recommend reading the two books as a whole.  The two stories mesh well together.
 I received a copy of this novel from Barbour publishing and the author.  All opinions are mine.

   Wisconsin has multiple flowages known for their superb boating and fishing opportunities.  Some have remained very rustic, what we promise will be a true North woods experience.  Other flowages have embraced development with recreational subdivisions, complete with marinas, condos, supper clubs, and even golf courses.  These flowages came from decisions decades and decades ago to damn sections of a river.  That meant flooding lands that previously been populated, probably with villages that were no more than a remote crossroad.  Few people now ever consider that someone, at sometime called that now-flooded space "home."   Anna Quindlen's book MILLER'S VALLEY is not set in Wisconsin, but the premise of the book made me think of those Wisconsin flowages.  Above Miller's Valley floods easily.  Many point to the damn that was built above it years before.  The government wants to increase the power of the name and completely flood the valley. Most have considered that future as inevitable  and have sold to the government, but not the Millers.  The Miller farmhouse has stood since 1830 and they do not want to move.  Mimi Miller, a teenager in the 1960's and as she matures through her teen years, she shares the tale of the valley, her strong mother, a rebellious brother, a neurotic homebound aunt, and a loving father.  I found MILLER'S VALLEY  a successful mix of setting driving the story, but also well developed complex characters. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Cabin time means reading time


A few days at our cabin this week meant the luxury of having plenty of time to read.  And for some reason,  I seemed to be able to read faster, without any distractions.  First book was THE HOUSE ON HARBOR HILL by Shelly Stratton.  For years, Delilah Grey has been opening her large home to women in need.  Her latest project is Tracey Walters and her two small children.  Before Tracey moves in, she hears rumors that Delilah was responsible for her rich husband's death decades earlier, but the need to hide from her own abusive husband pushes Tracey into agreeing to move into the house on Harbor Hill.  This is a well written book about putting the past behind you and new starts.

 Same Kind Of Different As Me

Right before we left, I got notice from the library system that an ebook that I'd placed a hold on was now ready for download.  I downloaded the book without really checking on what it was.  Two pages into the book, I realized it was the book that the movie SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME was based on.  Russ and I watched this heart-warming (but also heart breaking) movie a few months ago which tells the story of a Texas art dealer and his wife who begin volunteering at a homeless shelter as a way to heal their broken marriage.  Deborah, the wife, feels that her husband should reach out and make friends with one particular loner at the shelter.  SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME tells the story of each man and the amazing friendship that builds.  As good as the movie was, the alternating chapters written by each man made the book so much more powerful.  The extended title for the book really gives a clue about what readers will find when they pick up this book:  Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together.   

For me, the book was a fast, compelling read.  Time to move on to new reads.  Hope they are as entertaining as this two were.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Hot summer reads

Summer is flying by faster than I can spray the sunscreen and bug repellent.  Fitting time for reading in with the gardening, weeding, and traveling to the cabin becomes harder and harder, especially when I also want time for quilting and some movie binging.  Blogging about what I've read is even harder, so I am again going to combine several book summaries into one posting.


LAST SUPPERS by Mandy Mikulencak was a choice by Mary Jane's Farm Girls bookclub earlier this summer.  Set in 1950's Louisana, the novel tells the story of twenty-something Ginny whose whole life has revolved around the state prison.  As a child, Ginny lived on the grounds because her father was a guard.  When she was eight, he was killed and Ginny actually witnessed the execution of his killer, forced to watch by her mother.  Now Ginny is the prison's head cook and she's made it her mission to serve each death row inmate his last meal of choice, her acknowledgement of every person's humanity.  The book also explores her relationship with Warden Roscoe Simms, a man old enough to be her father.  As Ginny prepares another "last supper," decade old secrets about the prison, her father, and Roscoe begin to surface and Ginny faces new lessons about truth, love, and mercy.  Although the center topic of the book may sound off-setting, this is a very readable book and I look forward to more books by Mikulencak. 

 Image result for hurricane season denton
HURRICANE SEASON by Lauren Denton is a sweet, easy read that I like mostly for its Alabama setting.  We've vacationed at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach several times and every time we approach the final 1 1/2 hours of driving after that long two day trip from Wisconsin, I am amazed as we drive through farm country, especially when I see cows and beef cattle.  HURRICANE SEASON is set on one of those dairy farms not too far from the famous beaches and tells the story of farming couple Betsy and Ty who take on the care of Betsy's two young nieces as their single mother attends a life-changing art camp.  But the agreed upon two weeks soon spread into the entire summer and Betsy and Ty, unable to have their own family, begin to feel the stress of being sudden parents.  At the same time, summer weather turns into an active hurricane season and the farm itself is threatened.

    TOGETHER FOREVER is the second novel in Jody Hedlund's Orphan Train series.  I've read both the prequel story and the first novel, so I was excited to get a copy of the second novel.  Although TOGETHER FOREVER is a sweet romantic story and there is some excitement as Marianne Neumann and Andrew Brady deliver another group of New York orphans to Illinois, this novel really does not advance the "missing sister" plot set forward in the first novel.  I would recommend that readers wait until Hedlund finishes the series and then read all three books together.  At least I would feel more satisfied if I had done that. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

JUST IN TIME by Marie Bostwick

Just in Time

JUST IN TIME is a heart-felt story of three female friends, each at a different stage of life, complete with its own challenges. This is a story (actually stories) of second chances and being there for each other. Bostwick always makes her settings part of the story and the Northwest setting of JUST IN TIME is not exception.  I've had the pleasure of briefly meeting Marie Bostwick twice and that has translated into my approaching her stories with a different mind-set.  I feel like an old friend is spinning a tale and that she already knows what I will like in a story.  JUST IN TIME delivers on many of my "must-haves" for a light, feel good read.  That does not mean that tough issues are not explored or that life is portrayed unrealistically.  I follow Marie Bostwick on social media and am a member of the FACEBOOK book club FARMER GIRL READS which she moderates, which means I can keep up with her activities.  It gives me pleasure knowing that she has just finished another book and its publication will not be too far into the future. 

DEADLY PROOF by Rachel Dylan


DEADLY PROOF begins the new suspense series ATLANTA JUSTICE by Rachel Dylan.
A PI who suffers from PTSD, a young idealistic lawyer, and a suspect big pharmaceutical company are familiar territory for anyone who reads suspense tales.  Despite these overused character and plot devices, DEADLY PROOF was a light, entertaining read.  The Christian message within came across loud and clear, unlike some Christian fiction which seems to just tack on a church service or a Bible reference to  obtain the Christian label.  Hopefully, main character Kate Sullivan and Landon James will reappear in future stories, but this first book introduces enough minor characters that I am sure some of them will take over the spotlight in subsequent tales. I obtained my copy of Rachel Dylan's book from our library system. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY by Amanda Skenandore

 Between Earth and Sky

I started this blog  almost 7 years ago when I first retired and found it to be a marvelous way to keep up my writing skills while logging my reading adventures.  Lately, grandkids, vacations, and plain old yard work have edged out reading time and therefore, writing time.  I think this is the longest gap between postings since I began, and I had seriously considered stopping.  But, BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY is an example of why I have chosen to continue the blog for a bit longer. There are some books that I just have to document what they are about.  In her first novel, Amanda Skenandore has written a poignant story of two cultures clashing in a way that few of us has ever considered.  In an attempt to acculuturize the Native Americans, children of all ages were sent to residential schools away from their parents and the reservations.  They were taught English and their native languages were forbidden.  Many were poorly treated, and even when not abused, the results were devastating.  In her tale, Skenandore alternates between the 1880s and a fictional mission school in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and the same area fifteen years later when the daughter of the mission headmaster learns that one of the former Native American students has been arrested for murder.  Readers will find themselves drawn into both stories, knowing that "happy endings" will not be forthcoming.

Skenandore does a superb job of capturing the lonely, white girl's authentic fascination and love for her Indian classmates, while never understanding how damaging the seemingly "helpful" education was.  While one would hope that the gap between the two cultures could be bridged, it seems that for some the real motive was the erasure of all ways and manners native.  Too often, the result were adults who belonged in neither the white world or the Indian one.  Skenandore drew on true happenings to write this fictional account. I hope she continues to "mine" the stories and experiences of her Native American roots to tell more heart-felt stories like BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY. This book was a spring choice for THE FARMGIRL BOOKCLUB, an online bookclub I follow on Facebook.  I would highly recommend this book for other book clubs as there is so much to discuss.
More and more, as I read a book, I consider how it would translate into film.  This duo-tale of ideals gone wrong, love denied, shattered lives and corruption would be perfect for the big screen.